Raio Palace Best Things to See in Braga Portugal

An Epic Day Trip from Porto to Braga: Is Braga Worth Visiting?

A day trip from Porto to Braga is a wonderful way to get to know this fascinating ancient city with nearly 2,000 years of history.

If you are asking yourself “Is Braga worth visiting?”, the short answer is yes. This old-world city is packed full of so much historical significance that you shouldn’t pass it up on a trip to northern Portugal.

To plan an amazing getaway in the country’s Minho region, follow along this guide for the best things to do in Braga, Portugal, how to get to Braga, and the best hotels in Braga if you want to stay overnight.

Day Trip From Porto to Braga Portugal

Where is Braga, Portugal?

Braga is located in northern Portugal, about 34 miles (55 kilometers) north of Porto. Admired for its religious heritage and picturesque architecture the city is considered one of the oldest in Portugal – and one of the world’s oldest Christian cities.

Many of Braga’s origins date back over 2,000 years. That’s because it was founded by the Romans and was first called Bracara Augusta. 

The city served as a religious center during their rule, and you’ll even come across Portugal’s oldest cathedral here.

Today, Braga attracts visitors to Portugal for its well-preserved historic center, home to old-world cobblestone streets, ornate churches, and beautiful plazas. 

The city is also known for its lively atmosphere, with local markets, cozy cafes, and unique festivals throughout the year.

How to Plan a Day Trip From Porto to Braga

Sao Bento Railway Station Porto Itinerary

If you want to enjoy the best Braga travel experiences, plan a trip from nearby Porto. Here’s how to get Braga from Porto.

1. Rent a Car and Drive From Porto to Braga

After moving to Portugal, my biggest advice to travelers is to rent a car in Portugal.

The roads are terrific, you can get a great deal from Discover Cars, and you’ll have a chance to see the real Portugal. 

I’ve visited Portugal with and without a car, and there is no question that you are missing out if you are relying on public transportation solely.

Enjoy the benefits of traveling through the Minho region at your own pace, and also be able to soak up the charm of the nearby Douro Valley and its numerous wineries.

It’s also a great idea to rent a car in Porto if you want to see the birthplace of Portugal, Guimarães – another one of the best day trips from Porto. 

By car, it takes about 45 minutes to get from Porto to Braga on the A3 toll road.

Book your rental car now!

2. Take a Braga and Guimarães Full-Day Tour from Porto

If you want to sit back and worry less about planning and transportation, this Braga and Guimarães Full-Day Tour is the way to go. A professional tour guide takes you out of Porto through the lovely Minho region toward Braga’s most historic spots.

Your first stop will be the famous Bom Jesus do Monte, which translates to Good Jesus of the Mount in English. It’s one of the most stunning Catholic shrines we’ve seen and it’s a gem to see in person. 

You’ll also get to explore the center of Braga, with some free time, and see the Braga Cathedral.

What we like about this tour is that it also brings you to Guimarães, considered the birthplace of Portugal and the first Portuguese king. There’s a medieval castle built to defend the monastery from attacks in the 10th century.

The tour to both cities lasts 9 hours and includes all entry fees to visit attractions. There is an option to have lunch included in your reservation.

Book a Braga and Guimarães Full-Day Tour now!

3. Porto Train to Braga

For a fast and efficient way to visit Braga take an Alfa Pendular train. There are about ten trains a day to Braga, departing from two main Porto train stations: Campanha Station and the beautiful São Bento Station.

The earliest train usually departs just before 8 AM and arrives at the Braga train station just before 9 AM.

Return trains run well past 10 PM, so you could spend the entire day in Braga if you wanted to. During peak hours the trains are available every 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Campanha Station has a fast train that takes around 38 minutes; otherwise, the journey is usually 1 hour.

Buy tickets online, at the stations, or through the CP app (Comboios de Portugal). Tickets will usually be cheapest at the station and on the app.

4. Braga Bus Station

The bus is the cheapest and also a fast option. Buses run all day and night, with numerous different carriers. The journey is 45 minutes.

The main choices are Renex, Rede Express, Alsa, and Flixbus. The price is usually slightly cheaper than the train, with single tickets starting at €3. Check the bus schedule here.

Is Braga worth visiting?

Absolutely! Braga is definitely worth visiting as a day trip if you love old historic places, picturesque old towns, and local markets. It’s one of Portugal’s oldest cities, and its Roman Catholic roots make it a really interesting place to visit.

