BRAGANÇA is the 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 well-preserved old town and soaring castle keep, sitting inside a complete circuit of forbidding granite walls. Known as the Cidadela (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.
Despite its historical weight, hit Bragança out of the short summer season and things can seem a bit dreary. Nowhere else in the north will you see just how down on its luck Portugal is, with derelict buildings and long-deserted shops dominating every street. On these days retire to the citadel, the main museum and riverside gardens, the most compelling reasons for a visit. Just to the north broods the Parque Natural de Montesinho, though you’ll need your own wheels to visit as public transport is threadbare.