Bragança is a city with a historical legacy that reveals its importance in the country. Surrounded by nature where you can see wolves, deer, and hundreds of species of birds, it invites you to take a deep breath among biodiverse trails and to slow down in charming villages where the black of the slate roofs contrasts with the bold colors of the traditional caretos that stroll through the streets like beings from another world. And all this sprinkled with the transmontane hospitality. Nature, culture, gastronomy, or adventure, Bragança has all the ingredients for a surprising getaway where the best thing is its smiling people.
In this guide, we try to reflect all that Bragança and its surroundings have to offer with practical suggestions, itineraries, where to sleep, and even where to eat so that your trip to Bragança is as incredible as ours was.
If you don’t have much time, jump directly to the section of What to see in Bragança in one day.
- Basic facts for traveling to Bragança
- When to visit Bragança
- How to get to Bragança
- How many days to spend in Bragança
- Things to do in Bragança
- Map of Bragança
- Bragança City Center
- Braganza Castle
- Domus Municipalis and Church of Santa Maria
- Pelourinho de Bragança and Porca da Vila
- Iberian Mask and Costume Museum
- Rua dos Museus (Street of Museums)
- Marron Oficina da Castanha
- Praça da Sé and Sé Velha
- Praça Camões
- Misericórdia Church
- São Vicente Church
- São Francisco Church and Convent
- National Railway Museum of Bragança
- Urban Art in the Center of Bragança
- Corredor Verde (Green Corridor)
- Surroundings of Bragança
- Best hiking trails in Bragança
- Where to stay in Bragança
- Best restaurants in Bragança
- Bragança itineraries
- Transportation: rent a car in Bragança
- How much does it cost to travel to Bragança?
- Useful apps for traveling to Bragança
- Checklist: what to pack in your backpack/suitcase for Bragança
Basic facts for traveling to Bragança
Bragança is the capital of the homonymous and cross-border district in the northeast of Portugal bordering to the north and east with Spain, specifically with Galicia (the province of Ourense) and with Castilla y León (the province of Zamora). It belongs to the Portuguese region of Trás-os-Montes and played a crucial role in the defense of the Portuguese border with a historical legacy visible at every step we take in the city. In addition, the municipality is part of the Iberian Plateau Transboundary Biosphere Reserve recognized by Unesco and enjoys a natural heritage with a lot of biodiversity with two natural parks (Montesinho Natural Park and Douro International Natural Park), the Geopark Terras de Cavaleiros and an important part of the Regional Natural Park of Vale de Tua.
Population: 34581 (in 2021)
Daily budget: From 50€/day per person (approx.). More info here
Climate: Very wide temperature range, the climate of the area is known as “9 months of winter, 3 months of hell”. The best times to visit Branganza are usually spring and autumn. More info here
Accommodation: You can base yourself in Bragança to explore the city and its surroundings or, as in Randomtrip, sleep in one of its villages like Rio de Onor (we did it in Casa da Portela) or Montesinho for a rural tourism experience. More info here
Duration: Minimum 1 day to visit the city, recommended 2 or 3 days to explore the surroundings and villages. More info here
How to get there: From Spain, the most common way is by car. If you are traveling from far away, the closest airport would be Porto (2h15 by car). We recommend you use flight comparators like Skyscanner and Kiwi and be flexible with dates. More info here
Time zone: UTC +0. The time in Portugal is one hour less than in mainland Spain.
Covid-19 measurements: Check current measurements in Portugal here
When to visit Bragança
It will depend on what you want to do. In general, the best time to visit is spring or autumn since it is an area with a wide thermal amplitude of very cold winters and very hot summers (it is commonly said in the area that the climate consists of 9 months of winter and 3 months of hell).
If you want to go during a particularly lively time culturally, then aim to visit Bragança during the city’s festivities (in August), the “Festas de Rapazes” (between Christmas and Epiphany), or during Carnival.
Table of weather in Bragança, with temperatures and rainy days by month:
How to get to Bragança
Bragança is located in the northeast of Portugal, bordering Ourense and Zamora. The most common if you are going to visit the city from Spain or Portugal is to visit it by car since it will be useful to have your own car to visit the area calmly.
If you are traveling from far away or do not want to arrive by car, the closest airport is Porto (2h15 by car), where you can get low-cost flights like Easyjet or Ryanair from several European cities (we recommend you use flight comparators like Skyscanner and Kiwi and to be flexible with dates).
In Bragança there is no train connection, so if you don’t have your own car or a rental car, the only way to get there is by bus. You can check timetables and prices at, for example, https://rede-expressos.pt/ (tickets from Porto from 5€/trip).
How many days to spend in Bragança
If you just want to get to know the city center, one day may be enough to get an idea, although two days would be ideal, especially if you want to visit the city at your leisure and enjoy its museums.
If you also want to visit the surrounding area (Rio de Onor, Montesinho, etc.), which we strongly recommend, then ideally you should dedicate at least 2-3 days (a weekend or a long weekend).
Things to do in Bragança
Map of Bragança
Here we leave you a Google Maps map with all the places of interest in Bragança that we recommend in the guide, so you can take it with you on your smartphone:
We leave you also a tourist map of the city of Brangaza and a tourist map of the whole area of Terras de Trás-Os-Montes.
