The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
Braga is regarded as the religious centre of Portugal, and is a fantastic tourist destination. The city boasts an extensive variety of religious buildings and historic monuments, all set within the traditional streets and charming plazas of the historic centre.
Braga may be the third-largest city of Portugal, but it has a calm ambience and compact historic centre, which can be easily explored as a day trip. A portion of the day should be devoted to the Bom Jesus do Monte, an expansive religious complex, and one of the finest monuments in northern Portugal.
Porto is connected to Braga by a regular train service, and this makes the city ideal to visit as an (independent) day trip. Braga is not an expensive destination to visit, and a typical day trip will cost less than €25 (including lunch).
This article will detail a day trip to Braga and includes a suggested route (with map), travel information and an overview of the main sights to visit.
The baroque stairway of the Bom Jesus do Monte signifies the ascend into heaven
The Jardim de Santa Bárbara overlooks the ruins of the Archiepiscopal Court
A suggested tour of Braga is shown in the interactive map below. The green markers detail the Braga city tour, the yellow points the tour of Bom Jesus do Monte, and the grey line shows the bus from Braga to Bom Jesus.
Braga: 1) Arco da Porta Nova 2) Sé de Braga 3) Jardim da Praça do Município
4) Convento do Populo 5) Paláicio dos Biscainhos 6) Jardim de Santa Barbara 7) Largo São João do Souto 8) Largo do Paço 9) Arcada 10) Convento dos Congregados 11) Theatro Circo 12) Palácio do Raio 13) Igreja de São Marcos 14) Igreja de Santa Cruz 15) Capela De Sao Bentinho 16) Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre
Bom Jesus do Monte 1) Elevador Bom Jesus do Monte 2) Santuário do Bom Jesus 3) Via Crucis 4) Miradouro do Santuário do Bom Jesus
The Gothic Se Cathedral
Guimarães is a traditional Portuguese city and the other popular day trip from Porto. It is too much to visit both Braga and Guimarães in a single day, even if you have a rental car, as each city requires one day of sightseeing. There are organised tours that visit both destinations in one day, but these tours only include the major sights.
In our opinion, Braga has more to offer tourists, but Guimarães is more quaint and traditional. If you have an extended stay in Porto, both Braga and Guimarães should be visited as day trips along with Aveiro, the Douro Valley and Viana do Castelo.
Related articles: Guimarães introduction – Porto day trips – 1 week in Porto
A typical day trip to Braga, which includes the Bom Jesus lasts 7-8 hours. This is broken down by; two hours for traveling, three hours to explore the historic centre and two hours to visit the Bom Jesus (including the bus ride). Add to this time for lunch and coffee breaks, and you have one very long day trip.
There is a direct train from Porto to Braga, which departs from the São Bento train station in Porto. This is a slow urban train service and the journey takes a tedious 1h10.
There is at least one departure per hour in both directions, with many more Monday to Friday. For the latest time timetable please see the Comboios de Portugal (CP) website:
(The link is a PDF so may download on certain mobiles)
As this is an urban train service tickets cannot be pre-booked but there are always seats available. A return ticket costs €6.50/€3.30 (adult/child) and can be purchased from the ticket office or ticket machines. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train. Braga train station is to the west of the city and is a 500m walk to the historic centre.
Note: There are express trains from Porto to Braga but the services are infrequent, the tickets are twice as expensive and a connection is required at Campanhã, so it is actually no shorter than the urban train.
Related articles: Porto to Braga by train
The train to Braga is modern and safe, but slow…..
Small group tours are an enjoyable and informative way to discover Braga, along with providing a chance to meet fellow travellers. Since the introduction of rating and reviews, the standard of group tours in Portugal has dramatically improved. Now tours are led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, and cater for worldly and modern tourists.
We have worked with GetYourGuide.com for the previous six years and some of their best tours they offer for Braga include:
• Braga and Guimarães full-day tour with Lunch (€60)
• Guimarães and Braga tour with tickets and lunch (€90)
• A private tour of Braga and Guimarães for up to three people (€195)
The Bom Jesus do Monte is a highlight of a visit to Braga and should not be missed. The church is 6km to the east of Braga and is connected by the number 2 bus route operated by Tub (Transportes Urbanos de Braga).
The bus departs from the Avenida da Liberdade or the train station and terminates at the base of the hill. A single bus ticket costs €1.65, and the journey takes about 30 minutes. A map of the bus route and timetable can be seen on the TUB website:
Map of number 2 route - https://tub.pt/uploads/horarios/02m.pdf
Timetable - https://tub.pt/uploads/horarios/02h.pdf
(The links are to PDF files, so may download on certain mobile phones)
The world’s oldest water counterbalancing Funicular connects the bus stop at the base of the hill to the Bom Jesus church complex, and a return ride costs €1.50.
It is much better to take the Funicular than to walk the steep footpath from the bus stop up to the church. Most of the uphill walk is along shaded forested footpaths, and the famed Baroque stairway is only at the upper section, which is best visited from the upper levels and church.
If you do want to walk, head up to the viewpoint at the top of the hill, which is to the south of the Bom Jesus do Monte church.
A typical day in Braga is split into two; with the first section exploring the historic centre of Braga, while the second part of the day visits the Bom Jesus do Monte. It is always advisable to have lunch in the centre of Braga as there is a better selection of restaurants and cafes. The bus to Bom Jesus departs from the centre of the town (not the train station) so it makes sense to visit Bom Jesus later in the day.
