Even though it’s the third-largest city in Portugal, Braga feels like a small town. I mean that in a good way.
The historic center can be crossed on foot in about 15 minutes, and yet Braga is packed with things to do and see. In 2019, it was ranked second in a competition for the Best European Destination, losing out only to Budapest.
Now that Portugal has come out of lockdown, Nick and I recently took our first overnight trip away from our home base in Lisbon. We headed up north to Braga and spent five days exploring the city.
I was impressed to see that all the restaurants, museums, and other public spaces we entered asked us to sanitize our hands at the door. One bookstore even had a special mat for customers to sanitize their shoes.
And everyone in Portugal complies with the requirement to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. With so many precautions being taken, I felt pretty comfortable taking this short domestic trip to Braga.
However, the situation where you are may well be very different. Please act responsibly and refrain from traveling, even locally, if the pandemic is not under control where you live.
Vegan Braga Dining Guide
For vegan visitors to Braga, the good news is that you won’t have to search very far to find a vegan meal there. There are five fully vegan restaurants in Braga and six lacto-ovo vegetarian restaurants.
Keep in mind, though, that some of these are a bit far from the city center, and some are open only for lunch. Also, the veggie restaurants in Braga start to all look the same after a while.
Not that the food is bad; most of my meals in Braga were pretty tasty. But Braga’s vegan scene reminds me of the Lisbon vegan scene four or five years ago. Meaning, most of the vegetarian restaurants serve healthy food in a buffet or cafeteria-style setup.
Vegan junk food hasn’t really arrived there yet, apart from a couple of pizzerias that offer pizza with vegan cheese, and one vegan restaurant that serves the Beyond Burger and hot dogs made with Beyond Sausages.
But I saw enough animal rights signs and graffiti around the city to know that there’s a vibrant vegan activist community here, so I’m sure the vegan junk food will come soon enough. In the meantime, follow this vegan Braga guide to enjoy some delicious and healthy vegan meals.
Vegan Braga Restaurants
Semente – Art – Coffee & Plant-Based Food
This restaurant is beautifully decorated and has a really nice atmosphere. It’s in an old, historic building, and I especially loved sitting in the stone seats on either side of the window. Even if they weren’t all that comfortable.
Like most vegan restaurants in Braga, Semente offers a buffet for lunch that includes a bowl of soup, a cup of tea, and one plate of food. Note that it’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet.
In addition to the buffet, you can also order pizza, bruschetta, pancakes and a few other items from the à la carte menu. If I had realized how many buffet meals I would be eating in Braga, I would have ordered something different.
But since this was only the second meal of our trip, I ordered the buffet. I should clarify that all of the restaurants in Braga are taking special measures to combat COVID-19, so buffets are no longer self-service.
Instead, the food is shielded behind plexiglass, and the staff members prepare your plate for you. There were only a few dishes to choose from here, but all of them were pretty good. I also ordered a chocolate and coconut cake for dessert, which satisfied my sweet tooth.
Hibiscus has a similar buffet setup, with the food plated up by the staff behind plexiglass. Although here, you can choose between the mini plate, the maxi plate and all you can eat. All three options come with soup and tea.
They also have Beyond Burgers and hot dogs, but unfortunately, they were out of burgers the day we went. You can see which dishes will be included in the buffet each day by checking their Instagram stories.
When we visited, there was quite a bit to choose from, with four starters, three salads and four main dishes. Desserts are also available but are not included in the buffet. Everything we tasted was really good, except for the coleslaw, which was quite bitter.
On weekends, they stay open for dinner and serve lasagna. The photos of their lasagna look amazing, so I’d love to go back and try it one day.
Hibiscus is located right on the edge of the historic city center. Even though it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Santa Barbara Gardens and other central attractions, when relaxing in the restaurant’s outdoor seating area you feel quite far removed from the city. The indoor dining area is pleasant too.
We ate our very last meal in Braga at Soul, and I was sad that we hadn’t discovered it earlier. Though still very much focused on healthy food, this cozy place offers something different than the usual Braga buffet.
It’s more for snacks, but you can combine a few of these small dishes to make a complete meal. The Brazilian guy who served us was super friendly and eager to please. Before we left, he asked us which dishes we liked best, and which ones could be improved.
Highlights for me included the toast topped with hummus, arugula, mushrooms and caramelized onions, and the pão de queijo. The latter is a special Brazilian bread made from cheese and cassava.
Soul’s pão de queijo was just as good as the ones at Vaca Ateliê Culinário, one of my favorite vegan restaurants in São Paulo. The whole menu is vegan, and most dishes are also gluten free. In addition, they don’t use any oil or refined sugar in their dishes.
Vegetarian Braga Restaurants
This was perhaps my favorite restaurant in Braga, and it’s the only one we visited twice. And I say this despite the fact that it’s the most expensive of Braga’s veg*n restaurants and most of the dishes aren’t vegan.
But their stroganoff is so good that I’m willing to overlook all of that. The prices are actually very reasonable compared with prices in Lisbon restaurants, and only slightly higher than other restaurants in Braga. And the atmosphere is classier than at most of the other places on this list.
If you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion or have a romantic dinner in Braga, this is it. In fact, it’s one of the few veg restaurants that stay open for dinner.
