50km (31 miles) N of Porto; 367km (228 miles) N of Lisbon
Nearly everywhere you look in Braga there's a church, a palace, a garden, or a fountain. Known to the Romans as Bracara Augusta, the town has been called home by other conquerors, including the Suevi, the Visigoths, and the Moors. For centuries, it has been an archiepiscopal seat and pilgrimage site; the Visigoths are said to have renounced their heresies here. Braga is also a long-standing religious capital. It stages the country's most impressive observances of Semana Santa (Holy Week), when torch-lit processions of hooded participants, eerily evocative of the KKK, parade by.
Politically, Braga is Portugal's most conservative city. In 1926, a coup here paved the way for Salazar to begin his long dictatorship. Paradoxically, Braga is a hot place at night, primarily because of its young people. In fact, its lively streets have earned it a reputation for being "Lisbon in miniature."
Although aware of its rich history, the capital of Minho is very much a city of today. Its historic core and cathedral lie at the center, but the periphery bustles with commerce and industry, including a lot of manufacturing -- brick making, soap making, textiles, smelting, engineering, and leather goods. Today 65,000 residents live with noisy streets, increasing numbers of ugly and uninspired apartment blocks, and traffic congestion on streets that not long ago contained a few cars and maybe a donkey or two.