Today I went on a day trip to Braga! When I planned my trip, I added Braga to the itinerary without really knowing much of its (and in extension, of Portugal’s) history & culture. However, as I’ve learned during my short stay in Portugal so far, Braga is the religious centre of Portugal, comparable to Kyoto in Japan or Rome in Italy.
I must say though, I wasn’t nearly as excited for Braga as I thought I would be, maybe because I’ve already seen my share of beautiful old churches in Europe. However, the photos I’ve seen for the Bom Jesus do Monte made me really excited!! 😀
Day Trip to Braga
From Porto-Campanhã, the train ride is about one hour in one way. Because I wanted to beat the crowds, I decided to go there really early in the morning before any tour buses or tourists come. So, I woke up at 5:30am, got ready to leave at 6:30am and caught the 7am train to Braga.
I bought my ticket from the ticket machines, and it was such a struggle because I didn’t know ANY Portuguese! *(More details in tips.) But, I was able to buy a ticket and catch my train on time. Whew~
Bom Jesus do Monte
When I arrived at Braga, the bus station was just right outside, so I just hopped on the bus going to Bom Jesus do Monte. It was a good thing that I left Porto really early because I was the only tourist in the bus (the others were older ladies going to pilgrimage)!
The entrance to Bom Jesus was guarded by a large arch, then stairs dominate the hill. As you go up the stairs, there are Stations of the Cross to meet you at every corner. Inside, there are life-sized statues of the stations, with a small description in Portuguese.
If you wish, you can take the oldest water-powered escalator going up to the sanctuary instead of walking all the stairs. I’m a seasoned hiker and adamant walker, so I needn’t any support in that department.
When you reach the top, you are greeted with the imposing stairs leading to Bom Jesus do Monte. When you turn around though, you’ll see a panoramic view of the city of Braga. Sadly when I was there, it was a cloudy morning so I couldn’t get the perfect blue sky photo. That said, the fog & clouds added a bit of a magical & mystical aura.
Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary
The stairs leading to the sanctuary aren’t as tiring as one would think (in my opinion). You can stop on the way and admire the view of the city below while contemplating about your life. As I was walking up, I was listening to my Christian music which made me just think about what God has done in my life.
And then you reach the top of the stairs, and you see the gorgeous facade of the Bom Jesus sanctuary! Unfortunately when I was there, the altar of the sanctuary was closed for restoration. 🙁 BUT there are other things to visit on the grounds like walk in the beautiful gardens!
For a chunk of my time, I sat in the terrace on the gardens and wrote down my thoughts in my journal to let out my feelings, all the while listening to my music. Such a good way to let out my emotions!
Exploring downtown Braga
After taking in what I can at Bom Jesus, I took the bus back down to Baixa (downtown) to explore a bit of downtown. I first headed down Avenida Central (Central Avenue), then walked about the city from there. As expected, there were a lot of churches in Braga, so it can be overwhelming to visit a lot of them today.
I just visited the ones that happened to be in my way like the Braga Catherdral, Igreja de São Marcos, Irmandade de Santa Cruz and Convento dos Congregados. All the churches are beautiful, and if you’re really into churches, Braga has a lot for you!
Around downtown, you’ll also see many beautiful buildings and gardens. The Garden of Santa Barbara is especially beautiful against the old historic wall of Braga Castle! And last thing I had to do was to buy my mum a magnet for the refrigerator. 😀
Lunch and a lazy afternoon
At around lunch, I was feeling a bit peckish and went to a random cafe serving lunch. I didn’t know what I was ordering, but I just basically pointed. The dish I had was bacalhau (a Portuguese specialty) with salad and rice. It was nothing special but it filled me up well.
Still feeling a bit hungry for sweets, I went into a pastry shop called Tibias de Braga and ordered one of their pastries & a small espresso on this lazy afternoon. Then proceeded to kill time by people-watching. A satisfying end to a day trip to Braga.
It was an early day for me, because I started the day SUPER early. I was so tired already, so I left Braga at around 4pm. I could’ve stayed a bit longer, but I checked off what I wanted to visit in Braga. For now, no regrets because I had Bom Jesus do Monte basically all to myself. 🙂 See you tomorrow!
Buying tickets from machines at stations
When you buy tickets from machines, there’s no English version yet (as of July 13, 2018). However, when you do day trips, don’t choose the “andante” options. Choose the “non-rechargeable” ticket, then specify your destination, and how many tickets (1).
“Inteiro” is round-trip/whole trip. “Meio” is one-way trip. I made the mistake of paying 2 round-trip tickets for my day trip to Braga. 😐
Riding CP train in Portugal
Once you have your green ticket (if you didn’t book online), always validate it first before boarding by tapping on the machines below. They are usually placed strategically in front of the train lines.
A man in the train will be checking your tickets, so make sure you’re in the correct train and with the correct ticket.
Bus rides in Braga
When you ride the bus in Braga and don’t have a pass, you’ll have to pay by coin. When you enter, tell the driver which stop you’re stopping, and he will assign you a fare & receipt. He has change, so you needn’t carry exact fare.
For most cases (especially if you’ll just go to Bom Jesus and downtown), the fare is only €1.65. How do you know which stop to alight? Google Maps bro—check my tips on my post in Porto.