São João da Madeira is a municipality in northwestern region of the Portuguese Norte region. It’s part of the larger Porto Metropolitan Area, the second largest of Portugal, but ironically is the smallest municipality in continental Portugal, with a land area of 8.11 km². Its total population in 2011 was 21,685 inhabitants, while its urbanized core included 48,025 residents. Recently, in 2010, the city was distinguished in Portuguese Quality of Life studies as the “Best Municipality to Live In”.

São João da Madeira stood out also recently by introducing in 2011 the Industrial Tourism in Portugal and, in 2012, for becoming the first Portuguese municipality to offer almost integral wireless coverage on its municipal area.

The origins of São João da Madeira extend back to the consecutive settlements by Celt, Roman, Moors and Visigoths. Yet, historically the first mention of São João occurred in 1088: the first reference was the phrase “Uilla de Sancto Ioanne de Mateira”, that appeared in the sale of lands in the territory. The designation of “Madeira” that appeared was in reference to the abundance of trees and forest, that continued to exist in the region.

Its economy is based on services and industry, employing 62% in secondary and 38% in tertiary sectors. In 2007, there were 3660 registered companies dominated by micro and small businesses and employing 74% of the workers. São João da Madeira’s motto, translated as “Labor, City of Work”, appeals to its industrial history.

In 2007, there were 3660 companies in São João da Madeira: despite being the smallest municipality in size in Portugal, it is the twentieth in economic turnover. It is the head of shoe industry in Portugal, an important industrial activity in Portugal, having the seat of the Shoe Technological Centre. Beyond that, the city is developing a Science Park and main Centro Empresarial e Tecnológico (Business and Technology Centre), as well as important commercial, financial and service centre of the region, having its largest Shopping Mall and largest concentration of banks.

Shoe manufacturing has been one of the city’s main economic industries, and regularly, the city has been referred to as “a Capital da Calçada” (the Capital of Footwear); many of Portugal’s shoe manufacturers and ancillary businesses, including the Centro Tecnológico do Calçado (Footwear Technology Centre) and Centro de Formação Profissional da Indústria do Calçado (Footwear Industry Centre for Professional Learning) are based in São João da Madeira. Similarly, regional industries have been responsible for the production of 20% the world’s felt hats and continues to be the major national producer. The quality of São João da Madeira’s head apparel has, at one time, been recognized internationally, and incorporated in fashion houses (such as Hermès). In addition, the movie industry was responsible for supporting this industry, with headwear produced for films such as Public Enemies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Indiana Jones’ hat, for example) and the Mad Hatter’s famous hat in Alice in Wonderland.

Source:, abridged