Some say that the idea that “Leiria doesn’t exist” was born from a recurring joke across several countries where a certain location “doesn’t exist”. In Germany, for example, Bielefeld doesn’t exist; in the Netherlands, it’s Drenthe; in Brazil, Acre doesn’t exist, nor does Wyoming in the USA nor Tlaxcala in Mexico. Here in Portugal, Leiria was the chosen location, and we set out to find out why.
Once we realised that we wouldn’t find the answer in Leiria Castle – the most beautiful castle in Portugal – on the cool shores of the River Lis or the picturesque streets of the city’s historic centre, we decided a scrawl through the internet was required, skipping from link to link until we landed in the depths of Reddit and dug back to the year 2020, where we found a video created by u/Captain_tuga, in which the district of Leiria inexplicably disappears. According to the content creator, he was inspired by an image that missed off our district.
The conspiracy theory was picked up on by a whole host of people, who – perhaps because it was totally unreasonable – began to spread it as a joke.
The second wind
In 2021, circumstances arose that would fire up the discussion once again, helping the idea that Leiria doesn’t exist gain popularity: the release of a new Iberian map for the game Euro Truck Simulator 2.
When playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 with the new map installed, players behind the wheel of their lorry would find that no matter how much they drove along the A1 motorway between Lisbon and Porto, they’d never come to the Leiria exit. Leiria was simply not on the map, so in the game, Leiria really didn’t exist!
Now, if this were true, it would be a gigantic problem for two reasons. Firstly, because everyone knows that lorry drivers love a hearty meal and that they’d never pass up a stop in our neck of the woods to enjoy a grilled Black rice pudding or a juicy, crispy Boa Vista Suckling Pig. Then, because Leiria On Wheels, one of Leiria’s best events, couldn’t be held without lorries, from event trucks to the lorries burning rubber on the tracks!
Fanning the flames
The joke that Leiria doesn’t exist got so popular that it quickly went viral, bouncing from tweet to tweet (it didn’t get quite as popular as the Leiria fair, but it may get there someday…)
In no time, new accounts were springing up on social networks, along with hashtags, memes , and other content. Regardless of their age, where they’re from, or their class, the truth is that it’s become common to hear people saying that Leiria doesn’t exist, even those from Leiria itself!
“Leiria doesn’t exist” was the central theme of an academic paper by a group of audiovisual and multimedia students at the Lisbon Polytechnic School of Communication and Media Studies.
More recently, local singer and songwriter Inês Apenas, who got to the final of the 2023 Song Festival with the theme “End of the World”, used the “Leiria doesn’t exist” conspiracy theory for her official merch.
Comedian and writer Guilherme Fonseca decided to include the theme in his latest book “Deve ser, deve”, which presents some of the most interesting/well-known/far-fetched denialist theories around, including the idea that “Leiria doesn’t exist“.
With a good dose of humour (as you’d expect from such a subject matter), the author presents evidence as to how Leiria doesn’t exist, which led to him being invited to shed some light on the subject by the mayor of Leiria, Dr Gonçalo Lopes. Several theories discussed in the book are questioned throughout the conversation, and irrefutable evidence is presented, such as the great Rui Patrício or well-known Brisas do Liz sweet treats.
Nevertheless, visit Leiria
Given the popularity of the “Leiria doesn’t exist” conspiracy theory, we’ve jumped on the bandwagon here at Visit Leiria, promoting our municipality using the unusual tagline, which has traveled the country from North to South, crossed borders via Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok, and which can be found on the shelves of every bookshop.
The question that remains
Like any good myth, “Leiria doesn’t exist” must be fed and perpetuated. As a destination, Leiria can only be thankful for this legacy and promises to honour all who built and boosted it. After all, #leiriadoesntexist, just as the Miracle of the Roses by Queen Saint Elizabeth of Portugal – our King Dinis’ venerated wife – likely didn’t happen.
Visit us and find out for yourself!