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Best Things to Do in Braga

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

in Braga climb the steps to the cathedral

You may never have heard of Portugal’s third-largest city, yet it’s one you’ll certainly want to get acquainted with. Thanks to its university population and centuries of history, this capital of the Minho region in Northern Portugal is not only one of the country’s oldest cities but also one of its most lively.

Built more than 2,000 years old, the former Roman city of Bracara Augusta was located along one of the main Roman roads on the Iberian Peninsula. It was the ancient seat of religious power, with an archdiocese dating back to the 4th century. The architectural treasures found throughout modern-day Braga continue to reveal this storied history.

If you’re a history or architecture buff, here’s what you won’t want to miss as you dive into the anals of Braga’s history.

Bom Jesus do Monte

The city’s top tourist attraction has been attracting religious pilgrims since the 14th century, and perhaps even before that time. The staircase up to the church has 640 zigzagging steps and rises 328 feet, so be sure you’re fueled up with a breakfast of locally baked bread and a galão (milky coffee). Admire the Baroque sculptures on your way up, as well as the fountains, themed around five of the senses. The 1834 Neoclassical church is your goal, while the pretty views of Braga from up here are just as rewarding. (Not up for the stairs? There’s also a funicular train to the church.)

For equally magnificent city views, pop over to the nearby Nossa Senhora do Sameiro Sanctuary and the Santa Maria da Falperra Church.

Braga Cathedral

Not as lofty as Bom Jesus do Monte, but certainly as intriguing, the Braga Catedral is a must for architecture enthusiasts. Just one visit will take you through a textbook’s worth of styles, from Romanesque to Gothic, to Manueline, Renaissance, and Baroque. Don’t miss the Romanesque triple nave, the two Baroque organs (from 1737 and 1739, respectively), the Manueline-style baptismal font, and the 15th-century recumbent tomb of King John I’s son Afonso.

Biscainhos Museum

See what it would have been like to live as nobility in the 16th century at the Biscainhos Museum, set inside a Baroque palace of the same name. The Biscainhos people were brought from Basque to complete stonework on the nearby cathedral’s Gothic tower; many lived on this street, which became known as Rua dos Biscainhos. The architectural and decorative features chosen by the families that lived in the palace reflect the wealth they achieved from their coffee and tobacco plantations in Brazil.

D. Diogo de Sousa Archaeological Museum

Braga brims with remains of its Roman era; the best place to see them is at the D. Diogo de Sousa Archaeological Museum. Marvel at ancient Roman pieces spanning the Paleolithic era to the Middle Ages, including tombstones, artifacts from daily life, and medieval burial pieces.

Beyond these historical and architectural attractions in Braga, there are gorgeous monasteries, botanical gardens, footpaths lined with Roman milestones, Peneda-Gerês National Park, and more. Let’s chat about how to include Braga in your Northern Portugal itinerary.

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