When I booked my flight to Porto, I knew I wouldn’t stay in the city the entire time. Although one of Portugal’s largest cities, I wanted to take advantage of the abundance of day trips possible to do from Porto. One of those day trips includes Braga. Braga, known as a religious hub of Portugal, is a beautiful city that is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the north of Portugal.
If you’d like to read more about my time in Braga and what to expect during your day trip to Braga, please keep reading.
How to Get to Braga from Porto
Trains will be your friend when you’re in Portugal. Luckily, the trains are easy to navigate and cheap to use. Porto has two main train stations, São Bento and Porto Campanhã. I find that São Bento is more centrally located to where most tourists stay and tourist attractions. However, from what I’ve seen they usually go to the same places. Also, most of the day trips will start at São Bento and pass through Porto Campanhã. So whichever one is closest to you, go for it. If they are equal distance apart, I’d recommend São Bento because it’s the first stop and it’ll be easier to find a seat.
Once at the train station, you can opt to buy your tickets at the ticket machines (located near the train platforms) or from a worker at the ticket counters (off to the side before passing the arrivals/departures). I recommend that you just buy it from the machines. They’re easy to use and it’s typically a lot quicker. There’s also a button on the bottom left to switch the language from Portuguese if you’d want. But I didn’t realize this until a few train trips in and I was fine.
For people who like to plan ahead like me, you can’t buy these train tickets beforehand online. These are the urban trains. They must be purchased the day of. But the trains typically have plenty of room.
Tip: Make sure to validate your tickets before boarding the trains. There are little machines near the ticket machines and along the train platforms to do this. Simply wave the ticket in front of it and it will light up green and you’re done!
The train ride can range from around 55 minutes to a little over an hour. The ride isn’t too scenic. But I was so happy to be in Portugal that I would spend at least the ride going to each destination gazing out the windows. Even seeing the different barrios and graffiti covered train stations was interesting. Plus, I tried conserving my phone battery since I was relying a lot on Google Maps and other resources (in addition to photos and videos!). Therefore, listening to music or podcasts wasn’t an option.
Instead, I popped out a book. The book I read in Portugal was The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau. It was just the inspiration I needed while embarking on such a pivotal journey for me. If you’d like to purchase the book and use my affiliate link (no extra cost to you) click here.
Note: As I was gazing at the stops, I noticed a few stops that looked quite interesting/pretty. I don’t know anything about these towns and whether they’d be worth visiting, but I thought I’d mention them anyways.
- Aguas Santas – Palmilheira: Looks like it had a nice park
- Contumil – Maybe not enough to visit but there was colorful wood at the train station. If you want to capture a photo/video, just a heads up.
- Between the stops of Lousado and Esmeriz there was such amazing landscape with hills and animals such as horses.
Getting to the Bom Jesus do Monte
Most people going on a day trip to Braga want to visit the Bom Jesus do Monte. It is beautiful sanctuary with its notable zig-zag Baroque staircase. But we’ll get more to the beautiful architecture in a moment because first you need to know how to get there! Once leaving the train station there is a bus stop outside. You will take bus no. 2 to get to Bom Jesus. It costs 1.65€ each way.
The bus ride was around 20 or so minutes. You go through the center of town and then get dropped off at the base of the monument. You can walk up to the top. However, through the advice I came across I opted to take the water powered funicular. It was just over 1€.
Tip: Watch your step getting on and off!
When I got to the top I literally said “wow.” I was that in awe of the beauty. The architecture and landscaping is truly amazing. You almost don’t know where to start and explore. You want to admire the sanctuary, but then you get sidetracked by the amazing views of the city.
Honestly, I don’t have too many tips for here. Just explore. Go high and low, left and right, and take everything in. Make sure you’ve explored all you desire before making your way down the stairs. Which brings me to…
The Iconic Baroque Staircase
If you’ve researched a day trip to Braga you’ve probably come across photos of this staircase. The zigzag pattern is so intricately detailed. Apparently pilgrims ascended this staircase. You may hear this referred to as the “staircase to heaven.” The reason why many people advise you to walk down from this attraction rather than up is mainly due to the ease. Instead of a tiring uphill walk you’re treated to nice views as you casually make your way down.
I spent a little over two hours there. If I wasn’t worried about conserving my phone battery, I would’ve stayed longer. I did two day trips from Porto and Braga was my favorite.
I visited Bom Jesus… now what?
Once finished marveling at the beauty that is Bom Jesus, you can take the bus back into the city center. You get the bus opposite from where is dropped you off (right across from where the funicular is). Again, pay the driver directly. Do not get off at the train station. Instead, get off at the Central II stop. When I was on the bus it didn’t announce the stops. So just pay attention to each stop to see the name. Additionally, you can Google the bus route to get an idea when the stop should be coming up.
To get a more detailed and extensive overview of what you can do in Braga, click this link. This website helped me throughout my trip in Portugal.
Once in the city center I didn’t have too much planned. I knew I wouldn’t stay long (again, had to cut things short because I was trying to preserve my phone battery to make my way back). So I had a couple sites I wanted to find and then I’d make my way back to the train station.
Garden of Santa Barbara
This is a nice, chill place to look at pretty plants and a cool building. It’s free to enter and not far from the bus stop. You won’t spend much time here unless you opt to take a seat and really soak it all in. There are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby as well.
The BRAGA Sign
Palacio do Raio
Arch of the New Gate
Fonte do Campo das Hortas
There’s So Much More
I barely scratched the surface of Braga. There are many more churches and other beautiful sights to see that I didn’t have the time to. You could definitely fit those all into one day, but because I had limited time I could not. But again, I had such a wonderful day trip to Braga. My hostel roommate went after I recommended it to her and she also had a great time. So if you’re looking for somewhere to break up your stay in Porto, head out to Braga!