Braga is located in the north of Portugal in the Minho region. The Minho is inland and it’s where the famous Vinho Verde wine that Portugal produces hails from. It’s considered to be the oldest city in Portugal and one of the most religious, so why is it worth a visit?
The town’s cathedral, or Sé, was begun in 1070 and completed in 1093 – well, in its first incarnation. Since then there’s been various additions and subtractions to its stature, look and build. It houses an interesting museum nowadays, but a peep in the main building itself is well worth it.
Braga is a small town but it’s easily accessible by rail and road. There’s a modern train station around 10 minutes walk from the city centre, along a series of cobbled streets with small local shops selling everything from Port to cheese and handbags.
The main square itself, the Praça da República, has the requisite cafés and tea rooms all great Portuguese towns and cities have. One of the prettiest buildings is Café A Brasileira (https://www.facebook.com/CafeABrasileiraBrg) which is covered in Azulejos tiles, as you might expect here. It’s on the corner as you come into the square from the station, and it’s named after the coffee beans that were imported from Brazil as far back as 1907. The original owner, Adolpho de Azevedo started the loyalty concept early in Braga, offering a free cup of coffee to anyone who bought half a kilo of coffee beans. It obviously worked as the café is a city landmark today!
Further afield, the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary makes for some breathtaking views of the valley. A twenty-minute bus journey (about 6km) from the centre of Braga, this There’s two choices when it comes to getting to the top – you can either walk the 170 MASSIVE stairs, or, like me, take the funicular. It’s no ordinary funicular, though! No, the funicular at Bom Jesus a) looks like an old-fashioned tram, and b) is water powered – you can even the see the water trickling down the wall once you reach the top, as it’s recycled again and again. It’s the oldest working water powered funicular in the world, so a true piece of engineering history.
Once you’re at the top, the Sanctuary itself is worth a look inside, but the best things up here are the gardens and the view. Have a wander around the gardens on both sides of the sanctuary, as there’s two look out points to take in the sights from, and check out the cave and mini waterfall that’s in the pictures. It’s like something from The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings!