Approximate study time: 10 Minutes

>Release date: 5 August 2020


1. Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe!

The Vasco de Gama bridge in Lisbon opened in 1998 and at 10.7 miles long is the longest bridge in Europe. 

  • History

Lisbon has always been plagued with traffic issues and during the mid 90’s traveling south out of Lisbon had become intolerable with the 6 lane Ponte 25 de Abril simply unable to handle the volumes of commuters. Suggestions for a new bridge had been bounced around for decades but the distance to traverse, poor foundations and possibility of seismic activity had always pushed the construction costs beyond that of which the government could afford. 

With the funding organised the bridge was constructed in an unbelievable short time period of only 18 months, which coincided with the opening of Expo 98. The 17km length of the bridge was divided into 4 sections with each section being built by different private engineering companies that were over seen by Lusoponte. At the height of construction over 3,000 people were employed, this combined with the 2,500 who worked on the expo site resulted in the largest construction project in Portugal during the 21st century.

  • Interesting facts

The final bridge was expensive, strong and very long. The Ponte Vasco da Gama’s official length was 10.7 mile (17.2 km) and at the time of the inauguration on the 29th March 1998 it was the longest bridge in the world and today is still Europe’s longest bridge over an expanse of water.

On the inauguration day of the Ponte Vasco da Gama the residents of Lisbon were invited to a massive seated party which stretched the length of the bridge. The opening of the bridge coincided with the opening of Expo 98 as thousands of Spanish and European tourists traveled to Lisbon from the east of the city.


2. Piri Piri originated from Portugal.

Forget Nando's...if you like it hot and spicy head to Portugal to try the original Piri Piri sauce! There are plenty of cafe's and restaurants serving Piri Piri chicken...our favourite is Teodosio in Guia, Albufeira!

  • History & interesting facts

The pepper that piri piri sauce comes from, the Birdseye chili, originally came from the Americas (as do all chili peppers). It was brought to Spain and Portugal in the wake of Christopher Columbus’ voyages. While the Portuguese initially didn’t appreciate the pepper, it found its way down into Brazil via Portuguese traders. After that, another group of Portuguese traders took it with them to East Africa and to Asia, where the peppers became much, much more popular.

On the African continent, the original Birdseye chili branched off from its American counterpart and became a cultivar known as the African Birdseye. Meanwhile, Portuguese traders and slavers formalized their control over different parts of Africa, maintaining colonies in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and elsewhere. 

The Portuguese empire actively encouraged settlers from the home country to settle abroad, meaning that in Angola and Mozambique there were large numbers of Portugese settler-colonists. Both the indigenous peoples and the settlers adapted the pepper into their food. Mozambique appears to be where the sauce first appeared, with the indigenous population adopting certain Portuguese traditions such as cooking chicken with lemon.

However, the Portuguese also refused to grant equal rights to the African population in their colonies, and by the 1960s guerrilla war had broken out as Angolans, Mozambicans, and Guineans fought for their freedom.

In 1974, a coup removed Portugal’s long-ruling dictatorship from power. The new government promised independence to the colonies, and the Portugese settler population largely fled from these newly-independent countries. Many of them went back to Portugal and became known as the “retornados.” They brought Angolan, Mozambique, and Guinean food traditions with them back to Portugal, where previously they had been largely unknown. These dishes soon became wildly popular there.

Meanwhile, some retornados went to neighboring South Africa instead of Portugal, and they brought the food with them; Portuguese takeaway became a common thing in big cities like Johannesburg. In 1987, Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin bought the Chickenland restaurant and renamed it Nando’s. It expanded internationally in the 1990s and became especially popular in Great Britain, contributing to the craze for “Portuguese chicken.” Nando’s has been slower to catch on in the United States, though it has over 40 locations and word-of-mouth has increased awareness of the sauce.


3. Surf's up! The biggest wave in the world was surfed in Portugal.

 In November 2015, a 100ft wave was surfed in Praia do Norte, Nazare by some of the best surfers in the world!


 4. Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe.

The capital of Portugal – Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe and predates cities such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Lisbon is a fantastic destination for a city break too - cobbled narrow streets, tram rides and amazing coastal views make it the ideal place to discover.  

  • History 

Lisbon’s history dates back to 300,000 years ago. However, it emerged as a nation state in the early 12th century and ranks as one of the world's longest founded cities. As the legend tells, it is a city founded and named by Ulysses as Ulissipo or Olissopo, which has its origins in the Phoenician words "Allis Ubbo", meaning "enchanting port". It is from there, according to legend, that Lisbon got its name.

Early history of Lisbon was a battlefield for Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, however it was Romans who started their two-century reign in Lisbon in 205 BC. During Romans period, Lisbon became one of the most significant cities in Iberian Peninsula and renamed Felicitas Julia.

In 714, the Moors arrived to peninsula and resisted against Christian attacks for 400 years. When the Christians finally recaptured the city, it took one more century to repel all the Moors from the peninsula.

The 15th century was the point of departure for the Portuguese Discoveries, an era during which Portugal enjoyed abundant wealth and prosperity through its newly discovered off shore colonies in Atlantic islands, the shores of Africa, the Americas and Asia. Vasco da Gama's famous discovery of the sea route to India marked this century. Lisbon was then world's most prosperous trading center. Furthermore, many attractions of the city at present such as Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém, both classified by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, were built during this period.

However, this era didn’t take long: the earthquake of 1755 destroyed nearly entire city. The city was rebuilt by the Marquês de Pombal, who thus created the Baixa Pombalina, a commercial area that still attains attraction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city spread progressively to the North and areas such as the Avenidas Novas (New Avenues) were added.

Today, Lisbon is one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe while still maintaining the marks of its early glorious history.


5. Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world.

The country produces almost 100,000 tonnes of cork each year which is then produced into bottle stoppers, badminton shuttlecocks and thermal insulation for houses amongst many other things.


6. Portugal is the home of Port wine.

The delicious sweet fortified wine Port is a favourite tradition for many at Christmas and we have the Portugese to thank for it! Cheers!


7. The sun is (pretty much) always shining!

According to weather experts, Portugal has the highest number of sunshine hours in Europe and enjoys over 3000 sunshine hours a year! It's the perfect holiday destination for summer and winter sun .


8. Portugal consumes the most fish and shellfish in Europe.

With such tasty seafood available it’s no surprise that the Portuguese eat more fish and shellfish per head of population. Visit Ramiro restaurant in Lisbon for mouthwatering giant tiger prawns, lobster and crab.


9. The first ever bookstore in the world was opened in Portugal.

The Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon opened in 1732…which means that this quirkly little shop is 283 years old! We love the colourful mosaic tiled exterior!

10. One of the oldest universities in Europe is in Portugal.

The university of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest Universities in on the continent.


Author: Setareh Zahedi