BRAGANCA TOURISM GUIDE
An ancient medieval town, mysterious stones, and one of Europe's wildest regions
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Surrounded by a long fortified wall, Bragança retains a well-preserved
medieval center. It is the isolated capital of the province of Tras-os-Montes,
an area known for its remoteness and antiquity.
Scattered around the province are some 200 "porcas" or "berrões," granite pigs or boars dating from the Iron Age, some up to 2m (6ft) in length. Their intended purpose is not known, although most likely they were involved in fertility cults practiced by the local Celtic tribes. Many of them now decorate village squares, as is the case in Bragança, used as the base of a Gothic pillory standing by the 12th century castle. The 33m (108ft)-high castle keep contains a Military Museum displaying medieval suits of armor and weapons.
Among the former residents of the castle was Dona Leonor, wife of Dom Jaime, Duke of Bragança, who imprisoned her inside on suspicion of adultery. He later had her murdered in the town of Vila Viçosa, and today one of the castle's towers has the name of "Torre da Princesa," or "Princess Tower," in her honor.
By the castle is a clutch of whitewashed houses, the 18th century Church of Santa Maria (with a colorful painted ceiling depicting the Assumption of the Virgin), and the unusual 13th-century Domus Municipalis, probably the oldest town hall in Portugal and one of the few surviving Romanesque civic buildings in Europe.
To the north is the appealing Church of São Bento with a Moorish-style vaulted ceiling, and to the west is the Church of São Vicente, where Dom Pedro and Inês de Castro were secretly married in 1354 (see our Coimbra page for their tragic love story).
Further west is the 16th century Bishop's Palace, now the distinguished Abade de Baçal Museum. Its collection includes Celtic art from the surrounding area, ancient stone porcas, tombstones, milestones, paintings, and local costumes.
Bragança makes a good base for visitors exploring the Montesinho Natural Park, one of the wildest regions in Europe.
Time has stood still in this area, with many paths dating from the Visigothic empire (many of the villages such as Fresulfe and Sernande still bear distinctly Germanic names), and wolves, foxes, and golden eagles among the around 9,000 people scattered around small villages.
The villages of RIO DE ONOR and MIRANDA DO DOURO on the border with Spain have been the subject of many anthropological studies and provide a fascinating insight into the local way of life. The people have developed their own dialects mixing Portuguese and Spanish, and ancient traditions still flourish such as the use of bagpipes in the folklore, Celtic associations similar to those of Scotland and Ireland. It is also not uncommon to see women washing clothes in the river or donkeys as a means of transport.
Regular buses run to Vila Real, Chaves, Viseu, Porto, and Lisbon. Those who choose to stay overnight, have the choice of a pousada nearby, with views to the castle.
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AND TAGUS VALLEY
Castelo de Vide
Vila Real de Santo António
BEIRAS (CENTRAL PORTUGAL)
Figueira da Foz
Serra da Estrela
PORTO AND DOURO
Gerês National Park
Ponte de Lima
Ponte da Barca
Viana do Castelo