Braga in Portugal – Curiosities, what to do, where to stay, and much more!

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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With more than 2000 years of history, Braga is the oldest city in Portugal. Charming and interesting, it currently has a medieval and religious setting that blends with a youthful and entrepreneurial vibe.

If you want to visit cities other than Lisbon and Porto, then Braga in Portugal needs to be on your list. Located in the north of the country, it is the capital of the Minho region and was highlighted as the European Youth Capital in 2012. Just a 40-minute drive from Porto, it is a Portuguese city that you must visit if you have a free day in your itinerary. 

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history of Braga

With more than 2000 years of history, Braga is the oldest city in Portugal. Before its foundation by the Romans between 136 BC and 14 AD, Celtic peoples who were known as Bracaros already lived in the region.

After conquests and battles, Emperor Caesar Augustus had the city reorganized and renamed it Bracara Augusta. The aim was to spread the Christian religion and the Roman way of life in the Iberian Peninsula. Thermal baths, temples and public roads were built and socio-economic activities developed rapidly.

The city became the capital of Galécia, a region that stretched from the north of the Douro to the Cantabrian. From the Middle Ages onwards, Braga changed power several times until it reached the hands of the King of Leon, D. Afonso III. It later passed into the hands of the Count of Portucale, D. Henrique de Borgonha, through the dowry of D. Teresa, daughter of D. Afonso IV of León and Castile. D. Teresa and D. Henrique de Borgonha are the parents of the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, and are buried in the Cathedral of Braga.

Braga Portugal – Photo: Peter Horenský via Flickr

In the twelfth century the city was donated to the Archbishops, who transformed it during the following centuries, improving and building in the region around the Cathedral. Until today, Braga continues to be considered the largest center of religious studies in the country.

It is also where the Minho's university. The beautiful province of Northern Portugal is made up of the districts of Braga and Viana do Castelo. This causes many young people to reside in Braga, which is why she was chosen as European Youth Capital in 2012. 

Braga Attractions

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte

Start your tour in Braga, Portugal, visiting the beautiful Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte. Located on top of a hill, from there you will be able to have a good perspective of the city before starting to explore its streets.

Our suggestion is to take the funicular (a type of tram in Portugal) to go up. As for going down, the tip is to go down the stairs – because “Down with all the Saints help” isn't it?

Furthermore, this XNUMXth century elevator is one of the only ones in the world that still works with a water counterweight. A true relic that we can still enjoy today. A ticket for one trip costs 1,5 euros, and a return ticket costs 2,5 euros.

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus dos Montes in Braga Portugal

When you get up there, take the opportunity to enter the church and see the wonderful altar up close, representing the crucifixion of Christ. It's definitely a movie worthy setting!

Afterwards, stroll through the gardens that surround the sanctuary, discovering the cave with the bandstand, the lake with the fish and the monocle to see the city in its details. It is from this place that the expression “See Braga through a straw”, which means seeing expectations dashed.

As you begin your descent through the emblematic stairs, notice the statues and fountains that symbolize each move. There are 581 steps, divided into three levels: the Portico Staircase, the Five Senses Staircase and the Three Virtues Staircase.

The monocle “see Braga through a straw” – Photo:

Sanctuary of Bom Jesus dos Montes in Braga Portugal

Idol Fountain and Raio Palace

Go now to the historic center of Braga Portugal to discover this charming city in the North. Start by admiring the facade of the Lightning Palace, in the Baroque style and full of beautiful blue tiles.

It was built in 1754 by a prestigious merchant in the city and sold after a century to the Viscount of S. Lázaro, Miguel José Raio. Eventually it came to rest in the hands of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia who ended up doing several restoration works and installing hospital services in the palace.

On the street in front of the palace is the idol font, an archaeological site from Roman times. It is believed to have been built over two thousand years ago as a shrine to the water god Tongoenabiago. It is one of the oldest surviving monuments of Bracara Augusta and therefore very important in the city.

