Porto’s position in the country makes it a great base for exploring the north of Portugal. The region has plenty of stops and sights and sounds that will help deepen the burgeoning love you already have for the country, and they might even awaken some deep-lying spiritual feelings within you. With that in mind, where better to visit than the centre of Portuguese religious life? A day trip to Braga is a must.
Of course there is more to Braga than just a day trip from Porto. This is Portugal’s third-largest city and one of the continent’s most elegant, a treasure trove of history with one of the longest religious stories on the planet. The near constant chiming of bells is a testament to that, although the glimmering sound of bronze adds a fairytale element to what is an already graceful city. You could spend a lifetime wandering these narrow streets, but we’re going to try and cram it all into one day for you. Ready? Ready.
When you arrive in Braga, you owe it to yourself to immediately head to the city’s cathedral. This is unlike any other cathedral in the country, the oldest in Portugal and arguably its most exquisite, a stunning example of architectural variety that mimics the long history of design in this part of the world. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior, with intricate azulejos telling many a tale within. This has been the heart of the city since the 12th century — no trip to Braga is complete (or can begin) without a visit here.
You could easily spend the entire day touring the religious sites of Braga, but we recommend spicing things up a little and embracing the city’s modern creative heart. GNRation is one of them most exciting cultural centres in Portugal, a shining collection of art, music and life that brings together artists from all over the city. The fact it is housed in an old police headquarters is a delightful coincidence.
Back to the pious for Braga’s most popular tourist attraction, although this is one for the energetic. Bom Jesus do Monte is a pilgrimage site just outside the city, situated on a hilltop east of Braga that demands a little bit (a lot) of walking but is worth every single step. You’ll need to walk up 640 steps to get there, but waiting for you is a stunning church and sanctuary. Religious devotion isn’t difficult to understand and comprehend in places like this. You don’t have to walk of course — there is a funicular ferrying visitors back and forth throughout the day.
Braga is about an hour away from Porto, with frequent trains and buses running there and back throughout the day. The journey is just about as long if you decide to drive, so we recommend using public transport for the day trip. What awaits is one of the most delectable cities in Portugal, its religious heart and a place that embraces the grace of historic architecture as much it does the inner workings of the human soul. Visit the pilgrimage sites, wander the narrow streets, drink all the coffee you can find and watch the beautiful people wander by in one of Portugal’s prettiest cities. It is also home to Europe’s most picturesque football stadium, but that is another story for another day…
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