A very long time ago, myths and legends were the everyday stories told between Celtic people living peacefully in various tribes. Once the men in skirts (Romans) came to conquer these tribes, some fled on Atlantic, to the north (founding Irland) and some stayed and became part of the Province Gallaecia. The capital of this newly formed territory was Bracara Augusta (Braga Augusta, after the name of the Emperor who conquered the region).
With more than 2000 years of history, this city has grown into a rich destination but not in terms of money, but rather history (marked by the sandy-grey coloured stones of the many churches and cathedrals that are in contrast with touches of vivid colours, green spaces and youth found in present days).
This is, the second part of Braga, in detail:
Did the expression “in detail” scared you? Just head back to 004 and enjoy a short and colorful article about Braga with more images and fewer words.
And speaking about 2000 years of history and the fact that Braga was the old capital of Galicia:
Today there is no airport!
Yep, but there is a high-speed train connecting you with major cities from Portugal. (that do have airports)
005.1 Braga Train Station and the Alfa Pendular – a train made by Fiat, that tilts. A lot. But is fast. And tilts. Take this train from Porto, and in about 40min you are already walking in Braga.
Now that you know that there is no airport, please don’t say no to Braga just yet!
Porto, that has an international airport, is well under one hour away from this city, no matter if you take a bus, car/cab or the train. (I did not try the bike… but for some should not be a problem to do 67km)
You just saw where the train will drop you off, but what about if you come by car? Where to park?
005.2 Next to the Avenida Central Park, that is in front of Igreja dos Congregados, there is paid parking place, both under and on top of the ground. From here you are close to many objectives.
005.3 Inside the huge Igreja dos Congregados. There are so many churches in Braga, that it actually got a nickname to go with that: Cidade dos Arcebispos” (Archbishop’s Town) and City of Churches.
005.4 With so many churches, you would think there is no place for Universities (greatest in Portugal), Theaters, Palaces, Sports, Youth or Nightlife. You would be wrong! Here is Lapa Church, a historical edifice that at dawn, changes into a very popular meeting, eating, drinking and dancing place.
005.5 And since you parked your car in the central area, as you look to the East you will find Bom Jesus Cathedral, up on the hill. (far in the distance). To the left of the image, we see yet another Igreja, Nossa Senhora a Branca.
005.6 If you decide to skip for the moment the Cathedral that is up on the hill, might I present you a very beautiful, sandy and blue palace? It is South from where you parked your car and it is called: Palacio do Raio, built during the baroque époque. It is so beautiful in real life that inspired me to try to remake it in Blender as seen on the first and last pictures of this article.
005.7 As you pass the blue Palace (unseen in the left of the image), you enter this magnificent area that is guarded by Churches and a Hospital: Hospital de Sao Marcos. To the right of the image, we have yet another Igreja, de Santa Cruz, and also to the right of it is the road we will follow to reach the old centre and the Se Cathedral de Braga.
005.8 The Roman celebrations parade, and the Se Cathedral de Braga in the background.
This Cathedral was the “zero point” of Bracara Augusta, till the late medieval ages. This religious and cultural place was in the centre, guarded by houses and walls and acted like a magnet gathering all the artefacts to safekeeping. So it is that the huge history of this region, from Celtic tribes to Medieval times are displayed within these walls. Not to forget also religious artefacts and tombs. All well preserved, despite the long history.
005.9 The walls of Antigo Paco/ Episcopal Palace. This sandy-stone edifice looks more like a Medieval castle, full of Templars, secret texts and conspirations.
On other sides of the same palace, there are baroque influences, with white walls and grey pillars. In fact, there are 3 distinct architectural designs making this Palace.
This palace dates far back into Portugal’s history with the garden and Easter wing finished in the XIV-th century and the other two buildings in the XVI-th and XVIII-th century.
005.10 Fonte dos Castelos, built in the XVIII-th century. Portraying a woman and the church, both symbols of Braga. This fountain is located in the Eastern wing of the Palace.
005.11 As you have probably guessed, Braga is of huge historical and cultural importance. And many shops provide hand-made products varying from food to clothes to antiques and musical instruments (some painted in blue depicting Portuguese history).
005.12 Igreja dos Terceiros, surrounded by colourful buildings, some with blue azulejos ceramics, decorating the facades, others resembling more with Leon from Spain.
There are more sights to see such as old walls, arches and gates to be visited, markets, dragons (made in steel), interesting trees, colourful doors and windows and many more. For more images head back to part 1 of this series (004) on this website, posted two weeks ago.
005.13 Capela Nossa Senhora da Torre.
Finally, after a full day of marching inside the old centre of Braga, it is time to head to the high hills surrounding Braga. And what is the most visited destination in Braga?
Bom Jesus do Monte, the most impressive sanctuary in the north of Portugal.
005.14 One of the ways to get up on the hill and next to the church is by climbing the many stairs through the park.
005.15 Once up, you get in front of this iconic view, that represents the work of the Archbishop of Braga of the XVIII-th century.
005.16 The park is quite big, with many Chapels, all dedicated to Jesus Christ, with paintings and statues depicting moments of His life. Also, there are fountains and caves to keep you entertained. Sadly, during the season I don’t think you will find this place peaceful.
005.17 And from up here you get a bird’s eye view over Braga and the summer forest fires that are spreading all across Portugal…
005.18 This gorgeous site, filled with flowers, green mosaics and chapels is the most common tourist attraction of Braga.
In fact, it was so beautiful as an architectural design/idea that it inspired two more constructions like this one. One more in Portugal in Lamego and another one in colonial Brazil (the Sanctuary of Congonhas). The one in Lamego is not so famous and it looks more aged and under-cared (while dating also since the XVIII-th century).
Interesting fact: Pilgrims would climb the zigzag stairs in knees in order to forget about the material, mundane world and get more connected to the spiritual world.
005.19 But for those of us that prefer the stairs to be normally walked, there is a more unique way to go up: The funicular.
Here, in Braga, is the oldest of it’s kind in the world that move by water balancing. Despite the fact that this machine is over 136yrs old, it can still carry 30 passengers upon a rise of 116 meters with a 42 degrees incline.
005.20 The view as you go up to Bom Jesus sanctuary on rails.
In these two articles, I tried to show as much as possible of Braga: the city of churches or archbishops, Braga the colourful doors, Braga the cultural place, Braga the old capital and Braga the young and musical.
Today Braga is visited by lots of tourists, most of them heading for the Bom Jesus Sanctuary, and returning by night to the Central Park, near Congregados, for a good meal, some music and fashion/cultural/musical shows. Braga is the 3rd city of Portugal and despite the fact that it does not have an airport, is very well connected by other means of transportation.
For bus tickets, I advise you to go to Bus Rede Express.
If you come by train, then my biggest bet is that you come from Porto (even if you come from Spain). If you feel sick from the air-travel, then I suggest not to take the Alfa-Pendular (the high-speed train) but opt for a more cheaper and more time consuming regional train. (there are only 70km to travel, but the regional train will not tilt every second along that distance)
By car, just like always, is faster, better, cheaper and you can even get a cab from Porto to get you to Braga if you wish for that.
I really hope you liked this article, and please join again on 005 – A Steam Journey where we travel to find the birthplace of the famous Porto Wine.