Braga is nothing less than the third largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto, and its name refers to the “city of the archbishops”. It is in the north of the country and you can schedule it on a trip through Portugal after visiting Porto (it is only 54 kilometers). In fact, there are also organized excursions to visit Braga from Porto (next to Guimarães). Whether you go on an excursion, or on your own, in this post I am going to tell you what to see in Braga Portugal with its essential attractions.
What is Braga like?
Braga does not have the dimension of Porto (and comparisons are always odious), nor does the rugged landscape have that spectacularity, since it is a city in a flat valley, with elevations in the surroundings. Starting from that point, braga It has a huge history, a site even inhabited by the Celts before the Romans founded the city of Bracara Augusta.
Already in the year 388 the Bishopric of Bracara, which denotes the religious importance of Braga for so long. And over the centuries, invasions and historical stages passed until braga integrates to Kingdom of Portugal, founded by the national hero Alfonso Enriquez. It is not my plan for this post to make a detailed historical review of Braga, but to demonstrate its relevance and to understand the rich history of the city. Already in the 20th century, Braga experienced great growth and established itself as the third city of Portugal. Growth that nevertheless knew how to preserve the beauty of its old town:
Today braga It is an energetic city, young due to its university atmosphere, with an interesting historical center, and constant tourism that generally visits the city in a day or two. There are numerous museums, and it is one of the cultural centers of the country. That is why there is a lot to see in Braga Portugal, a city that should be on your itinerary through the north of the country.
How long does it take to visit Braga?
According to my experience in the city, you can meet in the day with a general panorama of its old town and do not miss visiting the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus del Monte (which is a bit on the periphery of the city). Those would be its essential attractions. But if you want to enjoy the city in more depth, I recommend spending at least one night. Even to make a base and explore attractions in the environment. If you have a car at the end of this list of attractions to see in Braga Portugal you will find suggestions for its surroundings.
What to do in Braga in a day or a weekend
Braga is ideal to spend at least a couple of days (or spend at least one night). These are the attractions that I recommend seeing:
Walking the Old Town
Like in every historic city in Portugal, the old town is always one of the most interesting walks to understand the past of the city in Braga. You can walk the entire old town in one morning, to discover the liveliness of its streets, the outstanding civil and religious buildings, the cathedral (which I mention below).
It is always a good recommendation to walk and get lost in its streets. But you can also make a free tour of Braga (you can book it from here) so you don’t miss a detail. I always clarify that the free tours are with the cap system and that I recommend a minimum of 10 euros to assess the work of the guide. A somewhat more comfortable and quite usual guided walk in braga It is the one for the tuk tuk (which you can also check from here).
Tips for renting a car in 2022 >> From the blog we already manage more than 1000 rental car reservations. If possible, anticipate as due to post-pandemic reactivation some car rental agencies are in high demand, but the availability of cars is somewhat limited. Select searches preferably from the airport of the cities to find better prices and variety. Find up to 15% discount with this car rental comparator among the best agencies:
Getting to the New Gate Arch
One of the emblems of the city of Braga is the Souto Street Arch (or Arch of the Porta Nova). This arch adorns an opening in the 16th century wall. It is located precisely on one of the oldest commercial streets of the city. The current arch is the result of a reform in the 18th century in a late Baroque and Rococo style. The photo in the place is the postcard that so many tourists take.
Walk through the Santa Barbara Garden
This garden, which is not that big, is one of the most beautiful in the city due to its care and its setting among historic buildings. For example, next to him is the Paço Episcopal Bracarenseknown as the Episcopal Palace of Braga. One of the aspects that most amazed me in Portugal is the impeccable art of its public gardens, and Braga is one of the best examples. The santa barbara garden it is located in the very center of the old town and dates back to the 17th century. If you go in spring and summer you will find them in their splendor with the color of hundreds of flowers covering their spaces.
Arrive at the Braga Castle Tower
If you walk the old town, in the Plaza del Castillo you will find the tower that remains of what was the old braga castle. It is about 30 meters high and was one of the points from where the walls were defended, which had a total of five towers. How unfortunately it happened in many cities in Europe, the walls and castles considered obsolete were demolished. Braga Castle was partially demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. In the preserved tower, today there is an art gallery.
Enjoy the atmosphere of Praça da República
The Republic Square in Braga is the epicenter of the city, the place where everything most important happens when there are events, demonstrations. And it’s also a beautiful walk. This square was inaugurated towards the end of the Middle Ages as a public space and market. Since the mid-19th century it has been a public garden and since the end of the last century it has had a colorful fountain. Next to the square is the Lapa Churchand there are emblematic cafes such as the vianna Y astoria.
