Braga, one of Portugal’s oldest cities, bustles with a vibrant atmosphere and a large population of university students. Its origins date back more than 2,000 years, when it was founded by Augustus as “Bracara Augusta” and situated along a major Roman thoroughfare in the Iberian Peninsula. As the administrative center of the Empire, it was designated the capital of the Roman province of Gallaecia by Emperor Caracalla. The Braga Diocese, the country’s oldest, was established here and during the Middle Ages, the city rivaled Santiago de Compostela in significance and influence. Braga was also part of the Camiños de Santiago pilgrimage route, which grew in prominence with the Christian reconquest and Portugal’s formation.
Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa
Free parking is available at Altice Forum Braga (R. Monsenhor Airosa, 4705-002 Braga, Portugal).
From here walk north along R. Monsenhor Airosa, cross the N103 carefully and turn left and first right.
You will pass the Ruína do Aqueduto Romano, which look like a modern representation of the roman aqueduct located here.
Just beyond this on your left is the Museum of Archeology.
The Museum of Archeology D. Diogo de Sousa was created in 1918, the D. Diogo de Sousa Regional Museum was revitalized in 1980 as the Museum of Archaeology (Museu de Arqueologia). Its collections consist primarily of artifacts from archeological investigations conducted in the North region, with a particular emphasis on the city of Braga. Its collection spans a broad range of chronological and cultural periods, from the Paleolithic era to the Middle Ages.
The permanent exhibition is divided into four main sections. The first section covers the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age periods. Geographically, the collections in this section originate from the Minho region. The collections in the other rooms, on the other hand, are from Bracara Augusta and its surrounding territory.Read more about Museu D. Diogo de Sousa
Roman Thermae of Maximinus
From the museum, carry on north and turn the first left. This is signposted “Ruinas Romanas de Cividade”.
The museum is spacious and impressive, showcasing numerous pre-Roman and Roman artefacts. However, the excavation of the actual Roman baths was not well-marked and underwhelming, with no signage to guide visitors. If it weren’t for the expensive disabled seat rail mover, I wouldn’t have even ventured into the basement area where the baths were located. While the excavated area did contain some mosaic flooring, it was quite small compared to other similar sites, such as those found in olive groves in the Alenteju, which boast Olympic-sized baths.
The site could do with more detailed information about individual artefacts and items on display.Read more about Termas Romanas do Alto da Cividade
Arco da Porta Nova
From the baths turn left and walk along R. Dr. Rocha Peixoto, at the crossroads, straight across onto R. do Matadouro. The third turning on your left you will see the Arco da Porta Nova.
The Arco da Porta Nova or Arch of the New Gate, is an ornamental gateway leading into the historic centre of Braga from the west. Located on the pedestrianised Rua do D. Diogo de Sousa, it was constructed to a design by architect André Soares in the 1770s, although a gate has stood in its place since the city walls were completed in the late 1300s.Read more about Arco da Porta Nova
As you are facing the arch turn 90 degrees to your left and walk down R. dos Biscaínhos to reach the museum.
The Biscainhos Museum is located in a 16th century manor house. The museum has a permanent collection of furniture, ceramics, glass and clocks displayed in situ to recreate the décor of an 18th century manor house.Read more about Biscainhos Museum
The Cathedral of Braga
Head back to the arch, and walk under it along R. Dom Diogo de Sousa to the Cathedral.
Braga Cathedral, situated in the heart of the historic center, holds the distinction of being the oldest cathedral in the country. Built during the 11th century, it underwent numerous restorations and expansions in the following centuries. Its architecture is an eclectic mix of various styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Manueline and Baroque, each of which reflects its long and storied past.
The cathedral is adorned with richly decorated chapels, gilded features, and an absolutely magnificent baroque organ, which is one of Captain Ulysses’ favorite sights in Portugal.
But the city of Braga boasts many other religious buildings that are worth visiting, such as the Igreja de Santa Cruz, Igreja da Misericordia, Igreja de Sao Marcos, Basilica dos Congregados, and Igreja e Convento do Populo.Read more about Braga Cathedral
Continue along the R. Dom Diogo de Sousa and you will see the Archbishop’s Palace on your left.
