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a brag about braga: a day trip

If you only have one day in Portugal, let it be in Braga. It’s my favourite town. Actually I plan to live there one day and make a lifetime of this day-tripping thing.

Let me show you around.

a-brasileira-braga-2

Your day begins, naturally, with a coffee. Since you’re in Portugal you will also being eating one of the finest freshly baked pastries on the planet. The Brasileira know their business so the pastries, or even toast, will be as impeccable as the service. Anyway, you will be too busy watching all the stylish Bracarense walking by on their way to work… poor gorgeous things, off they go.

a-brasileira-braga

A quick walk around the pedestrianised old centre follows, window shopping at the variety of little boutiques running the gamut from lingerie to liturgical. There are local dress designers, tiny art galleries and antique collectables to seduce the spender, all tucked in together on the cobbled network of the compact town centre.

braga-fountain

The oldest cathedral in Portugal (1070) is also here in the old town. It’s an important arquitectural monument, part brutal medieval, part golden rennaisance. There’s also a very nice fountain in the main square, a fortress-like episcopal palace and numerous intriguing old mansions to check out.

braga-cathedral

After this effort you’ll be needing a cup of tea and another pastry, if not lunch. This time we are at the glassy art deco Salão da Chã Lusitana. If the Salão isn’t romantic enough, you’ll have a view of the lovely Jardim de Santa Bárbara where you are guaranteed to see young couples smooching.

jardim-santa-barbara-braga

Five minutes outside town lies the Bom Jesus de Monte, a serious place for pilgrims at certain times of the year, a fun place to take photos the rest of the time. The curiosity of the Bom Jesus is a marvellous baroque staircase, with a lovely church at the top. Along the way there are spookily life-like scenes of the stations of the cross, but what you can’t miss are the Five Senses wall fountains. They are famous and funny. Otherwise known by the names my friends Jem and Kate gave them: Tears, Snot, Ear Wax and Vomit. Beware, it’s quite a walk up, (watch the Bracarense exercising! A rare sight in Portugal!) but those of us not here for devout agony can ride on the antique water-driven funicular.

And don’t miss the ceiling of the church, if it’s open. One of the prettiest in Portugal.

bom-jesuschurch-bom-jesus

Now that the funicular has put us in a vintage mood, we are off the see the Confiança soap factory, which has been producing elegant luxury soaps since 1894. It’s not just soap: it’s about Portuguese design and tradition and pride. And it might be about buying a special souvenir for your mother.

confianca

Tired? Time to check into the hotel and have a little lie down? I’ve booked the best room at the Hotel Francfort which is right on the main square with views of the fountain. It’s my favourite hotel in Portugal (of the hotels I’ve actually stayed in, that is). Our hostess is Dona Eugenia and she is at least 70, so you’ll be taking your own luggage up the stairs. She’s been running this hotel for 45 years and I suspect she hasn’t changed a thing in all that time. It’s just the way a hotel should be. Big rooms, springy beds and a full complement of matching furniture. And at €15/head who can argue? The Francfort is a perfect example of what is lacking in modern hotels. Charm, character, and a hostess like Dona Eugenia.

hotel-francfort-2-braga

At last, it’s time for dinner. Taberna Felix is the best restaurant in Portugal so I’ve made a booking. Although they have recently expanded, it’s still an intimate restaurant with a short menu to match. The owners and their staff are so nice and take care of you like old friends. The taberna is tucked away on an atmospheric small square with a couple of other small restaurants alongside and lots of tables outside, and only a couple of other foreigners which make you feel like you’re in on a local secret. I don’t have to tell you that the food is superb. The desserts are even better. Felix, if mispronounced because you´ve indulged in a few local ports, means Happy. Time to waddle back to the hotel…

lemon-meringue-pie

But wait! What’s that on the path between you and the hotel? It’s an open air bar! It’s music and caipirinha! Braga is also a university town, full of bright young people who require evening entertainment. Therefore Braga has a whole new personality which comes out after dark. Plenty of opportunity to rub up against those fit and stylish Bracarense.

