We landed in Porto after a flight (connecting flight over Frankfurt) that took 7 hours in total from Istanbul. Porto International Airport is a large and well-arranged airport. After landing in the city, we directly headed towards the rent-a-car office for the car that we had booked online back in Istanbul.
We had agreed on €140 for 6 days on internet, but we paid €445 for 6 days as they added one additional driver cost, insurance fee, navigation fee, and lastly the cost of full gas tank. We first stopped by the hotel in Porto to settle in and to leave our baggages, and then left for the city of Braga which is 50 kilometres from Porto. It takes about 45 minutes and all roads are quite clear and well-arranged. For those who will not rent a car, the train runs half-hourly between Porto and Braga.
The city of Braga is a historical city located north of Douro River that flows to Atlantic Ocean. A vast majority of the citizens follow Catholicism, and they are strictly attached to religious traditions and customs.
Braga includes numerous churches and cathedrals, and it is accepted as the sacred and religious hub of Portugal. Braga is known for its religious ceremonies. The city gains ground in tourism by protecting its traditions and folklore.
Almost all of the buildings in the city are historical structures built of face stones and covered with colorful porcelain tiles. The city looks remarkable with its yellow, red, blue and pink porcelain covered buildings with wrought iron balconies in opposite colors, colorful doors and lace curtains. Narrow alleyways and boulevards are all paved with small cobblestones.
The settlement in the city began in 200 BC. The city was founded by the Emperor Bracara Augusta in 3 BC. After the arrival of Arabs in 8th century, Arabic architecture style became dominant throughout the city just like in Andalusia. The façades of almost all of the buildings are decored with porcelain tiles, which is the finest feature of Arabic architecture. This beautiful mixture of architecture emerged when Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture styles combined with Arabic architecture.
The Cathedral of Braga (Sè de Braga in Portuguese) is one of the oldest and most important cathedral in Braga and in Portugal. Built of ashlar block stones, Sè Cathedral is the main cathedral of Braga. A Sunday rite was being held when we visited the cathedral. It was very crowded as a vast majority of the citizens are Catholic and strictly attached to their religion. Stained-glasses and tiles inside the cathedral are quite impressive and beautiful. I suggest you to travel the garden of the cathedral if you have enough time. This well-kept beautiful garden looks like Andalusian Gardens. Furthermore, porcelain-tiled walls in cathedral’s chapels, tombs, burial vaults and small chests including the bones of sacred people were very impressive.
The streets leading to the cathedral’s entrance include many attached 3-4-floored houses decorated with green, red, yellow and pink tiles. This street is a great place to take speactacular photos.
After visiting the main cathedral of Braga, we headed to Populo Church (Convento do Populo). The area where Populo Church is located contains many churches, but of course it is not possible to visit each of them. Braga also hosts some religious festivals as it is the sacred city of Portugal.
Campo Novo is the main sqaure of the city. Campo Novo is a car-free zone with historical structures, houses with porcelain tiles, streets decorated with flowers and street buskers.
We walked for a while on Campo Novo and then headed to the Chapel of São Frutuoso which was built in the second half of 7th century by Visigoths and renovated in 1728.
A small but very well-kept Catholic cemetery next to the chapel will probably attract your attention.
One of the most important structures that must absolutely be visited in Braga is Bom Jesus do Monte which is a sanctuary located on a hill above the city. On the way to Bom Jesus do Monte, we stopped by Elevator Hotel which is basically a very old structure converted into a hotel. The garden of the hotel has a beautiful design and it is well-worth visiting.
After a while we reached Bom Jesus do Monte which was built between 1784-1857 in Neo-classical style by Carlos Amarante (he demolished the old one and built a new one in a modern style). The sanctuary is an important pilgrimage site and is climbed by zigzag-shaped Baroque stairways (climbs 116 meters). The expression “If you abandon Christianity, you will get lost on these stairways” is used for the stairways of the sanctuary. Most of the visitors were taking photos of this splendid structure. This sanctuary must definitely be visited in the city.
The design of the garden (in front of the church), the stairways, and the statues on stairways are all spectacular. The small cave with stalactites and the pool in front of the cave looks awesome, too.
The city of Braga is also very advanced at sports and raised many important and well-known sportsmen. The city is home to Braga Municipal Stadium and some large tennis courts, golf links and olympic pools.
The porcelain working, linen working, weaving, and musical instrument manufacturing are major subsistences in the city. Minho area which is located very close to Braga is known for its folklore dance. This area is especially specialized in two musical instruments; viola and cavaquinho.
Braga and the surrounding areas distinguish in the production of green wine which is made of unriped grape.
Colorful and attached houses decorated with porcelain tiles, small balconies with wrought iron, lace curtains, and of course Bom Jesus do Monte are main things that remained in my mind.