Bom jesus Braga

Experiences in Portugal – by Plamena.H

Since 2019 our lives are a little bit different. Everyone knows about the covid situation, social distance, limited travels etc. … But, I will try to make you see the world through my positive experience as a Bulgarian intern in Portugal.

My name is Plamena, and this is my second time visiting Portugal. I am currently а trainee in Braga and I will be glad to present you, my experience. 

Why I choose Portugal

As a real foodie, one of the main reason that makes me want to come and visit Portugal is the local food.

In Balkans we have different kinds of meals and desserts, but the thing that attracted me the most is the Pastel de Nata. This is the most delicious dessert that I have ever tried.

The other reason is the ocean, Nazare, for example is the place with the best waves. The long and beautiful beaches, palms and nice people make this city a magical place.

What I liked most in Portugal

Since in the Balkans and more precisely in Bulgaria, we have quite different traditions, I was overwhelmed by the Portuguese culture and customs , it will remained in my heart and mind for a long time. There is lot of local events: the traditional and religious festivities, fairs, etc. In the north, every smallest village has their own traditions.

What to do in Portugal?

This is my second time in the city of Braga, one of Portugal’s oldest cities, Braga was also an ancient seat of religious power with an archdiocese anchored in the 4th century. The cathedral is mandatory, as are several of the old churches, chapels, and monasteries in the area.  You must see the impressive old mansions around the city, festooned with azulejos and taking you back to aristocratic life in Braga in days gone by. I will present you a list of the 5 most interesting places in the city, so let’s explore together:

  • Bom Jesus do Monte   – The city’s most visited tourist attraction high on a hilltop to the east. This sanctuary is a pilgrimage site and has been attracting religious devotees since at least the 14th century. You have to be brave to make it up the stairway, which rises more than 100 meters and has 640 steps. These stairs zigzag up the slope and are adorned with Baroque sculpture to inspire you as you climb. On the way up look out for the fountains, which are themed on the five senses.
  • Braga Cathedral – If you’re interested in an architecture, there’s a little bit of every architectural movement at the city’s cathedral. The building has been modified many times, furnishing it Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance and Baroque elements and decoration. The Romanesque triple nave is still easy to identify, but what will distract you right away are the two Baroque organs from 1737 and 1739, with cases covered with exuberant gilded wood. Track down the baptismal font, which has a Manueline design and see the stunning 15th century recumbent tomb of King John I’s son Afonso. This is made from wood coated with gold and silver-plated copper.  
  • Garden of Santa Barbara – This exquisite formal garden is next to Braga’s medieval episcopal palace and bounded by the palace’s beautiful north walls, which is topped by typical pointed merlons. The garden is strict and ordered, with geometric lines and manicured boxwood hedges and topiaries. But inside the borders is a riot of colorful flowers in the summer, attracting lots of birds. Back towards the palace there are the remnants of a Gothic arcade delineating the palace’s patio, and in the stonework on the walls you can make out fragments of sculpture and coats of arms.
  • Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro – Just south of Bom Jesus do Monte is another hilltop sanctuary, set even higher at 566 metres above sea level. And even though it’s still one of Portugal’s most frequented pilgrimage sites, it feels relatively quiet compared to its neighbor to the north. The church up here is rather new, dating to the 1860s, but has an important Marian shrine that receives lots of devotees on Sundays between June 1 and August 31. For everyone else it’s all about the view. There’s an immense terrace in front where you’ll want to meditate over the Cávado countryside and Braga in the distance to the northwest. You’ll need as long as you can get if you hiked up the hill!
  • Arco da Porta Nova – At the eastern entrance to the historic center of Braga, this triumphal arch is a real head turner. It was crafted by the Braga-based sculptor André Soares in the middle of the 18th century, and his name comes up often in the city as he contributed several fountains and sculptures here. This arch replaced an old gateway and had a very different character depending on the side you approach it from. The east side is understated, with a niche with a Marian sculpture (Nossa Senhora da Nazaré), while the west side is far bolder, featuring a stone coat of arms and pyramidal pinnacles above a baroque arch.

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