In the region of Trás-os-Montes, just below the Montesinho Natural Park, is Bragança, a historic city of two faces. On one end there's the old town centre, protected by medieval battlements with a castle perched on a hill; on the other end the new town, with its whitewashed urban houses and the Fervença river at its feet.
Most of the main attractions in Bragança are within the citadel, but it's worth exploring further out to get in touch with nature and relax on river beaches.
Follow us as we show you the best things to see in Bragança, as well as tips on where to eat and where to stay if you decide to stay the night.
Bragança's old town lies within the crenellated walls of a 12th-century citadel. To get there, you'll need to climb up towards the tower. Inside, you'll find a series of restaurants, craft shops and many of the city's landmarks, such as the castle. Dating back to the 15th century, it's one of the signature images of Bragança. Today it contains a Military Museum which features a collection of guns, swords and armours, ranging from medieval times to the dictatorship era. Once you've seen the exhibition, make sure to climb the 33-metre-high keep and enjoy the panoramic views over the city and the Montesinho Natural Park. The ramparts are also well-preserved, and you can walk around the centre from up here.
A few steps from the castle is the Igreja de Santa Maria. Dating back to the 16th-century, it's one of the oldest churches in the city. Modified along the centuries, it features a mix of styles, from the Renaissance to the Baroque. The front doorway stands out with its two ornamented columns, but it's worth stepping inside to see its opulent altar and the vibrant painting depicting the Assumption on the ceiling.
Next to the church, you'll find the Domus Municipalis. This pentagonal building is one of the few examples of Romanesque architecture in Portugal. Historians are unsure of its precise age, but some estimates point to the 13th or the 14th century. Above the semicircular windows are carved medallions that decorate both the exterior and the interior. The terracotta roof was added in the 20th century during restoration work.
Open since 2007, this small museum showcases colourful festival attires used in the region of Trás-os-Montes and Zamora in Spain. Across the three floors, you'll see full costumes used during carnival and other local festivities, as well as a selection of carved wooden masks, all while listening to some traditional music.
Established in the 16th century, the Igreja de São João Baptista was Bragança's first cathedral. Its Renaissance doorway stands out amid the whitewashed walls, as does the bell tower with its arched windows. Inside, a Baroque gilded altar takes centre stage, and there's access to a small patio surrounded by cloisters.
In 2001 the city gained a new cathedral, located a few steps away from the old one. The Igreja de Nossa Senhora Rainha is a contemporary church designed by architect Vassalo Rosa. It's worth going inside to see the impressive ceramic panel behind the altar.
In the afternoon you can go for a stroll along the Corredor Verde do Fervença. This green walking trail has two sections: one from the Castle to Rua dos Batoques and another from Batoques to Ponte do Fervença. We suggest taking the route from Rua dos Batoques and following it down to the river. You can stop along the way for a picnic or sit on a bench admiring the views.
It's worth making a trip to Castro de Avelãs, on the outskirts of Bragança, to see this impressive Benedictine monastery. Built around the 12th century, it sticks out with its three apse chapels. The exterior walls feature a pattern of blind arcades that is unlike any other monastery in the country. Attached to this prominent structure is a humble church from the 18th century.
Head south from Bragança, and you'll end up in this incredible water reservoir. Albufeira do Azibo is a protected landscape and home to a variety of bird species, from eagles to herons and storks. It's a great area for birdwatching, and there are plenty of signposted trails for cycling and hiking. In the summer, locals flock to the reservoir to swim at Fraga da Pegada or Praia da Ribeira, two exceptional beaches surrounding the lake. It's also possible to rent canoes and pedal boats. If you come during the Carnival season, make sure to stop by the village of Podence and join the traditional folklore celebrations.
If you're spending a few days in the city, there are more places you can visit. You can go to other museums like the Museu do Abade de Baçal or the Centro de Arte Contemporânea Graça Morais.
first one features paintings and religious artefacts, the other is a
contemporary art museum dedicated to the Portuguese painter Graça
For families travelling with kids, the Centro
Ciência Viva de Bragança offers a variety of interactive science games.
Inside the museum, there's also Casa da Seda which includes an exhibit
about traditional silk production in the region.
Nature-lovers should head north and explore the Montesinho Natural Park. This protected landscape stretches for over 70,000 hectares and brims with wildlife. You can spot many species here, from the Iberian wolf on the hills to the otters down by the river. It's the perfect location for hiking and cycling, and there are several trails to follow. Kids will love the Parque Biológico de Vinhais, where they can interact with animals up close.
In the summer, you can go for a swim in a river beach like Praia Fluvial de Fresulfe or Praia da Soeira. Within the park are also a few remote villages that are worth the visit, such as Montesinho and Rio de Onor. The first one houses the interpretation centre for the park, while the latter is right in the middle of the border with Spain, with schist houses lining both sides of the river.
There are many restaurants in Bragança where you can enjoy lunch or dinner, some in the centre and others further out.
If you want a meal near the centre, Solar Bragancano is your best choice. Set opposite Bragança’s old cathedral, this traditional restaurant specialises in game dishes, such as wild boar and pheasant. In the summer, you can enjoy a seat in their outdoor terrace. Also in the area is O Batoque, a small tavern with a menu dedicated to mushrooms. It’s only open for dinner, but it’s worth the visit if you’re in town.
Further from the centre, there are three other restaurants that we recommend: O Abel, Bela Época and O Careto. Located in the village of Gimonde, O Abel is a restaurant and a hotel. It serves delicious grilled meat dishes and homemade desserts like the chestnut pie. Bela Época is hidden away near Bragança’s racing track, but it’s worth heading this way to try their codfish or meat skewers. Finally, there’s O Careto, a restaurant located within the Montesinho Natural Park where you can try the Posta Mirandesa , a meat dish typical from this region.
From boutique hotels to rural properties surrounded by nature, Bragança offers a variety of accommodation options. Below are a few of our suggestions:
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