Braga is a top day trip from Porto, and it has a long and interesting history.
This top day trip from Porto is currently the third-largest urban center in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto. The vital city center offers historical and architectural interest, wonderful restaurants and bars catering to the upscale crowds and students alike, as well as a shopping district.
One of the highlights of visiting Braga, and a primary draw for people to go to this city, is nearby Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount), in Tenões. It’s a sanctuary high on a mountain overlooking the city of Braga and is a statuesque sight. Both the city of Braga and Bom Jesus make Braga a top day trip from Porto.
Here is why you should visit Braga when you go to Porto, and the fun things you can do while you’re there.
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A Brief Braga History
It is an ancient city and one of the oldest cities in Portugal, formed over two thousand years ago by the Romans. Bracara Augusta, as it was called, was on one of the main Roman roads in the Iberian Peninsula and was the administrative seat of power in the region.
The original city of Braga was surrounded by a castle wall with nine towers, of which three towers and a small piece of the wall remain. According to Wikipedia, it is host to the oldest Portuguese archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
The chiming bells ringing every quarter-hour are a reminder that Christianity has had a significant influence on the history and livelihood of this thriving university city.
My Visit to Braga
Braga hit my travel radar because it showed up more than once as a place that is very affordable to live there.
First, I saw it on The Earth Awaits, a website with a vast treasure trove of information for people interested in getting a better idea of what it is like to live in different parts of the world. You simply enter your criteria, and voila! It tells you what cities fit your parameters.
Braga showed up again in a list of the top five places to live in the world provided by International Living. I had been trying to add Lisbon to other European trips I had taken over the last few years, so I decided to dedicate a trip exclusively to Portugal.
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You would think that a city with such an austere, religious upbringing would be a bit stiff, but not Braga. Perhaps it’s the influx of students attending the University of Minho (Universidade do Minho) that keeps Braga grounded. The youth influence is so great that it was pronounced the European Youth Capital in 2012.
I found the people to have quite a sense of humor that’s often bordering on a little wicked at times. It’s refreshing in that “made me giggle like a naughty schoolgirl” sort of way.
Porto Nova (Arco da Porto Nova)
Porto Nova, or “new door” in Portuguese, is the western entrance to the medieval city of Braga through which the most important people were received in historical times. It was originally a door in 1512 and changed to an arch in the late 18th Century by André Soares, a locally-born sculptor, and architect.
On top of the triumphal arch is a woman (the Roman Goddess of the arts and of war, Minerva, according to the guide) holding the church, a symbol of religion, and on the other hand, a spear, a symbol of military power.
There is a joke said in Portugal when someone leaves a door open, “you must be from Braga.”
Porto Nova is located at one of the entrances to the old city on Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa 127, 4700-424 Braga, Portugal.
Introduction to the City
I took the Braga Historical Free Tour to orient myself and to learn more about the history and current-day city. It was a great tour, and I recommend it.
I often take walking tours to learn more about the places I go, and when traveling solo, it’s a great way to meet other people. It starts near Porto Nova, conveniently right next to a pastry shop called Tibias de Braga Pasteleria.
As I mentioned in my post about Lisbon, the Portuguese love their pastry. Braga is no different. I asked what the traditional Braga pasties are, and the man said Tibias de Braga, which are typically filled with cream, but this shop offers some variations in flavors, including raspberry and lemon.
He also recommended a pastry called Papos de Anjo, or “Angel’s double chin,” and one called “Angel’s Throat” in Portuguese, which is an orange cake filled with egg custard. I decided on the last and was glad I did!
Tibias de Braga Pasteleria is conveniently located right next to the Porto Nova Arch at Praça Conde de Agrolongo 30, 4700-210 Braga, Portugal. It is open daily (yay!) from 7:30 to 9.
The Image Museum (Museu da Imagem) is located in the tower close to the Porta Nova and has one of the largest photography collections of important historical images in Portugal. Many of the photos are from Braga. It is free to visitors, well-curated, and worth a look.
The Image Museum is located right near the arch at Campo das Hortas 35, 4700-421 Braga, Portugal. It is open from Tuesday to Friday from 11 to 7 and on Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 to 6.
Violinha Street (Rua da Violinha)
Violinha Street (“little guitar” in Portuguese) is the narrowest street in the city. It showcases some houses that used the original city wall for the backside of their house. It is not driveable by cars and is located just behind Porta Nova.
This interesting street, Violinha Street, is located here.
The Cathedral of Braga (Sé de Braga)
This National Monument is a Roman Catholic Church said to be older than the city of Braga itself and the oldest in Portugal. There is a saying, “mais velho que a Se di Braga” meaning “you are older than the Braga Cathedral.”
It has been added to since, resulting in a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Manueline, and Baroque styles.
The Cathedral of Braga is located at Rua Dom Paio Mendes, 4700-424 Braga, Portugal.
Church of Mercy (Igreja Da Misericórdia)
This church was built in the Braga Cathedral, and in fact, it is adjoined. The Church of Mercy was built in the 16th Century and is one of the only Renaissance monuments in the city.
