This is Braga, Portugal.
The Portuguese city of Braga is home to Portugal’s archbishops and remains an important religious and spiritual center for the country. The party or club center of Portugal it’s not, but there are some worthwhile and very historic things to see here.
The city is filled with many centuries-old churches, monasteries and stately mansions that give it a very old-world feel. Semana Santa, or the Holy Week before Easter, is the busiest time due to the multitudes of locals and tourists that flock here to see processions reenacting the final days of Jesus Christ. Braga also has several really good museums that explore the ancient and medieval history of the region.
Sites to see in Braga
What would a trip to the most religiously-oriented city of Portugal be without a trip to Braga’s grand Sé Cathedral? This 11th-century structure is much like other cathedrals throughout the country with the exception that several early members of the Portugal’s royal family are buried. These include Henry of Burgundy and Dona Teresa, the parents of Portugal’s first King, Alfonso I. The Cathedral’s Treasury houses Braga’s Museum of Sacred Art, the storage place for many religious artifacts including a good collection of 18th-century azulejo tiles.
Antigo Paço Episcopal
Not too far from Sé Cathedral is the Antigo Paço Episcopal, the old palace of the archbishops of Portugal. The building itself dates back to the 1300s, but the neatly manicured gardens and libraries containing over 300,000 books and old manuscripts were added in the 17th and 18th centuries. Unfortunately, most of the building is not open to the public, but regardless, it looks quite impressive from the outside.
Museu Pio XII (Pio XII Museum)
This is one of the more interesting museums in Braga. The Pio XII museum has a great collection of archaeological artifacts from multiple periods of history. Exhibitions include sculptures, ancient and medieval jewelry, ceramics and textiles displayed in an interesting and educative manner. Some focus specifically on Braga while others deal with Portugal as a whole. The museum also holds a modest collection of paintings by Henrique Medina de Barros, one of Portugal’s most famous artists of the 20th century. From the museum one can get access to the Nossa Senhora da Torre, an old, five-floor medieval tower that contains exhibits detailing the history of Braga from its very beginnings up until the present day. The view from the top of the tower is quite nice.
Museu dos Biscainhos
The Museu dos Biscainhos is located in the old Palácio dos Biscainhos, a mansion belonging to an old 18th-century nobleman. Many rooms of the mansion house old Roman artifacts while others contain ceramics, furniture, azulejo tiles, and ornate household items. There are also several other rooms that are fun to explore including the music, games, oratory and grand dining room.
Dom Diogo de Sousa Archaeology Museum
Opened in 1918 just after the end of World War I, the Dom Diogo de Sousa Archaeology Museum was created to preserve the archaeological heritage of Braga and the Portuguese people. Current exhibits showcase objects from the Paleolithic period up to the Visigoth period of the 5th – 7th centuries. The museum also contains a really nice cafe with a pleasant garden outside.
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