Originally called Bracara Augusta, Braga was an important Roman settlement in the north of present-day Portugal . Today, its elegant streets and buildings show a city steeped in history, dotted with beautiful churches and highly acclaimed squares. Holy Week and San Juan days attract tourists and visitors from the surrounding regions, while the bustling historic center keeps the city lively throughout the year.
- 1 What to do on your visit to Braga?
- 1.1 Discover the history of the ancient Roman settlement “Bracara Augusta”
- 1.2 Try the frigideiras
- 1.3 Spend an afternoon in the cafe-bookstore and the hidden garden of Casa do Rolão
- 1.4 Visit the Cathedral of Braga
- 1.5 Attend a play at the Braga Theater
- 1.6 Try Braga’s greenest dishes in a modern market
- 1.7 Buy cod at the São João Market
- 1.8 Visit the monastery of the decorative arts
- 1.9 Meet the aristocracy of Braga
- 1.10 Take impressive photos in the Jardim de Santa Bárbara
What to do on your visit to Braga?
Discover the history of the ancient Roman settlement “Bracara Augusta”
Braga is a city with more than 2,000 years of history, which originated in the Roman “Bracara Augusta”. You can explore it freely or hire a guided tour that will help you discover its history by walking through the historic center, entering the Cathedral of Braga and visiting the Garden of Santa Bárbara and the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus. This last site is located at the top of a baroque staircase on Mount Espinho.
Try the frigideiras
The Frigideiras do Cantinho restaurant takes its name from the typical cakes that were created here for the first time , the frigideiras , which are still cooked according to the old recipe. Founded in 1796, the restaurant claims to be the oldest still open in Braga. The link with history, however, seems to go even further back, since the remains of a Roman house were found below its location during the last renovation of the premises. To celebrate the event, Frigideiras do Cantinho included the “Bolo Romano” to the menu, a cake that appeared in the recipe book of the Roman writer and gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius. If you visit this restaurant, you have the opportunity to try other exquisite dishes as there are many varieties of Portuguese cuisine that appear on the menu.
While exploring the city center, you can visit the Casa do Rolão, an example of 18th century Baroque architecture and one of the most beautiful facades in the center of Braga. The building is home to Centésima Página, an independent bookstore and cultural space that hosts exhibitions, book presentations, debates, concerts, children’s activities and workshops. After browsing the shelves, look for the cozy cafeteria and the quiet garden to enjoy a relaxing moment in one of the most original spaces in this Portuguese city.
Visit the Cathedral of Braga
Braga Cathedral, also known as Sé de Braga , is the largest enclave in the historic center, although you can imagine that being the main church in a city full of churches is not an easy task.
The cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Braga, and was built before Portugal became a country. To this day, the cathedral’s design remains in line with the city and offers its own mix of styles. Architecture enthusiasts may note that although the three arches on the main façade are Gothic (late 15th century), the towers and upper floors are from the early Baroque (17th century). The various Romanesque and Manueline elements also present in the mix give Braga Cathedral a unique and fascinating look.
The entrance to the Cathedral of Braga is free, but the points of special interest require the purchase of a ticket, these are: the gilded wood carving of the choir stalls and the double organ from the early 18th century.
Attend a play at the Braga Theater
Created in 1906, the theater was restored in 1999, but fortunately kept the same early 20th century style . There aren’t many theaters like this left in the world, so we highly recommend that you watch any of the shows perform on their stages. If nothing is scheduled on the day of your visit, you can always take a tour of the interior.
Try Braga’s greenest dishes in a modern market
Beyond being a simple store, the Bacalhoeiro Market is a gastronomic boutique that promotes quality and responsible cuisine. Everything in this market revolves around cod, but there is much more to try and discover. The shelves are filled with a dazzling array of local wines and produce, which can be perfect as gift ideas and souvenirs. There is also a menu that changes every day that includes salads, sandwiches, main dishes and delicious desserts, the result of collaboration with renowned chefs and local suppliers. Workshops, cooking events and themed dinners are held regularly at the Bacalhoeiro Market, Wednesdays are dedicated to Portuguese cuisine.
Buy cod at the São João Market
The old Mercado de São João is one of the oldest shops in Braga, selling cod since 1894. Modernity does not seem to be a concern in this place, as the main focus is the quality of the products . By also selling wines, ground coffee and other products, the Mercado de São João describes itself as “just a grocery store located in the historic center” , and perhaps that is the key to maintaining a genuine and uncomplicated approach. after more than 100 years of activity. However, as it is written above the cod shelf, one thing is certain, ‘O preço é semper baixo’, a slogan that translated into Spanish means: “The price is always low”.
Visit the monastery of the decorative arts
Surrounded by nature, six kilometers northwest of Braga, the Mosteiro de São Martinho de Tibães is a Benedictine monastery dating from the 10th century. The spectacular wood, baroque elements, tile coverings and decoration by André Soares testify to the role which served as an important decorative arts workshop during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and whose influence spread throughout Portugal. Comprised of four cloisters and a chapel, this remarkable complex was restored in 1986 after years of neglect. You can discover it with guided tours and free entry.
Meet the aristocracy of Braga
Museu dos Biscaínhos is a journey through the daily life of a noble family from Braga from the 18th century . Housed in an elegant residence originally built in 1699, the great rooms of the museum display ceramics, antique furniture, tiles, frescoes and a rich variety of decorative details , through which the visitor is invited to discover facts and curiosities related to them. In addition, the museum houses small collections of archaeological and ethnographic interest. The garden is an original gem, rich in details and surprises , said to be the home of the oldest Virginia Tulip tree in Portugal.
Take impressive photos in the Jardim de Santa Bárbara
After getting to know the historic center of Braga, you may need a break. The Jardim de Santa Bárbara is a magnificent little park located right next to an old castle burned down . A great place to relax on your Braga trip where you can take amazing photos and glimpse the beauty of the vivid colors of the flowers. You must bear in mind that in these gardens there is no shade, so if you visit during noon, it is better to have something refreshing in the closest place, the Café Lusitana.