There are stones in the Cathedral complex in front of the Church of Mercy from old construction that remain here as a museum of sorts.
The Church of Mercy is located at Rue Dom Diogo de Sousa 124, 4700-424 Braga, Portugal.
The University of Minho (Universidade do Minho)
The University of Minho was an old palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, turned into the university administration building. Some of the azulejos tiles are original. Inside is a small chapel for nobles that dates back to the 14th Century.
There is also a beautiful private garden of the University, The Garden of Santa Barbara, which also has a public section as well. The current design of the garden, landscaped in the 1950s, is very geometrically structured and features a striking Romantic style set of arches.
The University of Minho and Garden of Santa Barbara is located at Praça Mun., 4820-142 Braga, Portugal.
Across the street is a row of striking, several-story homes, including the narrowest house in the city. The priest who founded the Sanctuary of Samiero (Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Sameiro / Santuário do Sameiro) used to live there.
The Custom of Bananeiro
There is a local custom on the 24th of December to celebrate the holiday season: in one hand, a glass of sweet Moscatel wine, and in the other, a banana. Yes, a banana.
There is some variation to the ritual, but my guide shared it as: two students went to a tavern for a drink on December 24th and ordered a Moscatel and banana. Every year they returned to the same place, adding more friends each year.
The drink was coined “Bananeiro,” and has become a holiday tradition for locals. It’s a surprisingly huge event, sometimes called “Bananeiro de Braga.” So, we went to Casa das Bananas to check it out.
Casa das Bananas
Casa das Bananas is devoid of any stylish accents and is simply a bar slapped onto a warehouse with no decoration except a list of rules and bottles. A not-overly-friendly man tended the bar and quickly poured us our drinks in shot glasses and slapped down bananas on the bar.
If you get caught pulling out your camera, you will get scolded and referred to the rules, but somehow I managed to stay under his radar. The combination is surprisingly good and got thumbs up from all on my tour.
There is only one chair in the place, and in front of it is a magazine. One of the guys in our group was asked to sit in the chair and turn the magazine to page 60.
He got to the page and quickly jumped straight up out of the seat! The bartender hit a button behind the bar that raises a rounded wooden block from the seat. (thus my “naughty” comment earlier).
Casa das Bananas is located at Rua do Souto 26, 4700-317 Braga, Portugal.
Eat a Frying Pan
Frigideiras do Cantinho, a restaurant, and bakery open since 1796, features a regional Minho province specialty known as frigideiras, or little frying pans. It’s a puff pastry pie stuffed with meat with a flaky crust and rich center.
I picked one up, thinking it would be nice to have something I could take with me for my planned day trip the next day, without even knowing that this was the house specialty. Lucky me.
They also have a cake whose recipe dates back to Roman times and is a local specialty. And when you go inside, you are literally standing in and on history.
Not only was the restaurant established hundreds of years ago, but the building showcases Roman ruins from the 4th Century under the floor, found during a renovation in the late 1990s.
The Chapel of the Coimbras (Capela dos Coimbras) and St John Church (Church of São João do Souto)
The Coimbra family built a chapel adjoining their family home in the early 1500s. What makes it interesting is that it was built adjoining the church next to it, St John Church. Our guide shared that when someone in the Coimbra family dies, they put black t-shirts on the statues in front of the chapel.
The Chapel of the Coimbras is located at Largo de Santa Cruz 23, 4700-305 Braga, Portugal.
Liberty Avenue (Av. da Liberdade)
If you’re looking to be freed from your money, Liberty Avenue is the place to go. There are many stores, boutique shops, and restaurants down this street. There is also a market here on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 6.
You can find Liberty Avenue on a map here.
Other Buildings of Interest
There are many truly incredible buildings in Braga. Here are some additional ones I recommend you check out when you visit.
Church of the Holy Cross
This Church had some very intricate carvings on the front. Our guide said that people who find three roosters among the carvings will get married. We looked, but none of us saw three roosters, only two.
There are only two roosters.
The Church of the Holy Cross is located at Largo Carlos Amarante 11, 4700-308 Braga, Portugal.
Hotel Vila Galé
Hotel Vila Galé is a stunning building that was once Hotel São Marcos hospital, dating from 1508. According to the website, it was “built where there used to be a hermitage devoted to São Marcos, a hostel, and a Templar convent.”
Hotel Vila Galé is located at Largo Carlos Amarante, 4700-308 Braga, Portugal.
Raio Palace (Palácio do Raio)
Raio Palace is located at Braga Norte 920, 4700-327 Braga, Portugal.
Circo Theater (Teatro Circo)
This theater located on Liberty Avenue was once a convent that was destroyed in 1910, and the theater was rebuilt on the site. It went through some tough times though it has been adapted to more modern needs.
It was completely restored, and the work was completed in 2006. It’s currently a working theater with nearly 900 seats, and usually, small musical performances are offered regularly.
