Braga, the third biggest city of Portugal, is known to be a modern yet traditional city, with plenty of places to visit. This area is characterized by its beautiful and peaceful squares, old narrow streets where car traffic is not allowed and a big diversity of amazing churches of the Baroque style that recall the religious tradition of local people.
This city is famous throughout the country for its religious festivals, indeed , is considered the main religious centre of Portugal. Braga also offers a lot more than Baroque churches and religious events: you can find impressive old façades with amusing coffees and squares with lovely atmosphere; historical houses from the 18th century and beautiful gardens.
Braga is a historical city .Called Bracara Augusta by the Romans, during the 12th century became the headquarters of the Portuguese episcopate. Its long history is evidenced by the vast number of monuments and churches, the most important being the Sé de Braga (Cathedral),for showing many architectural styles from the Romanesque to Baroque.
Some of the most beautiful and emblematic spots of the city, besides the Sé Cathedral of Braga, are: the Igreja do Pópulo Church, the Monastery of Tibães, the chapel of Coimbras, the chapel of S. Frutuoso, the Biscainhos Palace, the Paivas house’s, the Casa do Raio Palace, the Fonte do Ídolo, Roman baths Alto da Cividade, the gardens of Santa Barbara, the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, Largo do Paço and the Praça da República Square.
The city also features interesting museums and collections such as the treasure-museum of the Sé Cathedral of Braga , Monastery of São martinho de Tibães, the museum of the Biscaínhos, the Museum of Nogueira da Silva, the Museu da Imagem or the Museu Pio XII.
The best time of the year to visit Braga is during the end of June, since, on the 23rd and 24th of June, takes place the Festas de São Jõao festival, during which the streets are full of energy. There are also many popular recreations of the medieval era, markets, dances, bonfires, fireworks and processions.
Another good time, it’s during Semana Santa (Holy week), a very much celebrated festival in Braga. Thus, the celebrations of the Holy week in Braga are the most important in Portugal. The celebrations start with Gregorian chants that you can hear in the entire city centre, and through the night, you can enjoy the special atmosphere, with the altars illuminated by candle-light. On Thursday occurs the Procession of the “Ecce Homo” when members of the Brotherhood parade through the streets barefoot and holding a hooded metallic basket with pine cones burning, wielding a stick or shaking their rattles.
During the Holy Friday, a Mass at the Cathedral is held, accompanied by an impressive dramatic performance, with burial songs, and hundreds of priests and parishioners who get emotional during the celebrations.
On Saturday night takes place the Mass of the Easter Vigil, beginning with the Sé completely dark and ends with a lock of light and joy.
To end the festivities on Sunday, the city inhabitants decorate the railings of their homes with flowers and priests walk through the city streets blessing the houses.
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