Braga is one of the five largest cities of Portugal, situated in the Minho region in the North of the country. It is known for its abundance of churches and thus called the "city of archbishops". Apart from its rich and long ecclesiastical history and numerous churches, the city also boasts beautiful views from the hills surrounding it, a sizeable old town full of historic buildings and a heritage dating back to Roman times, when it was known as Bracara Augusta.
Braga is also the seat of thje Universidade do Minho, with a medium size campus area with lots of bars and cheap restaurants around it. Apart from the student life, the university also brought about numerous technological ventures that turned Braga into Portugal's Silicon Valley.
Once you get to Porto Airport, you can catch the following transports to Braga:
- Train/Metro Catch the Metro to Campanhã Station or São Bento Station and then get a train to Braga. Duration: 2h00 Price (approx.): €5 Metro Train
- Bus transfer Direct transfer to Braga from Porto Airport and vice versa, it works everyday. Duration: 50 min Price: €8 one-way - €14 go & return more information here
- Táxi The táxis are located on the arrivals floor at Porto Airport. Duration: 40 min Price (approx.): €60
Braga is a major terminus railway station, with an impressive new high-rise building erected in 2004, contrasting with the small historic one sitting alongside. It alternates with Guimaraes as the northernmost terminus of Alfa Pendular high-speed and Intercidades long-distance trains, although not all trains reach either city - Braga sees five long-distance services daily, and less on weekends and holidays. The long-distance trains connect Braga with, in. al., Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto, as well as, with a transfer in either Lisbon or Porto, southern cities like Evora or Faro. Braga is also a terminus for one of the local train lines extending from Porto (Suburbanes de Grande Porto).
It is worth noting that due to the terminus character of the railway lines in northern Portugal, nearby cities are not always connected to each other. For example, travelling from Braga to Guimaraes or Viana do Castelo requires going back towards Porto and changing to a different train. Same holds for international trains to Vigo. There are bus services to both Guimaraes and Viana de Castelo, which can save some time.
Travel times between Braga and other major cities:
- Porto - 40 minutes by Alfa Pendular or Intercidad
- Coimbra - 1h40min by Alfa Pendular or Intercidad
- Lisbon - 3h45min by Alfa Pendular
- Guimaraes - 20-40 minutes by bus or 1h40min to 2h20min by changing trains in Lousado
- Viana do Castelo - 1h40min to 2h20min by either direct bus or by changing trains in Nine
You have a lot of highways going to Braga, from Guimarães, Porto, Felgueiras, Chaves, and others. If you are coming from the south of Portugal there is no difficulty at all. The Portuguese highways are all very well connected, and you only have to go straight to Oporto, and then in Oporto you catch A3 (Highway 3) which goes to Braga. It's quite easy.
Rede Expressos, a network of long-distance bus services, includes a number of direct and indirect lines to Braga from practically every city in Portugal. The buses are slightly slower but often not much cheaper than train tickets, especially when bought in advance, and are a much better option only when a direct rail connection is not available.
Public transportation within Braga is provided by Transportes Urbanos de Braga (website only in Portuguese as of May 2016), which operates a few dozen bus lines throughout the municipality. As the municipality is quite expansive in size, it has been divided into three zones (coroas) for fare calculation purposes. Almost all tourist attractions are in Coroa 1, but outlying sanctuaries such as Bom Jesus are in Coroa 2.
There are lots of places to visit in Braga. The historic city centre, with the cathedral and other churches, museums and traditional shops. The cathedral is almost 1000 years old, and while in there you can have a guided tour to its treasure. You can also visit the beautiful Braga Municipal Stadium, used for the 2004 European Football Championships held in Portugal. The stadium is on the northern part of the city and it is advised to take a cab. While in Braga, looking east or south-east will probably make you sight two distinct sanctuaries on a mountain just outside the city. The higher one, Sameiro, with a beautiful Church with lots of paintings and gold decorations, and the other one, Bom Jesus do Monte, with a beautiful park around it. While in Bom Jesus, you can ride the Bom Jesus funicular, the oldest funicular in the world moved by water balancing. Although Braga is known in Portugal as "Cidade dos Arcebispos" (Archbishop's Town) and has a clear religious connotation, it isn't related to the faith or devoted Catholicism of its inhabitants. That name comes from the fact that the town has many churches and sanctuaries.
