Braga is known as Portuguese Rome because of its 82 churches, 76 chapels, two sanctuaries, and one cathedral. But the city is much more than just churches, it is full of history, Romanesque streets, palaces, and gardens. It is also the heart of the Minho region. Come find out the best things to do in Braga.
Braga has existed for over 2000 years. It was founded by Augustus of Rome and became known as “Bracara Augusta”. It was the administrative headquarters of the Roman Empire and was located on one of the main Roman roads of the Iberian Peninsula.
It is located very close to Porto, just 54 km away, an hour away. Being ideal for a day trip from Porto. It is a mandatory place to visit in Portugal.
What to do and visit in Braga? Ten things not to miss
Praça da República (Republic Square), or simply the Arcada, as it is known locally, is one of the busiest and most known places in Braga. It is a square with a large fountain, a garden, the Church of Lapa, and the Basilica dos Congregados. You will find two of the most emblematic cafes in Braga, Cafe Vienna and Cafe Astória.
Traffic is prohibited in this square, so it is an area where many people gather, drinking coffee on the terrace and catching up. At night, the square is also lovely, with colorful lights projecting from the sidewalks.
It is a must-see when visiting Braga.
The keep is the only building remaining from the Castle of Braga. This national monument is located near Praça da República in the city center.
It is possible to climb the tower with free admission. The tower is an excellent place to enjoy the city of Braga and take pictures. It is open in the afternoons.
Souto street crosses the historic area of Braga. It goes from Praça da Republica (or Arcada) and ends at Porta Nova Arch, passing by the most important city landmarks. Like the Cathedral, the Misericórdia Church, the entrance to the Episcopal Palace, and the Porta Nova arch. It is impossible to visit Braga and not walk through this street.
In addition to its importance, it is a pleasant street to walk on and enjoy window shopping. It is a pedestrian street and has several nice cafes and pastries, including Pastelaria Tíbias de Braga, which sells the famous and delicious Tíbias. It also has several clothing stores, shoes, and banks. It is the ideal place in Braga to go shopping.
Former Archiepiscopal Palace and Garden of Santa Bárbara
The Former Archiepiscopal Palace of Braga was the palace of the Archbishops of Braga. Nowadays, it is occupied by the rectory of the University of Minho, the Public Library of Braga, and the District Archive.
In the Medieval wing of the Episcopal Palace is the Santa Bárbara garden. It is a beautiful public garden, full of flowers and with a fountain in the middle. The fountain has a statue of Santa Barbara. It is the most beautiful garden in Braga and a great place to rest, right in the middle of the city.
Cathedral of Braga
The Sé Catedral is the oldest Cathedral in Portugal; its origin even precedes the foundation of Portugal. It was built in the 11th century, and there are records of a solemn session held by Bishop D. Pedro in 1089.
It is a Cathedral in Romanesque style, and inside is the tomb of Infante D. Afonso, son of D. João I and D. Filipa de Lencastre. The Cathedral also has a beautiful High Choir with gilded carvings and an impressive organ.
Even if you are not religious, you should visit the Cathedral of Braga due to its historical importance and state of preservation, considering that it is already more than 1000 years old…
Entrance to the Cathedral is paid. You can visit the Chapels, the High Choir together, and the Treasury Museum.
The Biscainhos Palace was built in the 17th century and belonged to the counts of Bertiandos. It was converted into a Museum in 1979. The Palace has spacious halls, frescoed ceilings, and a beautiful baroque garden.
The museum represents the daily life of the aristocracy in the 17th and 19th centuries. The halls are furnished and decorated, exposing pieces of ceramics, musical instruments, and paintings. Visiting the museum is like traveling through history and returning to the Baroque era.
If you want, you can visit only the baroque garden, which is free. The garden is divided into the Formal Garden, the Orchard, and the Vegetable Garden. It has fountains and ponds and places to sit and relax. It is a delightful green space to rest.
Raio Palace is a beautiful and eye-catching building in Braga. It is covered in blue tiles with blue doors and blue balconies in a Joanine Baroque style. It is a very photogenic palace.
The Palace is also known for the Mexican house. It was built in 1755 and belonged to a man from Braga who emigrated to Brazil and made a fortune. The heirs sold the building to the bank, which resold it to Casa da Misericórdia.
