Portugal City Travel Guide: Braga
- Population 111,000.
- The "Rome of Portugal."
- Famous pilgrimage site of Bom Jesus do Monte.
- Portugal's ancient religious capital.
- Relaxing town of palaces, churches and historic mansions.
- Convenient base for exploring the southern Minho region.
- Portugal's 5th largest city.
Often referred to as Portugal's 'Rome', Braga dates back to Celtic times and was an important Roman settlement from 20 BCE onwards. The ecclesiastical feel is emphasized by the town's main sites: The ornate Baroque church of Bom Jesus do Monte, 5km outside the center is still an important pilgrimage site; the sprawling Sé (Tel: 253 263 317) in the historic center of town is the oldest cathedral in Portugal; the huge, elaborate, medieval Archbishop's Palace.
A number of historic mansions are scattered around the town often serving as museums, such as the Palácio dos Biscaínhos, which houses a fine art collection.
Braga has been modernizing in recent years as it grows as a commercial and fashion center and there is concern over the balance between conservation of Braga's unique heritage and the need for further economic development.
At Easter the town plays host to eerie religious processions and the colorful Festas de São João (June 23-24) and the festival of gigantones - giant carnival figures - (June 18-20) adds excitement for visitors at this time.
Braga is not without good bars, restaurants and clubs and the Bracalandia theme park on the road to Bom Jesus is good for the kids.
Within easy reach of the city is the pleasant coastal resort of Viana do Castelo and the beautiful Minho valley.
A good point of reference for visitors is the tranquil Praça da República with its fountain and the turismo in its south west corner and a useful shopping center to the north.
Braga's main attraction is the spectacular Sé (cathedral) which dates from the 11th century when the Romanesque church was begun with later additions in Gothic and Manueline style. The splendid interior has a beautiful carved altar and blue and white azulejos relating the story of the cathedral's early history. The cathedral includes the Cathedral Treasure museum with a collection of religious artefacts - azulejos, statues, caskets, chalices and clothing including the original iron cross used to celebrate the very first mass held in Brazil.
Opposite the cathedral is the Bishop's Palace (Antigo Paço Episcopal) consisting of three wings in different architectural styles. The oldest is the Gothic East Wing begun in the 14th century, the Baroque West Wing and the South Wing made up of buildings with various styles. The Palace contains the city library and faces the delightful Jardim de Santa Barbara square.
Braga's other main sights include The Museu Dom Diogo De Sousa (Tel: 253 273 706; Rua dos Bombeiros Voluntários), a modern archeological museum opened in 2007 and displaying the accumulated archeological riches of the area with emphasis on the Roman settlement of Bracara Augusta. The Museu Dos Biscainhos (Tel: 253 204 650), an 18th century palace and gardens with rich displays of azulejos, ceramics, furniture, glassware, paintings and historic timepieces. The ornate Arco Da Porto Nova is a surviving gate of the city's wall dating from 1773 near the Antigo Paço Episcopal.
Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga, Portugal
Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga, Portugal
Festivals in Braga
Braga's main festivals are: the famous Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations over Easter with hooded penitents shaking large wooden rattles and religious effigies carried through the streets and the more light-hearted pre-Christian Festas de Sao Joao on June 23-24 with folk plays, dancing and lots of basil.
Corner of Praça da República/Avenida da Liberdade (tel. 253 262 550)
11-14 trains daily make the 1 hour run between Braga and Porto sometimes changing at Nine; 8-11 trains daily on the 5-hour 30 min run from Lisbon to Braga. The IC train to Lisbon takes 4 hours.
Around an hour by car from Porto on the A3/IP1 Auto-Estrada.
Bus Station 500m north of Praça da República on Av. General
Norton de Matos.
Fairly frequent buses a day make the 2 hours 40 minute journey between Braga and Coimbra.
Buses to Porto are every 30 minutes and take 60-70 minutes. There are 8-11 buses daily to Lisbon (approx. 4 hours 30 mins.) There are also bus connections to Viana do Castelo (90 minutes), Guimaraes (50 minutes), Viseu (3 hours) and Barcelos (1 hour).
Wrought iron windows and stone wall, Braga, Portugal
Church of Sameiro, Braga, Portugal
Comfort Inn, Braga, 2 Star hotel, 70 rooms, satellite TV, ensuite bath.
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Rua do Raoi 331
Locals' favorite with steaks & roast chicken
Tel. 253 263 932, closed Monday.
Praça da República
Genteel old coffee house; unrelated disco upstairs.
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Baba de Camelo
Rua Cónego Rafael Álvares da Costa, 26 - 1
Local football team
Sporting Clube de Braga
Stadium name: Braga Municipal Stadium seats 30,000 and was newly constructed for Euro2004.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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