Braga, Portugal, Mar 9 (EFE).- Portugal’s spiritual hub, the historic city of Braga, has been restyling its image as a “young, vibrant city with a unique blend of history, tradition and innovation,” its mayor tells Efe.
With over 40 churches and home to the country’s oldest cathedral, Braga has earned its nickname as the Rome of Portugal.
“Traditionally, Braga was linked to all the religious features that we have in the city,” mayor Ricardo Rio says, but the city also boasts “a very active cultural life, great international concerts, congresses and sports initiatives.”
In recent years the number of hotel stays has doubled and Braga was chosen the best European destination in 2021 and second best in 2019, by a Brussels-based organization that promotes culture and tourism in Europe.
Founded as Bracara Augusta, Braga “has been a city since Roman times,” Filomena Alves, head of tourism for Braga says.
“It is monumental, creative and welcoming, it has history, heritage, economy, youth and good gastronomy,” she adds.
Braga’s jewel is the Bom Jesús do Monte sanctuary, which UNESCO added to its World Heritage list in 2019.
“From the entrance to the portico, it tells the whole story of the life of Jesus, which culminates in the church,” Alves explains.
The monumental complex also has Portugal’s first-ever elevator which is powered by water and represents “the beginning of industrial engineering” in the country, the experts adds.
Braga’s Cathedral of Santa María, the oldest in Portugal, is a “central point of development for the entire city,” according to Alves.
The city is also a key transit point for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, a vast network of routes that lead to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Braga offers one of the most atmospheric and important Holy Week processions in Portugal. The torch-lit Senhor Ecce Homo procession sees barefoot penitents, known as farricocos, wearing dark tunics, totter through the city’s medieval streets in eerie silence.
Tourists also have a rich program of cultural events to enjoy and the city’s Altice Forum, the “second most important venue in the country,” has had international icons like Rosalía, Dua Lipa and Bryan Adams grace its halls, Ana Machado, one of the managers of the venue, tells Efe.
“We present ourselves internationally as an authentic city,” mayor Rio says.
“We want a high quality of life for residents and that visitors can also enjoy,” he adds.EFE