The last few decades has seen Braga become firmly ingrained on the tourist map. Braga is a lively city with so much to see to make a jampacked day trip and even warrant a few days stay. With MADABOUTPORTO.COM as your guide, you'll learn the best places to visit, what to do, where to eat, where to sleep, how to get there and get around.
Braga's strategic location on the fertile land between the Cávado and Este rivers has made it an important settlement since ancient times. The traditional industry of Braga is religious in nature, making carvings, church organs, bell casting, candles and candlesticks and embroidering vestments. Braga is still a major religious centre, in fact, you can hardly walk a few yards without encountering a church, seminary or a religious souvenir shop, which gives the town its nickname; "Portugal's Rome".
In modern times Braga has swollen into a large industrial town and is now the largest city North of Porto. Factories producing cars, electrical items, leather goods and textiles have sprung up within its bland outskirts. However, there is plenty of the Old Town remaining to delight the visitor, with medieval buildings, mansions, a castle keep, fountains, palaces, cafés and restaurants and of cause… the aforementioned religious buildings.
Braga Cathedral (Sé)
The Cathedral in Braga (Sé de Braga) pre-dates Portugal itself by a few decades, It was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary by Bishop Pedro in a solemn session on August 28, 1089. It rivalled the great cathedral in Santiago de Compostela for prominence in Galicia and it is rumoured to have originally housed the holy remains of St. James. Although within its walls there's a trove of over a millennium's worth of treasures to be found. Where it stands was once the site of a Roman temple. The imposing west facade built in the Romanesque style is capped by two bell towers flanking a larger-than-life statue of the Virgin. Other original Romanesque feature can be found in the Porta do Sol door, the floor-plan with an ambulatory, the main portico and the apse of the cloister of Santo Amaro. The Gothic-styled entrance porch was added later in the 15th Century.
The interior's highlights include an impressive 14th-century statue of the Virgin Mary found in the apse topped by a richly painted baldachin. Near the entrance is a beautifully decorated high choir with a painted ceiling and sculptured giltwood choir stalls created in a Neo-Gothic style around 1737 by Miguel Francisco da Silva. D. Henrique and D. Teresa, parents of the first king of Portugal, are buried in the Chapel of Kings.
Located within the old House of Cabido (Casa do Cabido) the newly renovated Treasure-Museum hosts the most significant pieces of history of Portugal. Items such as the 6th century Paleo-Christian grave, an Ivory Safe (1004-1008), and the Goblet (Cálice) and Paten of S. Geraldo (Patena de S. Geraldo) (11th century) pre-date Portugal as a sovereign nation. Other items of interest include a sculpture of the Virgin of Leite (1515), the Portable Organ (1685) and the Miter and Gloves of the Archbishop D. Gonçalo Pereira (1326-1348).
There's a permanent exhibition called “Roots of Eternity. Jesus Christ – A Church”, dedicated to sacred art and religious artefacts highlighting the life of Christ and the History of the Church in Braga.
Summer: Daily: 09h30 – 12h30/14h30 - 18h30, Winter: Daily: Daily: 09h30 – 12h30/14h30 - 17h30
Adult: Cathedral €2.00, Treasure Museum €3.00, Combined €4.00. Concessionary: 50% Discount
Rua Dom Paio Mendes, 4700-424, Braga, Portugal.
