Lonely Planet Writer

Portugal's happiest city is in the running for European Best Destination 2019

Listed in 2016 as the number one city in Portugal with the best quality of life (the third one in Europe), Braga is the only Portuguese city on the run to become European Best Destination 2019. Public voting ends on 5 February and should Braga win, it would join previous Portuguese winners Lisbon (2010) and Porto (2012, 2014, and 2017).

Rua Do Souto- traditional pedestrian shopping street in the São João do Souto district of Braga. Image by ©Marek Stepan/Getty Images

With a population of close to 200,000 people, Braga has been collecting other titles and awards in recent years, such as the European Youth Capital in 2012 and listed as Unesco Creative City for Media Arts in 2018. The combination of historical knowledge with the capacity to adapt to modern times is what sets Braga apart.

Bom Jesus church in Braga. Image by ©Lev Levin/Shutterstock

When asked what makes this city 29 miles north of Porto so appealing to both locals and visitors, the Braga-born and -based travel bloggers behind Tworistas, Ricardo and Catarina, told Lonely Planet that “[their] city is old and rich in history and a well-established religious tourism destination, but it’s also the youngest city in Portugal. We have one of the best universities in the country, and we’re very dedicated to arts and culture.”

Braga Portugal’s religious capital. Image by Elena Pueyo/Getty Images

“Braga is growing and focusing more on tourism”, they added. Of all the ingredients that make up the city’s strong cultural identity, they highlight “a vast group of typical expressions from the Minho region and a variety of local dishes not to miss, particularly the salted cod-based recipe bacalhau à Braga”.

After feeling the pulse of this city in Minho at a glance, explore Braga’s top historical sites that include the 12th century cathedral (the first of Portugal), the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus (one of the top religious landmarks in the country) and 18th century palace-turned-museum, Museu dos Biscainhos.