Bom dia! Welcome to Braga, one of the oldest cities in Portugal and definitely the most religious one. Thanks to a huge number of churches, as many as 47, it’s often called the Rome of Portugal. What’s more, it’s an important stop for many walking Camino Portugues, one of the spiritual routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. But don’t worry if you aren’t a religious person – Braga has a lot more to offer than just churches. So if you’re planning your trip and wondering what to do in the city, look no further. Follow our travel guide and discover all the best places to visit in Braga, Portugal in just one day. Ready? Let’s go!
Interesting fact. An ancient Celtic tribe Bracari most likely founded Braga. Later, around 136 BC Romans conquered the region and called the city Bracara Augusta.
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Best things to do in Braga, Portugal in one day
Yes, Braga is a very interesting city, definitely worth visiting. First of all, it’s one of the biggest and most modern cities in Northern Portugal which encourages you to spend some time there and enjoy all the benefits and amenities. Secondly, strolling among its historic center feels a little like stepping back in time. Lastly, Braga is a place that has something to offer for everyone – there are museums, amazing viewpoints, restaurants with delicious food, and of course churches with various spiritual experiences.
We’ll always remember Braga as a city of churches, as they are there literally on every corner. Besides a huge number of churches, the city is known for its architecture, many museums, historical buildings and landmarks. A bit out of town, you’ll find some great viewpoints and… more churches.
It depends only on you and what you want to see in Braga. For us, one day was enough and without a rush, we saw everything we wanted in and around the city. But we didn’t spend much time on churches and museums as they simply didn’t interest us a lot. If it’s something that might interest you and you would like to spend more time in them, you probably would need 2 or 3 days in Braga.
Things to do in Braga Old Town
The best way to get to know Braga is to stroll among its charming old town streets, its historical center. There you’ll get a chance to admire old buildings, historical landmarks, many churches, and have a delicious coffee in one of many cafes. Braga old town is fairly compact and easy to explore on foot.
There you’ll find points of interest like Braga’s Cathedral, Arch of the New Gate, Republic Square, Raio Palace, Garden Of Santa Barbara or Biscainhos Museum. Let’s go and take a closer look.
Republic Square (pt. Praça da Republica) is located in the heart of Braga. Locals, as well as travelers, love this beautiful square. Locally it’s known as Arcada Square, thanks to the 18th-century arcade building. For a long time, it served as a sheltered place for merchants selling their products.
Nowadays, in this big, traffic-free area you’ll find a beautiful fountain (pt. Chafariz da Praça da República), restaurants, and cafes, including two famous, and historic ones: Cafe Vianna (oldest cafe in Braga, dating back to 1858) and Café Astoria. Republic Square is also a place where Braga Tourist Office is located, as well as a big green space, Park Avenida Central.
Behind Republic Square, you’ll find an important historic landmark. 30m high Braga Tower (pt. Torre de Menagem) is the last standing remains of the 13th-century fortified castle which was demolished in the early 20th century.
Avenida da Liberdade
While still on Republic Square don’t miss a stroll along Avenida da Liberdade, Braga’s main shopping street lined with beautiful and colorful flowers. This is also where you’ll find 20th-century Theatro Circo, which is considered one of the most beautiful theaters in Portugal.
Raio Palace (pt. Palácio do Raio) is an impressive building located in the Braga old town, best known for its spectacular blue facade covered in blue azulejos. It was designed by Andre Soares and built in the 1750s as a private residence of Joao Duarte de Faria, a wealthy merchant, and knight of the Military Order of Christ, better known as the Knights Templar. Nowadays Raio Palace is classified as a Property of Public Interest.
Raio Palace was renovated in 2014-2015 and now is home to a small museum. Inside you can learn about the history of Braga, as well as see various religious artifacts. Entry cost: €2 (April 2023). To check out opening hours and current prices visit scmbraga.pt website.
Braga Cathedral (pt. Sé de Braga) is Portugal’s oldest cathedral, which is actually… older than Portugal itself! Its construction started in the 11th century, in 1070, and in August 1089 it was consecrated under the devotion of Santa Maria de Braga. Back in time, it used to compete for power with the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Currently, it’s the most important religious building in the city, as it’s the seat of the Archdiocese of Braga. Due to the fact that the Cathedral was modified many times over the years, it combines several architectural styles: Baroque, Romanesque, Gothic, and Manueline. Braga Cathedral has been a National Monument since 1910.