It’s full of historical sites like ancient churches, picturesque squares, and well-preserved landmarks like the Bom Jesus do Monte with its Baroque architecture and hilltop views overlooking the region.

As the city is relatively small, you can see the highlights on a half-day trip from Porto.

If you are looking for a full day trip from Porto, Braga is worth visiting if you also add a visit to nearby Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of Portuguese history. 

Braga vs Porto

Braga and Porto are both incredible destinations in northern Portugal, but they are quite different in terms of travel experiences.

Braga is steeped in history and religious importance with stunning churches, ancient landmarks, and a rich cultural heritage that dates back 2,000 years.

Its picturesque squares, narrow cobblestone streets, annual festivals, and lively atmosphere make it a delightful medium-sized city to explore for a day or two during a trip to Portugal.

On the other hand, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city and is famous for its stunning riverside location, historic architecture, and vibrant wine and port scene.

From the Dom Luís I Bridge crossing the Douro River to the city’s charming old town, Porto is a very charming city that serves as an excellent base for exploring more of Portugal.

While Braga is smaller and offers a more intimate and traditional Portuguese experience, Porto is larger and more bustling, with a dynamic urban energy and a wide range of attractions, including museums, galleries, and trendy restaurants and bars.

To sum it up, Braga is an amazing day trip or overnight destination and Porto is where you would want to base your trip because it has a lot more to do and a better public transport hub for seeing more of the country.

Best Things to Do in Braga, Portugal

Start planning an memorable day trip from Porto to Braga with this guide on the best Braga, Portugal things to do.

Bom Jesus do Monte Braga Portugal
Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte

A stunning hilltop sanctuary offering wonderful views of Braga, Bom Jesus do Monte, meaning Good Jesus of the Mount, is famous for its monumental stairway and Baroque architecture.

It was built in the 1700s as a Portuguese Catholic Shrine, and is a must-see when visiting Braga.

Take a hefty stroll up the stairs – there are 577 of them in total – or ride the funicular for a picturesque experience. You’ll definitely want to take some photos – the views overlooking the city are stunning.

Keep in mind that Bom Jesus do Monte is technically in Tenões just outside of Braga. If you book the day tour from Porto, you will conveniently stop here before heading into the center of the city.

Otherwise, you can drive if you’re renting a car or take the No. 2 bus from the Rotunda Estação just outside the Estação de Braga. The bus takes a little more than 30 minutes.

And unless you are taking the funicular, which costs a few euros, visiting the shrine at Bom Jesus do Monte is completely free of charge.

Raio Palace Best Things to See in Braga Portugal
Raio Palace

Raio Palace

If you want to see a picture-perfect palace, Raio Palace (Casa do Raio) is one of the most beautiful Braga attractions.

Even if you don’t take a tour of the interior, you’ll still have a lot to take in from the outside. The exterior is filled with intricate blue tilework and Baroque/Rococo details that make for a very Portugal backdrop for Instagram photos.

However, the inside is really nice to see as well. It’s a historical place turned into a museum. The rooms are full of creative expression, with hand painted tiles, frescoes on the ceiling, paintings and statues, and elegantly designed rooms that you’d expect from an 18th century palace.

It’s also completely free to enter, so if you have time to stop in, we recommend it.

The palace is open every day from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. However, there is a siesta from 12:30 until 2:30 PM, so it will be closed during those hours.

Braga Cathedral

Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga)

Dating back to the 11th century, Braga Cathedral is a magnificent example of old-world religious architecture. It’s unique because it pulls from Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, and even Moorish styles. 

When it comes to what to do in Braga, you’ll want to step inside to admire its nave, altarpiece, and all of its intricate carvings.

A basic ticket, which is €2, includes entry only to the cathedral. But if you get a full visit ticket for €5, you’ll get access to the chapels as well as the museum and upper choir.

It’s worth it to pay a few euros extra to see the other parts of the cathedral. 

With the full ticket, a guide will unlock the chapel and show you around and take you to the mummified body of Dom Lourenço Vicente, an archbishop who lost his eye in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.

The upper chapel is also stunning with hand carved seats and oversized organs.

The cathedral is open to the public every day from 8 AM to 7 PM, aside from when services are in session or events are being held.