The following is our suggested walking tour of the historic centre of Braga. This tour marked in green takes around three hours and leaves time in the afternoon to visit the Bom Jesus church. An interactive map of the suggested tour route is show below:
• The Se Cathedral (2) is a wonderful and spawning complex, comprising of multiple architectural styles, as each successive archbishop expanded or enhanced the cathedral to their whims. The cathedral is the oldest in Portugal, and the Gothic facade reflects this age.
• After the Se visit the Câmara Municipal (Braga City Hall) and the Jardim da Praça do Município (3)
• From here head north to the Convento do Populo (4) and the Praça Conde de Agrolongo.
• The Paláicio dos Biscainhos and gardens (5) could be added at this point to extend the tour of the historic centre
• Join the Rue Dr. Justino Cruz, a pleasant pedestrianised street, which continues past the pretty Jardim de Santa Bárbara (6). This flower garden overlooks the Gothic wing of the Archiepiscopal Palace. A major fire in 1834 burnt down a portion of the wing and all that remains are the stone arches
The Jardim de Santa Barbara overlooking the Gothic eastern wing of the Paço Arquiepiscopal
• The Rua Dr Justino Cruz is one of the main shopping streets of Braga and is lined with cafes, restaurants and specialist shops. This is a great location for a coffee and delicious Portuguese cake.
• The Rua Justino Cruz end at another delightful plaza, the Largo São João do Souto (7). On the square is the São João do Souto and the Capela dos Coimbras.
The Capela dos Coimbras is the newer extension to the São João do Souto church, even if its styling makes it seem much older
• Head back down the Rua Justino Cruz to the cross junction. To the left (west) is the Largo do Paço (8) the main square of the Archiepiscopal Palace.
• Return to the crossroads and head east (straight over if returning from the Largo do Paço) and this opens out into the pretty Praça da República square and gardens. Notable features are the Arcada (9) building, the Convento dos Congregados (10) and the flower-lined Avenue da Liberdade, on which this tour continues down.
The Arcada is the traditional shopping centre of Braga which dates from 1904
• Turn right at the Theatro Circo de Braga (11) and continue into the Largo de Santa Cruz, one of the most impressive squares in Braga. Located in this plaza are two grand churches, the Igreja de São Marcos (13) and the Igreja de Santa Cruz (14). On the left of the Igreja de São Marcos is the blue tiled Palácio do Raio (12).
The magnificent Igreja de São Marcos church
• To the right of the Igreja de São Marcos, is a small alley on which the Capela De Sao Bentinho (15) is situated. This chapel is a place of offering and devotion for the sick, and is often filled with lit candles.
• Head past the Capela De Bentinho and the PSP police headquarters, to reach the the Largo de Santiago and the Museu Pio XII museum. On the edge of the square is the Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre (16), and climb the tower for a panoramic views over central Braga.
The Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre
• On the opposite side of the tower is the Igreja de São Paulo church and the Largo de São Paulo.
• From here turn right down the Rua Dom Afonso Henriques, which heads back to the Largo de São João do Souto and the pedestrian shopping streets – the ideal place to find somewhere for lunch.
• After lunch return back to the Avenue da Liberdade, as this is where the bus (17) to Bom Jesus departs for the second part of the day.
The blue Palacio do Raio
The Bom Jesus is one of the finest monuments of northern Portugal and the elaborate baroque staircase is simply beautiful. For those who do not fancy climbing the 564 steps there is the world’s oldest water-powered funicular to transport you to the summit. The interior of the church is beautiful painted and has a graphic depiction of the death of Jesus, also from the top of the hill there are wonderful views over the city. So, in short it is definitely worthwhile to visit Bom Jesus during your day trip.
The beautiful interior of the church
• Catch the bus from the bus stop on the Avenune da Liberdade (17) (GPS 41.54779 ,-8.42104) on the side of the traffic heading out from town (details of the bus are in the next section)
• The bus terminates at the base of the Bom Jesus complex close to the funicular (GPS 41.5545, -8.38120)
• There are two options to reach the top of the Bom Jesus hill; either the funicular (Elevador Bom Jesus do Monte) or the pilgrims route (Escadatório do Bom Jesus) of 580 steps.
The Elevador Bom Jesus do Monte eliminates a challenging uphill walk
Note: The famed baroque stairway is only the final third of the Escadatório do Bom Jesus, with majority along a tree lined zig-zagging pathway. This section is pretty, but there is no real point wasting your energy climbing it.
• Ride the Elevador Bom Jesus do Monte to the top of the hill (€1.20 single) Elevador-Bom Jesus do Monte
• Admire the view over Braga from the terraces in front of the church
The view, out over Braga
• Walk down the two baroque stairways. The first set of stairs descended comprise of three levels, each dedicated to the virtues of Charity, Hope and Faith, and is represented by a statue. The second set of stairs (the lower set) have five levels, and signify the five bodily senses.
• At the base of the stairs is the Miradouro do Santuário do Bom Jesus viewpoint, but the views at the top level are better. The main reason for heading down here are the amazing views of sacred walkway .
Miradouro do Santuário do Bom Jesus, a great location for a photo!
• Trudge back up the 250 steps, which is 116 meters up hill.
• Visit the Bom Jesus church, with its striking altar
• See the Gruta do Bom Jesus and the numerous stalactites hanging from the grotto’s ceiling
• (Optional) Visit the Parque Bom Jesus, which lie behind the church (GPS: 41.55503, -8.37527). Within them is a small boating lake and a wonderful viewpoint looking east.
• (Optional) Head north from the park to the Jardins do Santuário do Bom Jesus (GPS: 41.55659, -8.37614)
•Ride the funicular down to the bus stop
• Catch bus back to Braga
• Take the train back to Porto for the end of a very busy day trip.