Braga, the third largest city in Portugal, is home to a great number of cultural attractions. First in abundance are religious edifices – churches, cathedrals, monasteries. In fact, Braga has the highest concentration of religious buildings in any Portuguese city. The first cathedral of Portugal was constructed here in 1089 and was the seat of power of Pedro de Braga, the first bishop of Portugal. And though we do enjoy a good cathedral (Bom Jesus from a previous post, for example) we also wanted to investigate the beautiful palaces and homes that are within the city center, so we chose 3 destinations over the course of 3 days.

Destination #1 – Raio Palace

Built in 1754-55 according to the design of André Soares, it was originally the residence of the
family of João Duarte Faria. The main entry door and balcony are cited as excellent examples of a baroque architecture style that is distinctive to Braga.
The central 3-story dual staircase.
As we head up we get a close look at the decoration on the upper portion of the walls which, to our surprise and delight, are not papered but painted. We were a bit taken with the top design on the tile going up the staircase.
To the top I go, as I admire the blue and white azulejo tiles that are a Portuguese classic. These glazed blue ceramic tiles from the 14th century decorate Portuguese cities.
A closer look at one of the panels on a mural wall. Found widely in churches, public buildings, and in the homes of wealthy families, these murals were used to tell stories.
Being handprinted, the joining of the tiles could be a challenge. These two angels were on either side of one of the murals. Oops.
Before leaving we took a quick look around the bottom floor which had a small gallery featuring a collection of works from local artists. This glass panel was a favorite.
Sometimes the functional commentary is as good as the exhibits.
That day’s lunch was at Rāo-Chā-Kao a fabulous spot Bob found for us. Reading the menu I had this thought: Ordering from a Thai menu in Braga is a parallel experience to ordering from a Thai menu in Reno. I still am not quite sure what I am getting until I see it arrive.

Destination #2 – Biscainhos Palace

We started out with lunch at Meze: Portuguese Toast (front; there is a delicious locally-made sausage patty hiding under those eggs), Marinated Chicken Hot Bowl, and green wine. We were really happy to find this place as it meant we could eat in the late afternoon. Traditionally, restaurants in Braga are open from noon – 3p and then reopen around 7:30-8p.
Photo taken from the first floor of the museum. Typical Braga: a mashup of two churches, a traffic triangle, modern sculpture, shops, and a busy bus stop. A couple of blocks away was our lunch spot, and the building I am standing in is a 17th C Baroque palace. The front of the palace was undergoing some renovations so not a great photo opportunity.
There were, however, lots of lovely views in the walled gardens.

Time to go indoors. The palace was in private hands for over 300 years and gives a glimpse of the lifestyle of Portuguese nobility.
The interiors are known for their plasterwork featuring hand-painted motifs.
The tiles, the painted border on the upper wall, the tea service!
To celebrate all that deliciousness (and to honor our grandson, Harper, who was celebrating his 5th birthday that day) we stopped by the gelato stand on our walk back to the flat. Kinder Bueno scoop for Bob and a mint chip cone for me.

Destination #3 – Nogueira da Silva Museum

This museum was founded by a donation given to the University of Minho in 1975 by António Augusto Nogueira da Silva, who made his fortune in commerce and finance. The original buildings that were incorporated into the current museum were built in the 50s and 60s and the architect, Rodrigues Lima, was given the direction to create a space that would serve as a cultural destination. The museum houses various collections including furniture, sculpture, paintings, tapestry, jewelry, and porcelain. There is also a gallery that exhibits works of University of Minho students and instructors, a small performance space, and an outdoor garden and fountains.

One of the first things to catch my eye was this luminous saucière. In the form follows function department it is not very successful as that bowl wouldn’t hold much sauce. But the shape is swoon-worthy. [Pardon me the aside, but if you really want to see some gorgeous silver I invite you to visit Reno and I will take you to see the Mackay silver collection in the Keck Museum at UNR.]
This piece, on the other hand, is a perfect example of function. You don’t even need a spoon. (Am I developing a thing for gravy boats?)
This one’s for my NoVa book group gang and comes with a reading recommendation: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.
A closer look at the intricacy of the carving and those laughing faces. They make me smile in return.
The lower level patio and tiled wall.
The upper gardens and fountain.
And one charming sculpture.
From two different sides.
No meal today…just coffee near the Praça and musical selections by an itinerant musician. Again, this is very typical for Braga. It is the rare day we don’t see entertainment somewhere in this pedestrian-only historic center. Destinations, food, and enjoyment less than 10 minutes from our front door!