Raio Palace in Braga Portugal – Photo:

Idol Fountain, an archaeological site from Roman times – Photo: Enjoy the Universe via Flickr

Lapa Arcade and Keep

Follow your route through Avenida da Liberdade, a pedestrian-only closed street with several shops along it, until Republic square. It was there that in the XNUMXth century traders settled, which led to the construction of the Lapa Arcade, to protect them in case of rain.

Nowadays, the Arcada is the place where the city's older population gathers daily to socialize, in cafes with terraces. It is also there that one of the oldest cafés in the city is located, the Café Vianna.

Walk through the streets of the historic center nearby and discover the Tower of Menagem, which is behind the Arcades. This is the last vestige of Braga Castle, which had been built there since the XNUMXth century.

Avenida da Liberdade Gardens in Braga Portugal – Photo: @municipio_de_braga via Instagram

Arcada da Lapa at Praça da República in Braga Portugal – Photo: Moacir de Sa Pereira via Flickr

The last vestige of Braga Castle – the Keep

Santa Barbara Garden and Braga Cathedral

keep walking by Rua do Souto and turn right when you reach the intersection with Rua Dr. Justino Cruz. That's where you'll find the beautiful Santa Barbara Garden, with the episcopal arches in the background. All the ways of the flowery labyrinth arrive in the image of Santa Barbara

Go around behind the old Archbishop's Palace in Braga. Then continue passing through the garden of the Town Hall Square to the Church of the Misericordia. Turn right to go to the Arch from Porta Nova.

Afterwards, return along the same path to visit the Braga Cathedral. There is a Portuguese expression that says “Older than the Cathedral of Braga”. This is because the cathedral would date back to the XNUMXrd century, making it the oldest catholic building in the country. To visit it you need to pay 2 euros, but the entrance to the cloister and some of the chapels is free. 

Santa Barbara Garden

View of the Santa Bárbara Garden in full bloom – Photo: @municipio_de_braga via Instagram

Braga Cathedral – the oldest Catholic building in Portugal – Photo: Joana Silva via Flickr

The beautiful interior of the Cathedral of Braga – Photo: Photo: @municipio_de_braga via Instagram

To plan your entire trip to Portugal, also read our post  Travel to Portugal – The COMPLETE guide for Brazilians

Where to eat in Braga Portugal

One of the most emblematic of the city, the Café Vianna It was opened in 1858 and the illustrious Portuguese writers Eça de Queirós and Camilo Castelo Branco passed through it. It is located in the Arcades of Praça da República. Even today, it is one of the favorite places for a coffee on the terrace. #Tip: if you are visiting for the weekend, take the opportunity to have brunch in this iconic place in the city.

To try the gastronomic dishes of the Minho region, it is best to book a table at Beloved, next to the Arco da Porta Nova. Between the Minho-style rojões, roasted kid and Braga-style sarrabulho porridge, the recipes are traditional and delicious. Don't forget to try the cod to the house and, to finish, the wonderful pudding of Abbot of Prisco.

A little far from the historic center is belgian tavern, which we recommend for Francesinhas wonderful things you have here. They are so famous that there is always a line at the door and there is even a Belgian bar 2. So if you are driving, this is a great option for lunch.

Café Vianna in Braga Portugal – Photo: @cafevianna via Instagram

Café Vianna – Did you want to go to Braga? – Photo: @cafevianna via Facebook

One of the famous francesinha from Taberna Belga – Traditional Francesinha – Photo: @tabernabelga via Facebook.

Where to stay in Braga – The best neighborhoods in the city

During your visit to Braga Portugal, you may fall in love with the city and want to stay a few more days. Or just decide that this is the perfect base for exploring the Minho region in Northern Portugal. Anyway, here we have several tips with the best neighborhoods to stay.