Circo Theater is located at Aveneida da Liberdade 697, Braga, Portugal.
Designed by André Soares, this beautiful building features walls of azulejos tiles. Construction began in the mid-1700s and was completed around 100 years later. You can tour it, but it is a working building, so please be respectful.
Braga City Hall is located at Praça do Município, 4700-435 Braga, Portugal.
Taberna do Migaitas
I joined João from my tour for dinner at Taberna do Migaitas, which I found in a travel blog about Braga and highly recommend. The restaurant was great, as was the company.
He did the ordering, and he selected regional dishes. I wish I could remember the names, but one was bacalhau, salted codfish, and the other was a slow-cooked pork dish that was so tender you could cut it with your fork.
Taberna do Migaitas is located at Rua Dom Gonçalo Pereira 39, 4700-032 Braga, Portugal.It is open from 12 to 3 and 7:30 to 11 daily.
Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount)
If visiting forty-nine churches in the city center of Braga isn’t enough, there is Bom Jesus, not far from Braga. It is a simple, short bus ride.
This pilgrimage sanctuary features a Baroque staircase that is 381 feet high. Or for those who are not in the mood to climb a “stairway to heaven,” there is a water-balanced funicular. Construction began in 1722 on the present sanctuary and ended with the completion of the “new” church in 1834.
Bom Jesus is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, so you know it’s worth seeing.
You can see a virtual tour of the basilica here.
Visitors to the pilgrimage sanctuary are an interesting mix of tourists, local visitors, and local exercising clubs like the Bom Jesus Crossfit team running up and down the stairs.
Bom Jesus is located at Estrada do Bom Jesus, 4715-056 Tenões, Portugal. If you want to take the bus from the Braga city center, take the Line 2 (Linea 2) bus. It takes 37 minutes and costs around 2.5€ for a round-trip and one-way costs a little less (around $2.75 USD). You can pick up the bus at Braga Station, or it does pick up at a few stops on the outskirts of the old city and runs from 8:30 to 8:30 daily. The basilica is open from 8 to 7 in the summer and 9 to 6 in the winter. The funicular hours are a little longer.
Getting to Braga
There are a number of options for transportation to Braga.
Travel from Porto
Porto is the closest large city to Braga. The trip from Porto to Braga takes around an hour, depending on how you go, and it’s The easiest way to get to Braga from Porto is by train from either Porto’s São Bento or Campanhã Stations.
It takes a little less than an hour, and it’s only 50 km (31 miles). it costs around 10€ (around $10.75 USD).
You have two options for trains, Porto Urbanos, or the local train, and Alfa Pendular, the fast intercity train. The Porto Urbanos trains run to Braga almost hourly, though they do run more frequently during weekday rush hour. It takes an hour and ten minutes and costs around 5€ (around $5.50 USD).
You will find ticket machines in the hall, which I recommend as the lines at the ticket office can get long. Your ticket will be a SIGA card, which you should keep to use for your return trip. The Alfa Pendular or Intercity fast trains also run, and they take a little over 45 minutes at a cost of around 10€ ($10.75 USD).
Trains run from Porto to Braga between 6:15 a.m. and 9:15 p.m. during the week and 6:45 a.m. and 1 a.m. on the weekends. You can check current timetables and fares on the Portugal Railways site.
If you are spending time in Porto before heading to Braga, the Sao Bento Train Station is right in central Porto and will be the most convenient. If you head from Porto Airport to Braga, Porto Campanhã is more convenient. The trains do stop at both stations in Porto.
The bus, Rede-Expressos, regularly runs from Porto’s Campo 24 de Agosto bus station to Braga from 8:15 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets cost around 6€ ($6.50 USD). You can check schedules and current fares and purchase tickets on their site.
GetBus also runs eight direct buses daily between Porto (the airport or the Campo 24 de Agosto Station) and the city center of Braga.
The bus station is just outside the city center of Braga, where the train is around a 15-minute walk.
Car and Taxi
You can, of course, rent a car to make this trip. However, I don’t recommend it. There is ample public transportation with many good options to choose from. And you don’t need a car in Porto or in Braga, so I don’t think it’s worth the cost or the hassle.
You also can get a taxi or Uber ride, and taxis will cost you in the range of $45 and $65 US dollars for one way. Uber may be a little bit less.
There are also a number of group tour options to visit Braga from Porto. You can also see nearby Guimarães, where Portugal was born, and a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site on day trips. However, I think there’s a lot to see in each.
If you can make the time, plan to spend at least one day at both locations. Of course, if you’re short on time, this is a great option to see the highlights.
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Why You Should Add Braga to Your List to Visit
Braga is a popular day trip from Porto for a number of reasons. It is an interesting place to visit for cultural, historical, and religious reasons. It is an interesting mix of people of all ages and has great positive energy.
There is a lot to see and do inside the stunning historic center and outside in the parks and city. Will I someday live in Braga? It’s staying on my list of contenders.
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