Bragança City Center
A walk through Bragança is a walk through more than five centuries of history. Its beautiful walled old town with narrow cobblestone streets dominated by schist has one of the most well-preserved castles in Portugal (or at least the ones we know of) as its protagonist. From a bird’s eye view, it is possible to clearly see the citadel within another, more recent Bragança, which is separated by no less than 900 years of history. Its monuments take us back to the Bronze Age and the presence of Romans, Suevi, and Visigoths. And outside the walls? Urban art, squares, gardens, and even a very cultured street full of museums known, of course, as the “Rua dos Museus”: five museums in just 300 meters of street. All this is accompanied by rich gastronomy, good wine, and even an original chestnut craft beer. Have we whetted your appetite? Let us introduce you to the center of Bragança.
One of the most beautiful and well-preserved castles that we know in Portugal due to several restorations throughout history, the Castelo de Bragança is a medieval castle that houses, in its Keep, the Military Museum of the city, distributed on five floors. It is located, next to the citadel, in the upper part of the city, on the left side of the Fervença River.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday (from 9:00h to 12:00h and from 14:00h to 17:00h) and the entrance fee is 3€ per person (free entrance for children under 12 years old). You can climb the Princess Tower, recreating the legend that gives it its name.
The legend of the Princess Tower tells of an orphan princess who lived here with her uncle, the lord of the castle. One day, the princess fell in love with a noble and brave but (all these stories have a but) penniless young man. The young man left in search of fortune, promising the princess that he would not return until he was worthy enough to ask for her hand. Meanwhile, the princess refused any proposal from other interested parties. Until one day her uncle forced her to accept the proposal of a rich gentleman who had promised to marry his niece. The princess unburdened herself to the suitor by telling him that her heart belonged to another but her uncle found out. Very angry with the princess for what she had done, the princess’s uncle decided to use another form of coercion and manipulation: that night he invaded the princess’s chambers by entering through a door disguised as the ghost of the young man to whom his niece’s heart belonged. That ghost said that the princess had to marry the new suitor or she would be condemned to disgrace and burn in hell. The princess was heartbroken and was about to agree to the proposal when a ray of sunlight came through the window, even though it was night, revealing that it was not a ghost but her uncle. At that moment the princess decided not to break her promise of love and locked herself in the tower of the castle that has borne her name ever since. It is not known if the young man who had gone in search of fortune ever returned, but the two gates of the castle became known as the Gate of Betrayal and the Gate of the Sun.
Domus Municipalis and Church of Santa Maria
A unique example of Romanesque civil architecture in the entire Iberian Peninsula, the Domus Municipalis is a must-see. Built during the 12th century, it is believed to have served as a place for meetings and for the use of rainwater and water from the nearby Fervença River.
Almost next to it and, in our opinion, stealing some of the protagonism that the Domus Municipalis deserves, is the Church of Santa Maria. Also known as Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Sardão and originally Romanesque, it is considered the oldest church in Bragança. In its interior, we can contemplate three-dimensional paintings.
It is open from Tuesday to Sunday (from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and admission is free.
Pelourinho de Bragança and Porca da Vila
The Pelourinho de Bragança, a symbol of autonomy and lordly power, is one of the oldest in the country. It follows a typology typical of the northern region of Portugal, composed of a protohistoric base (500 years B.C.), in the form of a berrão (zoomorphic sculpture) seated on a column from the 12th or 13th century.
The berrão is known as“Porca da Vila” and takes us back to the origins of the city as it was part of a cult of the primitive peoples of Trás-os-Montes, characterized by an agro-pastoral economy. They have a mystical and protective character and therefore are usually located (there are more examples in Portugal and in the province of Salamanca) at the entrance or in the center of the towns.
As a curiosity, I would like to tell you that in the place of the Pelourinho, originally erected in front of the Domus Municipalis, there was the old Church of Santiago.
Iberian Mask and Costume Museum
Located on the main street of the citadel of Bragança, this museum tells the story of one of the most important cultural traditions of Trás-os-Montes: the famous caretos transmontanos through their masks and costumes.
Loaded with symbolism, it is impossible to talk about Trás-os-Montes without talking about its masks. They are the symbol of rites and rituals, of the passage from one state of consciousness to a more mystified one: those who wear the mask acquire another personality and live a mystery, especially in the rituals of the Winter Festivals. We tell you more about the caretos in the village of Aveleda, where we saw how they are created and how they are used.
Actually, in this museum, we can find not only masks and costumes from Trás-os-Montes but also from neighboring Zamora as it is the result of cross-border cooperation, and masks and costumes from that area are also represented.
Through his collection of costumes, masks, photographs, and various objects, we realized that there are more caretos than villages! and that each one has a story to tell and a party associated with it. Most of the caretos and costumes are worn during the “Festas dos Rapazes” or during Carnival.
Wood, wool, tin, or cork are the raw materials used to give life to these characters of bold colors that take us back to the time of the Celts. The most elaborate ones, made of leather, fur, and cork, resort to more zoomorphic elements, such as foxes, wolves, and snakes, and others simply represent diabolical figures, terrifying but mysterious and fascinating at the same time. They are the masks of the transmontane winter and bring fun to every corner of this land, symbolizing life.
The museum presents about 50 characters spread over three floors with a soundtrack of traditional music to accompany this journey: one floor dedicated to the Winter Festivals of Trás-os-Montes, another to the Winter Masquerades of Zamora, and another dedicated to the costumes used in the Carnival Festivals of the two regions, leaving also a space dedicated to the artisans, artists of these works of art, and to temporary exhibitions.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Admission is free and if you want a guided tour you have to request it in advance.