The entrance to Braga Cathedral is paid. You can choose from a few options: visit only a Cathedral (€2), Chapels & High Choir (€2) or Treasure Museum (€3) or buy a combined ticket to all of them for €5 (April 2023). For current prices and visiting our please visit se-braga.pt website.
In our opinion, Braga Cathedral isn’t that spectacular, at least from the outside. We decided not to pay to see the inside because well.. we‘re not that huge fans of churches.
Garden Of Santa Barbara
Garden Of Santa Barbara (pt. Jardim de Santa Bárbara) is another great place to see in Braga, located just a few steps from Praca da Republica and behind Old Archbishops Palace (pt. Antigo Paço Arquiepiscopal). It’s a charming and relaxing place filled with hundreds of colorful flowers and benches on which you can sit and take a short break. In the central part of the garden, you’ll find a 17th-century fountain featuring a Santa Barbara statue. In the back, there are remains of Gothic arches. Garden Of Santa Barbara is open daily, 24 hours a day.
Arch of the New Gate
Arch of the New Gate (pt. Arco da Porta Nova) is an iconic arch that was originally built in the early 16th century as part of Braga city walls and served as the main entrance to the city. The current version was designed in 1772 by Andre Soares. It’s made of stone, with baroque and neoclassical details. The Arch of the New Gate has been a National Monument since 1910.
Biscainhos Museum (pt. Museu dos Biscainhos) is located in the 17th-century Baroque palace, right next to the Arco da Porta Nova. Once it was a residence of the noble family of the judge and Knight in the Order of Christ, Dr. Constantino Ribeiro do Lago. Currently, it’s a museum that gives an opportunity to take a look at the life of the Portuguese nobility. It features things like art, ceramics, musical instruments, glassware, furniture, or clocks. Outside, you’ll also find a beautiful garden.
Entrance to Biscainhos Museum cost: normal – €2, reduced – €1 (April 2023). The museum is closed on Mondays. For current prices and opening hours visit museudosbiscainhos.gov.pt website.
Churches and chapels in Braga Old Town
Braga is called Rome of Portugal not without reason. In total, there are 47 churches and chapels around the city! Unbelievable, right? As you might expect, many of them are located in the old town. Besides Braga Cathedral, in our opinion, the following are worth taking a look at:
- Igreja De São Marcos (also called Igreja do Hospital) – one of the biggest churches in Braga, dating back to the 18th century. In front of it, you’ll find big “Braga” letters.
- Igreja De Santa Cruz – a baroque church built in the 17th century, located on the same square as São Marcos church.
- Basilica dos Congregados – this beautifully looking church dates back to the 18th century, located in Park Avenida Central, just a few steps from Republic Square
Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa
Museum of Archeology (pt. Museu de Arqueologia Dom Diogo de Sousa) was founded in 1918 and named after Braga’s Archbishop who lived there in the 16th century. Inside you’ll find archaeological collections from North Portugal, covering the Palaeolithic period, Roman period, ending in the Middle Ages. There are artifacts like pottery, jewelry, or personal household items.
Entrance to the Museum of Archeology cost: €3 (April 2023). The museum is closed on Mondays. For current prices and opening hours visit museuddiogodesousa.gov.pt website.
Praça – City Market
We found this municipal market totally by chance when we were strolling among Braga streets but we loved it! It’s housed in a nice modern building lined in wood, and even has a fountain inside! In the market, you can buy many fresh products like vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, cheese or pastries.
Things to do outside Braga Old Town, Portugal
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte (pt. Bom Jesus do Monte) is a city landmark and without a doubt one of the best places to see in Braga. It’s tucked away in a spectacular place on a hill, only about 5km from the old town, to which you can drive by car, or arrive by bus (line 2 from Avenida da Liberdade). The sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
The area is best known for its extraordinary Baroque stairway with 577 stairs leading to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte. While going up take a look at many statues, chapels, and fountains, as well as stunning views over Braga behind your back. At the top visit the 18th-century church (it’s free), take a relaxing and well-deserved stroll in the Sanctuary’s garden, and of course admire panoramic views over the city.
