Braga is a beautiful city located in the north of Portugal. It’s famous for its Neolithic, Roman and Medieval monuments. The Universidade do Minho which is one of the most important Portuguese universities is located there, so Braga is a university town which means there are lively and youthful vibes all around the city.
I must also say that the prices were very low compared to Lisbon, so if you are looking for a weekend getaway but you’re on a budget, this city is a wonderful and affordable option.
By the way, Braga is consistently ranked as one of the best European travel destinations.
How to get there
Braga is a bit farther than Porto, going there from Lisbon by car takes around 3.5 hours, but considering the gas prices, it’s cheaper to go by public transportation. There are trains that leave from Santa Apolónia station, depending on the type of train you choose, the trip can take from 3.5 to 6 hours.
Regarding the prices, if you book the ticket at least 5 days in advance, a one-way ticket ranges from 15 euros to 35 euros. You can check prices and schedules on the Comboios de Portugal website. There are also bus companies such as Flixbus that charge from 12 euros to 20 euros for a one-way trip and take you from Lisbon to Braga with no stops in around 4.5 hours.
Where to stay
I was extremely lucky and stayed at one of the most important landmarks of Braga: the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte which – besides the hotels – features a park, a lake, a neoclassical church as well as a Baroque stairway of 116 meters that is one of the main attractions of the city.
The stairway has about 500 steps that I honestly didn’t take, but it’s very common for tourists and believers to invest some time going upstairs and then visiting the church. The view from the top of the hill is breathtaking!
Staying at Hotel do Parque was wonderful. Although the surroundings tend to be quite crowded, the room was quiet and the location is perfect if you want to explore the whole shrine. The staff was super friendly and attentive. We arrived Friday night and went out for a delicious dinner at Mimo’s Smoke House. After that, we walked around the tiny streets with little houses I love to see in every city, and went back to the hotel to rest and prepare our legs for the next days’ walks.
On Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel and spent the whole morning exploring the shrine. The lake is really nice and you can rent a boat and row around; the church is breathtaking from the outside and the inside, and the garden is extremely beautiful, even during winter.
After that, we were ready to explore the city but realized it was already lunchtime, so we stopped on the way to the city at Univegetariano for lunch, it was incredibly cheap and delicious. I chose an amazing veggie lasagna from the menu of the day with fresh fresh orange juice and paid less than 5 euros. Plus, you can taste that the food is made with fresh ingredients and tons of love!
After lunch, following our tradition of visiting cat cafés, we went for coffee and dessert at Cat Coffee. They have both a closed space and a terrace as well as several beautiful rescued cats that are up for adoption and are very relaxed living their best lives even with visitors around.
Once we were in the city, we walked through the Jardim Avenida Central which is a square with gardens, fountains and benches to sit and enjoy the view. We kept walking through tiny streets and ended up in Palácio do Raio which is a baroque palace built during the 18th century. The entrance fee is only 2 euros and it’s completely worth it.
For dinner, we went to a wonderful Mexican restaurant and bar called Habanero where we had delicious food and cocktails. I had a couple (or maybe more) Cuba Libres and ate nachos and veggie tacos which weren’t on the menu, but were made for me because most dishes had meat in them. The waitress was extremely kind and attentive, and the decor and music definitely made me feel like I was in Mexico. Watch out for a hot sauce called “Valentina” – it is indeed very hot!
On Sunday morning we went to the other side of the city where we saw Braga Cathedral. We didn’t realize it, but we spent quite some time there because, besides the cathedral, there is a museum, a smaller church, many chapels and an area with the tombs of important monarchic and religious figures such as the first King of Portugal. The building of this whole complex started during the 6th century so it’s definitely a must see in Braga.
After that, we went to see Arco da Porta Nova which is a huge baroque arch and the favorite place for tourists to take pictures in the city. Around that area, there is also an interesting archeological site called Termas Romanas with the excavated remains of a Roman public bath and an archeological museum which has no entrance fee on Sundays.
In the afternoon, before heading home, we checked out the Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Sameiro which is only a few minutes away from Bom Jesus do Monte and offers an amazing panoramic view of the whole city. This sanctuary also has a long stairway although not as long as the first one we mentioned. The whole complex started being built in 1863 and it’s the second most important and visited shrine in Portugal after the Santuário de Nossa Senhora de Fátima.
Read more of Mónica’s travel posts here.
See more about Portugal here in the Dispatches archives.