Visit the Cathedral of Braga
The braga cathedral It’s one of the most important Romanesque temples in Portugal. It is also an episcopal center with a more than important history. The first bishop was responsible for this work in the year 1070. The parents of King Alfonso I of Portugal are also buried inside. The braga cathedral It was affected by reforms over the centuries, which incorporated different styles. The current façade had a classical façade with two towers, and the interior space, three naves with a structure that is preserved until today. You can visit both the cathedral and the museum treasure of the cathedral.
Get to know the House of Raio
One of the most beautiful facades of Braga in civil architecture is the House of Radio, an 18th century palace built by order of the merchant João Duarte de Faria. The architect was André Soares, and it is an example of the Joanine Baroque combined with the Rococo. Currently, this palace house is administered by the Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Braga. The blue tiles that are a hallmark in Portugal are inevitable:
Visit the sanctuary of Bon Jesus do Monte
This sanctuary is undoubtedly the Braga’s must-see that no one should miss visiting. The Sanctuary of Bon Jesus do Monte it is about 5 kilometers from the city center, and is a historical pilgrimage site in the north of Portugal. Its baroque stairways, its gardens, and its views of the city of Braga make it a must-see.
>> On the blog I did a Complete post with many photos about the Bon Jesus do Monte Sanctuary. I also leave all the information to visit it. By the way, you can book a free tour (to the cap) from here so you don’t miss details of its history.
Go to the viewpoint of Parque do Monto de Picoto
One of the most panoramic views of the city is found in this urban park, which was recently reforested.
Visit the Biscainhos Museum Garden
This Biscaínhos Museum It is located in what was a residential palace of a noble family. It was built in the 17th century and is a fantastic example of baroque architecture preserved in its original state. Currently there is an art exhibition from the 17th and 18th centuries, with objects donated by private collections. Also not to be missed are the gardens inspired by the French style so fashionable at the time.
What to see near Braga
All these proposals and attractions to see in Braga Portugal, are not within the urban area of the city but in its surroundings. It is already a few kilometers of transfer and requires a car or transport.
Visit the Peneda-Geres National Park
This park is considered one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of Portugal (and in fact, it is the only national park in the country). It is about 40 minutes by road from Braga, so it is one of the reasons to base yourself in Braga and continue exploring the surroundings. The park has beautiful views between rivers, forests, waterfalls and mountains, especially from viewpoints such as the one at beautiful stone. If you go in summer, you can even take a dip in the tahiti waterfall.
If you do not have a car to go around it, you can make a full day organized tour to Peneda-Gerês National Park Leaving from Braga. You can check the price and details from here
Get to know the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro
This Basilica (of Our Lady of Sameiro) or sanctuary deserves attention. It is one of the most visited sanctuaries for Marian veneration, especially in the months of June to August. It was built in the 19th century in the neoclassical style. Although the construction is imposing, the interiors do not stand out for great decorative art. But it is worth visiting for the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, since it is located at a strategic point in height.
Get to know the Tibães Monastery
Religious architecture is one of the strong points among the attractions to see in Braga Portugal. Something that is completely logical in relation to the historical weight of the city as a weighty ecclesiastical headquarters. The Tibães MonasteryAlong with its church, the transept was born in the 4th century, and since the 11th century it has belonged to the Benedictine congregation. Most of the current buildings were built between the 17th and 18th centuries, works in which André Soares also participates. It is a Portuguese heritage asset.
Visit the archaeological site of Citania de Briteiros
The castro de Briteiros It is a site that exhibits archaeological remains from the Iron Age, on top of Mount de Sao Romao. It is actually in the municipality of Guimaraes but it is a good getaway to also do from Braga. These ruins of a Celtic culture population were only discovered in 1875 by a Portuguese archaeologist (Martins Sarmento). It is estimated that this citania was abandoned around the 3rd century. Today you can tour its remains and observe some reconstructions that evoke the appearance of then.
This castle is within the district of Braga, in Povoa de Lanhoso. And it’s nothing less than one of the most imposing castles from Portugallocated on top of the Mount do Pilar. It was built in the 11th century on top of an old fortification. Currently, inside there is a sanctuary, built in more recent times, when the defensive sense was lost.
Where to stay in Braga.
In Braga there is a hotel offer of more than 300 lodgings. Undoubtedly the best location will be the old town if you want to walk around the city. There are also large chain hotels in the surrounding area, more convenient if you have a car.
You may check prices and book hotels in Braga from this link
Finally, do not hesitate to send any questions in comments on this post, which I will answer quickly 🙂