Rua dos Museus (Street of Museums)
And we arrived at the most cultural street in Brangaça, Rua Abílio Beça, better known as Rua dos Museus (Museum Street) because on this street you find five museums in less than 300 meters:
- Graça Morais Contemporary Art Center: in addition to exhibiting in seven rooms the works of one of my favorite Portuguese painters, Graça Morais, this museum is an architectural project by Souto de Moura, winner of a Pritzker Prize in 2011. Beyond works by Graça Morais, it also features exhibits from other contemporary art collections. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00h to 18:30h. Admission: 2€/person, free for children under 10 years old.
- Centro de Interpretação da Cultura Sefardita do Nordeste Transmontano: aims to preserve the experiences of the Jewish communities that inhabited the Trás-os-Montes region by narrating their history. Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Free admission.
- Memorial e Centro de Documentação Bragança Sefardita: a space that complements the previous center and teaches, in a didactic and interactive way, a more religious side. Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Free admission.
- Centro de Fotografia Georges Dussaud: dedicated to the work of the French photographer and photography in general. There are several temporary exhibitions and a unique collection of Dussaud who developed his work in Portugal and, in particular in Trás-os-Montes, since 1980. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00h to 12:30h and from 14:00h to 17:30h. Free admission.
- Museu do Abade de Baçal: located in the building of the former Episcopal palace of the city, this museum aims to show the history of the region of Trás-os-Montes at the religious, social, political, and economic level from the pre and protohistory of the region (gathering societies) to the 19th century. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Free admission.
Marron Oficina da Castanha
The Trás-os-Montes region is the largest national producer of chestnuts (and one of the largest in Europe) and this is visible in its gastronomy where we have tasted this delicious fruit in the transmontane pastries, as a garnish in various dishes and even in some more gourmet proposals. What we did not expect was to try a delicious chestnut craft beer!
We did it in Marron Oficina da Castanha, an interactive interpretation center dedicated to the process of elaboration and transformation of the chestnut where it is possible not only to learn about all this but also to do a tasting of liqueurs, beer, and chestnut sweets and also buy products in their store. If you have a craving for any of the above, you should know that they have an online store.
You can visit the Marron center every day from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Admission is free. If you want to complement your visit with a tasting of liqueurs and chestnut sweets, you can book it for 5 €/person here
Praça da Sé and Sé Velha
Initially, the cathedral was designed to serve as a convent for the Poor Clare nuns, at the request of the Duke of Bragança, but it ended up as a Jesuit college, one of the most prestigious in the region. With the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Portugal, the building passed into the hands of the diocese of Miranda do Douro. The diocesan seat was transferred from Miranda do Douro to Bragança in 1764 but the diocese (always thinking big), believed that the building did not have the dimensions for a Sé and ordered the addition of a new building, converting the conventual complex and the church consecrated to St. John the Baptist and the Holy Name of Jesus into a diocesan cathedral.
The square has in its center the Cruzeiro da Sé which deserves to be contemplated in detail.
Very close to the previous one, Praça Camões was the Municipal Market in the past and is currently the stage for several events such as the Carnaval dos Caretos. It is also from this square that you can access several cultural spaces such as the Municipal Library, the Conservatory of Music, the Academy of Letters of Trás-os-Montes, the Adriano Moreira Library, and the Adriano Moreira Municipal Cultural Center (located in the rest of the architectural complex of the convent, recovered in 2004).
This small church was built in 1539, and its façade was covered with tiles in the 19th century. In its interior stands out its altar, carved by Manuel de Madureira, in 1682, with the central figure of the Senhora da Miséricordia.
The church can be visited daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
São Vicente Church
According to popular belief, the greatest love story in the history of Portugal – the legend of Pedro and Inês (below is a summary of this Portuguese “Romeo and Juliet”) – happened in Bragança and, more specifically, in this church, the Igreja de São Vicente. Apparently, it was here, in the church of São Vicente, that D.Pedro I secretly married Inês de Castro and a tile panel on the north façade of the church recalls this union.
We do not know if the secret union is true but what we believe is that for this reason alone it is worth a visit and, in addition, the church (and, above all, its roof) is very beautiful.
The legend of Pedro and Inês: Prince D. Pedro I of Portugal (son of King D. Afonso IV) and Inês de Castro, the lady-in-waiting of D. Constança (with whom D. Pedro I contracted an arranged marriage) fell madly in love and lived a forbidden romance. When the king found out, he had Inês de Castro exiled and expelled from the court. Before this happened, D. Constança died and Pedro and Inês felt free to live their love story, even believing that they married in secret to make their relationship official here, in Bragança, in the Igreja de S. Vicente. They had children and lived happily for 10 years until King D. Afonso IV ordered the murder of Inês and their children in Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra. Legend has it that D. Pedro I never forgave his father and that when D. Afonso IV died and D. Pedro I was crowned king, he would have exhumed the body of Inês and ordered a funeral procession through the streets of Coimbra with all the honors of the nobility and then crowned her queen of Portugal, forcing all members of the court to kiss the hand of her corpse. Inês de Castro is known in Portugal as the woman who, after death, was queen.
São Francisco Church and Convent
This huge 13th-century building (rebuilt on a pre-existing medieval structure), was initially a convent, which underwent several renovations over the years. Later, the conventual area came to be adapted for the installation of the military hospital, and today part of the building is used as the Arquivo Distrital de Bragança.
National Railway Museum of Bragança
Located in the old building where trains used to sleep after traveling along the winding railroad line of Tua, this museum takes us back in time and exhibits more than two hundred pieces that were part of the daily life of thousands of passengers and railroad workers in their day.
