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Porto day trips....to Braga - to Guimarães - to Ponte de Lima - to Viana de Castelo - Porto Guide

Braga day trip and suggested tour and itinerary

Braga is often considered as the religious centre of Portugal and is a first-rate tourist destination. This captivating city is filled with ornate churches, grand architecture, and pretty gardens, along with an abundance of Portuguese charm.

Braga is the third largest city of Portugal, but the historic centre is compact and can easily be explored as a day trip. A portion of this day trip must be devoted to the Bom Jesus church complex, an expansive religious complex, which signifies the ascend to heaven, and is one of the finest monuments of northern Portugal.

Braga makes the perfect day trip from Porto, having a range of varied sights and attractions, while being connected to Porto by an inexpensive and regular train service. This article will detail a day trip to Braga and includes a suggested 1-day tour, travel information and an overview of the main sights.

Praca Republica and the Arcada braga

The Praca Republica and the Arcada shopping centre

 

 

Quick summary of Braga

Santuário do Bom Jesus braga church

The beautful Santuário do Bom Jesus

Braga, Guimarães or both together?

Guimarães is the other popular day trip from Porto, and is regarded as the birthplace of Portugal. It is too much to visit both Braga and Guimarães in one day, even if you have a rental car, as both cities require a 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 a more to see, and this is before considering the outstanding Bom Jesus, and would recommend visiting Braga before Guimarães. If you have an extended stay in Porto, both Braga and Guimarães should be visited as day trips, along with Ponte de Lima, Viana de Castelo and Aveiro.

Largo do Paço Braga

The Largo do Paço

How long will the day trip to Brage be?

To see all of Braga, including Bom Jesus, as a day trip will be a very long day. The train ride from Porto to Braga is one hour, with thee hours to explore the historic centre and two hours for Bom Jesus (including the bus ride). Add to this time for lunch and coffee breaks, and you have one very long day.

Travel to Braga from Porto

There is a direct train from Porto to Braga, which departs from the Sao Bento train station. This is a slow regional train service and the journey is a tedious 55min to 1h10, depending on the service caught. The latest timetable can be seen on the CP (Comboios de Portugal) website:
http://www.cp.pt/StaticFiles/Passageiros/horarios/horarios/PDF/pt/linha_braga.pdf

(link opens new tab)

As this is a regional train service tickets cannot be pre-booked but there are always seats available. A single ticket costs €3.20/€1.60 (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 (this is detailed in the next section)

train to brage

The train to Braga in Sao Bento train station

A one day tour of Braga

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 (and not the train station) so it makes sense to visit Bom Jesus later in the day.

A suggested walking tour of the historic centre of Braga

The following is our suggested walking tour of the historic centre of Braga. This tour takes around three hours and leaves time in the afternoon to visit the Bom Jesus church:
• Arrive at Braga train station, which is on the western side of the town (GPS: 41.54833, -8.434403)
• From the station head north and turn right into the Rua Andrade Corvo (GPS 41.54989, -8.43261), a nondescript residential street. At the end of the street (250m) is the Arco da Porta Nova, and the edge of the historic centre.

Arco da Porta Nova braga arch

The Porta Nova arch is the entrance to the city

• Turn right at the Rue Dom Frei Caetano Brandão and after 50m on the left is the best view of the Se Cathedral (GPS: 41.549892, -8.427484)
• The Se Cathedral 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.

Se catherdral of Braga

The ancient Gothic Se Cathedral

• After the Se visit the Câmara Municipal (Braga City Hall) and the Jardim da Praça do Município (GPS: 41.55110, -8.427704)
• From here head north to the Convento do Populo and the Praça Conde de Agrolongo (41.55220, -8.42824)
• (optional) The Paláicio dos Biscainhos and gardens (GPS: 41.55127, -8.42934) could be added at this point to extend the tour of the historic centre

Paláicio dos Biscainhos Braga

The Paláicio dos Biscainhos, a great museum but there may not be enough time to squeeze it into the day trip

• Join the Rue Dr. Justino Cruz, a pleasant pedestrianised street, which continues past the pretty Jardim de Santa Bárbara (GPS 41.551357, -8.425910). 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

Jardim de Sanata Barbara Braga

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 (GPS: 41.54981, -8.42522). On the square is the São João do Souto and the Capela dos Coimbras.

Chapel of the Coimbras Capela dos Coimbras Braga

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 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 building, the Convento dos Congregados (GPS 41.55115, -8.421175) and the flower-lined Avenue da Liberdade, on which this tour continues down.
• Turn right at the Theatro Circo de Braga/Liberty shopping centre (GPS 41.54958, -8.422008) 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 and the Igreja de Santa Cruz. On the left of the Igreja de São Marcos is the blue tiled Palácio do Raio (GPS: 41.54825, -8.422622)

Igreja de São Marcos braga

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 is situated. This chapel is a place of offering and devotion for the sick, and is often filled with lit candles.

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• Head past the Capela De Bentinho and the PSP police headquarters, to reach the the Largo de Santiago (GPS: 41.54809, -8.425934) and the Museu Pio XII museum. On the edge of the square is the Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre, and climb the tower for a panoramic views over central Braga.

Capela da Nossa Senhora da Torre 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 to Bom Jesus departs for the second part of the day.

Palacio do Raio braga

The blue Palacio do Raio

Is it worth the effort to go to Bom Jesus?

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.

Biscainhos palace

The beautiful interior of the church

Suggested tour for the Bom Jesus church and hill

• Catch the bus from the bus stop on the Avenune da Liberdade (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.

Elevador Bom Jesus do Monte funicular

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

Bom Jesus do Monte viewpoint braga

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

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.

Travel from Braga to Bom Jesus

It is 6km from the centre of Braga to the Bom Jesus do Monte and the number 2 bus connects Braga with the base of Bom Jesus do Monte. This bus service is operated by Tub (Transportes Urbanos de Braga) and departs from the Avenida da Liberdade bus stop. There is clear map of the bus routes and departure locations on their website:

http://www.tub.pt/images/stories/downloads/MapaGeraldaRede.jpg

(link opens new tab, this is a large image so may take ages to load….)

 

The bus timetable can be found here:

http://www.tub.pt/images/stories/hem/02h.pdf

(opens new window and is in Portuguese)

The journey takes about 30 minutes and a single bus ticket costs €1.65, which is purchased from the driver.

 

 

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The Best Guide to Braga

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