hotel-francfort-braga

But I’m going to bed, because tomorrow there’s the market at Barcelos… so much to do, so many more pastries to eat…

30 Comments

  1. Nuno H August 16, 2010 2:36 am Reply

    Very descriptive and informative post. :]
    I would definitely be up for that dessert!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:12 am

    hey nuno… you might be up for the chocolate torte, the other thing and the other thing too… agua na boca now 😐

    [Reply to comment]

  2. Ruby Tuesday August 16, 2010 4:16 am Reply

    Nice Pictures – fancy a bit of that Lemon Meringue

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:11 am

    I was going to put the pic of the 4 desserts my sister and niece and I ordered there once… one bite then pass it on… a sort of dessert musical chairs or something. The desserts, in their full-pie-type-state – sit on a little reception table as you arrive at the restaurant… so it´s all you can think about throughout the entire meal… and they taste even better than they look

    [Reply to comment]

    http://orangesdbythenile.blogspot.com/

  3. mike fabish August 16, 2010 8:09 am Reply

    Emma, your photography goes from strength to strength. Every time one of your posts arrives in my inbox the restlessness is renewed. Thank you. I think.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:06 am

    Thanks itchy mike

    [Reply to comment]

    Mike Fabish   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Now look what you’ve done! I got up at 3am – restless night here in Sydney – I usually sleep in till 0400 or 0430 – and found a parcel on my desk left there by my lovely wife – itinerary tickets travel books etc, all paid for – Christmas in Portugal and my 60th birthday (mid Jan) in Spain!

    All my snivelling crying and whining has actually got a result.

    Thanks Emma!

    (I’ll have a sneaky quiet look at real estate while I am there.)

    [Reply to comment]

  4. Maria Silva August 16, 2010 10:45 am Reply

    Hi Emma, Thanks againg for another great post! I always wait in antecipation for the topic of the next blog! I’ve been to Braga many, many years ago and I remember it being a friendly, charming town! And Barcelos, famous for its ceramics and “artesanato”! Glad to see you’re having the time of your life!!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:04 am

    thanks maria nice to see you here again!

    [Reply to comment]

  5. ana August 16, 2010 11:16 am Reply

    emma i love your posts. you kill me with your descriptions of everything, and it’s all so true! and i also love the photos. ill have to head to braga again at xmas time thanks to you. ill be definitely heading to the confiansa soap shop too. thanks again, i await your next post with much interest. don’t forget to buy a galo de barcelos at the market for sure. then you’ve truly succumbed.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:04 am

    thanks ana… is it wrong to find the galo de barcelos desirable? If so… indeed I have succummed 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.alumiar.net

  6. Rodrigo August 16, 2010 9:59 pm Reply

    Groovy, Ye yah a Bragster man!? Stunning, love it, give us more, we addicted!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 17th, 2010 at 7:02 am

    🙂 we´ve been speaking in SA accents since watching blood diamond… tough work 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

  7. ana August 17, 2010 1:22 pm Reply

    hey, i have a few galos at home, in varying sizes, no matter, how many times i go, i always seem to find an excuse to buy another one. They fascinate me lol. I even have one in my car…
    welcome to the family emma

    [Reply to comment]

  8. Rob August 18, 2010 10:47 am Reply

    Em, nice post, but Braga….

    I stayed up there for a while as a girlfriend of mine lived there, all was good, great place, has that church thing with spectacular steps that take your breath away in every way, great restos, great cafés, great everything, but then came…

    …winter.