41° 32' 58.9" N | 08° 25' 42.2" W | +351 253 263 317
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The gate which stands just south from the Palácio dos Biscainhos is an 18th-century reconstruction of the 16th-century original. It formed part of Braga's old defensive walls and served as the western entrance to the city. The reconstruction was designed by André Soares to include the extension of Rococo decoration and was carried out in c1772. If walking from the train station into the centre of Braga the Arco da Porta Nova gate still feels like an impressive way to enter the city. 41° 33′ 0.9″ N | 08° 25′ 45.5″ W
The Idol Fountain is a national monument dating back to the first century BC located in the Rua do Raio, in the central area of the city. Carved with inscriptions and figures sculpted on a natural granite outcrop. An inscription certifies that Célico Fronto, a native of Arcóbriga, ordered its construction, a carved figure dressed in a toga carved could be his representation. The fountain is dedicated to the Castro god Tongoenabiago, this could be an indication the fountain was once part of a temple. 41° 32' 55" N | 08° 25' 18" W
The central hub of Braga is the large Praça da República square, also called “Arcada” after the 18th-century arcaded building on the west side of the square. It's where you'll find the tourist office and many eateries and cafés to relax and absorb the atmosphere. The Vianna takes centre stage, the spray from which offers refreshing relief from the midday heat. Halfway along the square is the imposing Baroque façade of the 18th century Congregados Basilica with its two bell towers shaping the skyline. Its somewhat austere exterior deceptively hides a more elaborate interior. Poking over the rooftops on the northeastern side is the Torre de Menagem, the keep and only remaining element of Braga's castle. Construction of Braga's castle began in the 14th century yet sadly its stones were quarried and reused in newer buildings.
41° 33' 04.7" N | 08° 25' 23" W
Arco da Porta Nova
Praça da República
Bom Jesús do Monte
Bom Jesús do Monte Staircase
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro
The sanctuary of Bom Jesús do Monte is located on top of the hill in Tenões overlooking the city of Braga. The lower portion of the church was commissioned by the Archbishop of Braga in 1723 and 60 years later the upper portion was completed by the Portuguese architect and engineer Carlos Amarante. The current church was one of the first in Portugal to be built in the Neoclassical style and sits on the site of a 15th-century sanctuary and even older 14th-century chapel. Most likely the religious significance of this site dates back to pre-Christian times as hilltops were places of homage for Celtic cultures.
Inside small chapels line the sanctuary which represents the stations of the cross culminating at the altar where the Crucifixion scene is depicted. The site is surrounded by magnificent gardens, containing a small gazebo, boating lake and a small grotto. The café is an ideal spot to take five and just absorb the breathtaking views. The site is popular with tourists and pilgrims alike, although the site doesn't represent any particular miraculous event thousands of faithful ascend to this site on Whitsunday.
High Season: Daily 09h00 - 20h00, Low Season: Daily 09h00 - 19h00
Construction of stairway began in 1723 after it was deemed that pilgrims deserved better than accenting the hill by dirt paths. The Baroque staircase zigzags its way up the wooded hillside in 17 flights of stairs made of 581 steps apiece. Climbing up the first part of the stairway the white paltered walls are embellished with fountains decorated with allegorical phrases and sculptures of Kings and prophets. Each of the five fountains represents the senses; Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.
As one journey higher up the staircase the fountains remind us of the three virtues; Faith, Hope and Charity, also pious biblical figures carved from granite and then finally as you reach the top the Pelican fountain. Curiously you're equally likely to encounter mountain bikers racing down the steps as penitent pilgrims ascending the steps on their knees.
Another way to get to the top is by the oldest water-powered funicular on the Iberian Peninsula, built-in 19th century by Niklaus Riggenbach. The funicular track is 274 metres long and descends 116 metres, giving an average gradient of around 42% and the journey time is about four minutes.
€1.30 Single, €2.50 Return
High Season: Daily 09h00 - 20h00, Low Season: Daily 09h00 - 19h00
Confraria do Bom Jesus, 4715-056 Braga, Portugal. | 41° 33' 16.3" N | 08° 22' 44.9" W
Not far from Bom Jesus do Monte, is another hilltop sanctuary, perched on an elevation of 556 metres (1824ft) above sea level is less visited than its more famous neighbour. It is relatively new dating from the 1860s however it's an important place of pilgrimage for devotees of the Virgin Mary. For the non-religious, the efforts of reaching this spot are rewarded by the excellent view of the surrounding countryside and Braga in the distance.
44 Av. Nossa Senhora do Sameiro, 4715-616 Braga, Portugal. | 41° 32′ 30.6″ N | 8° 22′ 11.4″ W
Following the conquest of Gallaecia (the Minho and Galicia), the Romans chose this spot as the centre of administration. Five Roman roads converge on the town known then as Bracara Augusta which soon became an important centre for trade and industry. Ancient artefacts such as glass, ceramics amongst others have been excavated in the area originating from all over the Roman Empire such as Egypt, Germania and Greece.
