Portugal City Travel Guide: Bragança
Bragança, the capital of the Trás-os-Montes region of north east Portugal, is close to the Spanish border and the gateway to the Park Natural de Montesinho.
Bragança has a long history and was known as Brangantia under the Franks and Juliobriga to the Romans. The city's strategic location near Spain meant it was long contested between the two nations.
Portugal's first king Afonso Henriques began the walled citadel (Cidadela) in 1130 and his son, Sancho I, greatly expanded and strengthened his father's efforts on the 680-metre-high hill.
The Duchy of Bragança was created in 1442 by Afonso V for his uncle, an illegitimate son of King João I, and it was this house of the Portuguese nobility, the House of Bragança, that assumed the Portuguese throne in 1640 and would rule until the monarchy was overthrown in 1910.
The medieval Cidadela on the hill above the city centre is one of Bragança's most impressive attractions and its ramparts have wonderful views out over the surrounding countryside.
Here is the original 12th century fortress with 15th century additions by João I, all patched up by restorations in the 1930's. The Torre de Menagem (keep) was occupied by the Portuguese military in to the 20th century and now houses a ubiquitous Museu Militar, with the usual assortment of swords, armour, cannons and focus on Portugal's colonial wars and bloody participation in World War I on four floors of the tower.
The Domus Municipalis is the oldest town hall building in Portugal and is thought to date from the 15th century. The city council met in the impressive arcaded upper room. The 16th century Igreja de Santa Maria stands nearby and is noted for its fine ceiling paintings.
A unique Pelourinho or pillory mounted on a granite wild boar (known as porcas or berrões and found throughout this area in both Portugal and Spain) can be seen outside the Torre de Menagem.
The Museu do Abade de Baçal, (named after a locally-born scholar) is set in the 18th century, former Bishop's palace, and has an eclectic collection of Celtic and Roman archaeological remains along with religious art and historical photography of life in the Trás-os-Montes region. 1930's watercolours by Alberto de Sousa focus on the area's stone pillories.
The Praça de Sé around Bragança's old cathedral has been renovated and now includes modern sculpture - look out too for the bronze postal worker outside the main post office (correio) in Largo dos Correios and the huge fighting bulls and their minders in the Rotunda do Lavrador Transmontano roundabout.
Two recommended museums in Bragança are the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje, dedicated to masks and costumes worn in pagan-based carnival and soltice festivals in this area of northern Portugal and Spain and the Centro de Arte Contemporânea Graça Morais showcasing the art of Portuguese painter Graça Morais as well as other artists.
The small Dr. Belarmino Afonso Ethnographic Museum (Museu Etnográfico Dr. Belarmino Afonso) on Rua Dr. Herculano da Conceição is the personal collection of Dr. Belarmino Afonso of artefacts relating to the culture and history of Trás-os-Montes.
Churches in Bragança include the Igreja de São Bento on Rua São Francisco, the Igreja de São Vicente, connected with the grisly 14th century Dom Pedro - Inês de Castro tale and the old Sé (Cathedral), which dates from the 16th century. Bragança's contemporary cathedral is the Igreja de Nostra Senhora Rainha.
The Feira das Cantarinhas is a three-day market and fair promoting the area's local handicrafts and agricultural produce in early May.
Bragança Tourist Office
Bragança Tourist Office.
Av. Cidade de Zamora.
Tel. 276 348 180
Hours: 9am-12.30pm; 2pm-5pm, Monday-Friday; 10am-12.30pm on Saturday.
Getting to Bragança
Bragança is no longer connected by railway but the area of the old train station now serves as a bus station.
Bragança is 120km northeast of Vila Real on the IP4/A4 motorway and 100km east of Chaves on the slow, winding N103 road. Bragança's sister city of Zamora in Spain is 100km southeast and can be reached by bus 3 times a week on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Buses leave Zamora for Bragança at 5am (Spanish time) arriving in Bragança at 6am (Portuguese time). The journey time is 2 hours. The bus continues on from Bragança to Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Murça, Vila Real, Amarante, Porto, Guimaraes, Braga, Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo and Vila Praia de Ancora. Going the opposite way, the bus departs Bragança at 3.45pm arriving in Zamora at 6pm. (See www.interurbana.ad for further details).
Bragança is served by various bus companies.
Bragança has bus connections to Porto (3 hours), Lisbon (7 hours, 30 minutes), Braga (4-5 hours), Chaves (2-3 hours), Guimaraes (3 hours, 30 minutes), Mirandela (1 hour), Miranda do Douro (1 hour, 30 minutes - 2 hours, 15 minutes), Mogadouro (1 hour, 30 minutes), Vila Nova de Foz Côa (1 hour, 45 minutes), Vila Real (1 hour, 30 minutes), Vinhais (35 minutes) and Viseu (3 hours, 15 minutes).
Bragança has a variety of places to stay including the recommended Hotel Tulipa, the 2-star Hotel Tictac, the 2-star Hotel Classis, the historic, 17th century Solar Santa Maria and the Casa de Chica on Rua D. Fernão O Bravo.
See here for a full listing of hotel accommodation in Bragança.
The Pousada de Bragança - Sao Bartolomeu
Bragança, 5300-271 Bragança, Portugal.
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Bragança has a good number of recommended restaurants serving the local cuisine which is known for its smoked ham (presunto) and alheira sausage. Try Solar Bragançano in Praça de Sé with its oak panelled dining rooms and al fresco garden seating in summer. O Geadas on Rua do Loreto also serves local favourites such as kid (cabrito) and river trout.
There are a number of bars in the Citadela.
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View of the countryside from the Citadela, Bragança
WiFi is available in nearly all hotels in the area.
The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
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