The menu changes each day, so the number of vegan dishes varies. But I believe they always have the stroganoff, as it’s their house specialty.
All the meals come with the same side dishes, which never seem to change. This is something I noticed at most of Braga’s restaurants that aren’t buffets. The main dish sometimes takes up a relatively small space on the plate, while the rest is filled with a salad, some cooked vegetables and a starch (usually rice).
This is the other restaurant in Braga’s city center that’s open for dinner. So if you’re staying overnight in Braga, you’ll probably end up here or at Anjo Verde at least once.
Each day they offer three different dishes. The daily menu is posted on their Instagram, although it doesn’t indicate which dishes are vegan.
All the dishes are plated in typical Braga style, accompanied by rice, salad and cooked vegetables. I had the stroganoff here too, which unfortunately wasn’t nearly as good as the one at Anjo Verde.
The owner also kept answering us in English when we spoke to him in Portuguese, which is a real pet peeve of mine. So I left with a kind of negative impression of this restaurant. But if you don’t speak Portuguese, you’ll be happy to know that English is quite insistently spoken here!
This place was the biggest surprise out of all the restaurants in Braga we visited. Prices in Braga are generally cheaper than in Lisbon, but I didn’t expect to see a full meal with drink included for €3.90!
Pausa Útil is located near the university, which could explain the prices, although students definitely weren’t the only ones eating here. The clientele was mostly local, though, and I imagine that would be the case even in non-pandemic times.
All the other restaurants we visited were very quiet, but this was one was full to capacity. That is, full to 50% capacity as required under the current pandemic measures.
There were quite a few daily specials to choose from, and all of them were vegan. They also all came with the usual side dishes and free tea. The only non-vegan menu items were some of the desserts and the francesinha – a monster of a sandwich that’s a specialty dish of Porto.
Our dishes were simple but really tasty! For dessert, we shared an apple crumble, which cost just €1. This place is near the end of the Ecovia do Rio Este, so if you’re walking to the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte you could stop here on the way.
Vegan-Friendly Braga Restaurants
Adamasttor Saúde e Sabor
The sign announcing vegan coxinhas (a Brazilian specialty) caught our eye as we walked into town from the train station. Adamasttor is a cute place with a hippy vibe and looked really promising. Unfortunately, we had a terrible experience here.
Our coxinhas, which were supposed to be vegan, were actually filled with cow’s cheese and chicken flesh. Of course, it was impossible to know this by looking at them from the outside. And since there are such convincing plant-based meats on the market these days, even after biting into it I still wasn’t sure.
I was several bites in before I finally asked about it, and the owner confirmed that someone in the kitchen had made a mistake. He was apologetic, but he didn’t really understand the gravity of the fact that an innocent animal had been killed.
Of course he didn’t. If he valued the lives of animals, he wouldn’t be serving their dead bodies as food in the first place.
Mistakes happen, and this is certainly not the first time that I’ve been served animal flesh by accident. It upset me more than usual this time, though, probably because I actually ate several bites before realizing what had happened.
It definitely put us off going back there, even though we had planned to return to taste their açaí bowls. If you do order the vegan coxinhas, I recommend cutting into them with a knife and fork to make sure they’re really vegan before tasting them.
This typical Portuguese bakery and snack bar looks like the last place you would expect to find vegan pastries. And yet, there’s a whole range of them, including sweet treats like bolas de Berlim and chocolate-filled croissants as well as savory pastries stuffed with vegan meats or sausage.
Prices are cheap, and portion sizes are large. It’s a bit out of the way from the city center, but if you go to the Parque da Ponte to check out some of the best street art in Braga, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from there.
This Brazilian-run pizzeria has a vegan pizza on their menu, and you can also replace cow’s cheese with vegan cheese on any of their other pizzas. Staff are very friendly, and it’s open for both lunch and dinner.
To be honest, the pizza was fine, but not amazing. We tried both the vegana and the alcachofras (artichoke) pizzas, and the latter was definitely my favorite. The vegana was supposed to come with pesto sauce according to the menu. But actually it just came with regular tomato sauce and was a bit boring.
There’s an Italian pizzeria called Il Fiume that also has vegan cheese, and based on the photos I’ve seen it looks like they make authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. The pizza in Naples is one of my favorite things ever, so next time I’m in Braga I will definitely give that place a try.
Other Braga Restaurants I Haven’t Tried Yet
This is the one veggie restaurant in the city center that we didn’t visit. It seems very popular according to reviews I’ve read online, so it’s also on my list for next time. The food is vegetarian and macrobiotic, and it sounds like it’s the usual Braga setup with changing daily dishes that come with side dishes and tea.
As mentioned above, this Italian pizzeria sounds like the real deal, where thick-crust pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven. And in addition to offering vegan cheese on their pizzas, they also have vegan ravioli and vegan pannacotta.
Even their flour is imported from Italy. As a true Italophile who’s obsessed with vegan Italian food, I’m really keen to check this place out.
Sushi Em Tua Casa
The name of this place means “sushi in your house”, and as you may have guessed, it’s a sushi delivery service. Staff speak English, and the menu includes several inventive veggie options beyond the usual avocado rolls and cucumber rolls.
If you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, or Japanese cuisine in particular, and don’t feel like going out, this could be a good choice.
Do you know of any other good vegan food in Braga that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!