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24 Hours in Braga

24 Hours in Braga

by Yettio Travel

24 Hours in Braga

Although often overlooked in favour of Porto and Lisbon, Braga has much to offer as a tourist destination in its own right. As well as being the epicentre of religious life in Portugal, with the oldest diocese in the country, it’s also one of the most ancient cities in the whole of Europe. As a result, it’s positively brimming with impressive architecture, antiquated cathedrals and churches and more quaint cobbled streets than you can shake two sticks at.

braga-76970_960_720On the other hand, neither should you expect Braga to be a relic of a city, lost in the annals of time and frequented only by religious enthusiasts. As home to the oldest university in Portugal, Braga consistently draws a young crowd which contributes a vibrancy and energy to the city. There are plenty of galleries, studios and chic cafes, as well as a plethora of modern bars and restaurants. Any traveller to this overlooked gem of a city really owes it to themselves to stay longer than 24 hours, but if you can only afford a fly-by visit, here’s an idea on how to spend a memorable day in Braga.

Morning – Braga Old Townbraga-76969_960_720

With only one day in which to squeeze it all in, you’ll want to get an early start and hit the cobbles shortly after sunrise. Kickstart your day with a coffee from the lovely Cafe Lusitania just off the charming Praça da República, before taking in the sights of the old town. High on your list must be the Sé de Braga, the oldest cathedral in Portugal, which costs €2 to enter and can take over an hour to fully appreciate. Elsewhere, you won’t want to miss the Fonte do Ídolo, which dates back to the 1st century AD and is an atmospheric example of Roman baths, or the Antigo Paço Episcopal, former palace of the archbishop.

Meanwhile, history buffs will be well catered for with the twin museums of Biscainhos and Dom Diogo de Sousa, whereas art aficionados should check out the cultural centre at GNRation and the photographic exhibits at Museu da Imagem. While a pre-planned itinerary might be an efficient way to tick off all of the major sights you want to see, an aimless stroll around the enchanting Old Town streets is equally pleasant.

Afternoon – Bom Jesus do Montebraga-1401055_960_720

All that pavement pounding is sure to have worked up an appetite, so treat yourself to a long lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants surrounding the cathedral – Bira dos Namorados is a great gastropub serving traditional dishes with a modern twist if you’re feeling too spoilt for choice. After refuelling, head to Portugal’s most famous religious sanctuary at Bom Jesus do Monte on the outskirts of the city.

At a remove of four miles east of Braga, Bom Jesus can be reached by regular buses which cater for the tourist crowd. Perched atop the hill of Monte Espinho inside lush gardens, the church offers unrivalled views over the surrounding area. To reach the hilltop house of worship, you’ll need to scale the impressive Escadaria, a colossal staircase linking the entrance to the summit via 14 distinct chapels. While the stairs can be a little tough on the knees, it’s easy to see why this is a place of pilgrimage for devotees from all over the world – the walk and its ultimate reward are well worth your efforts.

Evening – Downtownbraga-112106_960_720

Having well and truly gotten your culture fix for the day, it’s time to let your hair down. Braga is renowned for its laid-back lifestyle, and though the nightlife is decidedly mellow in comparison to other European party hotspots, you’ll certainly notice an uptake in the pace of life on your return to the city. As the evening wears on, the downtown area comes alive and its compact size lends itself to bar hopping with ease.

While your chosen watering holes are entirely up to yourself, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t sample some of the local wine. Though it comes in both red and white varieties, it actually goes by the misnomer of vinho verde (green wine) – but whatever the colour, it’s sure to linger long on your palate. Nothing will quite round off the night like some live music – for a really authentic Portuguese experience, do your utmost to take in a Fado performance. You won’t regret it.

 

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