One of my favourite things about meeting people who aren’t from the South of England is finding out about different places and cultures. And when I met someone in London who said they were from Braga, I had to Google it to find out where in the world it was. After hearing endless comments about how amazing it was there, I decided I had to fit in a trip when I was in Porto, just a short train journey away.
After a few dreary days in Portugal, I woke to find the sun shining for my day trip to Braga. As I’d left it a bit late to get out and about, I opted for the fast train to get there. More money, less time, and a quick changeover at Porto Campanhã, I was strolling through the sunshine to explore the city of Braga in under an hour.
First impressions were great – there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of tourists, so many buildings had the stunning tile facades that are popular in the north of Portugal and it was sunny! Walking along the old, charming streets I made my way to the cathedral to find that there was a wedding party just emerging. I stopped long enough to admire all the different outfits, then went to scout out a different church while the wedding festivities finished.
On my way to the other church I stumbled across a couple of flea markets, and had a look round knowing that my backpack had no space and I shouldn’t be doing any shopping. No harm in looking though, right? The markets spread quite far, and I started to get really hot from the sun that I hadn’t been used to so far. I found a charming little pizza place to grab a drink, sit in the shade and just watch people bustling about.
Realising I was wasting my day watching other people go about theirs, I made my way to Jardim de Santa Barbara, which I’d read online was supposed to be stunning. As I neared, I thought I’d maybe not found the right place. It was a nice area, and if the plants had been cared for it would have been a really charming place to sit and relax. Instead, I wandered around the half dead plants, admired some of the stonework at one end and watched a few people have photos taken in what looked like graduation gowns.
Slightly disappointed by the gardens, I made my way back to the cathedral to try again with a visit. I had a bit of trouble finding my way in to get a ticket, but eventually enjoyed a tour of the cathedral. It’s the oldest cathedral in Portugal, with interesting architecture and the most amazing organ, which someone was playing while I was in the main church area.
With a bit of time still left on my day, I wandered out through the side streets to try and find the Roman ruins I’d read about online. Turns out I should have also checked opening times instead of just assuming they’d be ruins laying by the side of the road, as I got there five minutes after last admission. At least I’d seen a bit of the local Braga rather than just the centre, and I made my way back to the train station instead.
On the way to the station I considered trying to find a bus to take me out to Bom Jesus do Monte, but as I got closer to the station I saw the bus I needed just pulling away. I was tired and didn’t have the energy to wait for the next bus and then possibly trek up to the sanctuary, so gave in and bought a ticket for the cheaper but slightly longer train journey back to Porto. To make myself feel better about missing out on the sights in Braga, I treated myself to a francesinha for dinner, finally sampling the famous dish of the north!