Braga Portugal – The Travel Guide
Braga is the main portuguese city at north of Porto. It is approximately 50 km north of Porto. Capital of Minho, ‘City of the Archbishops, “Braga has over 2000 years of history and was also capital of a kingdom.
Braga now has 137 000 inhabitants, is the center of a county with 181 000 inhabitants, the head of a region called “Minho” with over a million inhabitants, an area characterized by its green landscape, its people and its traditions.
The British newspaper, The Guardian, in its issue of May 10, 2014, considered Braga “the loveliest city in Portugal you’ve never heard of.” Braga is “vibrant” and although old, is “full of modern energy.”
Braga Portugal – Brief history
In the Iron Age, one Celtic tribe inhabited this region. They were the Brácaros (Latin Bracari), which would give their name to the city.
The Romans founded the city in the year 16 BC, with the name Bracara Augusta, in honor of the Emperor Caesar Augustus, as the capital of the Roman region of Galecia, which included the entire northwest of the Iberian Peninsula.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Bracara Augusta became the political and intellectual capital of the kingdom of the Suevi. The Suevi were a Germanic tribe that came to the Iberian Peninsula in the year 409, coming from what is now Germany. They founded a kingdom that included Galicia, northern Portugal, part of Asturias and Leon, and extended into the River Tagus. The capital was Braga.
In the eleventh century the town was reorganized, probably with the present name of “Braga”. Begins the construction of the city walls and cathedral.
In the sixteenth century, the Archbishop of Braga, D. Diogo de Sousa, profoundly modifies the city, with new streets, squares, new buildings, also teasing the growth beyond the walled perimeter.
In the eighteenth century, Braga through the inspiration of André Soares (Architect 1720-69) and Carlos Amarante (Engineer and Architect 1742-1815), becomes the ex-libris of Baroque and Neoclassical style in Portugal.
In the twentieth century, there is the transport and basic infrastructure revolution, redesign of Avenida da Liberdade which highlights the Circus Theater and the buildings on the east side.
In the late twentieth century, Braga has a great development and growth at a very fast pace.
Braga Portugal – Why do you have to visit it?
Not only in Braga but throughout Portugal, people are generally very friendly and attentive. It’s their way of thanking the interest of those who visit them.
The climate is temperate most of the year, despite of course it is colder in the winter and hotter in the summer. However in Braga it rains more often than in the rest of the country.
Another reason to visit Braga is the food. The food is good and there are several options that is worth a try!
There is the Bom Jesus, the historical city center, the entire region of Minho, events and popular festivals in Braga such as St. John and the lively night of Braga.
Finally, all this is very cheap! By the standards of a European, the food is very cheap, housing is cheap, and transport is very cheap!
Braga Portugal – Places to Go
Visit the Bom Jesus do Monte, with gardens, a beautiful church, lake and a magnificent views above the city of Braga. However avoid visiting on Sundays, due to the larger influx of people. The best way to get there is by the historic “water-powered” elevator (is the oldest elevator in service worldwide using the water balance system).
Next, the Braga Cathedral. It is the oldest cathedral in Portugal (built before Portugal). Sundays during the mass you can enjoy the sound of the huge cathedral organ. Make sure to visit the museum. The guided tour is essential to take the best advantage of it. Here are the tombs of Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal and his wife, Teresa of León, parents of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.
Walk on the beautiful Garden of Santa Barbara, a great place for a romantic stroll, but avoid it in the winter because virtually has no flowers. At the bottom of the garden you can see a medieval building.
The Braga Municipal Stadium was described by the Financial Times as one of the “most original and beautiful stadiums in the world.” Designed by architect Souto Moura, which for this work received the Pritzker award from Barack Obama. Worth a visit. Adults pay € 6 for a guided tour. Students and retirees pay € 4.
Situated near Braga, the Monastery of Tibães worth a visit. The Monastery of Tbibães was founded in the eleventh century. It was for centuries the mother house of the Benedictine Order, for Portugal and Brazil. After major restoration, in addition to the museum and the gardens, opened to the public a guesthouse with 9 rooms and a restaurant. This site has been chosen for some summits with foreign heads of state.
The Theatro Circo is the main theater of Braga. With a lot of activity, is located in the city center. See the programming.
In a beautiful and modern building is installed the GNRation, for artistics and cultural activities. See agenda.
Also explore the surrounding region of Minho, its landscapes, towns and cities, fairs, and the Peneda-Geres National Park.
Braga Portugal – 5 Best Restaurants
Start by Centurium Restaurant, located on Central Avenue, right in the city center. The food is Portuguese and the service is very attentive. Has an excellent quality-price ratio. A dinner for two with appetizers, main dishes, desserts, a bottle of wine and a bottle of water, may be around 40 €.