We were very impressed by the cabinet displaying old train tickets and carriages transformed into authentic interactive exhibition rooms where you can learn more about the “Linha do Tua”, considered one of the most beautiful in Portugal.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Admission is free.
There are two other museums in the city that we have not visited but that you may find interesting:
- Centro Ciencia Viva: ideal if you go with children, this museum is located in a former electricity production plant and has an interactive exhibition dedicated to science, geological and biological heritage of the region as well as energy, environment, and recycling. Open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is 2,50€/person (1€ for children under 6 years old).
- Centro de Memoria Forte S. João de Deus: due to its strategic position, Bragança had a very important role in the defense of the Portuguese borders and the fort S. João de Deus was built precisely to reinforce the defensive system of the city after the restoration of independence in 1640. This museum has an interactive space where it talks about the military presence in the city. Open from Monday to Friday from 08:30h to 17:30h. Free admission.
Urban Art in the Center of Bragança
Bragança has art for all tastes and if you like street art, here you can find more than 50 works of art in its streets.
As part of the Sm’arte-Street Art Festival of Bragança, several national and international artists have been invited to fill the streets of Bragança with their art. For example, if you like Bordalo II know that you have three of his works in the city: Gineta, Camaleão and Javali. More info about all the works of Street Art of Bragança in this link
Corredor Verde (Green Corridor)
Walk along the Fervença river through which you can reach the Centro Ciência Viva de Bragança (ideal to go with children), the Casa da Seda, the viewpoint of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade or the Urban Park of the city.
Surroundings of Bragança
While it is true that the city of Bragança was a surprise, it was in its surroundings that we found our favorite spots of the trip. If you have time, do not hesitate to spend a couple of days in some of these natural gems and charming villages of the municipality.
Rio de Onor
We started this transmontane journey in Rio de Onor, just as one of my favorite writers, José Saramago (Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998), chose to begin his “Journey to Portugal“. As soon as you arrive in this village you understand why it has been chosen as one of the 7 wonders of Portugal. Around here, “time is in no hurry” as the kind Paulo, our host in the beautiful Casa da Portela where we stayed, told us.
Its name comes from the river that runs through it and in its emblematic narrow streets of schist houses it is understood that we are a step away from Spanish lands (from Rihonor de Castilla) because you never know if who you cross will greet you in Portuguese, Castilian or even in Rihonorês (its own dialect) but rest assured that there will. be a greeting, in whatever language or dialect it is. In reality, these two towns are “the same”, separated by a virtual border (although very physical and real after the Carnation Revolution and recently, at the beginning of the pandemic). Their inhabitants refer to both areas as “aldeia de cima” and “aldeia de baixo” (village above and village below).
It is located 26 km from Bragança and is characterized by its communitarianism, a trait that persists to this day where the oven, the mills, the agricultural land, and even the herds are shared among its people.
It is, therefore, a special village, as already told by Jorge Dias in his book “Rio de Onor-Comunitarismo Agro-Pastoril” of 1953, a work that attracted Saramago to begin his journey here. This trait (and pride) of being a communitarian village is also evident in the mural that we find as soon as we arrive in the village that says “Rio de Onor, Aldeia Comunitária”.
Although the best plan in Rio de Onor is to stroll through its streets and engage in conversation with its people, from whom you will learn for sure, there are several things to do in Rio de Onor. In the Casa do Touro (whose name comes from the community bull of the village) they tried to create a space of memory that takes us to the past both through photographs and videos where we can see the community work and through the soundtrack, with traditional music of bagpipes.
Also in this space, they explained to us what the vara da justiça (the justice stick) was in Rio de Onor: a wooden stick where they wrote down the fines with stripes, and the best thing, the fines were paid in wine. This stick had marked the neighbors of the village, divided by the river, and there the fines were written down. As a curiosity, the worst fine was to exclude the neighbor from the community. You can visit Casa do Touro from Wednesday to Sunday, from 12:30 to 18:30 (free entrance).
Rio de Onor also has a church from the 19th century and a photogenic bridge from the same century, over which the river flows. It is precisely here where you will find a wonderful option to stay in this special village: Casa do Rio.
It was at the beautiful bridge that we started walking towards the“Percurso do Carvalho” trail, a route between lameiros (mountain pastures), waterfalls, and viewpoints of 7.5km (2 hours approximately) passing by a centenary oak tree that gives it its name. The Carvalho Negral is a tree (an oak in this case) of public interest, and as soon as we saw it we had to embrace it. We will tell you more about this and other routes in the area in Hiking Routes
On this trail, you may be lucky enough to spot deer, foxes, javelinas, or wolves. If you want to learn more about the latter, go to the Iberian Wolf Interpretation Center (very close, in Zamora), as this is the area with the highest concentration of this animal.
When we returned from the trail, a surprise awaited us: Bruno, an expert bartender, had prepared two very transmontane cocktails for us: one without alcohol and one with alcohol based on chestnut liqueur. He also offered us to taste the regional sweet, the brigantina, made from chestnut flour, honey, and walnuts.
If you don’t have cocktails waiting for you, don’t worry, you can always do the Ronda das Adegas de Rio de Onor, a tour through the different wineries of the village where you can taste the wine of each neighbor.
We also went to the Casa das Mascaras in Rio de Onor where you can get some handmade souvenirs of one of the wonders of Portugal. By the way, Rio de Onor is the only place in Trás-os-Montes where there is a careta (woman) because, in the other transmontane villages, the characters are always men.
