What to see and do in Braga

What To See And Do In Braga If You Only Have One Day

There’s more to see in Braga than its vast collection of churches. Knowing I only had a few hours for visiting Braga’s sights on this taster trip, I decided to head for the Biscainhos Museum and made some pleasing discoveries on the way.

My Braga day trip got off to a good start when I stumbled across Centésima Página, a cute bookshop on Avenida Central with a café at the back housed in Casa Rolão, an 18th century Baroque style house. Sadly, I didn’t have time to fully appreciate the books or the refreshments but it’s definitely a place to head back to with more time on my hands. A little further up the street, these tiles in a beautiful Art Nouveau doorway caught my eye.

Art Nouveau ceramics, Avenida Central, Braga
Art Nouveau ceramics, Avenida Central, Braga

Braga city centre

As city centres go, Braga’s is spacious and attractive with a swathe of pansies adding colour to one of the shopping streets while another was dotted with trees blooming with purple blossom and providing shade for the clusters of old men sitting on the benches beneath the branches. It’s got some fairly unusual sculptures, too.

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As I made my way slowly in the general direction of the museum, the sound of children singing drew me into a square. A crowd of proud mothers and grandparents, supplemented by curious passers-by like myself, gathered to watch as the local primary school put on a show. Children jostled for space in every window of the two-storey building and the rest spilled out of the front door onto the steps. Every one of them belted out their songs, putting a smile on the faces of their audience. Even mine, although a couple of tunes was sufficient to brighten my day.

Primary school children brighten up Braga
Primary school children brighten up Braga

Museu dos Biscainhos, Braga

The Biscainhos museum is in a palace which shares its name with the street it’s on. The Biscainhos were the Basque stonemasons who were brought to Braga to work on the new Gothic tower of the nearby cathedral in the 16th century. Since they all lived on the same street, it became known as Rua dos Biscainhos.

The palace was originally built in the 16th century but many of the architectural and decorative features were added in the 18th century by the family who were keen to display the wealth they had accumulated from coffee and tobacco plantations in Brazil. They even had one of the uncles, a Jesuit priest, incorporated into the decorative oil painting on the ceiling of the Sala Nobre (Noble Room).

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Visits to the museum are guided, although there is extra printed information about the furniture and features at the entrance to each room. The guide certainly helped me get a better appreciation of the lifestyle of the palace’s inhabitants. When I commented on the tiny beds in the master’s bedroom, he explained that because the noblemen used to gorge themselves on rich food in the evenings, they had to sleep upright, supported by cushions so long beds weren’t necessary.

The rooms are filled with furniture which matches both the period in which each one was decorated and the intended use of the space, enabling me to imagine small groups of ladies and gentlemen playing cards at small tables and the nobles being served at the dinner table.

After touring the house and the cloisters, we headed to the kitchens, which are separate from the main house. This was a sensible safety precaution since its fires burned constantly and could easily have set fire to the palace.

Round and round the garden

I loved the house but was equally impressed with the well-tended gardens. The terracing allows each of the three different gardens to be seen when you enter through the grand gateway, a popular feature in baroque gardens of that period. The first section is carefully manicured formal gardens with flower beds, fountains and sculptures separated by hedges and tiled walls. A fabulous circular viewing room is built into one of the walls and decorated with blue and yellow azulejos.

The middle space is devoted to lawns and fruit trees while the last area is a vegetable garden. My only regret is that I was shooed out of the garden at quarter past twelve because the staff wanted to take their lunch break. I’d have been more than happy to sit there and read for a while. Even though my visit ended sooner than I would have liked, I definitely felt I got my money’s worth for the 2 euro entrance fee. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 12.15 and 2 to 5.30 but you should ring to check about public holidays (+351 253 204 650).

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Museu das Imagens, Braga

It took a little while to find the Image Museum; somehow I managed to miss the arch I was using as a reference point and walked further than necessary. The museum itself is smaller than I expected.

An ingenious architect has made excellent use of the original medieval tower, creating several floors, each of which contained a different exhibition of photographs including still life, landscapes and portraits. If you’re interested, it’s at Campo das Hortas 35-37 and open Tuesday to Friday from 11 to 7 and Saturday to Sunday from 2.30 to 6.

Braga Cathedral

Although I hadn’t intended to spend time in any of Braga’s religious buildings, I happened to be walking past the cathedral and felt it would be rude to ignore it. It’s a real mish mash of architectural styles including Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline and Baroque. Photography is not allowed inside and a very stern-faced man will wave his finger at you if you so much as look at your camera.

Gothic tower, Braga
Gothic tower, Braga

Tours that go to Braga from Porto

You could spend an morning, or longer, in Braga on this 3-day tour of the Minho’s Historical Charms.

If you’re pushed for time, visit Braga as part of a day trip from Porto and get to see the lovely city of Guimarães while you’re at it.

This 1-day Guimarães and Braga tour includes a visit to a famous sponge cake factory.

