Braga is known for its religious heritage and festivals. Photo by Sérigio Freitas.
By Ingrid Coifman & Leila Monteiro Lins
The province of Minho occupies land between the Douro River in the south and the Minho River in the north. Known as the birthplace of the nation, Minho has two of Portugal’s most historic cities: its first capital, Guimarães, and Braga, the country’s main religious centre. Between Braga and the coast lies Barcelos, the ceramics centre of the region. Traveling north, the pretty town of Viana do Castelo is a useful base from which to explore the coast.
Braga, one of the most innovative cities in Portugal
Braga is Portugal’s oldest city, with over 2000 years enveloped in Manueline and Baroque architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries. Currently, the city comes in third in number of young residents, especially due to the university hubs, combined with a growing number of start-up companies recently established.
According to Tourism Officer Representative Altino Bessa, Braga has become one of the most innovative cities in Portugal and home to the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL), as well its technology partner, Minho University.
“Education, research and entrepreneurship have functioned as a development engine for Braga, both in economic and demographic terms. We also have attracted companies such as Bosch Car Multimedia and Fujitsu to our region. Our tourism industry is experiencing an important momentum too”, says Bessa.
In Braga, history is ingrained in every corner you step into. It gathers the first Cathedral of the country, Sé, and the famous Bom Jesus do Monte, a well-known sanctuary, with a Baroque stairway that zigzags more than 100 metres up the hill. This place is also a candidate as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga) , the oldest archdiocese in Portugal, is the most important monument of this city. Photo by LML
–Rua do Souto: There’s an intense area of commerce. Braga has the largest number of shops per inhabitant and the largest pedestrian zone in the country, extending throughout the historic centre;
–Largo do Paço: This building is occupied by the Public Library. The façades are from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, being built by different archbishops;
–Jardim de Santa Bárbara: Built in a similar way to the Italian Renaissance gardens, whose flowers change according to the seasons. In the centre, there is a 17th century fountain with the statue of Santa Barbara. The garden has medieval walls of the former Palace of the Archbishops, with the Gothic wing of the 14th century;
–Praça da República e Arcada: This Square is the centre of Braga and a favorite meeting place for locals. The Arcada (16th century) has been a main area for more than two hundred years and served as a shelter for merchants in the past; Photo by LML.
–Fonte do Ídolo: It was built in the beginning of the first century. The Fountain of the Idol was recognized as a National Monument in 1970;
–Termas Romanas do Alto da Cividade: The only Roman public baths known in Braga, located in a large protected archaeological area;
-Centro Interpretativo Memórias da Misericórdia de Braga: It is one of the most important works of Baroque architecture in the country. The Palácio do Raio, also known as Casa do Mexicano, was built over 250 years ago;
-Estádio Municipal de Braga: Known as “A Pedreira”, is an innovative architectural wonder. The stadium’s cover was inspired by bridges built by the Inca civilization. The architect, Eduardo Souto de Moura received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2011 for his body of work, which included this design;
-Rede de Percursos Pedestres: Totalling about 280 kilometres, the trail network provides experiences around four main themes: “City and Nature”, “Paths with History”, “Rivers, Hills and Valleys”, and “Trails of Braga.” Visitors can discover the picturesque scenes, stunning landscapes, historical elements and traditions;
VIDEO: Braga: http://bit.ly/2HExsqb