Thanks to Paulo from Casa da Portela for his hospitality, for sharing so much knowledge, and for that delicious homemade traditional folar (a bread with sausages from the northeast of the region, which reminded us of the hornazo from Salamanca), we can’t think of a better welcome to start a trip through Terras de Trás-os-Montes.
“Sometimes you start with what is farthest away. The natural thing would be, having been in Bragança, to see what the city has to show, and then take a look at the surroundings, a stone here, a landscape there, respecting the hierarchy of places. But the traveler brings a fixed idea: to go to Rio de Onor. It is not that he expects worlds and wonders from the visit, after all Rio de Onor is only a small village, there are no signs of Goths or Moors there, but when a man gets into reading, names, facts, impressions are always stuck in his memory, all this is elaborated and complicated until reaching, as in this case, the idealizations of the myth. The traveler did not come to do the work of an ethnologist or sociologist, no one can expect supreme discoveries from him, not even minor ones: he has only the legitimate and most human desire to see what others have seen, to set his feet where other feet have left their mark. Rio de Onor is for the traveler like a place of pilgrimage: from there someone brought a book that, being a work of science, is one of the most moving things ever written in Portugal. It is that land that the traveler wants to see with his own eyes. Nothing more.““Um Bagaço em Rio de Onor”, Journey to Portugal, José Saramago
In the small village of Varge (on the road that connects Rio de Onor with the city of Bragança) we stopped with one goal: to eat at the famous restaurant “O Careto“, which specialized in grilled meats (although they also have codfish, as they told us “because of the large number of people from Spain who visit them looking for that dish”), with good prices and abundant portions.
If you go, be sure to take a walk through the narrow streets, crossing the river with its stone bridge, and admiring the works of urban art centered on the “caretos” (which we talked about above in this guide), both next to the bridge (here exactly). During the 25th and 26th of December (Santo Estevão) the Festa dos Rapazes is celebrated in Varge, the town is full of people and “caretos“, a spectacle worth visiting.
If in the Costume and Mask Museum of Bragança we learned about the different caretos of the region, in the village of Aveleda we saw how they are born! It was in Máscaras d’Aveleda that we met Isidro Rodrigues, the artist behind these works of art, watching him create live his particular tin caretos.
The caretos are an ancestral tradition, one of the most emblematic of the region and its origins date back to pagan antiquity, when a new cycle of nature was commemorated at the Winter Solstice. The diabolical figures, a union between the world of beasts and the human world, celebrate a renewed time and the approach of spring, with the promise of abundant harvests. They are also used in the ritual of transition from adolescence to adulthood, and for this reason, some costumes carry cowbells and pig bladders as a symbol of fertility. It is not until the Christian era that the festivities were integrated into the religious calendar and the reason why they are held between the twelve days separating Christmas and Epiphany (Festas dos Rapazes) or during Carnival.
All the caretos have their particularities depending on the town where they are created and in Aveleda the raw material used is mainly tin, the chin of the careto is usually shaped like a beak and the nose is also usually pointed. The artisan Isidro told us that he is inspired by the masks of the 60s and 70s since he has not found any previous ones.
This is a visit that we highly recommend in Aveleda and one of the most beautiful memories you can bring home. A face of Aveleda already inhabits one of the walls of our house. If you want to make sure Isidro is there when you go, call him at +351 924 491 484 or send him an email to email@example.com.
Aldeia de Montesinho
This typical transmontane village, in the middle of the Serra de Montesinho, is located at almost 1000 meters of altitude and is, together with Rio de Onor, one of the most beautiful villages we passed through on this trip. The schist houses with slate roofs reminiscent of a dragon’s back are neat and flowery and sometimes even invite you to enter.
That happened to us when we passed in front of the Lagosta Perdida, a beautiful rural house of a Dutchman and a British woman who fell in love on the Scottish Isle of Skye (where he was in the lobster business) and after much traveling and searching chose Montesinho to live. The name of their incredible house where you can stay, the Lost Lobster, comes from the fact that a lobster in Montesinho can only be lost…
While you are strolling through the narrow streets of Montesinho, go to the Igreja de Santo António or, a little further in the beautiful Vinhais, to the Centro Interpretativo de Montesinho – Casa da Vila where it is possible to learn about the geological characterization and the modus vivendi of its people.
Montesinho Natural Park
One of the region’s jewels, the Montesinho Natural Park is home to 74 thousand of hectares of biodiversity starting in Quintanilha and ending in Vinhais.
On these walks, it is possible to contemplate the Park’s rich and diversified flora and fauna. It concentrates more than 70% of the mammals in Portugal and it is possible to see species such as the Iberian wolf, wild boar, fox, roe deer, or deer. Of the latter, we saw a few and we highly recommend the deer-watching activity with Aventura Norte. The best time to see them is during the rutting season (September-October), when the probability of hearing and seeing them is much higher, especially at dawn and dusk.
If you like birdwatching, the natural park of Montesinho has more than 120 species of birds that you can observe (we were left with the desire to see the black storks) and a privileged place to do so: Lama Grande, which is located in the upper part of the Serra de Montesinho, between the villages of França and Montesinho, the only place in Portugal where the alpine pipit lives and nests. In the skies above the park, you can also observe golden eagles, white wagtails, rock thrushes, grey herons, and little sandpipers.
