Bragança Guide: 5+ Things To See & Do

Bragança isn’t a city which attracts many international visitors, aside from the few Spanish tourists who stray over the border. The city doesn’t have a huge number of attractions, certainly not as much as larger cities like Lisbon and Porto, and it lacks the beauty of places like Sintra, Obidós, or any of the other cities on the tourist trail. 

However, Bragança does have a very impressive castle. Whether it’s impressive enough to make the journey this far to the other side of Portugal is another question, but if you are already over this direction, it’s definitely worth taking a look at. It’s particularly worth visiting this part of Portugal, Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, for the Carnival in nearby Podence, which takes place between Domingo Gordo (“Fat Sunday”) to Shrove Tuesday – around 40 days before Easter. 

statue braganca

Useful Resources for Your Trip to Bragança

Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Bragança. 

  • Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Bragança. 
  • Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental. 
  • Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Porto Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups
  • Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Bragança and the surrounding Northern Portugal region. 
  • Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal.
  • Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal. 
  • Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Bragança is Porto Airport. 

Top Places to Stay In Braganca

Bragança offers a variety of places to stay, most of which is fairly basic but affordable. However, there are a few gems within that list. 

  • Pousada de Bragança: This is a charming hotel located in the historic city of Bragança. It offers stunning views of the city and the castle. The hotel is housed in a contemporary building and features a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. The rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, providing a relaxing stay for guests.
  • Hotel Tulipa: Situated in the heart of Bragança, the widely signposted Hotel Tulipa provides a comfortable and convenient stay. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, air-conditioned rooms, and a daily breakfast. It’s located close to various tourist attractions, making it an ideal base for exploring the city.

Another option would be to stay in the historic cidadela, and there are several apartments and smaller guesthouses with the old city walls, which you can view on Booking.com

What To See And Do

Bragança’s main attraction is, by far, its castle and all of the attractions that are connected to it, such as the military museum, Domus Municipalis

Bragança Castle

Exterior of Bragança Castle

Dominating the cityscape of Bragança, the Bragança Castle serves as a grand reminder of the town’s historical significance and strategic importance. This impressive fortress, dating back to the 12th century, is among the best-preserved medieval castles in Portugal. Surrounded by sturdy walls, the castle complex includes the Citadel, the Domus Municipalis – a unique Romanesque civic building – and the Keep Tower, which houses a military museum. Visitors to the castle can climb up the tower for a stunning panoramic view of Bragança and the surrounding Montesinho Natural Park. 

Military Museum

suits of armour at the military museum in Braganca Castle

Nestled within the Keep Tower of Bragança Castle, the Military Museum is a captivating attraction offering insight into Portugal’s rich military history. This museum is home to a diverse collection of exhibits spanning from the Middle Ages to the present day. As you explore the museum, you’ll encounter everything from ancient weaponry and armours to military uniforms and historical documents right up until the first world war and even later. Each artefact tells a piece of the story of the region’s strategic importance, its battles, and its heroes.

Medieval Cidadela

buildings in braganca cidatel

The Medieval Cidadela, or Citadel, is a significant part of the Bragança Castle complex and a compelling symbol of the city’s medieval past. Enclosed within its fortified walls is a charming hamlet that takes you back in time with its quaint cobbled streets, traditional houses, and ancient monuments. A stroll through the Cidadela allows you to immerse yourself in history, with every corner telling tales of the past. Notable landmarks include the Domus Municipalis, an intriguing 12th-century Romanesque civic building, and the Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Santa Maria), a testament to Bragança’s religious heritage.

Igreja de Santa Maria

Igreja de Santa Maria

The Igreja de Santa Maria, or Church of Santa Maria, is an important historic and religious landmark situated within the Medieval Citadel of Bragança Castle. Originally built in the 12th century, the church exhibits a blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Inside, visitors are greeted by a tranquil, reverent atmosphere, amplified by the simplicity of its interior. The church’s wooden carved altarpiece and beautiful sacred art contribute to its allure.

