Last week we told you about Aveiro, the «Venice of Portugal».
So now, continuing our tour of other cities you can visit after exploring Porto, we’re gonna tell you all about Braga, known as the «Portuguese Rome»!
The origin of this town goes back more than 2000 years ago when the Romans founded Bracara Augusta in 16 a.C. But the comparison to the Italian capital comes from the fact that in the 16th century the bishop D. Diogo de Sousa designed a city plan that would resemble Rome, with a lot of public squares and churches. It is astonishing how many churches exists in Braga! So it is obvious that churches and other religious monuments will be listed in our tips on what to do and see there… but there’s always more! Here are our suggestions – divided into three periods of time – for your visit to Braga:
1. Let’s start with the ancient times when the city of Bracara Augusta had a great development from the 1st to the 3rd century:
Termas Romanas Alto da Cividade
The Roman Baths do Alto da Cividade are ruins dated from the 2nd century discovered at the end of the 1990’s during excavations carried out by the Archeology Unit of Braga University. This large complex of Baths were public places of gathering and relaxation, composed by differents rooms (saunas, washroom, cold water bath, and so on) where the Romans went to practice exercise and get massages. Once you get to the complex, check the explanatory video so you can have a better idea of what this ruins used to be!
Sé de Braga
The Sé Cathedral is the oldest cathedral of Portugal! It is dated from 1070 but its construction took over a century, making its architecture a very rich mix of styles: the structure is Romanesque, the covering is Manueline and the ornaments are Baroque. Inside the Sé is the treasure-museum, a singular collection of ecclesiastical pieces, and the Chapels of the Kings, considered the jewel of the Cathedral, where lay the tombs of the parents of the First King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques – D. Henrique and D. Teresa. To visit this parts of the cathedral you must get a ticket – it costs around 3€.
2. Arriving at modern times, check these beautiful examples of architecture from the 16th century and forward:
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is one of the most famous spots in Braga. Located at the top of a hill, the neoclassical church and the baroque staircase are part of a great scenario that also includes a lake, some hotel complexes, a picnic area and more. The locals really enjoy this place on the sunny days! To get there, you can either take the beautiful staircase with chapels and fountains or take the lift – which in fact is the oldest funicular in the world moved by water counterbalancing!
Palácio dos Biscaínhos
The Biscaínhos Palace was built in the 16th century in a baroque style. Today it houses a museum, opened in 1978, that shows to the public the aristocratic tastes of the nobility in the 17 and 18th centuries. But the palace itself is worth a visit, with its beautiful tiles representing various hunting scenes and it’s gorgeous interior garden. Tickets cost 2€.
3. Arriving in the contemporary times, here are two places to see brand new stuff in Braga:
Occupying what once was the Police Department, this is now one of the coolest places dedicated to arts and culture in the city. Opened in 2013, it’s a center for creativity, entrepreneurship, art, sciences, technology and culture. This big and innovative building offers rooms and spaces for different kinds of activities, like open-air yards, a restaurant, coworking space, among others. You should definitely check this place once in Braga!
Capela Árvore da Vida
This chapel (translated as ‘Tree of Life’) is a great example of what Braga has to offer: a religious atmosphere with a renewed vibe. Located in the Braga Seminary, this chapel was elected the best religious architecture building in 2011 by ArchDaily. It was born through the result of a work initiated by the priest Joaquim Félix – who’s a teacher in the Theology Faculty in Braga – and his students, that researched for many years chapels and churches around the world. Together with Cerejeira Fontes architects and a large group of collaborators, this enchanted and mystical place was born. An important detail: visits happen only on Fridays, from 5 to 6 pm. For more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you enjoy Braga as much as we do! To see our tips on other cities near Porto, click here. And if you want to learn more about Portugal’s history and discover the connections between Braga and Porto, don’t forget to book a Porto History Master Class Tour with us :)