That's what happened to me, one afternoon I was having dinner with friends and two days later I was in Braga, in a city that surprised everyone.
The trip started in Coimbra. As it is cheaper, I chose to travel by bus to Braga, luckily Coimbra has a bus station for Flixbus that offers low-cost trips over long distances. In less than two hours I arrived in Braga, where I stayed in a hotel, close to the train station.
As I didn't travel alone, I ended up arriving at the hotel room around 9pm, where I only had time to eat a quick meal at a fast-food chain, so I could wake up early the next day.
It was after a good night's sleep that I got up very early to appreciate all the details of the city that is the capital of the Baroque and the Rome of Portugal. Leaving the hotel, I headed towards the city centre where I was soon confronted with the Arco da Porta Nova, literally an arch that leads us to the main streets of the city. After breakfast, I went to the Cathedral of Braga.
Cathedral of Braga
The Cathedral of Braga is an imposing building, with several chapels and routes that can be taken by visitors. I chose to visit everything possible, for a price of €5, with a guide who explained in detail what I was seeing. The cathedral began to be built even before Portugal was established as a country. The parents of the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, are buried in this monument, as well as several Portuguese archbishops in tombs that can be seen by visitors. There is still the mummified body of Dom Eurico Dias Nogueira, responsible for the construction of the Cathedral. For those who may be sensitive to these kinds of images, you must be aware that the mummified body is completely visible, being inside a glass tomb, making it able to see the body.
In this monument what impressed me the most was undoubtedly the space where the choir performed, constructed with dark Brazilian wood made from Jacaranda. It is in this choir that you have a wide perspective of the cathedral, as well as the two organs of the church up close. While still in the Cathedral, I visited a museum where you can see the robes, crowns and jewels of clergy members from across the centuries. In this area, visitors are expressly prohibited from photographing.
Braga was once an important city in the Roman Empire. Some archaeological studies have been carried out in the ancient Bracara Augusta. In this context, I visited the Roman baths. A discovery that was made in 1977 after some excavations in the area. For less than €2, I was able to see the space of what used to be thermal baths, as well as watch a video with the recreation of the space and how it was used during the Roman Empire.
After visiting the springs, I walked through the streets of Braga. The day was sunny and quite cold, for those who are used to the mild winter in the south of the country. With an extra coat, I enjoyed the architecture of the city, while deciding where we would have dinner and enjoy the famous Bacalhau à Braga. The streets of Braga are not the most colourful, however, you can appreciate the beauty of the stone construction that gives the city an impressive darker hue. It was on this short walk that I discovered the Biscainhos Museum.
The Biscainhos Museum
The Biscainhos Museum would be a monument with a lot of potentials, however, the professionals who were there do not do justice to the place. The worker at the ticket office was very helpful and friendly and with the purchase of the ticket, a guided tour was promised. Before the visit, I walked through the gardens, which have free access. The garden is a bit like a maze, but with an easy solution. During the visit to what is, after all, a palace, I had the presence of a guide, who remained silent throughout the visit, only accompanying us to the rooms. I did not know anything about the mansion, who lived there and for how long, or when it was built. After a quick search on the internet, I find out that the house was built in the 17th century by Constantino Ribeiro do Lago. Not everything was bad and during this visit, I had the opportunity to see a spectacular kitchen, with large copper pots and somewhat peculiar mugs. The mugs were in the shape of people and people could drink their drink through a small hole in the sculpture's hat. You could also see mugs and figures dating back to Portuguese colonial times.
After the visit, I had lunch very quickly, as I had to take the bus to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte. Braga is a city well served by public transport, namely by bus. Even on Saturday, several buses were running around the city. At Avenida da Liberdade I took a bus that ended the journey right where I wanted to go. The Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary is known for the more than 500 steps you must climb to get there, but I did things differently. There is the alternative of going up by funicular transport, the first funicular transport of the Iberian Peninsula.
After the two-minute ride on the funicular, I was impressed with everything. The panoramic view of Braga was without a doubt the highlight of my trip. In addition to the Sanctuary in this area, you can visit magnificent parks and lakes on a tour that will forever remain in the memory of those who visit. The space also has restaurants and hotels. As I didn't go up the stairs of the building that was ordered by an archbishop, 120 metres high, I went down. Along the staircase, you can see several fountains and sculptures that date back, for example, to the Via Sacra.
With this journey done, it was time to rest a little, so it was on a terrace having a drink that we decided where we were going to have dinner. In a typical restaurant called “Colher de Pau”.
A taste of Braga
Dinner was fantastic. The restaurant is small, with no more than 10 tables, which allows employees to have more direct contact with customers. Everyone with me tried Bacalhau à Braga, I'm not a big fan of cod, so I chose to eat beef made in a way that is unique to the restaurant. Of course, the meal was accompanied by a bottle of local white wine.
After dinner, we wanted to end the night with a cocktail. We were recommended the “Bairro Alto” of Braga, which is close to the Cathedral. However, it was not the kind of atmosphere that we were looking for, as the streets were full. We discovered a bar with a peaceful atmosphere where we could sit inside and enjoy our drinks.
The next day we took a train back to Coimbra. I returned filled with memories about Braga, a city that surprised me immensely and left me with the desire to return. Perhaps much more remains to be discovered and explored. I will certainly have more dishes to try and more churches to visit, in the city that has a huge amount of history. Braga is indeed a place to consider visiting.
When visiting new places, people must make sure that are following the Covid-19 measures according to the country. I was tested before going on the trip, as well as soon I returned home. Currently at every restaurant and bar I was requested to present a negative test or the Covid Digital Certificate.