Wherever you are staying in Portugal, Braga is not far away. Fortunately, Portugal is a small country with an excellent and modern net of highways, making driving while sightseeing the countryside a real pleasure.
We were staying in Porto, and from there it took us less than one hour to get to Braga, as the two cities are only 60Km apart.
There are several monuments of historical significance. The most famous is the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Braga, but Sameiro (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro)and Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte (Bom Jesus Sanctuary) should not be missed.
Braga’s Cathedral is the oldest in Portugal and its also the burial site for the first King of Portugal D. Henrique and his wife D. Teresa.
The city center has several interesting monuments, like Praça da República, several churches and historical buildings, such as Palácio do Raio and the Arco da Porta Nova.
Note: From the Bom Jesus Sanctuary you will have a panoramic view of the city.
As almost everything in Portugal, this city is affordable. When compared with other European destinations you will notice that your money kind of stretches when visiting beautiful Portugal. Braga is no exception and prices here are even better than in the Algarve region.
If you want to stay in Braga, this is a smart option as well. There are several hotels and B&B (called “pensões” in Portuguese), that will attend all kinds of travelers, from five to one stars. If you choose Braga as a “base”, you will be close to Porto and also to other delightful small towns like Guimarães and Barcelos (the last one famous for the “Rooster of Barcelos”)
When visiting Braga you will learn that the city is one of the oldest Portuguese towns. There are several excavations and archeological sites from ancient Roman times. Some sites are protected with thick glasses making it possible to walk over them while admiring the archeological landmarks.
I highly recommend you visit the “Roman Thermae of Maximinus” and the Museum of Archeology.
6. Gerês National Park
Surrounding the historical city of Braga we find one of the most important national parks: The Peneda-Geres National Park. The park has several historical landmarks, wild animals and varied vegetation.
It’s also possible to rent boats and kaiaks making it even better to admire it’s natural beauty.
For those who prefer to hike, there are several marked trails. Only take care not to get lost as the park is big and goes all way to Spain (borders with Spain in the north and in the east).
Football is a national passion in Portugal and if you like sports, go to the local stadium, specially to watch a game. Braga Municipal Stadium (also called “A Pedreira”) is a project of Souto Moura, one os the best and most famous Portuguese Architects.
8. Student Life
As you probably know, all cities that have a big and great university are usually live, full of energy and have a great vibe.
University of Minho has its headquarters in Braga and has more than 20 000 students from all over the world, making Braga an ideal place to exchange ideas, culture and also getting to know interesting people from different backgrounds.
Braga is known by its handcrafts. There are several boutiques selling jewelry, embroideries, awesome tablecloths, laces, etc. The most famous item produced in the region by local artisans is the “cavaquinho”, a small guitar.
WOW. These are the three letters that you will say more than once when eating in Braga. WOW.
The food is absolutely wonderful and the most famous dish is “Cod Fish Braga Style” or if you want to practice your Portuguese just ask for “Bacalhau a Moda de Braga”. It is to die for. Really.
The desserts are the best ever. You stay totally confused not knowing what to choose because all you want is say “please, bring it all”! 🙂
I highly recommend this restaurant in Braga: Centurium Restaurante (Av. Central 134, Braga). The service is one of the best we have ever had in a restaurant and the food…. ahhh…. the food…. I am almost calling United to book our flights and return there tomorrow! 🙂