British Council Carnival Ball, 1961

Did you know that:

  • in 1938, the British Council opened its first four offices in Lisbon, Warsaw, Bucharest, and Cairo?
  • the British Council in Portugal has existed continuously for longer than any other British Council office in the world?
  • Coimbra was the place where the British Council started to teach English?

Read on to discover more important dates in our history.

 November 1936 

An English Reading Room is inaugurated at University of Coimbra by Professor George West in the presence of the then Minister of Education and Sir Charles Wingfield, British Ambassador to Portugal.

23 November 1938 

The British Council is officially inaugurated in Lisbon by Professor George West, in a ceremony held at the great hall of Academia de Ciências in the presence of the Portuguese Minister of Education. The then premises were located at Travessa André Valente 13 (Bairro Alto), Lisbon. 

July 1939 

The British Council opens officially in Coimbra under the name of ‘Casa de Inglaterra’.

March 1942

The British Council in Lisbon acquires the Menino de Ouro Palace at Rua Luis Fernandes in Lisbon, relocating from Travessa André Valente.  The British Council still occupies the palace to this day.

July 1943 

The British Council opens at Rua do Breiner in Porto.

April 1984 

Visit to Portugal by the British Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher, MP.

February 1987 

HRH Prince Charles and Princess Diana visit the British Council offices in Oporto.

October 1987 

Death of George West, founder of British Council English teaching and the British Council Portugal.

September 1991 

Official Opening of the British Council in Parede in the presence of Dra Maria Barroso, wife of former President of the Republic Dr Mário Soares.

September 1998 

The British Council opens a teaching centre in Miraflores.

January 2008

We celebrate 70 years of working with Portugal at an event held in the same room at Academia de Ciências. We also publish a book covering our history: Un Toque Decisivo.


We celebrate 75 years of working with Portugal and 70 years in Rua de Breiner in Porto.

Want to see more?

See more history and photos of students, visitors and events on our Facebook page.

For more information on British Council history in Portugal and digitalised archives please contact us.

External links