You will also discover unique species of butterflies, a great variety of mushrooms (part of the gastronomic treasure of Trás-os Montes), and if you go in Spring, a great concentration of poppies.
The Natural Park of Montesinho surprises with its nature that leaves no one indifferent and is established as one of Europe’s largest centers of biological diversity. We recommend some stops on your way through the park:
- Barragem Serra Serrada and Barragem de Veiguinhas, which supply the water consumed in Bragança
- Casa da Lama Grande: small houses that were built to visit the park but are now abandoned. On the way, you will see some very photogenic groups of rounded stones.
- An old mill now in disuse
- A small waterfall
- Stop at any point to appreciate the marvelous views.
Miradouro da Cidadela
From the Miradouro da Cidadela, on the Estrada do Turismo, you will have one of the best views of the citadel of Brangaça, with its castle in the center. Weather permitting, it is also an excellent spot to watch the sunset.
Capela e Miradouro de São Bartolomeu and Miradouro do Castelo de Bragança
Continuing along the same street (Estrada do Turismo) we will find another area with viewpoints over the city of Bragança with excellent views, such as the Miradouro do Castelo de Bragança and the Miradouro de São Bartolomeu, the latter next to the chapel of the same name. Due to the height, the views are spectacular, almost aerial, so we can appreciate the entire city of Bragança with its citadel and castle as protagonists.
Mosteiro de Castro de Avelãs
A few kilometers from Bragança is this medieval monastery that once served as a refuge for wealthy Benedictine monks. It became extinct in the mid-16th century, but today what attracts visitors is that it is the only example of Mudejar Romanesque architecture in Portugal, evoking an Ibero-Muslim style. It is said that many of the most illustrious figures of the time when there were kings and queens in Portugal spent the night here.
Basílica de Santo Cristo de Outeiro
It is worth a visit, not only for its architectural magnitude but also because it is the only basilica in the country built in a village, not in a city. The Basilica of Santo Cristo de Outeiro was built in the 17th century and was originally a temple that, after being abandoned, was involved in a miracle when, in 1698, it is said that the image of Santo Cristo shed blood. After the miracle, a sanctuary was built and became a place of pilgrimage. In 1927 the basilica was classified as a National Monument. After contemplating the basilica, stroll through the streets and square of the village of Outeiro and, if you have the energy, climb the hill where there are still vestiges of the Outeiro Castle.
Capela de Nossa Senhora da Ribeira
If you like legends come to this chapel that tells the medieval legend that the Virgin Mary appeared here to a mute shepherdess who, after the encounter, began to speak. It is a National Monument and has been preserved over the centuries.
Serra de Nogueira
Shared by Bragança with the neighboring municipalities of Macedo de Cavaleiros and Vinhais, the Serra da Nogueira (also known as Serra da Pena Mourisca) is home to the largest area of black oak (Carvalho Negral) in Europe. It has a sanctuary, Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Serra, from which we can get excellent views of the surroundings, and also a couple of picnic areas. We leave you here a route (not official) in case you want to get to know this place better off-road.
We didn’t get to go there, but we still wanted to. If after Rio de Onor and Montesinho, you have time and more of a desire for rurality, don’t miss the village of Gimonde and its photogenic bridges: the old bridge, made of schist (and Roman origins), the new bridge, made of granite.
One more reason to fall in love with the charming villages of the Trás-os-Montes region.
Best hiking trails in Bragança
- Percurso do Carvalho Route ( PR11): one of the official routes of the “Nove Passos” (nine passes) of Trás-Os-Montes of which we talk about below, a circular route of 7km (about 2h approximately). More info and the official brochure
- Route to the summit of Montesinho mountain: circular route of approximately 8 km (with about 270 meters of elevation gain) from the village of Montesinho to the Serra Serrada dam. More info
You can see more official hiking trails in Bragança here
The Intermunicipal Community of Terras de Trás-os-Montes created a natural passport called “Nove Passos” (Nine Steps) in which you can get stamps for each of the nine hiking trails in the transmontane community. At Randomtrip we already have our first stamp in the Percurso do Carvalho and we can’t wait to come back to get the others: Percurso Sabor (in Alfândega da Fé), Percurso Quercus (in Macedo de Cavaleiros), Percurso São João das Arribas (in Miranda do Douro), Percurso Vale de Lobo (in Mirandela), Percurso Cascata da Faia da Água Alta (in Mogadouro), Percurso Vilarinho das Azenhas e Ribeirinha (in Vila Flor), Percurso Castelo de Algoso (in Vimioso) and Percurso Biospots Alto da Ciradelha (in Vinhais).
In addition to hiking, if you like mountain biking, you have the Serra de Montesinho mountain bike route, about 40 km from the village of Montesinho passing through Cova da Lua. The itinerary follows the park with the constant presence of the Sabor river.
Bragança is also the venue for several nature sports events such as the Bragança Granfondo (a cycling tour through historic villages with the support of the Caretos), the Iberian Chestnut Marathon (a mountain bike race in the Montesinho Natural Park) or the Zoelae Trail (a trail race through the land of centuries-old oak trees).
Where to stay in Bragança
As in this guide, we recommend you to visit not only the city of Bragança but also the surrounding areas of the region, we believe that the ideal is to sleep in the outskirts, in a rural area such as the wonderful village of Rio de Onor (we stayed there, in Casa da Portela), although you can also stay in the city center where there are more options.