- 1 Arco da Porta Nova. An arch of triumph built in 1502 and reconstructed many times over until the 18th century. It proves less than monumental, being nestled between buildings, nevertheless providing for a beautiful photo setting with its rococo decorations. The figure atop the arch is the allegorical representation of the city of Braga, and the city has used the arch's image in many of its marketing and social campaigns.
- 2 Braga Cathedral (Sé Catedral de Braga). With a history reaching as far back as 3rd century, the diocese of Braga is one of Europe's oldest, although its existence was interrupted by the fall of the Roman Empire. A string of local religious and civil rulers fought to have it restored and then elevated to archbishopric, while at the same time striving to have a proper seat built. The cathedral was eventually finished in mid-13th century, although the current building is a result of numerous add-ons and reconstructions, blending a number of architectural styles and influences.
- The Tree of Life Chapel. Capela Árvore da Vida- Seminário Conciliar de Braga. It is made with 20 tons of unadorned wood and not a single nail or metal fitting.
- 3 Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte. A hilltop sanctuary with beautiful gardens, architecture and views over Braga, perhaps the city's most-known tourist attraction. The baroque church sits atop a monumental staircase and for those who'd rather not walk up it, there is a historic funicular powered by water balance.
- 1 Teatro Circo. Built in early 20th century to host the growing performing arts community and accommodate the needs of local population, the Teatro continues to host both theatrical plays, film nights and other performances including live music and dance.
Festivities in Braga
- Semana Santa (Holy week): In the week before Easter, there are lots of events to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, such as processions. The city is decorated with flowers and violet sheets.
- Sao Joao (Saint John): Festivities in honour of Braga's saint. Although Saint John Holiday is on the 24th of June, the City starts preparing for it almost two weeks in advance, with small traditional events. On the night of 23 June, Braga's people come to the street to celebrate.
- Braga Romana (Roman Braga): To celebrate the influence of the Roman empire in Braga's history, there is a cultural fair around the streets of the city centre, where people dress like ancient Romans and sell art and other souvenirs in tents. It is usually on the last weekend of May.
Local souvenirs/ceramics of Barcelos.
Lenço dos Namorados handkerchief
There are lots of cheap restaurants around the city. Particularly around the University Campus, on the eastern part of town.
The region offers a diverse natural landscape bearing the cultural influences of many centuries. This is reflected in the multiplicity of gastronomic specialities available from the regions kitchens; potato and cabbage broth, bread made from maize, roast pork, cod, octopus and trout, chicken rice "pica no chão" and duck rice, the kid (goat) and the baked heifer and local hams.
- Panoramic Restaurant-Hotel do Elevador, Bom Jesus do Monte, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. With seating for 120 people and a pleasant panoramic view of the city of Braga. Serves a wide range of traditional regional specialities.
Beware of ordering a full ration of roast chicken, although it tastes wonderful you will get a mountain of chicken and potatoes that may be enough for 3 to 4 persons.
- Restaurante Centurium, Avenida Central 134, 4710-229 Braga.
- Restaurante Trotas, Largo Senhora-a-Branca 122.
- Restaurante Populum.
- A Buraca, Rua Santa Margarida, (Largo Senhora a Branca). Cheap meals.
- Restaurante Brito's, Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque 49, 4710 Braga.
- Pastelaria Caravela, Largo Sra Branca, ☎ . cake, coffee
- Frigideiras do Cantinho, Lg. S. João do Souto, 01.
Frigideiras (Pastéis Folhados com Carne)
- Bolo Romano (Marca Registada)
- Doce Sortido
- Pastelaria Regional
Nightlife in Braga may be quite monotonous sometimes. Clubs in town are open only on weekends and Wednesdays, since it is "academic night" and most students go on having a drink and end the night in one of the local clubs. There are lots of small bars around the historic city centre. Most of them are well hidden on the tight streets, and you will only find them with the help of locals. It is not advised to walk around the city centre at night by yourself. It may look safe and very crowded during the day, but it's quite abandoned and very very dark during the night as most people prefer to go into the bars and coffee shops.
You can find some cheap pensions in Rua dos Chãos (near Avenida Central and not far from the bus station).
- Pousada de Amares - Sta. Maria do Bouro, Santa Maria do Bouro 4720-688 Amares (25.3 km (about 35 min) from Braga), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Pousada de Gerês, S.Bento, Caniçada (22.5 km from Braga), ☎ . Historic luxury hotel
- Hotel Ibis Braga, Rua do Carmo 38, ☎ .
- Guimaraes, historic city with a castle.
Nearby beaches in:
- Geres - Park nacional da Peneda