If you don’t want to, or can’t due to some health reasons, climb almost 600 stairs there’s a great solution – Bom Jesus Funicular. Yes, you can easily reach the top by funicular, which has been shuttling up and down the hill since 1882. A two-way trip costs only €2.5 (February 2023).
Interesting fact. In nearby Peneda-Geres National Park, you’ll find the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda, which is a smaller version of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro (pt. Santuário de Nossa Senhora do Sameiro) is located only 2km further from Bom Jesus do Monte, on an even higher hill, at the altitude of 566m a.s.l. It’s an impressive neoclassical church with a huge white dome, built in the 1860s. Even if you’re not into churches we advise you to visit this place, if only for truly stunning views of Braga and its surroundings (which in our opinion are better than from Bom Jesus do Monte). The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro can be visited for free.
Parque do Monte do Picoto
Parque do Monte do Picoto (pt. Miradouro do Picoto) is a great viewpoint located only 2.5km from the Braga center. From it, you can admire one of the best, and closest, panoramic views over Braga. We didn’t have a chance to experience that but read that it’s an amazing spot for watching sunsets. In the park, you’ll also find a picnic area.
How to get to Braga, Portugal?
Where to park in Braga?
There are some paid parking lots in Braga center, but if you don’t want to pay you can leave your car for free 1km (10min walk) from the old town, on Rua da Restauração or neighboring streets.
Airports near Braga, Portugal
The closest airport to Braga in Portugal is located in Porto (55km away). Other ones are located in Spain, in Vigo (100km away) and Santiago de Compostela (200 km away). From each airport, you can get to Braga by bus. To check the connections that interest you please visit rome2rio.com website.
To Braga by bus
You can quite easily get to Braga by bus. For example, the journey from Porto will take about 45min (€4-11), from Ponte de Lima 1h (€4-10), and 50min from Guimares (€3-5). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Braga by train
From some places, you can also reach Braga by train. There are connections available from cities like Lisbon, Porto, Viana do Castelo or even Albufeira in the south. Here is a map of Portugal train connections.
Best things to do in Braga, Portugal in one day – Summing Up
So as you’ve seen already if you are a huge fan of churches you’ll have a blast in Braga. But even if you’re not, there is plenty to experience and see there as well. The old town with a building predating Portugal itself, magnificent views and viewpoints in and around the city. For sure, you’ll find something for yourself there, even if you have only one day to explore the area.
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Braga?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Braga:
Where to sleep in Braga?
Hotel Moon & Sun Braga
Hotel Moon & Sun Braga is a modern and stylish hotel located in the heart of Braga. The hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms with amenities such as air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and TVs. Guests can also enjoy a buffet breakfast and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city. The hotel's central location makes it an ideal base for exploring Braga's historic landmarks, shopping districts, and restaurants
Braga Center Apartments – Sao Vicente
Braga Center Apartments - Sao Vicente is a modern and spacious apartment located in the heart of Braga's historic center. The apartment features two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a living room, and a balcony with city views. Guests can enjoy the convenience of being within walking distance of Braga's main attractions.
Braga Bells Guesthouse
Braga Bells Guesthouse is a charming and cozy guesthouse located in the heart of Braga's historical center. The guesthouse features comfortable and stylishly decorated rooms, each with its own unique character and theme. Guests can enjoy a delicious breakfast each morning and relax in the peaceful cozy lounge area.
Burgus Tribute & Design Hotel
Burgus Tribute & Design Hotel is a modern hotel located in the heart of Braga, just a short walk from the city's historic center. The hotel features elegant and contemporary rooms and suites, all with modern amenities and comfortable furnishings, and some with balconies offering beautiful views of the city.
Braga Heritage Lofts
Braga Heritage Lofts is a charming and stylish guest house located in the heart of Braga. The building has been beautifully restored and retains its original character, with exposed stone walls and wooden beams. The lofts are well-appointed with modern amenities, including a kitchenette, and offer a comfortable and memorable stay in Braga.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com