The remains of Braga's Roman baths and theatre can be found not far from the centre of today's Braga. This archaeological site, although still being excavated, is open to the public. Built in the second century AD the bath/theatre complex drew visitors from miles around and was a proud symbol of Braga's status as the provincial capital. By the fifth century AD, the site had fallen into disuse, the structure was torn down and its stones reused for the building of a newer city close by.
Tuesday – Friday: 09h00 - 13h00/14h00 - 18h00, Weekends: 10h00 - 17h00
€1.85 (€3.10 combined with the Fountain of the Idol).
Many of the finds unearthed at the Roman Thermae of Maximinus are on display in a permanent exhibition at the Diogo de Sousa Archaeological Museum. Items such as ceramics, metal, glass and milestones are explained and is an interesting insight into Romano/Paleo Christian period.
Low Season Daily: 09h00 - 17h30, Weekends: 09h00 - 18h00 | €3.00
Braga's Roman heritage is celebrated each May during a six-day festival which takes over the whole city and it is well worth planning a trip to Braga whilst it's on. Every square, street and alleyway is given over to filled with stalls selling all manner of handicrafts, gifts, beverages and food. A full agenda of concerts, performances and activities are held free of charge as Roman centurions patrol the streets and locals wear togas. Website
Roman Thermae of Maximinus
Braga Romana Festival
Opposite the cathedral lies the former Archbishop's Palace, originating from the 14th century and enlarged in the 17th, this fortified palace now houses the municipal library and remains one of the finest in Portugal. With over 300,000 volumes and over 10,000 valuable manuscripts acquired from 20 different convents and which works date back to the 9th century.
The open courtyard found in front of the palace, the Largo do Paço dates back to the 18th century and contains an unusual castellated fountain believed to be commissioned in 1723 by Dom Rodrigo de Moura. The Santa Barbara Gardens which were tastefully landscaped in 1955 make for a peaceful leisurely stroll. The gardens incorporate the remains of the medieval arcade of the palace.
Largo do Paço, 4704-553, Braga, Portugal.
41° 33′ 05.1″ N | 08° 25′ 33.2″ W
On the side of the Monte de São Romão hill, laying guard over the Ave river valley, in-between Braga and Guimarães, spanning 24 hectares (of which only seven have been excavated), lies the fascinating ruins of Citãnia de Briteiros. Successive cultures dating back to the bronze age have taken advantage of this strategic spot. The slight elevation of the site and moderate climate brought bountiful treasures from the land in the way of farming, fishing and forest fruits.
Although little survives from its earliest inhabitants some rock art engravings have been found in this area dating back from the first millennium BC. Most of what remains at the site are attributed to the people of the Castro culture who from the end of the Bronze Age (c. 9th century BC) until it was subsumed in local Roman culture occupied northern Portugal and Galicia. The most notable characteristics of this culture are, first, its walled oppida and hill forts, known locally as Castros, from Latin castrum "castle", and second, the absence of visible burial practices, despite the frequent depositions of precious items and goods, swords and other metallic riches in rocky outcrops, rivers and other aquatic contexts.
From the 2nd century BC, some of the hill-forts turned into semi-urban fortified towns the remains of which are locally known as cidades, (cities) with populations reaching up to a thousand inhabitants. Such urban centres were hubs of industry and trade, manufacturing including pottery, stone masonry, metalworking and tool making. Pottery from the early Iron Age has been found at Citånia de Briteiros, the period after the settlement had been fortified with a system of ramparts and moats suggesting a need to protect its wealth.
Much of what is known about the site is due to the work of the acclaimed Portuguese archaeologist Francisco Martins Sarmento who started annual excavation campaigns in 1874 in which one such campaign led to the discovery of the acropolis, the highest portion of the settlement, the site was named a national monument in 1910. It is thanks to Sarmento that the visitor can have an insight into how life must have been during the site heyday, whilst walking along the original streets you'll encounter two reconstructed huts complete with straw roofs, remains of a bathhouse, and the ruins of the defensive wall and a visitor centre with exhibits of excavated finds.
PR2 Footpath starts atthe foot of the hill in São Salvador.
