Braganca Tourist Attractions
The attractive old town of Bragança (Altitude: 670m/2,198ft), the Roman Iuliobriga, lies in a pleasantly cool setting on a hill above the valley of the Rio Sabor, in the extreme northeast corner of Portugal.The town is the original seat of the House of Bragança, which ruled in Portugal from 1640 to 1910 (for the last part of the period in the female line of Saxe-Coburg-Bragança) and in Brazil (as Emperors) from 1822 to 1889.As capital of the district of Bragança (area 6,608sq.km/2,550sq.mi; pop. 185,000) it is the cultural and economic heart of the surrounding countryside, which is mainly given over to farming, although in the town the traditional local craft of silk-weaving still flourishes.TownscapeThe medieval upper town is encircled by fortified walls about 2m/6.5ft thick, while the newer lower town boasts many fine burghers' houses and noble mansions of the Renaissance period, with handsome granite facades.
In the middle of the newer part of the town, in the long Largo da Sé, stands the Cathedral, the Sé de Sao Joao Baptista, originally a Jesuit church, a plain and sturdy Renaissance building with the air of a secular building rather than a church. The aisleless interior is partly clad with azulejos. The choir has reticulated vaulting with bosses bearing coats of arms. The sacristy has a coffered ceiling and painted panels with scenes from the life of St Ignatius Loyola on the walls.
Outside the main entrance to the Cathedral is a pelourinho (pillory column) of 1689, the symbol of municipal authority.
Museu do Abade de Baçal
From the Cathedral, Rua do Conselheiro Abilio Beça leads to the former Bishop's Palace, now occupied by the interesting Museu do Abade de Baçal (archeology, fine art, folk traditions, handicrafts).
Address: Rua Abílo Beça, nº 27, 5300-011 Bragança, Portugal
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 10am-6pm; Sat: 10am-6pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Anniversity of the Revolution - Portugal (Apr 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), National Day - Portugal (Jun 10), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Republic Day - Portugal (Oct 5), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Independence Day - Portugal (Dec 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Corpus Christi - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €2.00, Child 13 & under FREE
Disability Access: Partial facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
This large 12th C fortress, which stands high above the town, was built by King Sancho I.
Capela de Sao Bartolomeu
The Capela de Sao Bartolomeu, 5km/3mi south of Bragança, offers an unusually fine panoramic view over the town and castle.
Montezinho Natural Park
The Montezinho Natural Park extends north of Bragança to the Spanish border. It covers an area of 75,000ha/187,000 acres and is still relatively unspoiled and well away from major roads.There are 91 villages in the park, many of them now deserted except for the new houses. Most of the young people have moved away to the towns, and the province of Ttás-os-Montes ranks as one of the poorest regions in Portugal. The park derives its name from the hamlet of Montezinho, which lies a good 20km/12.5mi north of Bragança; its population today is only 50. The nature park contains hills with stony plains, forests of oak, fir and chestnut, as well areas of boulders and gentle slopes covered in heath and gorse.The farmers use the narrow valleys to grow corn, potatoes, vegetables and vines. Almost all of them also own sheep and goats, and the demand for fresh pasture is one of the main problems faced by the park administrators. Fires are constantly being deliberately lit to provide fresh pasture land; the pine trees burn like tinder, destroying plant life with the result that the roots of bushes can no longer prevent erosion of the soil.The park administrators own three simple shelters (casas abrigos) in the region, and these can be hired by walkers by prior arrangement (details can be obtained from the tourist information office in Bragança).
Castro de Avelas
6km/4mi northeast of Bragança, in the village of Castro de Avelas, are the remains of a 12th C. Benedictine abbey. Parts of the abbey church, the only brick built church in Portugal, have been incorporated in the present parish church.
Torre de Moncorvo
The ancient little town of Torre de Moncorvo (Altitude: 390m/1,279ft), or Moncorvo for short, is situated in a vast dry landscape dotted with fruit groves and vegetable plots in the north of the Serra do Roboredo (800m/2,625ft; iron mining), roughly halfway between Bragança and Guarda. Its "cobertas", or sugared almonds, are a local delicacy.TownscapeThe town has a number of handsome old houses bearing coats of arms. The 19th C. town hall stands on the site of one of King Dinis's castles.
The parish church is a 16th C. three aisled Renaissance building. Inside there are beautiful talha dourada and a fine Gothic triptych of carved wood with scenes from the life of the Virgin's parents, St Anne and St Joachim. The choir has a coffered ceiling.
Igreja da Misericórdia
Worth seeing is the Igreja da Misericódia, near the Largo do Castelo, which has an exceptionally fine Gothic granite pulpit.
Vila Nova de Foz Coa
The village of Vila Nova de Foz Côa (alt. 439m/1,440ft; pop.2,500) is about 16km/10mi south west of Torre de Moncorvo and has a Manueline church (remodeled in the 18th C.) and a fine pelourinho. The town hit the headlines when some unique prehistoric paintings came to light in the course of a giant project to build an artificial reservoir. The rock paintings will eventually be accessible to the public.
Freixo de Numao
About 18km/11mi farther west from Vila Nova de Foz Côa there is a Romanesque church and some interesting castle ruins in the village of Freixo de Numao.