Last Updated on July 7, 2023
Braga is a city full of history and tradition situated in the northern part of Portugal. Once a city of the Roman Empire, an important religious powerhouse for centuries and recently has been named European Youth Capital, Braga has a lot to offer to its visitors.
If you’re planning to go there, here is a list of the best things to do in the city, so you can organize yourself better and make sure you include some of these activities or visits on your trip to Braga.
1. Walk-Up A Hill to the Cathedral of Bom Jesus Do Monte and Enjoy the View
No matter your religious inclination, this popularly visited church is a must when in Braga. Even if it is a bit outside of the city center, you should plan a visit to this common touristic attraction.
Located on a hilltop, the Cathedral of Bom Jesus Do Monte has attracted pious Catholics from the beginning of the 14th century.
Visiting the cathedral was once a sign of devotion given the number of stairs to reach it. Visitors today still have to take the way up made of 640 steps to reach it. Along the way, try to check out the fountains which follow the theme of the five senses.
Today, on top of the hill you’ll find a Neoclassical church but the most interesting part of the whole visit is the way to the top and the beautiful view of the city from above.
The way to the church is immersed in a lush forest and various grottoes. You might even want to bring some food and have a picnic on the hill, surrounded by natural beauty and with a wonderful view.
If you don’t feel like walking up to don’t despair: there is a funicular railway that you can consider taking.
2. Learn About A Part of Portugal’s History at Biscainhos Museum
Biscainhos Museum is an interesting museum with a particular setting. It is located inside a palace of a wealthy local family that for centuries had been able to prosper thanks to the plantations of tobacco and coffee in Brazil.
The name “Biscainhos” was used to refer to the stonemasons from the Basque region in Spain that had worked on the Gothic tower of the cathedral of the city in the late 16th century. The workers all lived on the same street, which was named “Rua dos Biscainhos”.
There are guided tours to the museums that are very helpful in learning about the lifestyle of local wealthy families in the 17th to 19th centuries. Visiting the palace is very interesting as you’ll get to see different rooms and spaces where the artists once spend the majority of their days.
Additionally, the decoration is beautiful to admire: azulejos, jewelry, glassware and musical instruments of the era, you’ll find them all them, but it doesn’t stop here. The entrance to the museum also includes the gardens, all very carefully maintained and decorated with impressive sculptures and fountains.
3. Visit the Cathedral
The main cathedral in Braga is the oldest of the city and is characterized by a mix of several different architectural styles. Baroque, Gothic and Romanesque, elements of each style are all present and result in a fascinating building, beautifully decorated.
If you want to do so, you can decide to visit the chapels, the upper choir and a small museum for an additional entry fee.
4. Stroll Around the Impressive Garden Of Santa Barbara
Just behind the ancient palace of the Archibishop, there are some beautiful gardens which are admired by visitors every day in Braga.
The garden can be visited at night as well, making it a romantic spot to have strolls or to just end the day in a good way. During the summer and the spring, the garden attracts several birds, making it a little natural paradise inside the city.
The gardens are surrounded by some historical buildings like the Archiepiscopal Palace, the University of Minho and the square of Largo do Paco.
5. Discover the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro
Bom Jesus do Monte is not the only sanctuary on top of a hill in the city of Braga. There is another one, Our Lady Of Sameiro. The church is a bit newer and the hike up allows you to get a different perspective of the city from above. The view is stunning!
6. Be Impressed by The Beautiful Axulejos of Raio Palace
Even without going inside, the exterior of this stunning palace is wonderful to look at. It is conveniently located just in the center of Braga and dates back to the mid 18th century.
Built by one of the most important merchants of the city, the palace was later sold to an aristocrat and has recently gained a new life thanks to the new Interpretation center.
The exterior tiled with blue azulejos is eye-catching, making a wonderful contrast with the granite of the building. If you do decide to visit the palace from the inside, you’ll be able to admire finely decorated ceilings and staircases.
7. Get A Better Taste of The Local Culture during the Festa de Sao Joao
If you are planning to go to Portugal at the end of June, you should try to ensure you visit Braga on the 23rd of June.
It is on this day that the city celebrates the patron saint of the city. Braga becomes much more colorful and alive, with traditional music and bands playing on the streets as well as some traditional parades being organized.
8. Get A View of the Arco Da Porta Nova
When walking around the city, make sure to pass through the eastern entrance to the old town of Braga.
The arch that leads to the historic center dates back to the middle of the 18th century and was crafted by a local artist and sculptor. You’ll be able to take some nice pics if you get the angle right!
9. Admire the Nogueira da Silva Museum
The building itself doesn’t seem particularly interesting from the outside and you might as well just pass it without realizing it. However, the Nogueira da Silva Museum offers a very rare collection of ceramics, modernist interior architecture, and paintings that would be a shame to miss.
The building was home to Antonio Augusto Nogueira da Silva who created the National Lottery in the early 20th century.
The collection of art is impressive, but what is also worth the visit is the gardens. It has fountains and sculptures all over and it just makes it for some well-spent hours surrounded by culture and a beautiful walk in the gardens.
10. Taste the Famous Vinho Verde!
Braga is a city of the region of Minho, famous around the country for its specialty, the Vinho Verde, which translates as “green wine”. The color refers to a young age since it is drank very soon after the bottling process.
The region produces reds and roses, but the most popular quality is white wine. The taste is light and sparkly and it is well enjoyed with bacalhau a Braga, a typical cod dish with potatoes, olives, fried onions and a special pickle made with carrots.
11. Take a View Of Praca da Republica
Most of the tours of the city start from this beautiful square also known as “Arcada” by the locals. It is a nice and long square where you can find the tourist center information office and some sights such as the Church da Lapa and a stunning fountain.
12. Discover the Ancient Roman History of the City
Braga was once called Bracara Augusta and was an important center for the Roman Empire. The city itself has a long history and some secrets are hard to learn about on your own.
There are various guided walking tours starting from the historic center which helps you discover the ancient past of the city and some will also take to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus, so you’ll have the whole day planned and full of interesting activities.
13. Do Not Leave Braga Without Having Tried the Local Frigideiras
Frigideiras are a local specialty that is popular in Braga. You can find the best at Frigideiras do Cantinho, an old house dating back to 1796 and still offering this simple delicacy following the same traditional recipe.
The place has gained certain fame around the city and its success turned out to be the continuous following of traditions, for several years. The recipe for making frigideiras is not complex: they are made of puff pastry with minced meat, cooked with margarine and lard. But it is the simplicity that makes them so tasty.
This local street food still is the delight of both tourists and locals who gather numerous at the old house with plenty of history and traditions.
As you can tell, even if Braga is not the most common touristic destination in Portugal, it offers many things to visit, see and learn to its visitors. It is a nice city, with a long history and rich in traditions that are rather simple to discover but which can surprise you in any way.