BRAGANÇA is the fascinating historic capital of Trás-os-Montes, settled since the very earliest times but acquiring a regional, and later national, importance from the twelfth century onwards. It’s this medieval period that gave Bragança its distinctive hillside profile of a beautifully preserved old town and soaring castle keep, sitting inside a complete circuit of forbidding granite walls. Known as the Cidadela, or “citadel”, it’s the embodiment of the town’s dynastic history under the sway of the dukes of Bragança – the extended family of Portuguese kings and emperors who ruled from 1640 (following independence from Spain) until the advent of the Republic in 1910.
It used to take an age to reach Bragança (and still does on the mountain road, the N103, from Chaves), but the fast IP4 highway from Vila Real easily puts the modern city on any northern Portuguese itinerary, while tourists from across the border in Spain are common. It’s a pleasant place, despite the suburban eruption all around, and while the citadel, main museum and riverside gardens provide the most compelling reasons for a visit, the outlying Parque Natural de Montesinho is an additional draw. It’s certainly worth staying a night or two, especially to experience early evening in the Cidadela, when the tourists have gone for the day and peace returns to the ancient streets.