    Count me out. It’s *freezing*cold* up there. 🙂

    R.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 21st, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    No Rob, don´t say that! I´ve had a long held fantasy of living in Braga… which I think must involve 3 months in Australia every year… or perhaps an 8 week trip to Brazil? South East Asia? Somewhere southern anyway… Winter spread in Evora? Christmases in New Zealand? The fantasy just gets richer… sigh

    [Reply to comment]

  9. Beth Jennings August 20, 2010 3:23 pm Reply

    AHH!! love those bed heads!! happy days

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 21st, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Indeed. And each room is different and all the furniture matches… way cute

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.bethjennings.com.au

  10. Simon August 24, 2010 6:51 am Reply

    I stumbled upon your blog the other day while searching for Pasteis de Nata pictures… and now I’m done reading everything and I want more!!!! HAHAHA! My mother in law is from Portugal.. Setubal and we’ve been planing a trip there for years, but as my wife also becomes addicted to your blog, the trip might come sooner than later.

    As for the winter situation… I’d love to spend time in Europe over winter, here in Quebec, Canada we have 4-5 months with snow on the ground where temp. can vary between -5C to -35C! I hope your house is coming along fine so next winter wont be as hard on you!

    Keep us posted on the house work!

    Simon

    [Reply to comment]

  11. Pamela August 25, 2010 9:40 am Reply

    Dear Emma

    I love your blog, really do, especially your delight in the cafes.
    We will be in Porto for a few days in September and may have to choose between going to Braga or to Guimares. Would you definitely go for Braga?

    Pamela

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 27th, 2010 at 4:54 am

    I would, but a lot of people are big fans of Guimares too… I guess I just know Braga better. Tough choice!

    [Reply to comment]

    Nuno H   Reply: August 27th, 2010 at 6:37 am

    @Pamela, you could both, as they are relatively close and well connected by bus. They both can be visited on the same day, although superficially, obviously.

    [Reply to comment]

  12. Cláudia September 6, 2010 10:46 am Reply

    Sim senhora, gostava de ir visitar todos estes sítios lindos do meu país, um dia sigo as tuas dicas e vou…
    Bjus e continua, ah boa sorte e felicidades 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 7th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    muito obrigada Claudia bjx

    [Reply to comment]

  13. Filipa Vasconcelos March 2, 2011 9:33 am Reply

    Emma,

    I found your blog the other day and I have to tell I love it! I’ve been surfing through your older posts and sending links to my friends. I like Móveis Tralhão too : )
    I’m writting to tell you that, although I’m living in Chile (and will be for a while), I’m Bracarense! I love my city as much as you do! Best town in Portugal, great quality life (and cheap to), great food! Hope you can live there someday! Wish you the best!

    [Reply to comment]

  14. Ines June 18, 2011 12:47 pm Reply

    Hello!

    I enjoyed reading your post about Braga. My family is from there and I’ve been to stay numerous times. I recognized most of the attractions you wrote about, except for the soap factory. I would love to visit the next time I’m in town, but I can’t find much information on the web. Where is it and how do you get there? I’d love to see it!

    Thanks for all the info!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 18th, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    @Ines, go to the confianca web site and call them. I think they only let people in on request these days. The factory is about 5 kms from braga centro.

    [Reply to comment]

  15. Emma Ruiz October 11, 2011 2:11 pm Reply

    I really enjoy all your pictures; there beautiful. One day I would love to visit Portugal.

    [Reply to comment]

  16. Délio Faria May 11, 2012 1:08 am Reply

    Bolo Merengue, one of my favourites.

    The best one is in Restaurante “Pão Saloio” in Toledo, Lourinhã. Like heaven on a dish…

    [Reply to comment]

  17. HitchHikers Handbook May 31, 2014 12:15 am Reply

    Hey Emma, We have been checking out your blog and we must say that we are very impressed. It’s really great.

    We have particularly been following your posts about Braga as we visited there too. We have even written a guide, which you can check out here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/country-guides/portugal/braga/. We would love your feedback and any tips, information, advice that you might have would be warmly appreciated.

    Keep up the good work!

    Ania & Jon

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.hitchhikershandbook.com

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