Where to stay in downtown Bragança
- Baixa Hotel: in the historic center, double rooms with views of the castle from 45€/night
- Hotel Ibis Bragança: small and basic double rooms, from €45/night
- Casa da Praça: Also in the center of town, this renovated house with a modern style has 2 bedrooms and views of the city, from 75€/night.
- Hotel Sao Lazaro: Hotel with spacious and modern rooms, swimming pool, views of the castle and breakfast included, from 95€/night.
- Pousada de Bragança: 5 min from the center of Bragança you can sleep in a pousada with views of the castle and the city, from 160€/night.
You can see more accommodations in the center of Bragança here.
Where to stay near Bragança
- Casa da Portela (Rio de Onor): The accommodation where we stayed, is brand new and with everything you need. Double rooms from 70€/night, breakfast included. At Randomtrip we stayed in a suite with a balcony and views of the village. The bed was super comfortable and the silence is absolute at night, ideal for resting.
- Casa do Rio (Rio de Onor): traditional house for 4 people (2 rooms) with breakfast included and river view, from 140€/night
- A Lagosta Perdida (Aldeia Montesinho) double rooms with breakfast and dinner included from €130/night
- Estrela de Montesinho (outskirts of Bragança): villas for 6 people (6 bedrooms) with views, breakfast included, and shared swimming pool, from 220€/night.
- O Abel Hotel Rural (Gimonde): in the same O Abel Restaurant (which we recommend below) is this rural hotel with modern double rooms, with garden views and breakfast included, from 50€/night.
Best restaurants in Bragança
Best restaurants in downtown Bragança
- Solar Bragançano: family restaurant with traditional food, specializing in hunt dishes (wild boar, deer, partridges, …). From what we tasted, we highlight the chestnut soup, the alheira, and any of the homemade desserts.
- Alma Lusa is in the center of Bragança, a cozy space with Portuguese fusion food. If you want to escape from the meat dishes, which are traditional in this area of Portugal, this is your place, with vegetarian options and dishes to share. The service was excellent and so was everything we tried, highlighting the smoked mackerel, the pica-pau, and the cod and vegetarian bruschettas. The homemade desserts are also incredible so leave room to try some.
- Taverna do Javali: overlooking the castle of Bragança, an excellent fusion restaurant of traditional transmontane food. Ideal for snacking and sharing, we tried several dishes highlighting the brás de outono, the balls of alheira, and the hamburger.
- Restaurant O Javali: the “original” restaurant from which Taverna do Javali was born is located on the outskirts of town and serves traditional transmontane food.
- O Celta: it was recommended to us for a drink in the evening, next to the castle, although we didn’t go there.
- Tasca do Zé Tuga: also next to the castle, a traditional restaurant of the chef Luis Portugal, famous for participating and winning in the Master Chef program in its Portuguese version.
- Marron Oficina da Castanha: although it is not exactly a restaurant, it is worth the visit to taste different sweets and drinks made with chestnut (such as chestnut beer or chestnut cake), as well as to visit its chestnut museum.
Best restaurants around Bragança
- Restaurante O Careto (Varge): famous restaurant in the area where you can eat grilled meats and cod in abundance at a very good price.
- Palheiro (Rio de Onor): vegetarian restaurant, one of the few in the area, owned by a charming couple (he is from the German part of Switzerland).
- O Abel (Gimonde): traditional restaurant with a small menu, abundant food, and good prices. The star dish is the Posta Á Abel (grilled meat).
As you may have seen when reading our tourist guide of Bragança, the area has a lot to offer, so depending on the days you have available you will have to prioritize the places to visit. As a guideline, we leave you two suggested itineraries, one for a day in the center of Bragança and one for a weekend also visiting the surrounding areas.
Things to do in Bragança in one day
If we have only one day, we would dedicate it to visiting the historic center of Bragança:
- Visiting the Rua dos Museus (street of museums ) and entering the museums that we want to visit
- Walking through its citadel (Castle, Domus Municipalis…).
- Lunch break (e.g. at Taverna do Javali)
- We continued our visit by walking around Bragança to visit some of its churches.
- Visit the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje (Iberian Mask and Costume Museum)
- We visited Marron Oficina da Castanha
- If we have time, on the outskirts, we visit the Mosteiro de Castro de Avelãs and the Capela de São Bartolomeu, from where we say goodbye to Bragança with incredible views of the city.
Things to do in Bragança in 2-3 days (a weekend)
- Day 1: Arrival at rural accommodation (e.g. Casa da Portela in Rio de Onor), first walk around the village, and dinner in downtown Bragança (e.g. Alma Lusa).
- Day 2: hiking route in Rio de Onor (PR 11 passing by Carvalho Negral), walk through the streets of Rio de Onor, and lunch in O Careto (Varges). After lunch, take a walk in Varges. If possible, visit Isidro’s workshop in Aveleda to see how a careto (traditional mask) is made and even buy one as a souvenir. Afterwards, 4×4 tour through the Montesinho Natural Park with Aventura Norte (Aldeia Montesinho, reservoirs, etc.). If we have time, we can also visit Gimonde. Dinner in downtown Bragança (for example at Solar Bragançano).
- Day 3: we start early in the morning with a tour for sighting deer in freedom. After that, we dedicate the day to the center of Bragança, visiting the Rua dos Museus (street of museums ) entering the museums we want to know, and walking through the citadel (Castle, Domus Municipalis…). Lunch break (for example in Taverna do Javali) and continue the visit walking around Bragança to visit some of its churches, the Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje, Marron Oficina da Castanha and if we have time, on the outskirts, we visit the Mosteiro de Castro de Avelãs and the Capela de São Bartolomeu, from where we will say goodbye to Bragança with incredible views of the city.
