Braga proved to be a nice surprise for me. Although I knew that’s a third big city in Portugal and one of the oldest, with a great historical heritage, I never thought that will be so cozy, with such warm people and beautiful places.
This city is located at the North of the country, near of the well known Oporto city, connected to that by the urban railway. Braga is called the “Portuguese Rome” because of their many religious monuments. Let´s start with that!
1. Religious Heritage
Braga has more than 30 churches. The most magnificent and oldest is the Cathedral of Braga, also called the “Sé” of Braga. It was built in 1070 and her beauty comes from the presence of distinct artistic influences, being the romantic one the most important. You can buy a ticket which gives access to the cathedral, the 5 chapels and the high choir.
Another must-see church is the Santa Cruz Church and the Santa Cruz Plaza. This church was built in the baroque style and the gold carving in the interior is impressive. Another interesting place is the Sanctuary of Sameiro. It figures at 566 meters of altitude, on top of a hill with the same name. It attracts many Catholic pilgrims mainly by the Marian worship.
But for me, the most amazing place is the well known Bom Jesús de Braga. It certainly needs a bullet for itself.
2. Bom Jesus de Braga church
This place is magical… my favorite in Braga city and maybe in all Portugal. More than just a church, all the path to reach the top of Bom Jesus is beautiful. Starting with the baroque stairways to go to the church (represents the ascend to heaven) and going with the surrounding parks, forests and amazing views over Braga. But for those of you who don´t love to “hike” the 580 stairs, there´s a funicular that gets you there.
This is a place for families but also for people who like to walk, breath fresh air, meditate… Yes, meditate… And this takes us to my favorite area in Bom Jesus, the cave. This is magical, with flowers and you can go inside and be quiet for a while. There is a little lake inside that reflects a beautiful blue color when the sun enters… If you go there don’t forget to throw a coin and make a wish!
Besides all of that, you can make a picnic in the park, rent a boat to cross the lake, or just observe the astonishing views in the high terrace.
You should reserve one morning or one afternoon to visit this place because it´s not inside the city. You can reach it by car or taking a bus that departs from the city’s center.
3. City’s historical center
A walking tour in the center it will take around 4 hours. It´s there where most of the historic monuments are. You already know about some churches (although you going to find many more there) so in addition to that, you can find gorgeous palaces and gardens.
Before that. When you arrive at Braga, walking towards the center you will find the Arco da Porta Nova, a 14th century triumphal arch used as a symbol for and an entrance into the city. From there you got many places of interest:
Located close to the Braga Cathedral, this monument is formed by three separate buildings, each of which is from a different period. The eastern wing is from before 15th century and was built in gothic style; The baroque-style west wing was built in the 18th century; the southern wing is a collection of various buildings from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Nowadays the Archbishop´s Palace houses the Public Library of Braga as well as the District Archive.
Garden Of Santa Barbara
It´s a very flowery and well groomed public garden. Near is located the Santa Barbara Fountain.
The Fountain Of The Idol
This fountain was built during the time of Emperor Augustus and is located in downtown on historic Raio´s street. It´s a sigh of ancient Romans, but, you can find carved in granite rock some inscriptions in ancient Celtic. People believe that was a gift to Tongoenabiago god.
It is also Known as “The Mexican House” and was built by one of the city´s wealthy merchants, João Duarte, in the 18th century. This building was designed by architect André Soares, the same that designed other monuments, like the Arco da Porta Nova for example.
It´s a gorgeous building where concerts and plays take place. You can go inside to watch a concert or you can book a guided tour.
4. Modernity blends with History
As you can see Braga is a city full of history and religious beliefs. Nevertheless is also a city full of life, where the streets are decorated with animated street side cafés, art galleries, bars and shops. Also, you can find a great nightlife because of the local and the Erasmus students from Minho University and The Catholic University of Portugal.
5. The food, of course
I believe that most of you should have heard about Portuguese food… But you really need to try it. Portuguese cuisine is rich in flavor, fresh vegetables and fruits, good meat quality and really really great fish and shellfish. The dishes vary according to the region of the country, although today there are almost everything in every city. If you seat in any of the Braga´s restaurants and ask for the specialties, they would be more than happy to suggest the best dishes. Meanwhile, there are some of the best restaurants in town (only Portuguese cuisine):
“Casa de Pasto das Carvalheiras”
“Cozinha da Sé”
“Casa das Hortas”
Summing up, the city of Braga is an excellent place to relax and have some culture at the same time. You can travel back in time, feel the nature, or just enjoy the city life, good drinks and amazing gastronomy… And probably you´re going to know all the country.