Updated: Apr 26
Today I would like to invite you for a quick journey to Braga – a city in a north-western Portugal. Small, yet charming - it’s a perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
I am not the only one with this opinion, as Braga was voted Best European Destination to visit in 2021.
I understand why Braga has stolen the heart of many a tourist; you can stroll around the centre from Praça da República to Biscainhos Palace to see famous the Braga Cathedral, without crossing a busy road, as most of the centre is pedestrianised.
If that doesn’t take your breathe away you should definitely visit Bom Jesus do Monte, a UNESCO Heritage Site. A tip for jogging enthusiasts, you can run up 577 steps to admire picturesque view of Braga from the top.
But what is the plant-based scene in Braga like?
I was positively surprised with so many options being available, not only in strictly veggie restaurants, but almost every restaurant had at least one vegan option on their menu.
I’m happy to share with you my favourite places to eat.
Let’s start with a must visit place – with vegetarian and vegan buffet (vegan options are about 90% of the buffet) – Hibiscus.
Located at beautiful white Scandinavian style building. Pretty inside, it also has a light and spacious covered veranda, where you can enjoy your meal.
I love the idea of a vegan buffet and would like to see it more in other places. It’s a generous spread, where you can choose from pizza, quiches, spring rolls (with abundant delicious filling), selections of salads and warm dishes like Feijoada, Seitan and Stir Fry Veggies.
For an additional charge you can opt for a dessert, but honestly I was stuffed.
It’s a perfect place for meat eaters/ vegetarians/ vegans as you can simply pick what you like. They offer a single plate visit to the buffet or an eat all you want option, ideal if you are really hungry.
If in doubt Hibiscus friendly staff will answer all your questions.
Just a 2 minute walk from Hibiscus overlooking Praça da República and the beautiful fountains there is a café, from the famous Portuguese chain – Nata Lisboa.
It’s an ideal spot to enjoy cup of coffee (they offer plant based milk) but if hungry you can also try their vegan sandwich or salad.
Normally I would ignore such a big chain but on a sunny day it’s a perfect spot to observe people passing by and the city
If you are looking for a fully vegan café you can’t miss Semente - Art, Coffee & Plant Based Food.
It’s a lovely space with a colourful artwork on the walls.
It offers buffet lunch, but it wasn’t as generous as Hibiscus so I didn’t try it.
Their a la carte menu is based on healthy plant based dishes prepared from wholesome ingredients. I was really spoilt with the healthy option choices. Toasts, tofu nuggets, tofu lasagne, beet burger.
A big plus for their delicious sourdough bread, with hint of tanginess and an airy texture.
On the menu you will also find a great selection of smoothies.
All their dishes are freshly prepared, there is an open kitchen, so you can see everything being prepare from scratch.
Don’t count on huge portions, but personally I like it, as you have space for dessert.
My only criticism was the vanilla Panna Cotta style dessert, it had way too much setting agent, even though it tasted nice, the texture was too rubbery
If you are looking for vegan and gluten free options then you should visit Soul - Alimentação Saudável e do Bem. It’s a small café with just a few tables, and a basic interior, but it definitely makes up, for this, with an excellent friendly and smiley service.
You can choose from cakes, muffins, breads and what made me really happy a selection of sugar free desserts.
For example their Brigadeiro was made with condensed almond milk, and was absolutely divine.
I stopped there for lunch and try their quiche. Savoury custard was perfectly seasoned, rich and creamy served in beautifully baked pie crust.
All served with a nice coffee. Soul - Alimentação Saudável e do Bem would be absolutely perfect if there was some day light over there, as at the moment its inside a dark shopping complex.
Another vegan and gluten free venue which is worth to add to your list is Paladares Vegan. Hearty portions – burgers, pies, soups and stroganoff .
What I really love is the tofu and tempeh on the menu – tofu stroganoff, Tofu Fricassé, Tempeh with rice and vegetables. These are perfectly balanced meals containing proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, plenty of fiber (just what a plant based nutritionist is looking for.
It’s worth to note that if you are looking for less healthy vegan options they do serve Beyond Burgers.
If you have some space left definitely you should try their desserts – apple cinnamon pie, chocolate gateau ….plenty of vegan and gluten free delights.
Anjo Verde – I have mixed feelings about this place. Somewhere else I would probably praise it for home made vegan food, served with plenty of colourful veggies. But by Braga standards, Anjo Verde needs to raise their game.
The restaurant is located in an old building, where you can get a ‘real Portuguese feel’. For a vegetarian restaurant it has a really disappointing selection of vegan dishes.
From the starter section there is only soup and veggie pate. For the main courses there were also just a few options available.
Not having much choice, I went for veggie pate. It was not what I expected, it was a tasty dip, but was missing the substance and texture of a rich pate.
I love tofu so I tried Tofu Stroganoff by Anjo Verde. It was an unusual interpretation of this dish, as traditionally Stroganoff contains mushrooms, this version was full of veggies.
It was definitely a nutritiously balanced meal – tofu, veggies, big plus for brown rice, but not sure whether I would call it Tofu Stroganoff.
Anjo Verde might be a better choice if you are looking for vegetarian food, as vegans might be bit disappointed.
The last place on my list isn’t a vegan or vegetarian establishment, it’s an upmarket restaurant serving Portuguese food. It’s in a lovely location just 10 minute drive from the city (6 euro in an uber), high on the hillside overlooking Braga, so you have a lovely view.
I was looking for a special restaurant to celebrate and Dona Julia was just perfect. With a stunning décor in warm orange colours it’s elegant and yet makes you feel like at home, like you are a part of the place.
If you are vegan, I strongly recommend to inform them in advance (they made a special effort for me).
As a starter I chose sauté mushrooms with garlic, a hint of olive oil and parsley and voila a perfect dish.
For the main course I was recommended dairy free mushroom risotto. However, when I spotted tofu on the menu I decided to give a try. I got a very generous portion of grilled tofu with garlicky broccoli and cauliflower.
It wasn’t on the menu, but chef had prepared for me a special vegan dessert – vanilla pudding with berries. It was creamy, rich and absolutely delicious.
Was it the best vegan food I ever had ? No. Could it be more elaborate ? Yes.
However, given the chance, I would still go back to Dona Julia, as the food was prepared from scratch with wholesome ingredients, all perfectly seasoned
Simple is often the best. If you are looking for a special night out in Braga I would definitely recommend Dona Julia
Braga has a lot history, but you can easily plan a day or two on a foodie trip
If you are interested in vegan travelling check out my vegan travel to Penang in Malaysia - Vegan Penang - travel with me to Pearl of The Orient