Capela de São Bentinho, Braga

There are churches everywhere you look in Portugal.  Many are tourist destinations, like the monasteries of Jeronimos, Batalha and Alocbaça, the Sanctuary of Fatima and Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga.

The tiny São Bentinho Chapel in Braga is not on most tourist itineraries.  We stumbled upon it while exploring areas near the Braga Cathedral.  It’s a beautiful little shrine to Saint Benedict, located on a narrow lane that gets its name from the chapel.

Inside the eighteenth century chapel is a lovely painting depicting Saint Benedict, Saint Bernard and Our Lady of Light.  Capela de São Bentinho provides an intimate setting to practice your faith.

Capela de Sao Bentinho

Largo da Portagem, Coimbra

Located across from the Santa Clara Bridge, Largo da Portagem is the main square in Coimbra and a central gathering place.  The name comes from the fact that in the old days, goods coming into Coimbra from the south were taxed in the square.

The beautiful little square features the beautiful monument to Joaquim António de Aguiar, an 18th century politician and Coimbra native.  Interestingly, he was best known for signing into law an order that dissolved all church-run monasteries, convents and colleges, effectively extinguishing the great power that the church held in Portugal, turning the power over to the government instead.

Joaquim António de Aguiar

José de Guimarães Exhibit

Born in Guimarães in 1939, José de Guimarães is one of Portugal’s most important artists of contemporary art.  His art is exhibited all over the world.  The small art gallery at the Dukes of Braganza Palace is dedicated to the city’s most famous artist, and has a great selection of his work.

Art Exhibit

Sunset, Aveiro

Half of Portugal’s border is coastal and faces west.  It’s ideal for catching some gorgeous sunsets. This sunset was over the canal in Aveiro.  The moliceiros are docked for the night.  Aveiro was a great city and I look forward to returning.

Sunset on Canal

Rua Dom Paio Mendes, Braga

It was raining when we visited the cathedral  in Braga.  That’s not unusual; it rains a lot in Braga.  The street was virtually deserted when we got to the cathedral and most of the shops were closed.  We found, on our trip through Portugal, that a lot of shops close between lunch and dinner.

Rua Dom Paio Mendes is the street in front of the cathedral.  The yellow tiled building in the center caught my attention because of the strange figures on the balcony over the first floor.  I don’t know how old they are, but the figures have a kind of medieval feel.  I can imagine them as characters from the Canterbury Tales.

Braga Street Scene 3

Parque Dom Pedro Infante, Aveiro

The City Park in Aveiro is a beautiful little park just a few blocks from the canal.  There are walking paths, an Arte Nouveau bandstand, a duck pond and a wonderful azulejo covered staircase.  It’s a great place to escape the crowds around the canal and to enjoy a bit of quiet in the center of the city.

Parque Dom Pedro

Barbacan Gate, Coimbra

The Barbacan Gate, at the base of the Torre de Almedina, is pretty much all that remains of the castle walls that once surrounded Coimbra.  Between the 8th and 11th centuries, Moors and Christians took turns conquering and occupying Coimbra until, in 1064, King Ferdinand I of León and Castile took the city from the Moors for the final time.

In 1139, Dom Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, chose Coimbra as the capital of the new kingdom.  Six Portuguese kings were born in Coimbra, and the city remained the seat of Portuguese power until 1260, when Dom Afonso III chose Lisbon as his capital.

The need for castle walls to protect the city are gone.  The walls were long ago integrated into the surrounding buildings, leaving the Barbacan Gate and the Torre de Almedina as the last evidence of the castle that, for centuries, protected the city from invaders.

Today, the Barbacan Gate serves as the entrance to the traditional, and most famous, way to access the Old City and Coimbra University.  After passing through the gate, you climb the many stairs of Rua Quebra Costa, known as “the Backbreaker” for a long, arduous walk to the top of the hill.

Just inside the gate, at the bottom of Rua Quebra Costa, there’s a quiet little cafe, where it’s fun to sit outside with a beer or a glass of wine, and people-watch.   It’s one of my favorite spots in Coimbra, with the Fado de Coimbra sculpture just inside the gate, and the Tricana de Coimbra, another sculpture, a few yards farther along.  It’s a nice way to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Coimbra.

Old Gate

Câmara Municipal do Porto

Porto’s Municipal Building is a beautiful structure.  The building was originally designed by British architect Barry Parker, whose plan was approved in 1916.  After several delays and modifications of the original design, the Câmara was finally opened in 1957.  Located at the north end of Avenida dos Aliados, the Câmara is the much photographed centerpiece of Porto’s tourist district.

Camara Municipal de Porto2

Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto

This beautiful bridge, which spans the Ria Douro, was designed by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.  It has multiple levels, and is open to Metro, foot and automobile traffic.

Gustave Eiffel is most famous for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  His mark, through his work and those of his students, can be felt throughout Portugal.  Besides the Dom Luis I Bridge, the Maria Pia Bridge in Porto is an Eiffel work, as is the Eiffel Bridge in Viana do Castelo.  The Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon was designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Eiffel’s.

Ponte de Luis 1

 

Rua Quebra Costa, Coimbra

Known as “the backbreaker,” Rua Quebra Costa is a steep lane, really more a staircase, that winds its way from Torre de Almedina to the the old city and the University of Coimbra.  along the way, you pass Fado ao Centro, the Cathedral and the Machado de Castro National Museum before reaching the university at the top.  Rua Quebra Costa is quite photogenic.  I especially love the Tricana de Coimbra sculpture that sits on a wall near the bottom of the lane.

Rua Quebra Costa is not a road to take if you’re in a hurry.  Take your time and enjoy the sights.

Rua Quebra Costa