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Things to Do in Braga

Originally founded by the Romans, 2,000-year-old Braga later became the first Christian settlement in Portugal. Today, it’s a lively university town with a thriving nightlife and a compact yet beautiful Baroque heart.

Most of ancient Braga’s main attractions are centered on the arcaded Praça da Republica, strewn with fairy tale churches and focused on the lovely Arcada fountain. The centerpiece of all this architectural majesty is Portugal’s oldest cathedral, built in the 11th century and now showing off a variety of styles from Romanesque to Baroque. Amid the gilded choir stalls and Baroque flourishes, the King’s Chapel houses the tomb of Henry of Burgundy, the father of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques.

Along with the tranquil Garden of Santa Barbara, a cluster of historic buildings surround the cathedral, including the church of Santa Cruz and its Mannerist splendor; the serene late-Renaissance Museu dos Biscaínhos, with its fine displays of Asian decorative arts; and the 14th-century Archbishop’s Palace. A short walk from the Praça da Republica down the flowered promenade of Avenida da Liberdade leads to the 18th-century Rococo Casa do Raio, built by eccentric architect André Soares. Its façade is almost entirely encrusted with blue-and-white Portuguese azulejos tiles.

But Braga’s pièce de résistance and Portugal’s most celebrated Christian sight is the Neoclassical Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary, located three miles outside the city in Tenões.
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Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga)
39 Tours and Activities

Located in city of Braga in northern Portugal, the Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga) is the oldest surviving church in Portugal and one of the most important monuments in the country. Built in a Burgundian Romanesque style between the 11th and 13th centuries, the cathedral provided architectural inspiration for many other churches and monasteries built in Portugal around the same time. Due to numerous modifications over the centuries, the cathedral today features a mix of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Baroque.

The cathedral consists of several chapels built at different times. The parents of the first Portuguese were buried in the Chapel of the Kings in 1374 and the Chapel of the Glory was built in the mid-14th century as the final resting place of Archbishop Goncalo Pereira. Looks for the tomb guarded by siz life size stone lions and the painted Moorish geometrical designs. Also of note for visitors is the choir with sculptured gilt wood stalls built in the late 1730s and two gilt wood organs carved around the same time.

Don’t miss the Cathedral Museum, which includes elaborately carved 18th century choir stalls, the 10th century chalice of Saint Gerald, a 14th century statue of the Virgin Mary and an 11th century Arab ivory box.

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Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira
8 Tours and Activities

With its stone-brick façade and crenelated clock tower looming over the lively plaza of Largo da Oliveira, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira appears more like a castle than a church. Inside, the church is notable for its ornate 18th-century altarpiece, the striking silver altar of the Capela do Santíssimo Sacramento and the exquisite neo classical choir stalls, but it’s biggest claim to fame is its unique history.

Founded in the 10th century, the church takes its name, which means ‘Church of Our Lady of the Olive Branch’ from an ancient legend in which Wamba, the elected King of the Visigoths, refused to accept his royal title. Angry, he threw an olive branch to the ground and declared that he would accept the crown only if the stick began to sprout. Naturally, an olive tree bloomed and today the Padrão do Salado monument, located just in front of the church, marks the spot - a grand Gothic arch, sheltering a lone cross.

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Bom Jesus do Monte
6 Tours and Activities

Crowning a hill bordering Portugal’s city of Braga, the UNESCO-listed Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is a magnificent neoclassical church and Christian pilgrimage site. The 18th-century church is approached by a remarkable baroque staircase zig-zagging up to the entrance.

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