The former Archbishop’s Palace is a stunning sight, with its toothy crenelated walls providing a dramatic contrast to the lush greenery of the adjacent Jardim de Santa Bárbara.Read more about Episcopal Palace
Jardim de Santa Bárbara
Walking past the Archbishop’s Palace and turn first left onto R. Dr. Justino Cruz to get to the gardens.
What made the Garden of Santa Barbara special was its setting – the medieval Episcopal Palace loomed majestically in the background. Incorporating the arches of a wing that was tragically burned down in 1834, the gardens seamlessly merged with the palace’s stunning architecture.
Dating back to the 14th century, the medieval section of the Episcopal Palace was visible from the Garden of Santa Barbara, while later extensions showcased equally enchanting architectural styles.
The palace is open to the public free of charge and serves as a home for various municipal and university facilities. Its location in the heart of the old town makes it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Braga. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Gardens of Santa Barbara and the grandeur of the Episcopal Palace.Read more about Santa Barbara Garden
Torre de Menagem
Continue on R. Dr. Justino Cruz and turn first right R. dos Capelistas, a nice pedestrianised street, at the end of which just before you reach the Praça da República is the Torre de Menagem.
The Torre de Menagem, a crenellated tower with a square shape located behind the cafes on Praça da República, is the only remaining piece of a fortified medieval palace. The tower is now walled-up and serves as a reminder of the city’s rich history.Read more about Torre de Menagem
The Praça da Republica
Continue to the direction you were heading on the R. dos Capelistas to reach the Praça da República.
Like other squares of the same name, Praça da República (Republic Square) is one of the most significant public spaces in Braga, continuing the Portuguese tradition. Situated on the western side of the city’s historic centre, it buzzes with activity from mid-morning until late into the evening, attracting locals who come to relish a meal at the numerous cafes and restaurants that grace the square. Stop and have a coffee at the terrace of one of the two emblematic centennial cafés of the city: Café Vianna and Astória.Read more about Praça da República (Braga)
Fonte do Ídolo
From the The Praça da Republica head south along the large pedestrianised avenue. Pass the Theatro Circo on your right and turn right after the next block. On the opposite side of the road is the entrance to Fonte Idolo, which looks like a subway entrance.
Concealed behind a contemporary lobby and nestled below street level lies a remarkable hidden gem – an ancient spring that offers a glimpse into Braga’s rich past. This evocative spring was once an essential source of water for the community during the city’s early days.
Carved into a fountain during pre-Roman times by Celicus Fronto, an immigrant from the city-state of Arcobriga, the spring and its surrounding rock face are a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of ancient civilizations. One of the carvings portrays a toga-clad pilgrim who is believed to be holding the Horn of Plenty.
Visitors can learn about the spring’s fascinating history through an introductory video that provides valuable insights into this remarkable attraction. Whether you’re a history buff or simply seeking a unique experience in Braga, this ancient spring is not to be missed.Read more about Fonte do Ídolo
Palácio do Raio
As you come out of the Ídolo Fountain turn left and the Palácio do Raio is in front of you.
The Palácio do Raio or Braga’s Raio Palace, was built in the 1750s as the private home of João Duarte de Faria. Although Faria had made considerable wealth as a merchant, he was also a Knights Templar. It was constructed in the late Baroque style by André Soares, an architect who had already made a name for himself as a leading champion of the northern baroque school. His other works within the city include the town hall, Church of Congregados, and Arco da Porta Nova ornamental city gateway (see above). A large part of the two-storey façade is covered in traditional blue and white azulejo tiling.Read more about Palácio do Raio
Pius XII & Medina Museum
As you leave Palácio do Raio turn left. The square you enter is called Largo Carlos Amarante with a large fountain in the middle of it. Wlak directly opposite and leave the square by the Igreja de Sta. Cruz, along the R. do Anjo. As you enter the Largo de Santiago you reach the Museum. In front of the museum is a replica Roman milestone.
Archeological exhibits including Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Bronze age implements, Pre-historic and Luso-Roman pottery. Museum also features part of a Roman Villa in the original location.Read more about Pius XII & Medina Museum
To get back to your start point, walk along R. do Alcaide, and turn the first left, where you will pass Museum of archeology D. Diogo de Sousa again.
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