Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Experience Rome without the tourists by visiting this Portuguese dupe

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Can you guess where the ‘Portuguese Rome’ is? (Picture: Getty Images)

With an average of 7 to 10 million visitors flocking to the ancient city each year, Rome receives its fair share of tourism.

But in the summer months, in particular, it becomes so flooded with people that it can become difficult to enjoy – not to mention the stifling temperatures of up to 31C.

However, there are ways to experience an essence of Rome without subjecting yourself to these conditions – and that’s in Portugal, where the country’s third city has been dubbed the ‘Portuguese Rome.’

Though beautiful, Rome is known for being touristy (Picture: Getty Images)

Ever heard of Braga? A smaller city in the north of Portugal, northeast of Porto, Braga is the less touristy sister of Lisbon and Porto, which rack up between 6 and 3.7 million tourists each year respectively.

Earlier this year, the prestigious World Travel Awards named Braga in Portugal as Europe’s next emerging destination.

A mainstay of the Roman empire, Braga has had much significance in Portugal’s history. The city is home to beautiful architecture, ancient buildings and ruins, making it a great place to visit if you fancy yourself a bit of a culture vulture.

Things to do in Braga

Famous for its religious heritage, Braga is inundated with beautiful buildings to marvel at.

Portugal’s most photographed church, Bom Jesus do Monte, is located in Tenoes, just outside Braga, but it has an impressive Baroque stairway leading up a hilltop.

The hill is a staggering 116 metres high with around 580 steps, zigzagging to the top for a panoramic view of this 1700s beauty.

The Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary is a must-see (Picture: Getty Images)

Braga Cathedral is even older, built between 1070 and 1093 atop the remains of a Roman temple. Incorporating Gothic, Baroque, Manueline and Renaissance styles, this architectural feat has a museum inside filled with local relics.

Elsewhere, the Chapel of São Frutuoso was constructed in the sixth century AD, making it one of the oldest buildings in the entirety of Portugal.

According to tradition, the chapel was built to replace an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Asclepius, AKA, the god of medicine and good health.



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Then there’s the Santa Barbara Garden, which is attached to the 14th century Archbishop’s Palace, one of the city’s most important historic structures composed of three separate buildings.

The Archibishop’s Court and Jardin de Santa Barbara are equally beautiful (Picture: Getty Images)

The oldest is medieval, built in a Gothic style, while the other two wings date back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

For those who going on holiday hungry, Braga has an incredible foodie scene too.

There are plenty of regional dishes to try, from bacalhau (salted cod) and caldo verde (soup with potatoes, kale and chorizo) to pastel de nata (the famous custard tarts) and bife à Bragança (a traditional steak dish).



What to do in Braga

  • Visit the creative centre of Braga, GNRation, which is located inside an old police headquarters. Here you’ll find galleries, concerts, film screenings, workshops and theatre performances.
  • Braga is home to amazing bars and restaurants, with a lively atmosphere. Tripadvisor recommends checking out the Sardinha Biba nightclub if you fancy a dance.
  • If you’re less of a dancer and more of a drinker, bars Tosga, 7Haus and Estudio 22 also come highly recommended.

How to get to Braga

The easiest way to get to Braga is to fly, with return flights starting from around £74.

If you’re travelling from the Big Smoke, there are flights available from London Gatwick to Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport to nearby Porto, but sadly, Braga doesn’t have its own airport.

Braga is quieter than Lisbon and Porto (Picture: Getty Images)

However, Porto is only 40km away, accessible via bus, which takes around 40 minutes. If you’re looking to drive, it’ll take around 36 minutes.

If you’re coming from up north, there are flights to Porto Airport for around £100 return, but the route is more convoluted. Since there isn’t a direct route between Manchester and Porto, you’ll need to stop off either via Barcelona El Prat or Amsterdam.

When to visit Braga

If you’re in search of heat, the best time to visit Braga is undoubtedly the summer.

In June, temperatures reach balmy highs of 23C, while in July and August the mercury can reach 24C and 25C.

If the sun isn’t your thing (but equally, you don’t want to freeze), then the rest of the year temperatures don’t typically dip much below 10C.

In January and February, these can reach highs of 14C and 15C, while in November it remains a pleasant 17C.

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