The pretty little city overshadowed by famous neighbour 34 miles away | Travel News | Travel

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Portugal’s oldest city is often overlooked in comparison with its neighbour, but is deserving of visitors in its own right.

It can be found just 33.9 miles from Porto, the second largest city after Lisbon. It is home to narrow, cobbled streets and restaurants serving traditional Portuguese dishes including slow-cooked meats. 

Braga, capital of the northwestern district and of the historical and cultural Minho Province, is the seventh largest municipality by population, with 193,333 inhabitants as of 2021.

Its collective urban area extends to the Cávado River and is the third most populated urban area in Portugal, behind Lisbon and Porto Metropolitan Areas.

The city is located between mountains, forests, grand valleys and fields, moulded by human intervention. It borders Vila Verde and Amares in the north, Póvoa de Lanhoso in the east, Guimarães and Vila Nova de Famalicão in the south and southeast and Barcelos in the west. 

Braga’s history is extensive. Portugal’s oldest cathedral – the Chapel of São Frutuoso – can be found here, dating back to 1070. Inside the city is also a keep tower that can be visited, the last remnant of the castle which was demolished in 1905. 

Human occupation in the region dates back thousands of years, documented by remnants of Megalithic era structures. The Romans began their conquest around 136 BC and it was founded by Emperor Augustus. The city developed greatly during the 1st-century. 

It is often dubbed the “Rome of Portugal” thanks to its position as a key outpost of the Roman Empire. As historians remain unsure of the dating of the Chapel of São Pedro de Balsemão, in Lamego, Braga continues to host the oldest. Just outside the city lies the renowned Bom Jesus de Monte pilgrimage sanctuary, with its striking Baroque stairway.

Braga houses a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, but has significantly hotter summer temperatures due to its distance from the ocean. The highest temperature on record is 42.2C. It also experiences cold winters, and experiences frosts between three and four months of the year, with a lowest recorded temperature of -6.3C. 

Today, the city is most known as an entrepreneurial  and technological centre of the country. Braga was recently named Europe’s leading emerging tourism destination at the 2024 World Travel Awards.

Braga can be accessed by Porto Airport, which is about 45 minutes away by train or 40 by car. 

Tripadvisor reviews are extremely complimentary, with one describing the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro as “a beautiful sanctuary on a spectacular site,” while another said the Jardim de Santa Bárbara was “greatly taken care of” and “like some colourful oasis with historical elements and a pretty fountain, just incredible”.

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