Minho cuisine is one of the best known in Portugal. It’s great with a good glass of local vinho verde.
A typical meal in Minho can and should start with some caldo verde (kale soup), made with kale, potatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil. It is usually served with some chorizo and broa, a typical corn bread.
In Braga, try the Narcisa salt cod dish (also known as bacalhau à Braga), with sliced potato chips and generous portions of onion: it’s a must! Most restaurants have it on their menu. But this is no wonder, as Minho is the land of salt cod, cooked in so many ways.
The sarrabulho porridge, made with rice and various types of meat, is also very popular (and cooked to perfection) in Minho. In Guimarães, pay tribute to D. Afonso Henriques by ordering a dish named after the first king of Portugal. The Naco à Conquistador (Conqueror – the king’s nickname) is made using rump beef, one of the best veal cuts.
In Minho, the sweets will blow you away: if you have the fortitude, try the Abade de Priscos pudding – an egg-filled custard for the fearless, toucinho-do-céu – a rich egg-yolk custard laced with sweet pumpkin, almonds and cinnamon – or fidalguinhos de Braga – dry biscuits to eat with tea. Eggs are the star of all these dishes!
If you happen to be in Braga, after dinner visit the century-old Café A Brasileira, a hallmark in the historical centre of town (situated in Largo Barão de S. Martinho). As the slogan says, “The best coffee is from A Brasileira”. Many agree and just can’t resist having some drip brewed coffee.
Close by, you will find Theatro Circo de Braga theatre, a relatively new theatre hall. Founded in 1915 and recently refurbished, it is one of the most beautiful Portuguese theatres. Its programme offers plays, concerts, movies and dancing, held in a large main hall (seating 899) and other smaller halls.
If you want to feel the pulse of the emerging creativity of Braga (and of the country), Velha-a-Branca is the place to go. This cultural cooperative is managed by volunteers and its programme includes talks, book launches, poetry sessions, exhibitions and workshops. The association is housed in an 18th century building with small, cosy rooms. In the summer, you can enjoy the outdoor garden, which has a belvedere overlooking the city.
In Guimarães, the Vila Flor Cultural Centre is a multipurpose facility housed in the 18th century Vila Floor Palace. The café-concert is a good starting point for a night out. You can listen to a small concert while you have a drink or a coffee, or simply enjoy a fine selection of music. The other rooms of this cultural facility host concerts by artists from all over the world, exhibitions, along with plays and dancing.
The centre of Guimarães also has an old movie theatre that has been refurbished and transformed into the São Mamede Arts Centre, with three floors where there is a concert hall, an art gallery, a café-concert hall, and a library.
From one bar to the next
The renovation of the historical centre of Guimarães (classified as Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2001) was boosted by the European Capital of Culture in 2012, which brought a new zest to nightlife in town. There are plenty of bars from Largo da Oliveira across to Praça de Santiago, in the historical part of town. As most of these bars are quite small, people socialize out in the streets.
Largo da Oliveira is the largest square in the old part of town. Here you have Rolhas & Rótulos, a bar serving various à la carte Portuguese beers, cheese, smoked ham and sausages. The balcony overlooking the olive tree is always quite crowded.
Every Friday and Saturday the São Mamede Arts Centre turns into a disco, Clube 0 – where you can dance on the stage of the old movie theatre to electronic music. If you’re a rock fan, go to El Rock, a pioneer of la movida in the historical part of town. Situated at Praça de Santiago, this rock bar has been around for more than 20 years. The bars outside this historical part of town close later.
Braga wasn’t chosen as the 2012 European Capital of Culture by accident. It has the youngest population of any district capital in Portugal, and the University of Minho is partly to “blame” for that. So it’s no wonder that bars are found all around the university campus.
If you’re into alternative music, you can always go downtown to Insólito or, close by, to Sardinha Biba, where lots of people go to dance to the sound of Latin music or house.
How to get there
There are several direct connections to Porto. If you choose to fly low cost, you can fly from London (Stansted and Gatwick), Birmingham, Paris (Beauvais, Orly, Vatry and Charles de Gaulle), Marseille, Dole, Lille, Strasbourg, Tours, St. Etienne, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat, Valencia, Milan Bergamo, Roma Ciampino, Brussels (Charleroi and Zaventem), Eindhoven, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Geneva, Basel/Mulhouse, Dortmund, Frankfurt Hahn, Karlsruhe Baden, Nuremberg, Hamburg Lübeck , Munich Memmingen and Dusseldorf Weeze.
In the summer, low cost companies fly from Liverpool, Dublin, Bologna, Toulouse, Clermont Ferrand, Carcassonne, La Rochelle, Limoges, Rennes, Las Palmas, Palma de Majorca, Tenerife and Bremen.
Traditional airlines fly to Porto from London (Gatwick and Heathrow), Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Frankfurt, and Paris Orly, Caracas, Geneva, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Milan Malpensa, Zurich, New York, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brussels Zaventem, Rome Fiumicino, Toronto, and Luanda. In the summer, you can also fly from Montreal, Brest and Brive.