7 unique things to do in Braga

by Andrea Gambaro  |  Published July 15, 2018

A city of ancient origins, Braga was named European Youth Capital in 2012. Here are 7 unique things to do while in town, from trying the local treats to finding refuge in a hidden garden.

Praça da República (Photo: Turismo en Portugal via Flickr)

Originally called Bracara Augusta, Braga used to be a major Roman settlement in the north of modern-day Portugal. Today, its elegant streets and buildings reveal a city steeped in history, dotted with baroque churches and beautiful squares. The Semana Santa (Holy Week) and the São João (St. John) festivals attract tourists and visitors from the surrounding regions, while the buzzing historical centre keeps the city lively all year round.

Sé de Braga, the cathedral (Photo: amaianos via Flickr)

Discover the history of the onetime Roman settlement ‘Bracara Augusta’

Braga is a city with more than 2,000 years of history, originating from the Roman ‘Bracara Augusta’. Eco Trilha will help you discover this past on a 3-hour guided stroll through the historic centre, which includes entrance to the Cathedral of Braga, the Garden of Santa Barbara and the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus. The latter site is located at the top of a Baroque staircase on Mount Espinho. Specialising in authentic and sustainable travel experiences, Eco Trilha runs other itineraries, including a food-themed tour of Braga.

Meeting point – Arco da Porta Nova, Braga 4700

Jardim Santa Bárbara (Photo: Eco Trilha)

Try the local frigideiras

Frigideiras do Cantinho takes its name from the typical pastries which were once created here: frigideiras. They are still cooked today according to the old recipe. Founded in 1796, the restaurant claims to be the oldest still running in Braga. It’s bond with history, however, seems to go even further back, as the remains of a Roman house were found beneath it during recent renovation. To celebrate the event, Frigideiras do Cantinho added ‘Bolo Romano’ to the menu, a cake taken from the recipe book of Roman writer and gastronomer Marcus Gavius Apicius. Many other varieties of Portuguese and regional cuisine feature on the menu.

Largo São João Souto 1, Braga 4700-326

These local pies were created here (Photo: Frigideiras do Cantinho)

Find the café-bookstore and the hidden garden in Casa do Rolão

While exploring the city centre, look for Casa do Rolão, an example of 18th-century Baroque architecture and one of the most beautiful facades to overlook Avenida Central. The building is home to Centésima Página, an independent bookstore and cultural space hosting exhibitions, book presentations, debates, concerts, activities for children and workshops. After perusing the shelves, find the cosy café and the quiet garden to enjoy some relaxing time in one of Braga’s most original spaces.

Av. Central 118/120, Braga 4710-229

Books are but one of the reasons to visit Centésima Página (Photo: Cristina Leite)

Try Braga’s culinary pride in a modern market

More than just a shop, Mercado Bacalhoeiro is a gastronomic boutique promoting quality and responsible cuisine. Everything here revolves around cod, but there is much more to try and discover. The shelves are filled with a dazzling variety of wines and local products, offering plenty of gift and souvenir ideas. There is also a daily-changing menu of salads, snacks, main courses and delicious desserts, resulting from the collaboration with recognised chefs and local suppliers. Workshops, cooking events and themed dinners are regularly held at Mercado Bacalhoeiro. Wednesdays are dedicated to Portuguese cuisine.

Rua Dr. Carlos Lloyd Braga 47 RC, Braga 4715-363

This is what a modern cod market looks like (Photo: Mercado Bacalhoeiro)

…and in an ancient one

Mercado de São João is one of the oldest shops in Braga, having sold cod since 1894. Modernity doesn’t seem to be a concern here, as the main focus is the quality of the products. Selling also wines, self-ground coffee and more, Mercado de São João describes itself as “just a grocery store located in the historical centre”, and that’s perhaps the key to maintaining a genuine, no-frills approach after over 100 years of activity. As written above the cod shelf, however, one thing is certain: “O preço é sempre baixo” (“The price is always low”).

Rua de S. João 5 – 9, Braga 4700

The staircase that climbs Mount Espinho (Photo: Glória Moura Gonçalves)

Visit the monastery that once led the decorative arts scene in Portugal

Surrounded by nature, six kilometres north-west of Braga, the Mosteiro de São Martinho de Tibães is a Benedictine monastery dating back to the 10th century. Spectacular woodwork, Baroque elements, coatings of azulejos tiles, and decor by André Soares bear witness to the role the monastery played as a leading workshop of decorative arts during the 17th and 18th centuries, and whose influence extended to the whole of Portugal. Comprised of four cloisters and a chapel, this remarkable complex was restored in 1986 after years of abandonment. Both guided and free tours are available.

Rua do Mosteiro, Mire de Tibães (Braga) 4700-565

Inside Mosteiro de São Martinho de Tibães (Photo: Luís Ferreira Alves)

Meet the bygone aristocracy of Braga

Museu dos Biscaínhos is a journey through the daily life of an 18th-century noble family of Braga. Housed in an elegant residence originally built in 1699, the museum’s grand rooms display ceramics, antique furnishings, azulejos, frescos and a rich variety of decorative details, through which the visitor is invited to discover facts and curiosities linked to them. Additionally, the museum hosts small collections of archaeological and ethnographic interest. The garden is a rare gem, rich in detail and surprises, which is said to be home to the oldest Virginia tulip tree in Portugal.

Rua dos Biscaínhos, Braga 4700-415