Braga Bucket List: Top 15 Best Things to Do in Braga, Portugal
Known as the oldest city in Portugal, Braga was discovered by the Romans as a settlement in a land called Bracara Augusta. After 2,000 years, this land became home to magnificent monuments, enjoyable festivities, well-respected traditions, and an unforgettable gastronomic experience. What was Bracara Augusta then is Portugal’s Braga today.
Currently, this city that’s over two millennia years old bedazzles tourists from different parts of the world. Its charm is comprised of superb people, amazing landmarks, interesting culture, an idyllic climate, and exceptional activities to partake in. If you want to maximize your stay in Braga, these activities will give you tons of cultural fun:
Pass through Arco da Porta Nova
Built during the 18th century and opened in 1512, this triumphal arch was designed by the world-renowned André Soares. It is Baroque and Neoclassical in style, truly a work of art during the medieval times.
It is located in northern Portugal and continues to both welcome and wow tourists of today. The name of this arch translates to ‘Arch of the New Gate’ in English.
Be mesmerized by the Braga Cathedral
This Roman Catholic church is a very important structure in Portugal because of its historical and artistic value. It is comprised of three aisles, a Romanesque transept, and five chapels.
According to legends, the first bishop of Braga was Saint Peter of Rates. Upon entering this church, you will notice the fascinating gothic arches.
This is only the beginning of a beautiful escapade. In the upper stories, the influences are more Baroque. Go back to Portugal’s memory lane as you immerse into this church’s beauty and history.
Relax in a spa at Caldas do Gerês
If you’re looking for a retreat-like experience, this spa in Gerês is the destination of your dreams. It is encircled by beautiful lakes and mountains which is sure to relax your tensed muscles and wipe away your worries.
This spa was initially built during King John V’s reign which was frequented by different kings and queens after. The twists of time afforded this building a series of demolition and renovation.
Today, it remains to be a thermal spa, albeit a more modern one at that, in the secluded heart of Braga.
Tour the complex of Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre
This tourist spot is also known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Tower of Braga. The tower played a vital role in securing the city against harm during medieval times.
Subsequently, the chapel was built as a gratitude for the protection bestowed upon the entire city, after a major earthquake in 1755.
Today, this chapel stands beautifully as it continues to weather the tests of time.
Visit the Igreja de Santa Cruz
This Santa Cruz Monastery was built between 1132 and 1223. It was the most important monastic house during the initial years of the Portuguese monarchy. A visit to this church today will show you a lot of valuable historic pieces.
Although the must-see pipe organ is Baroque in style, much of this church is Portugal in design. Apart from being a house of prayer, this ancient edifice is also the burial place of the first two kings of Portugal. Spend some hours at this wonderous church and you will surely feel renewed after!
Spend some time at Igreja da Sao Marcos
This beautiful church was built in the 18th century and was designed by Carlos Amarante and José Fernandes Graça. It contains many enchanting statues that represent many of Jesus Christ’s apostles.
Saint Mark’s statue is among the notable ones to see here. He used to be the bishop of the Eastern Christian Church and a patron of Igreja da Sao Marcos. His tomb as well as his statue can be commemorated here.
Stroll around Jardim de Santa Barbara
This beautiful garden of Santa Barbara was landscaped in 1955 by José Cardoso da Silva. Its lush greeneries are made more magnificent by the erected statues, the cedar topiaries, and the ruins of a beautiful medieval palace.
Adorning the middle of the garden’s fountain is Saint Barbara’s statue. She is also known as the Great Martyr Barbara, an ancient Greek martyr and a representation of the patron saint of this garden.
Trace the history of Museu dos Biscainhos
In 1665, a beautiful home was constructed for Maria da Silva e Sousa and Dr. Constantino Ribeiro do Lago. Dr. Lago was a man of many titles. He was a knight in the Order of Christ, an alcalde of Ervededo, the overseer and judge of Braga, chancellor of Relação, attorney-general of Mitra, and he represented the city in the 1667 Cortes in Lisbon.
Their home was built by Basque artisans who hail from the province of Biscay. The house and it’s being built by inhabitants of Biscay gave it the name ‘Biscainhos’.
Over the centuries, this home was passed on the succeeding generations until it was expanded in 1712. A museum was installed in 1963, giving us the Biscainhos Museum that we know today.
Be inspired by the beautiful Palacio do Raio
This ornate palace shows an intricate style with influences from the late Baroque era and early Rococo. It was designed by André Soares, a Portuguese architect whose influence in the Baroque movement was heavily noticed.
His use of natural elements is impressive in this fortress. This palace was initially built as ordered by a rich merchant by the name of João Duarte de Faria.
In the 1860s, this home was acquired by Miguel José Raio whose name reflects on the attraction’s name until today.
Appreciate nature at Peneda-Gerês National Park
This park, more commonly known as Gerês, is the only national park in Portugal. It was created in 1971 and measures 702.90 km2.
It has a fascinating amphitheater-like shape that was naturally sculpted by nature. Its enormous mountains are situated in inhospitable places, preserving the signs of the oldest human inhabitants.
This national park is said to include 823 species of different flowers and plants. It also houses around 235 animals, many of which are endangered.
See the Chapel of Sao Frutuoso
During 560 A.D., a small Roman villa served as a temple to worship the Greek god Asclepius. Almost a century after, the bishop of Bracara established the Monastery of São Salvador on the same site.
Not long after, this edifice went through several reconstructions until it became the Romanesque church we know today.
Since this chapel’s reconstruction was believed to have been ordered by the bishop and saint Fructuosus of Braga, the chapel took its name after his.
Wander at the Museu Pio XII
Braga is made even more special by this wondrous museum. Museu Pio XII is home to one of the most valued archeological collections in Northern Portugal, making this tourist attraction a must-see.
It also displays a collection of religious arts and a gallery dedicated to the well-acclaimed artist, Henrique Medina. If you’d love to see a medieval tower and a Baroque oratory, you’d love to wander at this museum.
Appreciate the creativity at Tibaes Monastery
Also known as the Monastery of St Martin of Tibães, this amazing tourist find will enthrall you. It was founded in 1060 and has long been the site of extravagant and intricate artistry.
The creativity within this monastery heavily influenced the artistic scene in Portugal. Many of the jaw-dropping designs here can be credited to architect André Soares, who designed the main altarpiece and the triumphal arch in the main chapel, to name a few.
Many sculptures were made by the celebrated José de Santo António Vilaça and famed Cipriano da Cruz. Churchgoers also appreciate the Rococo decoration in this church, making this monastery a must-see if you’re coming from Braga.
Grab a bite at Cafe Vianna – the oldest cafe in Braga
Braga is home to many quaint and dainty cafes that have been gracing the city longer than most. Cafe Vianna is a heart-warming cafe, established since 1871.
It’s been frequented by artists, politicians, and writers to have a quick munch. Café AstÓria is another must-visit cafe and they’ve been in business since 1928. Their Wellington recheado is a must-try from this cafe’s menu!
Museu de Arte Sacra
The Museum of Sacred Art is a must-visit for culture vultures. In this museum, you will find ornate ceramics, sophisticated jewelry, and impressive paintings and carvings.
If you’d love to understand the history of churches in Braga and revisit the life of Jesus Christ, this wondrous museum is the right place to be in.
To help you plan out your visit to Braga, we listed places to visit and other amazing activities to do in Braga, Portugal. We also listed some of the best travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Braga hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.
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