Arriva bus 173 (Guimaraes - Taipas - St. Leocadia). Alight at Igreja de São Salvador de Briteiros, duration 45 minutes. Timetable
14 km (8.5 miles) North of Guimarães on the N309
High Season: Daily 09h00 - 18h00, Low Season: Daily 09h00 - 17h00
Monte de São Romão, Briteiros São Salvador, Guimarães, Portugal. | 41° 31' 35" N | 08° 18' 55" W
A centrally situated guest-house within Bragashopping and surrounded by some of the most well known monuments, gardens and museums.
Avenida Central,27 a 37, Bloco Traseiras, 4710 - 228, Braga, Portugal.
41° 33' 12.6" N | 08° 25' 16.2" W
Located in Braga's historical centre, set in a renovated 14th century building, rooms feature stone walls and hardwood floors. Each room and suite has modern furnishings and includes air conditioning, a TV and a private bathroom. Restaurant Centurium features vaulted ceilings and offers a variety of freshly prepared international and Portuguese cuisine. The Bracara Augusta Hotel also has a bar that serves refreshing beverages.
Avenida Central 134, 4710-229, Braga. Portugal.
41° 33' 04.7" N | 08° 25' 11.4" W
Located in a restored 18th-century convent in the green hills three miles from Braga, Golden Tulip Braga offers indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and tennis court.
Leisure facilities at Golden Tulip Braga Hotel & Spa - Falperra includes a snooker table, board games, bike rental and sports courts for tennis and paintball. Guests have access to the hot tub and sauna. For complete relaxation, a rejuvenating body treatment is available.
Golden Tulip Braga Hotel & Spa - Falperra offers a buffet-style breakfast each morning. The hotel’s "Do Convento" restaurant offers à la carte service inspired by the tasty local and international cuisine. Meals can be enjoyed with panoramic views over the gardens, pool and valley that surround the Hotel. Free private parking is available on site.
Via Falperra, 4700-407, Braga, Portugal.
41° 31' 14.2" N | 08° 23' 21.6" W
Ideally located within the centre of Braga this small family run restaurant offers the most innovative food in Braga. Offering tantalising beautifully presented tapas (petiscos) with a large selection of wines to suit. There are vegetarian options available. The staff are very warm and attentive who care greatly for your dinning satisfaction. For the quality of food you would expect to pay much more than they charge. As you can imagine Tabuas is very popular so pre-booking is advised if not essential.
Tuesday - Thursday: 18h30 - 22h30, Friday: 18h30 - 23h00, Saturday: 12h30 - 15h00/18h30 - 23h30, Sunday: CLOSED
54 Rua D. Gonçalo Pereira, 4700-032 Braga, Portugal. | 41° 32' 55.9" N | 08° 25' 36.8" W
+351 936 706 108 | Facebook
Situated on a farm three miles from the city centre, idyllic location with great views.
Tuesday - Saturday: 12h00 - 15h00/19h00 - 22h00, Sunday: 12h00 - 15h00, Monday: CLOSED
Rua da Igreja, 16 - S. Pedro d'Este, 4715-434 Braga. Portugal.
41° 34' 10.5" N | 08° 20' 55.9" W
+351 253 675 112
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Small, welcoming and somewhat quirky this restaurant is a lot of fun. The owners certainly have a lot of passion for what they do which is evident straight away by their warm welcome. Their menu is limited and changes with the seasons yet always very well prepared and presented. The portions here are just as generous as the welcome. The retro theme of the decor is continued by the staff with their fashion. The wine is just as local as the ingredients. Neither of which will break the bank. All in all Retrokitchen offers a host memorable experience.
Monday - Saturday: 12h00 - 14h30/20h00 - 22h30, Sunday: CLOSED
96 Rua do Anjo, Braga 4700-305 Portugal.
41º 32" 54.6' N | 08º 25" 30.8' W
+351 253 267 023 | Facebook
Braga is 54km (33.5 miles) North of Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport PORTO. Website
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Regular trains from Porto, use the urban train service (comboios urbanos) Linha do Braga. (55mins): Train Timetable | Comboios de Portugal Website
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