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16 Comments

  1. Hi Julie! I was in Portugal in 2014. My husband & I went to Lisbon, Sintra, Evora, Coimbra, Fatima & Porto . From Porto, we went to Bom Jesus and we loved the place.
    There is another church in Lamego that is similar to Bom Jesus. We wanted to visit but i couldn’t get hold of any information on public transport from Porto.
    Could you give me info on that ? Thanks.

    Theresa

  2. Hey Julie, We have been checking out your blog and we must say that we are very impressed. It’s really great.

    We have particularly been following your posts about Braga as we visited there too. We have even written a guide, which you can check out here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/country-guides/portugal/braga/. We would love your feedback and any tips, information, advice that you might have would be warmly appreciated.

    Keep up the good work!

    Ania & Jon

  3. Hi Julie!
    Acho que posso escrever em português . Estou bem ligada a Braga embora viva no Porto. Temos casa a 5 Km de Braga e passamos lá o Natal (família grande!) A Páscoa, fins de semana e alguns dias no verão.
    O Museu da SÉ foi remodelado e visitámo-lo em Novembro passado. Há ainda o Bom Jesus para visitar que é muito agradável.
    Para comer recomendo Os Silvas que têm um estabelecimento perto do café A Basileira, digno também de uma visita – foi remodelado recentemente. Os Silvas têm outro estabelecimento mais abaixo,no shopping de S. Lázaro, junto ao velho hospital e da Casa do Raio (digna de se ver, infelizmente só por fora), perto da Fonte do ídolo, já rfeerida num comentário anterior. Junto do café Brasileira há a Casa dos Crivos, pertencente ao Municipio e que tem exposições temporárias. Ainda me lembro de muitas casa como aquelas que desapareceram completamente de Braga. Fico por aqui, mas há muito mais a ver. E Guimarães? EStá linda! AS duas cidades são “rivais” o que acho um grande disparate!
    Seja sempre benvinda ao Norte. Já conheçe os espigueiro do Soejo?? únicos! Um abraço e bem-haja pela divulgação.
    Atualmento o meu ramo é mais a divulgação dos bordados portugueses e de certo modo a sua revitalização!

    1. Author

      Hi Meri,

      Thanks for all your tips and recommendations. I will definitely check out the restaurant you mentioned, as well as the Casa dos Crivos. I think Braga is a lovely city and well worth revisiting. I’ve spent more time in Guimarães so far and I’m equally impressed with it, although they are totally different cities.

      I went to Soajo during my brief trip to Peneda Gerês National Park and saw the espigueiros. Here’s the post I wrote about it: https://juliedawnfox.com/2013/06/26/exploring-peneda-geres-national-park/

      1. Hi Julie Sorry I haven’t yet time enough to read all your blog!
        Se ou quando voltar ao norte a Braga terei muito prazer em a receber, minha mãe nasceu em Braga e, por mera coincidência, meu marido também. Vivemos no Porto há muitos anos.
        A minha filha vive no Douro e para já tem uma casa de turismo para alugar, em breve haverá mais três, penso eu, na mesma Quinta
        Pode espreitar aqui http://quintadabouca.wordpress.com/.
        Se puder ser útil em mais alguma coisa é só dizer
        méri

  4. Hi Julie!
    Excellent blog 🙂
    I am a portuguese travel blogger and I live near Braga (50km). Another cool spots to visit: Cividade and Fonte do Idolo (roman ruins), Museu Pio XII, Museu D. Diogo de Sousa, a nice place to eat “O Palhotas” and for good coffee break “Caffe Vianna”
    Best regards
    Pedro

    1. Author

      Hi Pedro, Thanks for stopping by. It’s nice to *meet* another blogger, especially one from the area I’ve just written about! I really appreciate your tips. I’ve saved them for future reference for next time I’m up north. Happy blogging!

  5. Last time I was in Braga (June 2013) I also met the very stern-faced man… I was in shock, actually, as I had been there before and taken photos without any problem. I’m not sure if you know, but the cathedral was built on what used to be a temple to Isis and, before the construction of Santiago de Compostela, the Braga cathedral was the most important religious building of the Iberian Peninsula.
    Also, as a side note: when visiting the Bom Jesus try to go there on a weekday if you can. Weekends, Sundays in particular, are when all the locals seem to flock there for a bit of green and fresh air. So weekdays are a lot more ‘peaceful’.

    1. Author

      At least he’s consistent! I was quite shocked, too. And disappointed as there are so many wonderful architectural features I’d have loved to photograph.

      I didn’t know that about the cathedral’s history or regional significance so thanks for sharing, and for the tip about visiting Bom Jesus. I think we went at the weekend and it was teeming with families having picnics in the woods. And who can blame them? It’s a lovely spot.

    1. Author

      I agree, Linda. The views are spectacular – I love your photos, by the way!

  6. Braga is on my list for when I return to the north, Julie. Your recommendations all look very promising. 🙂
    Merry Christmas to you! Out with friends? However you celebrate, enjoy, and very best wishes for 2014.

    1. Author

      Merry Christmas to you, too Jo!

    1. Author

      Hi Sami. Thanks for the tip. I visited the sanctuary and gardens a couple of years ago and you’re right, they’re well worth going to.

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