The walled Cidadela is the obvious place to begin, and lies a fifteen-minute walk up the hill from the modern city centre. The hill above Bragança has been settled in one form or another since prehistoric times; the Romans probably had a small fortification here; and the current walled town and castle have stood since at least the twelfth century and formed the strategic base of the early Bragança dynasty. You can get up onto the walls any time of day, but don’t let small children run around freely as there are long drops and no handrails.
Walk up through the main gate of the Cidadela, and at the very top of the cobbled street stands the curious, pentagonal, multi-windowed fifteenth-century council chamber known as the Domus Municipalis. Its meetings – for solving land disputes and the like – took place on the arcaded first floor; below was a cistern, where springwater was kept. Next to the Domus, the Igreja de Santa Maria features a fine painted ceiling, while the terrace of the café opposite offers great views of the Domus courtyard.
Torre de Menagem and the Museu Militar
Completely dominating the citadel is the restored castle keep, the Torre de Menagem, which now houses a skippable Museu Militar, although it’s worth paying the entrance fee for the fine views from the top. At night, the whole fortification is floodlit and imposes itself even more dramatically upon the entire city. Round the other side of the keep, meanwhile, you’ll find an ancient granite pig that forms part of a rather odd pelourinho (stone pillory).
Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje
A few steps down the hill from the Torre de Menagem, there are many reminders of the pagan ways of the wild north in the modern Museu Ibérico da Máscara e do Traje, which highlights the extraordinary ritual masks and ribboned costumes habitually seen in local festivals held between December 25 and January 9. For anyone who has travelled in other mountain areas of Europe, especially in central Europe and Eastern Europe, these costumes made out of anything from strips of newspaper to horsehair will be strangely familiar. The weird-and-wonderful garb displayed at the museum hails from both sides of the border, with one floor dedicated to the Bragança area, another to the region around the Spanish town of Zamora.