To date, it has hosted hospital services in Braga, and in 2012, it returned to the Misericórdia. It was restored and converted into an interpretive center of the history of Santa Casa. The center also has items related to apothecary and medical equipment from the old hospital, sculptures, porcelain, and sacred art.
Entry is paid, and it is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Braga was an important Roman city during the Roman Empire. It was called Bracara Augusta and was founded by Emperor Augustus in 15 and 13 BC. The city was the capital of the Roman province Gallaecia.
The Idol Fountain is the only remaining Roman monument from the ancient Bracara Augusta. It consists of a water fountain with inscriptions and carved figures and is associated with the cult of water.
In 2023, the entry price was €1.90. It is closed on Sundays.
The Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Sameiro is located 12 km from Braga’s center and on top of a hill. It is the second Marian Sanctuary in Portugal after the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima.
In addition to the beautiful church that is surrounded by a luxurious forest, the place has a fantastic view of Braga. You can see the city of Braga from the Sanctuary, and when it’s clear, see the sea and even Gerês.
Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is one of the most iconic monuments in Portugal. The white church atop the hill and the 500-step staircase make for an impressive backdrop. Due to its beauty and importance, it is classified as a National Monument and UNESCO Heritage Site.
Bom Jesus is 7 km from the historical center of Braga. The Sanctuary was built in 1722 and is formed by a Church with a staircase where the Via Sacra originates – consisting of different levels and chapels of the steps of Christ’s passion.
The Sanctuary is surrounded by a beautiful park with an artificial lake, artificial caves, a children’s park, and many trees and trails. It’s an excellent place to relax or exercise.
The Monastery of São Martinho de Tibães is 6.6 km from the center of Braga. It is a monastery that was founded in the 11th century; it belonged to the Benedictine congregation. With the dissolution of religious orders in 1834, it was sold. And slowly abandoned. In 1987 it was bought by the state that reinhabited it.
Nowadays, it is a museum with a restaurant, “Eau Vive de Tibães,” and a part reserved for a religious community, the Donum Dei Missionary Family. It also has a guesthouse with nine rooms.
The most beautiful area of this monastery is the garden/vegetable garden. It is a space with many trees and trails. It is a very relaxing and great place to rest. The restaurant is very good and accessible to all budgets. And it must be a nice place to stay.
Where to stay in Braga
It is a luxury hotel to relax and enjoy. It has an indoor pool with a SPA and a wellness center. It is located in the center of Braga, 600 m from the Cathedral. It has a fantastic breakfast included. Not to mention that the hotel is located in the old hospital of São Marcos, which was rehabilitated and converted into a hotel. Click here to Book.
Hotel with a good price/quality ratio. It is located in the center of Braga, 200 m from the Cathedral. It has breakfast included. It is a simple but pleasant space. See prices and availability here.
The Pousada da Juventude/youth hostel is an excellent option for families or young people as it has single rooms or rooms for four people, with a private bathroom. It’s a more economical option but has all the necessary amenities. It has a shared kitchen where you can prepare meals. And it is located close to the city center of Braga. Reserve your stay.
What to eat in Braga?
- Bacalhau à Braga ou à Narcisa: this is a very famous Cod in Braga, originating in the Narcisa restaurant, which has since closed. Nowadays, it is made in other restaurants and is now called Bacalhau à Braga. Codfish is fried in a lot of olive oil and served with potatoes and onions, which are also fried in the same olive oil. The cod is very wet, falling apart. It is one of the most popular cod dishes in Portugal.
- “Pica no Chão” rice: This rice is made with homemade or free-range chicken. The chicken’s blood is used for cooking this typical rice. The rice becomes moist, dark, and lumpy. This rice is also known as sarrabulho rice.
- Rojões à Minhota: Rojões is a typical dish from Minho. It is made with pork shoulder pieces fried in pork lard after being marinated in wine D’alho. Potatoes cut into pieces are added, which are also fried in the same lard as the meat.
- Arroz de Pato à Moda de Braga: This rice is made with shredded duck, chorizo slices, and cheese toasted in the oven. This rice originated from a gentleman from Braga who emigrated to Brazil and started making the dish in his restaurant.