Randomtip: If you have the time, take a look at the other eight nearby municipalities that make up the Terras de Trás-os-Montes region. You also have guides to explore all of them: Alfândega da Fé, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Miranda do Douro, Mirandela, Mogadouro, Vila Flor, Vimioso and Vinhais
In addition, and especially if you are a wine lover, add a couple of days to your trip to the beautiful Portuguese Douro Valley. It is next to Trás-os-Montes (in fact they are part of the same province Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) and is an incredible destination. You can take a boat trip on the Douro River with views of the vineyards, a visit to a winery where some of the best wines of the country come from (with a corresponding tasting) or visit the cave engravings of Foz Côa (the world’s largest set of paleolithic art in the open air) are some of the surprises that the region hides. Briefly our article with suggestions.
Transportation: rent a car in Bragança
If you don’t have your own car and you want to visit the surroundings of Bragança, we recommend you rent a car (either at your place of origin if you come from nearby or when you arrive in Porto if you come by plane). Car prices vary greatly depending on the company, type of car, and how far in advance you book, so ideally you should compare prices on comparison sites such as Discover Cars and try to book as far in advance as possible.
In our case, we visited Bragança together with the Douro Valley on a 10-day trip from Lisbon, so we rented a car in Lisbon using Discover Cars and chose a local company, Cael, where they gave us a new Citröen C3 (with 700km) for 19€/day and everything was perfect. Always remember to compare not only the final price but also the conditions (excess policy, what is included and what is not included in the insurance, other people’s opinions, etc.).
How much does it cost to travel to Bragança?
As always, giving a generic budget is very difficult as it depends greatly on your style of travel. What we can do is give you an orientation of prices and that you calculate your budget with them:
- Accommodation: starting from 45€/night for a room with a private bathroom or apartment with a kitchen, centrally located.
- Restaurant meals: between 10 and 25€ per person per lunch/dinner in a restaurant
- Tours: from 30€/person
You would have to add the travel costs from your place of origin, which vary greatly depending on the method of transport and distance. To calculate the budget, let’s say about 60€ round trip with gas and tolls.
In total, as a guideline, a weekend trip (two nights) to Bragança with your own car can cost between 250€ and 350€ per person (with the cheapest options of accommodation and restaurants and doing some tours).
Useful apps for traveling to Bragança
- Windy (Android / iOS / Web): essential app for our trips. It allows you to see forecasts of rain, clouds, wind, etc. to help you plan your days based on the weather (as there are places that lose a lot depending on the weather). Obviously, the forecasts are not 100% reliable. It also shows the available webcams.
- Google Maps (Android / iOS): is the one we use to save/classify all the places we want to go/have gone and as GPS in rental cars. You can see other people’s opinions of the places, photos, restaurant menus, telephone numbers to contact them, etc.
- Maps.me (Android / iOS): an application similar to Google Maps but works offline (although Google Maps can also work offline) and in many cases has information that Google Maps does not have, especially trails.
Checklist: what to pack in your backpack/suitcase for Bragança
Here is a list of must-sees that, in our opinion, you cannot forget to take with you on your trip to Bragança:
- Comfortable shoes to walk around the city or any of the surrounding trails. At Randomtrip we have these waterproof, puddle-proof shoes from Columbia.
- A water bottle like one of these to carry water with you at all times. You will avoid using single-use plastic.
- A raincoat to carry in the backpack because the weather is unstable.
- A neck warmer like one of these to protect you from the wind: it’s light, it doesn’t take up space and it can prevent a sore throat.
- Camera to record adventures in Bragança and surroundings. At Randomtrip we carry a Sony A5100 and a GoPro for underwater or aerial images in case there are activities of this type.
- Power bank: with so many photos you will spend a lot of battery, so it always comes in handy to carry a good power bank. At Randomtrip we travel with these 2 (Xiaomi and Anker), which allow us to charge our smartphones, camera, and GoPro.
- First-aid kit: our first-aid kit should include medicine against seasickness (such as biodramine for seasickness on boats, for example), antibiotics, antidiarrheals (and a probiotic to recover more quickly), antihistamines, painkillers, and antipyretics.
- Always travel with travel insurance: medical expenses, theft, or problems with your plane on a trip are unforeseen events that can cost you a lot of money, so it is ideal that you take out travel insurance. At Randomtrip we always use IATI and we recommend it. If you purchase your insurance through this link you have a 5% discount.
Thanks to the incredible travel companions with whom we shared this adventure that made it so much more fun: Paloma from Un blog de Palo where you will find this article she published about our transmontane experience and Nélio Fraga from Aventura Norte, our tireless guide who explained every step in detail and made us feel at home at all times. Hope to see you soon!
Thanks to Pablo from Viaje con Pablo for inviting Randomtrip and organizing this transmontane adventure.
Thanks to João Cameira, from the municipality of Bragança, for sharing his knowledge and passion for his land. We learned so much with you in a few hours that we wish it would extend for a few more. A special edition of Saramago’s “Viagem a Portugal” already lives at home because of you and the desire to return to Rio de Onor, too.
And, of course, thank you Trás-os-Montes and, especially, Bragança and Rio de Onor, for your people, your gastronomy, and your nature. We will be back!
Disclaimer: the Intermunicipal Community of Terras de Trás-os-Montes invited us to visit Bragança and its surroundings but all opinions and information expressed in this post are our own.
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