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Places to Visit in Braga
Portugal's third-biggest city is also a major spiritual hub, known for its important religious festivals, as well as innumerable churches dotted through its cobbled streets. Outshining them all is the hilltop BomJesus do Monte, a must-see for everyone thanks to its grand neoclassical design, ornamental gardens and quaint funicular to the top. It's impossible to miss the 577 steps leading up to it, too, with artful fountains and biblical statues along the way, and vast city views to marvel at from the summit (while you catch your breath). With its ancient buildings, contemporary landmarks and 2 universities, Braga mixes quiet charm with youthful energy. It's a touch off the tourist trail, giving it a tranquil atmosphere distinct from the bustle of Porto or Lisbon. Throughout the pedestrianised city centre, expect to be surrounded by beautiful baroque architecture on old-world streets with elegant fountains – and stay close to the action with a choice of ideally located, economic and upscale hotels in our portfolio.
Things to Do in Braga
Braga was originally a Roman settlement and the capital of Galicia before various conquests by the Moors, the Goths and the Spanish over the centuries. As a result, the architecture of Braga is a sight to behold: a glorious mixed bag of styles reflecting the many chapters of the city's story. From the gorgeous rococo Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães to the beautiful, baroque Palácio do Raio, covered in colour-pop blue-and-white azulejos tiles, Braga certainly has a lot to show off. There's an icon of the city that's been here long before the others (even before Portugal was officially founded), and that's the unmissable Sé de Braga. Portugal's oldest cathedral dates from the 11th century and was built in an eclectic mish-mash of styles. If you've been wondering what to visit in Braga, this definitely deserves a spot on your list – look out for the murals in the wooden roof, ornate stained glass and the spectacular organ. Wander through one of the elaborate gardens and you'll soon see why Braga is loved for its calm nature – a particularly popular choice is the flower-filled Jardim de Santa Barbara, with its medieval palace backdrop and manicured rows of colourful blooms creating a sanctuary in the heart of the city.
Best Hotels in Braga, Portugal
Seen all the wonderful churches? Soaked up the tranquility of the gardens? The next question is: what to do in Braga? From cultural delights to outdoor activities, Braga has plenty of interesting options to keep you on your toes. First stop is a wander around Praça da República and perhaps a bite to eat in one of the many cafés and restaurants that line the graceful main plaza. Exploring this lovely city on foot rewards you with many unexpected treasures, such as the Arco da Porta Nova, a stately archway that was once an entry gate into the city. When it comes to Braga museums, a popular pick is the Biscainhos Museum, where you can step inside a regal former palace filled with period furniture and artworks to get a sense of what Portuguese life was like between the 17th and 19th centuries. A visit to this baroque gem wouldn't be complete without an amble through the palace's manicured gardens, with their enchanting, French-inspired design. Stepping back even further in time, the Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa displays relics excavared from around Braga, including many Roman artifacts. Lovers of the performing arts will undoubtedly be drawn to Theatro Circo, Braga's stunning main theatre, known for its exquisite baroque interior and a program of shows that can include symphony orchestras, classic plays and film sessions. Fancy getting out into nature? A visit to the Peneda-Gerês National Park is an experience you won't likely forget, and it can be reached by car in about an hour – just head further north-east from Braga towards the Spanish border. Known locally as Gerês, this extraordinary park covers a huge expanse of granite mountains, lush forests, flowing rivers and waterfalls, and is home to wildlife such as Iberian wolves and wild ponies. Outdoor recreation is a big deal here – think canyoning, paddling and long, scenic hikes passing the remains of Roman villages. Closer to town, there are impressive panoramic views on offer at the Miradouro do Monte do Picoto, a hillside lookout with a boardwalk trail and an imposing cross overlooking the city below. It's a popular spot to catch the sunset in Braga after walking or biking to the summit. Picnic tables are also available. Local operators offer tours of Braga, which range in scope and can include admission to key attractions or the chance to sample local cheeses and vinho verde wines. Exploring on foot? Join a Braga walking tour for a deeper understanding of the many historical landmarks and their fascinating stories – many walking tours here are free, or have a pay-what-you-want option.
Best Restaurants and Bars in Braga
We'll help you work out where to stay in Braga with our choice of centrally located hotels. Position yourself right in the historic hub and be immersed in its Roman legacy, when you book your accommodation in Braga, Portugal's 'Rome'. Select a modern, economical hotel a short walk from the cathedral, placing you close to all the best things to do in Braga. Rooftop swim, anyone? Stay in upscale lodgings complete with a seasonal rooftop pool for those idyllic Portugal holiday moments. Whether you're in this beautiful city for important business, a family trip or a relaxing romantic weekend, Braga is the ideal destination.
Getting to and around Braga
If you're looking for some local gastronomy in Braga, head to the old town centre, where most of the city's restaurants are located. The big fish in town is, well, codfish. To eat like a local, order the Bacalhau à Narcisa (codfish topped with potato slices) or a bowl of caldo verde (Portuguese soup with potatoes and kale). Those with a sweet tooth are in luck – sampling a Pudim Abade de Priscos (traditional caramel pudding) is a must while you're here. Braga is also a university town with a healthy student population, lending this ancient city a modern, lively vibe. Whether you're in the mood for a late-night dance club or a characterful cocktail bar, Braga has something for you.
When to Visit Braga
Braga from Porto takes less than an hour by road or rail, making it the perfect day trip or longer stay. If you're planning to fly in, flights land at Porto's Francisco Sá Carneiro international airport and it's about a 45-minute drive on the A3 motorway. Buses and trains also have regular departures to Braga. From the main train station in Braga, it's about a 10-minute walk to attractions and hotels in the historic centre. Most of the city centre is walkable, so there's no need to hire a car or take public transport if your accommodation is in Braga centre. Buses run frequently to Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary, which is just outside the city and heavily visited by crowds. Choose from one of our centrally located Braga hotels to make your stay as convenient and enjoyable as possible.
It's no surprise that religious festivals play a big part in the experience of Braga. Semana Santa (Holy Week) is massive here, and consists of many festivities and events across 10 days at Easter. Another major spectacle is the São João Festival to celebrate midsummer, and this is held on June 23-24. Every year around May or June, the city dives into the past to recreate Roman times during the Braga Romana event, with dancing, theatrical performances and a Roman market (with everyone in authentic dress, of course). Although Braga is busy with festivals during its warm European summer (roughly June-September), the temperate climate here can appeal to those seeking leisurely days in off-season months, too (although winters tend to see some rain). Whenever you decide to book your ticket, beautiful Braga will be waiting.