Jardim de Santa Bárbara Braga Portugal Day Trip From Porto
Jardim de Santa Bárbara

Santa Barbara Garden (Jardim de Santa Bárbara)

In the middle of the city, Jardim de Santa Bárbara is a cozy place to see one day in Braga.

The garden is well maintained with a central fountain, pristine bushes, and a selection of vibrant flowers that are changed seasonally to keep color in the garden through the year.

What we really loved about the garden is how it’s partially surrounded by the remains of a medieval arcade. Behind that is a 14th century palace, but it’s part of the university and not open to the public.

There are a lot of cafes near the garden, so you might like to stop by for coffee and traditional Portuguese pastry along the way. You could also get some pastries pra levar – or for takeaway.

Arco da Porta Nova Braga Portugal
Arco da Porta Nova

The Arch of the New Gate (Arco da Porta Nova)

Another one of the many remnants of Braga’s rich history can be found at the west end of the historic center.

Arco da Porta Nova, meaning the Arch of the New Gate, is an ornamental gateway that leads pedestrians into the most historic part of Braga from the west.

It’s set on Rua do D. Diogo de Sousa, which is a great street for shopping and looking for souvenirs.

What’s cool is that the arch, standing tall above the roof of the surrounding buildings, is different on both sides. So, be sure to take a look from both perspectives.

Biscaínhos Museum

For a look at what Baroque society was like for nobles in Braga, visit the Biscaínhos Museum set in a 16th century mansion.

It was home to noblemen who got their wealth from tobacco and coffee plantations in Brazil and came to display it in Braga when taking on roles as stonemasons.

It’s an interesting place to see for a historical perspective during one day in Braga. The majority of the palace has retained the same furniture, architecture, artwork, and household appliances used during that time in history.

There’s a grand oil painting on the ceiling, lavish ceramics, luxurious Baroque furniture, and other clear flauntings of this family’s wealth.

A formal garden also separates the main house from the kitchens. The walk through the garden is lovely, as it’s so well maintained with perfectly trimmed hedges and fruit trees.

The museum is closed on Mondays and is open the rest of the week from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM with a siesta between 12:30 to 2:30 PM.

Day Trip to Braga City Center

Explore Braga’s City Center

Easily one of the best things to do in Braga, Portugal is to just wander around its historic center.

You’ll come across a lot of colorful facades with Portuguses tiles, boutique shops, and cozy cafes and stylish restaurants that line its old-world, picturesque streets.

While exploring, we recommend stopping by some of the local markets to sample some traditional Portuguese treats like viúvas custard tarts and Abade de Priscos crème caramel pudding.

The center of Braga is also an amazing place for flower lovers. Pedestrian streets are filled with grassy medians that are filled with flowers. We’re sure the bees must love Braga.

Cafetaria Semente Best Vegetarian Restaurants Braga Portugal
Cafetaria Semente

Eat Delicious Vegetarian and Vegan Cuisine

Braga may be known for its traditional Portuguese cuisine, so we were surprised to find so many delicious plant-based restaurants. 

We had a friend of ours move to Braga and she turned us on to two healthy restaurants in Braga. One is Cafetaria Semente, which is a really hip coffee shop with plant-based brunch and lunch options,

The other is called Gosto Superior. They focus on organic ingredients to make vegetarian alternatives to Portuguese and Mediterranean dishes.

On the other hand, if you love Portuguese cuisine or want to try common dishes in Braga – like francesinha (a bread, meat, cheese, and sauce sandwich-like dish) or bacalhau (salted codfish), have a traditional meal at Tia Isabel or Taberna do Migaitas.

Best Things to do in Guimarães Castle

See the UNESCO World Heritage Guimarães on a Braga Day Trip

One of the best parts of taking a day tour from Porto to Braga is that it doesn’t only show you the best of Braga but also the nearby medieval town of Guimarães.

To do it all, and see Bom Jesus do Monte right outside of Braga, in one day can be tricky and tiresome as you’ll waste a lot of time waiting for public transport.

Instead, the tour simplifies everything, fills you with details on the history (with lots of fun facts) of each place you visit, and helps you really get a sense of both Braga and Guimarães.

Best Things to Do in Guimarães

As the birthplace of Portugal and the home of its first king, Guimarães has great historical importance and that’s part of why it’s so nice to visit.

Its incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture and cobblestone streets transport you back in time, and, of course, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the must-visit attractions in Guimarães is the Guimarães Castle, a medieval fortress that offers amazing views of the city and region’s landscape.

