We spent ten days exploring Northern Portugal. Two nights were spent in Porto and Lisbon, but we did not explore either city. Our goal was to explore Northern Portugal and we rather spent three days in the National Park that borders Spain and then five days based outside Braga.
The map below shows the places that we visited in Northern Portugal: Braga, Guimarães, and the national park Penada-Geres (where we stayed in Terras de Bouro and then had two day trips to Soajo and Campo do Geres).
Braga is 55 km north of Porto and is one of the oldest Portuguese cities. Being in the North of Portugal it receives a high annual rainfall and is very green.
It also has a large pedestrianised walkway which is always lovely in a city.
We stayed about 6km outside Braga on a lovely Casa (Portuguese smallholding) run by Fernando. Fernando grew up on the property and firstly converted stables into self catering rooms and then built a separate self contained building with three en-suite rooms. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Fernando.
Our time in Portugal was really a very rainy one. We arrived in Porto in the rain. It rained for a good portion of our time in Geres and then the same happened in Braga. But we did purposefully choose this time of year to visit Portugal, so it was good to see the reality of Northern Portugal in late November.
On our first day we went into Braga centre but we were not able to do a lot with all the rain.
We started at the beautiful Palacio do Raio. We visited the beautiful Se Cathedral and then took refuge in a very good hamburger restaurant.
Palacio do Raio
The Palacio do Raio is in the centre of Braga, Portugal. The palace was built in 1754 and is the best example in Braga of Braga civil architecture. The design and colour blue of the building is stunning. The palace houses a museum but it was closed on the Sunday.
The Cathedral of Braga was consecrated in 1089, about 54 years before Portugal became a country. It is known as the Se Cathedral. As is the case with many historical buildings, renovation and rebuilding through the centuries result in a variety of different architectural styles.
You can still see some of the Gothic style from the 1400s, in the entrance of the church. Inside you can find the wooden tomb belonging to Infante D. Afonso, son of D. João I e D.Filipa de Lencastre.
The Baroque style also appears in this church. You can see it by the exterior facade in the bell towers, and in the interior decoration of the altars, the gilded carving, in the high choir and in the organs of the main chapel.
The high choir area and the organ are a sight to see :
Romanesque, Moorish and Manueline styles also appear as well as lovely traditional Portuguese tiles.
I am very pleased I saw the Se, but in some ways I found it over the top, in a way similar to the Basilica of Santa Croce in Lecce.
I much preferred the cleaner, simpler lines of Bom Jesus that I will cover in a later post.
Jardim de Santa Barbara
I really wanted to see these gardens. We got very wet trying to see them ! They are very spectacular in the Spring and Summer.
The next day we visited Guimarães and experienced a true Portuguese festival Nicolinas.
This festival is really amazing and I am so pleased we experienced it. But, I think in sitting in an uncomfortable chair for many hours watching the festival Adu woke up with a very bad muscle back spasm. We got to experience what Portuguese healthcare is like, through visiting the Braga public hospital (we found it to be good). We then took it easy for our last two days so Adu could recover.
On our last late afternoon we visited Bom Jesus and then met our friends Cheryl and Paul. This will be covered in a different post.
Our time in Portugal went by too quickly and we look forward to exploring other parts of Portugal in 2023.