If you prefer seafood and fish, opt for Docamar. The atmosphere is nice with optimal presentation of tables, crockery and glasses. The service is very professional and very attentive. The menu is really an excellent option for those who love seafood and fish in general. The dishes are very well prepared and delicious. The price is honest. Very worthwhile. However, on the busiest days the service may not be the best, however, worth knowing because the food is very good.
If looking for a warm and peaceful atmosphere the suggestion is A Casa d´Avó Micas, a small family restaurant. Interestingly the kitchen is behind the counter, in the dining room itself. It is ideal for a dinner for two! Our suggestion is Bacalhau à Marisol (Marisol Cod).
Another option is Arcoense, maybe a little more expensive than usual, however the service is attentive and the food excellent! Will have plenty to choose from … My favorite dish is Cozido à Portuguesa Parolo.
In the city center, near the Cathedral of Braga, is the Restaurante Cozinha da Sé, where you can choose the Bacalhau com Broa (Cod with Bread), Arroz de Tamboril (Rice by Monkfish), Polvo à Lagareiro (Octopus Lagareiro) and more. A great place to enjoy the traditional cuisine. Rustic style. Coins are left in cracks in the walls, by customers!
Braga Portugal – Nightlife
Because being also a college town, the night in Braga is vibrant with many options at your disposal.
Before starting to prepare the night, choose the Spirito Cupcakes & Coffee. A place where are served ice cream, cheesecakes, hot and cold drinks and assorted pastries, brownies and cupcakes. The space is very small but has a terrace outside, filled with comfortable chairs and cushions. Beside there is a playground, which is great for childrens. On sunny days, is usually full of customers and can be difficult to find a vacant table or it may take time to be served.
Start the evening at Café Vianna, a traditional city café, located in Arcadia, right in the city center. This cafe opened in 1871 and there have sat known writers as Eça de Queirós or Camilo Castelo Branco. Here you have free internet wi-fi.
If you are fond of gin, the 28 Wine & Gin Bar is the venue of your choice. Located in the center of Braga, here you can taste over 100 different types of gin, among other drinks and cocktails.
Situated next to the cathedral Sé de Braga, the Copo & 1/2 is simultaneously a restaurant, a tapas & wine bar and a cocktail bar & gin. Here you can dine late!
The Quatorze during the day is an art gallery that at night turns into a nightclub, where often young people in the age of 20s and young people in the age of 50s mix easily.
Braga Portugal – Events that you Can’t Lose
Events not to miss in Braga! Fun and joy, cultural experiences, insight and spirituality. Each event provides its own emotions!
Semana Santa (Holy Week) takes place during the week preceding Easter Sunday. It’s a week full of processions, concerts and exhibitions. The altars of churches, each evoking a scene of the crucifixion of Christ, are profusely decorated with flowers and candles. Large nocturnal processions are very interesting. Semana Santa is considered one of the main attractions in Braga and the most imposing Easter event in Portugal.
The Feira Romana (Roman Fair) is held usually in the late of May. During this week the city of Braga relives the times of Bracara Augusta, showing the ways of life in the city from the days when this was part of the Roman Empire. You can shop in the Roman market, enjoy snacks in makeshift taverns, attend parades, theatrical recreations of Roman daily life, gladiator fights, exotic dances, fire shows, etc.
The São João de Braga (St. John in Braga) is a popular festival that celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist. The culmination of the celebration is the night of June 23 to June 24. On the night of São João, thousands of people fill the streets of the city, especially the Avenida da Liberdade, with hammers and leek and have fun with each other, known and unknown, and gently hit with hammers on the heads of each other, whoever is. An original, very popular and fun party!
The Noite Branca (White Night) is held on a Saturday in September, and extends into late night. In Noite Branca everyone dresses in white. The Museums are open and with free entry and there are several cultural activities in the city, with special focus on the city center. It is a festival for the whole family.
Braga Portugal – Where To Stay
There are many options for accommodation in the north of Portugal. To experience a stay in a typical rural area or to try to live like an authentically Portuguese, please see HomeShortStay.
For a luxurious stay in Braga, you can opt for the only five star hotel in Braga: the Meliá Hotel.
For a much cheaper option, nothing better than a hostel. There are several in Braga! Here’s a suggestion: www.truthostel.com
Getting to Braga
If you come by plane, the nearest airport of Braga is the Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, about 50 km away. At the airport, to get to Braga, in addition to taxi service, you can opt to go by metro, in the violet line (from Airport to Dragon Stadium) and get off at Campanhã station. From the Campanhã station you can take the train to Braga.
If you come by train, see CP to decide the train with best timing for you.
If you came by car there are the motorways A3 and A11, with good access to Braga. In both motorways to Braga you have to pay in order to use it.
Have you been to Braga? What are your top tips? As always, we’d love to know in the comments below.