- Papas de Sarrabulho: made with different types of meat (pork, chicken, sausages), pig’s blood, and bread or corn flour. It is a very traditional dish in Minho.
- Braga-style Roasted Cabrito: this is a very traditional dish from Minho. It is usually served on Sundays or by order.
- Caldo Verde with cornbread: Made with couve galega (similar to kale), potatoes, and chorizo slices. It is the most famous soup in Portugal.
- Frigideiras de Braga: is a pastry made of puff pastry stuffed with minced pork and veal.
The best sweets in Braga are:
- Tibias: Made with choux pastry and filled with pastry cream. They are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
- Abade de Priscos Pudding is a silky and creamy egg pudding with a secret ingredient. The pudding was originated in Braga by the Abbot of Priscos. It is one of the best sweets in Portugal!
Where to eat in Braga?
Some of the best restaurants in Braga are:
- Arcoense: An excellent restaurant to eat traditional food from Braga, such as rojões, codfish, and kid. It’s a restaurant outside the center of Braga. One of the best places to eat in Braga.
- Dona Júlia: It is also an excellent restaurant for traditional Braga food. The Abade de Priscos pudding is terrific. It’s on the street on the way to the Sameiro Sanctuary. Prices are a little more expensive than others, but the quality is definitely there.
- Gosto Superior: Delicious and inexpensive vegetarian restaurant. We recommend whether you are vegetarian or not. It is located in the center of Braga.
- Frigideiras do Cantinho: café/restaurant where Frigideiras de Braga originated. If you want, you can take the Frigideira with you. It is located in the center of Braga.
Some of the best pastries:
- Tíbias de Braga: this is the place to eat the famous Tíbias de Braga. It is located in the center of the city. In addition to Tibias, this pastry shop has so many delicious sweets you’ll want to try them all.
- Pastelaria Lusitana: has a little bit of everything. Great place to have a snack or breakfast.
What to visit near Braga?
Guimarães is a city located close to Braga, just 24.5 km away. And it is without a doubt a city that you will enjoy visiting. Besides being one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal, Guimarães is classified as the birthplace of Portugal.
The historic center of Guimarães is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The typical streets of Guimarães are full of old granite houses with arcades, arches, and traditional balconies. The squares are equally charming, with delightful cafes and terraces and, of course, several churches and monuments.
It is very easy to go to Guimarães from Braga by public transport, and there are trains or buses quite frequently.
Peneda-Gerês National Park
The Peneda-Gerês National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and one of the most popular destinations in Portugal for nature lovers, particularly for those who like hiking in the mountains, diving in lakes, enjoying waterfalls, visiting typical villages and even some historical monuments.
Braga is the ideal starting point to visit Gerês, which is 42 km away. To reach Gerês, you will probably have to go through Braga, anyway. In this sense, when you come to Braga, it is an excellent opportunity to get to know Gerês. But the ideal is to have a day or more to get to know the National Park because there is really a lot to do and see.
To visit the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the ideal is to go by car or on tour. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to reach most places.
Arcos of Valdevez
Arcos de Valdevez is just 56 km from Braga. It’s the perfect place to explore nature, visit some traditional villages, and explore historical monuments.
One of the best things to do in Arcos de Valdevez is to do the Ecovia do Vez trail, one of the best walkways in Portugal. And go to Sistelo, often called “the little Portuguese Tibet” due to its typical stone terraces.
The best way to go to Arcos de Valdevez from Braga is by car – it is difficult to go by public transport.
How to go to Braga?
The train station is close to the city center at 600 m. It is a city you can easily visit on foot without needing a car. And it’s close enough to Porto to be able to get there and back. From Lisbon, we advise you to spend the night.
The big drawback is if you want to go to the Peneda-Gerês National Park, then you really need a car.
Going to Braga by car is easy and fast. There is a motorway that takes you to Braga on the A3.
From Lisbon, the best way to reach Braga is via the A1 motorway to Porto and then from Porto to Braga via the A3 motorway. There is 364 km, and it takes 4 hours. It is the most direct way. This motorway is paid, but you don’t need an electronic device; you can pay the toll with cash or a card.
From Porto, the best way is to take the A3 motorway, which is 54.5 km and takes 1 hour, the motorway is paid, and you can pay the toll with cash or a card.