Domus Municipalis

Domus Municipalis

One of the most intriguing landmarks in Bragança is the Domus Municipalis, a 12th-century Romanesque civic building nestled within the walls of the city’s castle complex. This unique structure, with its characteristic pentagonal shape and ribbed vaulting, is the only one of its kind in Portugal, making it a vital part of the country’s architectural heritage. Originally used as a cistern, the building later served as a meeting place for the city council.

Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje

Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje

The Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje, or the Iberian Museum of Mask and Costume, is an intriguing cultural landmark located in Bragança’s old walled city. This museum is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the rich traditions of Iberian mask and costume practices, especially those associated with annual festivities and winter solstice celebrations.

As you wander through the museum’s exhibits, you’ll discover a fascinating array of vibrant masks and traditional costumes, each telling a unique story about regional folklore, mythology, and communal identity. The museum’s interactive displays and engaging descriptions provide deep insights into these cultural traditions, making a visit to the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje a captivating journey into the heart of Iberian culture. Some of these are very bizarre and perhaps even scary, so be warned if you’re bringing young children. That aside, it is one of the most interesting attractions and offers a glimpse into a unique side of Portuguese culture. 

Igreja de São João Baptista

Igreja de São João Baptista

Igreja de São João Baptista, or the Church of St. John the Baptist, is a prominent religious landmark in the city of Bragança. This 16th-century church is renowned for its beautiful Manueline-style architecture, a Portuguese style characterized by elaborate ornamental motifs. The church features a distinctive façade, complete with intricately carved stone elements that capture the attention of passersby. Inside, visitors can admire the beautifully adorned altar, the traditional azulejo tilework, and several sacred art pieces that add to the spiritual ambiance of the space.

Museu do Abade de Baçal

The Museu do Abade de Baçal, or the Abbot of Baçal Museum, is a fascinating cultural destination located in Bragança. Named after its founder, Francisco Manuel Alves, the “Abbot of Baçal”, this museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Bragança region. Housed in a former episcopal palace, the museum’s collections span a wide range of themes, from archaeology and art to ethnography. Visitors can explore exhibits featuring Paleolithic artifacts, Roman inscriptions, medieval tombstones, sacred art, traditional costumes, and more.

Parque Natural de Montesinho

The Parque Natural de Montesinho is a haven of natural beauty and tranquillity located in the north-eastern corner of Portugal, near Bragança. Spanning over 70,000 hectares, this protected area is one of the largest nature parks in Portugal. It boasts a rich biodiversity, including wolves, wild boars, and golden eagles, as well as a plethora of flora that paint the park with vibrant colors in spring. The park’s stunning landscapes, which range from verdant valleys and oak forests to rugged mountain ranges, offer endless opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and photography.

What to Eat

Bragança offers a rich culinary tradition that is deeply influenced by the region’s pastoral and agricultural lifestyle. Posta à Mirandesa, a beef steak dish from the Mirandesa breed of cattle native to the area, is a must-try. This succulent meat dish is typically served grilled or roasted with locally grown potatoes.

Alheira de Mirandela, a smoke-cured sausage, is another local delicacy, which comes from nearby Mirandela. It was traditionally made with a mixture of meats, often excluding pork, and bread to create a unique and hearty flavor profile.

The region is also known for its honey and olive oil, used extensively in local cooking.

Getting Here

Bragança is one of the remotest cities in Portugal. The easiest way to get here is by car, although there are regular bus connections to the rest of Portugal. See Rede-Expressos and Flixbus.pt for tickets and timetables. There is no longer a train station in Bragança. 

You can also fly here as the city has a small, regional airport and Seven Air, a small Portuguese airline, offers flights here from other small airports in Portugal. For most flights, however, the nearest large airport is Porto Airport, which is a little over 2 hours by car from Bragança.  

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