  • Historical Center

If you like to stay a few steps from the main sights of a city, then the historic center is the right choice. There, on the pedestrian-only streets around the Cathedral, every corner has an emblematic café, a monument or an interesting shop. Take a look at our recommendations, for all budgets:

  • Collector’s Hostel – bed in dormitory from 16 euros.
  • Domus 26 Guesthouse B&B – room from 48 euros with breakfast included.
  • Suites See Inn – apartments with kitchenette from 63 euros.
  • Vila Gale Collection Braga – 4-star hotel, from 99 euros with indoor pool.

Collector's Hostel – Photo: publicity

Domus 26 Guesthouse – Photo: publicity

Suites – Se Inn – Photo: publicity

Vila Gale Collection Braga – Photo: publicity
  • Bom Jesus do Monte

On the other hand, if you intend discover other cities in the Minho region, in addition to Braga, so take the opportunity to stay in the Bom Jesus do Monte neighborhood. The location is less than an hour's drive from Braga. From there, you can visit Guimarães, Viana do Castelo and the fantastic Gerês Park. In addition, you will be next to one of the most famous tourist spots in the city, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.

  • Park Hotel – 4-star hotel located in the heart of the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary park. Newly renovated rooms from 65 euros.
  • Elevator Hotel – 4-star hotel located next to the Bom Jesus do Monte elevator, from 52 euros. #Tip: Wonderful for a romantic weekend in Braga Portugal, with panoramic views from the bedroom window and the restaurant.
  • Melia Braga Hotel & Spa – 5 star hotel, from 159 euros with indoor and outdoor pool.

Hotel do Parque – Photo: publicity

Hotel do Elevador – Photo: publicity

Melia Braga Hotel & Spa – Photo: publicity

hotels in Braga

Summary of tips from Braga, Portugal

Where is the city of Braga

The city of Braga is located in the north of Portugal approximately 40 minutes by car from the city of Porto.

How far is it from Porto to Braga?

The distance between Porto and Braga is only 54 km.

How to get to Braga, Portugal

It is possible to arrive in Braga, Portugal, by train (train) leaving from Campanha station in Porto on the Braga line or by renting a car.

What is it like to live in Braga, Portugal

Considered the European Youth Capital in 2012, Braga is home to the University of Minho, which means that many young people reside in the city. It is a historic city, full of charm and beauty, at even more affordable prices than Lisbon and Porto.

How is the weather in Braga, Portugal

From November to April the minimum temperatures in Braga, Portugal, are below 10ºC. From April to October, the average temperatures are between 13ºC and 23ºC.

When is the best time to visit Braga

The best time to visit Braga is in summer and spring, between May and September.

Braga Attractions

Visit the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, Fonte do Ídolo and Palácio do Raio, Arcada da Lapa and Torre de Menagem, Jardim de Santa Bárbara and Sé de Braga.

What to eat in Braga, Portugal

Have brunch at the iconic Café Vianna. Try the francesinhas at Taberna Belga. Be sure to try the cod à Casa and the Abade de Priscos pudding. Beloved. Other typical dishes: rojões à moda do Minho, roasted kid and sarrabulho porridge à moda de Braga

Where to stay in Braga, Portugal?

In the historic center: Collector’s Hostel , Domus 26 Guesthouse B&B , Suites See Inn , Vila Gale Collection Braga.

Is that you? Did you like our tips about Braga Portugal? Leave your comment here for us…

Don't forget: Travel Insurance for Portugal is mandatory.

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tip of internet chip to use in Portugal

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Read more:

  • Cell Phone Chip in Portugal – Where to Buy?
  • Portugal Tour – 13 Places You Need to Know
  • Things to do in Porto, Portugal – 3 days itinerary
  • What to do in Portugal – 7 to 20 day itinerary around the country
  • Europe Travel Insurance – What you NEED to know before hiring
  • Coimbra Portugal – 10 unmissable tips on what to do there
  • Aveiro Portugal – Tips for getting to know the best of the city
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