This Small Town Was Just Named Europe's Next Emerging Destination — Here's Why

Braga, a small city in northern Portugal, is home to an array of stunning sites.

<p>THEGIFT777/Getty Images</p>

THEGIFT777/Getty Images

Portugal is having a major moment in the (Iberian) sun. In 2023, the smaller European nation welcomed more than 30 million visitors, a tourism record for the country. But, it's not just its major cities of Lisbon and Porto that are getting their time in the limelight. The World Travel Awards announced its winners and included Braga as the winner of Europe's Leading Emerging Tourism Destination for 2024.

Located about an hour north of Porto, the city has just about 200,000 full-time residents. It's a destination regarded as one of the nation's religious centers, as it's home to the Braga Cathedral, built in the 12th century, making it the oldest in the country. As Visit Portugal explains on the city's website, the parents of Portugal's first King, D. Henrique and D. Teresa, are buried inside.

Home to numerous other religious sites, Visit Portugal also notes that Braga is a spectacular place to visit during both the Holy Week Celebrations (this year between March 24 – March 30) and the São João Festival, celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, on June 24.

Travelers can also visit the nearby Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, located just outside Braga, which is often regarded as one of the most photographed churches in the world thanks to the stunning steps that weave their way to the top of a hill.

But, the religious sites are just the beginning. There's also the gorgeous Santa Barbara Garden, a public garden open year-round, located next to the Archbishop's Palace. Travelers can also walk under the Arco da Porta Nova, which marks the entryway to the historic center of town.

Visitors can snap a million and one images of the Palácio do Raio for their Instagram accounts, which showcase some fantastic blue tiles on the exterior, known locally as azulejos. The 250-year-old building was the one-time personal home of famed knight João Duarte de Faria. It's now open to tours for those who wish to come and see the interior of this classic Baroque building.

Getting to and from Braga is also a relative breeze. There's a train that goes directly from Lisbon to Braga, taking a little over three hours to complete the trip. Driving from Porto takes just about 45 minutes, meaning you can visit the next great emerging city in no time at all.

Related: The Best Times to Visit Portugal, According to a Local

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