Braga is located to the northwest of Portugal. The whole municipality has less than 200.000 residents, and it is one of the most important cities of the country.
Braga is a university town: it is home to the Universidade do Minho, a contemporary institution that keeps attracting young students from all over Portugal and other countries. Braga indeed is full of bars and nightclubs, and restaurants where to eat great food at very reasonable prices.
The old town is the main attraction of Braga. Here there are many shops selling art crafts and traditional products, as well as museums and churches, including a 100 years old Cathedral.
The Cathedral of Braga is one of the most important structures of Portugal. It is the seat of the Archidiocese of the city. Its façade dates back to the end of the XV century, while its towers and upper floors were built in the XVII century and are characterized by a Baroque style.
The main façade, located on the upper area of the cathedral, is heavily decorated with human sculptured reliefs and gargoyles. The stunning metal gate, in Manueline style, was originally located in the interior of the cathedral, but it was moved outside at the beginning of the 18th century.
It is very interesting to visit the interior of the cathedral, with its three aisles covered by a wooden roof. There are five chapels but none of them is built in Romanic style. Four chapels are decorated in Baroque style and one in Manueline style.
The Episcopal Palace of Braga, also known as the Archiepiscopal Palace, dates back to the first half of 1400. During the passing of the centuries it was extended and modified several times, becoming what we can admire nowadays.
The palace is made of three different buildings, each built at a different time and characterized by distinctive features. The building is an asymmetric composition made of different bodies.
The medieval corp is associated with a rectangular garden patio oriented towards the Garden of Santa Barbara, a U-shaped wing and a rectangular square known as Largo do Paco.
The baroque wing is located on the west side of the palace, and it is oriented towards the Largo do Municipio. It is the most formal area of the palace, characterized by a symmetrical structure with recessed central body and lateral wings.
The Garden of Santa Barbara is located on the north-east area of the palace. It is a very beautiful garden decorated with flowers and flowerbeds. One of the most interesting things to see are the medieval remains of the palace, forming the southwest corner of the garden. In the middle of the garden there is the statue of Santa Barbara on a fountain, which represents the patron saint of the garden.
In the surrounding mountains of Braga there are two beautiful sanctuaries: the tallest is called the Sanctuary of Sameiro, and it has a beautiful church with frescos and golden decorations.
The other sanctuary is the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, surrounded by a beautiful park. A monumental granite staircase with more than 600 steps boarded by statues and fountains leads to the religious site. It is a real masterpiece! It contains a vaste symbology, something like a 5 Senses Scale that should guide the visitor to managing their own body and instincts until reaching the top of the stairs of the Three Theological Virtues and the church surrounded by trees, woods and, a great view.
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte features also the Bom Jesus cable car, which is the world’s oldest water powered cable car.
Braga can be easily reached by plane by landing at Sa Carneiro airport in Porto. From there it takes a little longer than one hour by bus to get to the center of Braga – you can take a bus at the airport.
Alternatively, it is possible to reach Braga by train. Once you leave Porto airport you will have to take the tube to get to Sao Bento train station, and then take a train to Braga. Trains leave every hour and are managed by the Portuguese company CP.
It is also possible to reach Braga from Lisbon. The train ride is very relaxing. It lasts about three and a half hours, passing through rivers, countrysides, and rural villages of Portugal. Rides with Rede Expressos last a little longer.
Lastly, it is possible to reach Braga by renting a car. Highways in Portugal are modern and very well connected. You will only need to get to Porto and take the A3 motorway, which will take you directly to Braga.
Being a university city, Braga offers different kinds of entertainment.
Nightclubs are opened on weekends and on Wednesdays, when the university night is celebrated and thousands of young people go out to drink at one of the many small bars in the center and hit the dance floor until late at night.
There are several night clubs in the city center, some of which are hidden in the small lateral alleys. Ask the locals, they will surely know everything about the best spots where to hang out at night.
If your trip to Braga will occur during one of the many festivities celebrated in the city you will be very lucky because you will have the opportunity to appreciate the soul of the city and experience the local traditions.
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