Yesterday morning I left my Porto hotel to go to the library. A little odd you might think but the Libraria Lello is one of the top attractions in the city. Effectively its a very old bookshop dating back to 1906 and it is alleged to be the place where J K Rowling sought inspiration to write the Harry Potter series.So I was all set for some literary education however en route from my hotel I passed the rather wonderful Sao Bento Railway Station which is actually considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. So I popped in to have a look, noticed there was a train leaving to the city of Braga, so bought a ticket and jumped on board!
The Library could wait and besides I have never read Harry Potter!
From Porto to Braga
A train ticket from Porto to Braga was 7 euros return on an immaculate litter and graffiti free train that took 70 minutes each way. Truly amazing value for money!
I arrived into the heart of Braga and called in at the very swish Braga Tourism office located on platform one through a very, very narrow door. In fact it was so narrow I honestly could hardly fit through it. I think I may have had too many Pintxos in Spain!!
I was given a map and some literature and spent the next few hours mooching around this small really pretty, low key medieval city.
The top attraction in Braga is to go 5kms out of town to the Bom Jesus Do Monte Sanctuary and Funicular which is a pilgrimage site dating back to the 14th century. I passed on this opportunity due to time and instead chose to look around town.
Braga Cathedral and the Praca da Republica – the main square and the many churches dotted around the city are definitely worth visiting.
Bar de Torre
It was just off this main square that I needed a drink and saw this fabulous little bar the size of a shoe box opening out on to the street and with a couple of old characters propping up the bar. I could not resist having just one for the road so ordered my beer.
The owner of this miniature, Bar De Torre, was Fernando. He was such a character and I spoke with him for an age. He used to watch Eusebio play football at Benfica (that’s one for you older football fans) so that really grabbed my attention – I just love hearing sporting stories from yesteryear. He also told me that his daughter lives in Bristol and she is a dentist so if you have a Portuguese dentist then I just met her father! Dad visits his daughter every winter when his bar is closed. When in the UK he always goes to Tenby in Wales – he waxed lyrical about his time spent there and said that the nearby town of Apulia near Braga reminds him of Tenby! So there you go – you heard it hear first. I feel a town twinning coming on!
Street Life & Sweet Treats
The old cobbled streets are packed with stylish shops and lovely restaurants to choose for lunch or how about being naughty and stopping at Leonidas – a beautiful chocolate shop that serves up a fabulous coffee or hot chocolate along with some out of this world chocolate treats. Worth it after a days walking!
From there I popped across the road to visit the Sporting Clube de Braga Football Outlet where I learned about how the local team are performing this season – quite well (3rd in the top division of Portuguese football) and I only wish I could have stayed longer to watch a game!
Braga Gardens & Parks
Another attraction of Braga especially at this time of year was the gardens, parks and sculptures with so many colourful flowers in bloom. This city is clearly loved by the local people and it was so good to see how proud they are to live here.
If you are in Porto for more than 3 or 4 days then I am sure you may consider exploring further afield. There are the vineyard trips, and the beach I have mentioned but then how about these other Portuguese towns such as Guimaraes and Braga both easily accessible by rail or bus….. although you don’t need to say you are going to Braga – you could just say your other half is taking you out to Fernando’s – you will be sure of a warm welcome.
All photos were taken by myself and should be credited if used to @justonefortheroad