The historic center of Guimarães, known as Largo da Oliveira, is another highlight, featuring picturesque streets lined with quaint cafes, shops, and historic buildings.

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is known for its incredible medieval architecture that has a truly storybook feel. Plus, the palace provides insight into the noble history of the region and a tour takes you to beautifully preserved rooms and artifacts from centuries past.

Braga Romana Festival
Braga Romana Festival Photo: Joseolgon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Weather and Best Time to Visit Braga, Portugal

The weather in Braga is typically mild and pleasant throughout most of the year, so it can be ideal to visit anytime.

Summers are warm and sunny and it doesn’t typically get unbearably hot. It hovers around mid-60s to low 80s Fahrenheit (around 18-28°C). This is the peak tourist season, so the city is full of life with festivals, outdoor dining, and loads of flowers.

Spring and autumn in Braga are also lovely seasons to visit. The temperatures are a little cooler but still very comfortable. Plus, late May or early June is when the Braga Romana festival is and the weather is generally very nice this time of year.

The least popular time to visit Braga is winter when the city sees the most rain. It can also be chilly in winter.

The best time to visit is typically May through July when the weather is excellent and there are a lot of festivals going on.

Braga Festivals

Braga is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for cultural festivals, so if you happen to be visiting around the time of one of them, you’re in luck!

  • Semana Santa festivities take place during Easter. Since this city is deeply rooted in religious history, it’s a big celebration. Expect  processions, reenactments of the Passion of Christ, and elaborate religious ceremonies held in the Braga Cathedral and other churches throughout the city.
  • Braga Romana takes place in late May or early June. Residents are proud of their city’s heritage, and this 4-day festival is like a homage to the past when Braga was the Roman city of Bracara Augusta some 2,000 years ago. Locals embrace all things Roman, and some people call it “the world’s biggest toga  party.” It’s a fun time to visit Braga.
  • Feast of Saint John (São João de Braga) typically includes colorful processions featuring traditional costumes, music, street parties, fireworks, and bonfires that people jump over to purify themselves. It’s an even bigger party in Porto.
  • Braga White Night (Noite Branca) is an annual nighttime arts festival with concerts, dance, art installations, street art, and museum and gallery exhibits. During the festival, the streets of Braga come alive with a magical ambiance.
  • Bananeiro – We tried to go to this wacky Christmas Eve tradition of eating bananas and chasing them with a shot of Moscatel when we were living in Portugal but it was rained out. It’s supposed to be a blast.
Vila Gale Where to Stay in Braga
The Vila Gale is a beautiful hotel in the center of Braga.

Where to Stay in Braga or Guimarães Overnight 

If you want to see the most Braga attractions, staying one night in Braga or Guimarães will give you the extra time you need to see everything. Here are some of the best places to stay in either city.

    • Vila Gale Collection Braga (8.8): Set in a lavish medieval building just minutes from the Braga Cathedral, the suites feel luxurious with original details and modern bathrooms. 
    • Pousada Mosteiro de Guimarães (9.1): This 5-star hotel in Guimarães is set in a 12th-century monastery and offers a unique stay in Portugal, including an outdoor pool and formal garden.
    • Burgus Tribute & Design Hotel (9.1): Located on a Braga cobbled street, this sophisticated hotel has neutral-toned rooms, a nice bar, and great city views.
    • Hotel Moon & Sun Braga (8.7) This hotel is right by the Jardim de Santa Barbara and has a more modern feel, a diverse breakfast menu, and a rooftop terrace.
    • Eurostars Santa Luzia (8.6): A more modern option in Guimarães is this boutique hotel with an outdoor and indoor pool with spa and dining options.
    • B&B HOTEL Guimarães (8.8): This is one of the best budget places to stay. The rooms are simple but have lovely wood floors, big windows, and a continental breakfast served daily.

Are You Still Wondering if Braga is Worth Visiting? Our Final Thoughts on a Day Trip to Braga From Porto

If we haven’t convinced you yet that Braga is worth it, what you will get on a day trip from Porto to Braga is a chance to see the oldest city in Portugal, which is a charming blend of medieval and modern influences.

While Porto has a vibrant urban atmosphere, historic landmarks, and the beautiful Douro River, Braga offers a different Portugal experience in a more tranquil setting, filled with flowers and ornate churches.

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Is Braga Worth Visiting

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