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Braga leaves the door open to a spacious summer

Braga leaves the door open to a spacious summer

A successful programme to be replicated again this year

On 19 April 2021, the Municipality of Braga informed the citizens and visitors that starting the following day and until September D. Gonçalo Pereira Street in the historic quarter will be closed to car traffic and become fully pedestrianized. Reportedly, this is part of the ´Braga de Porta Aberta´ (Open Door Braga) programme, which was first tried out last summer as a response to the isolation and lockdowns during the first wave of the Covid pandemic.

The initiative was considered to have been successful in giving a better chance for small businesses, especially in the catering sector to recover as well as providing residents with more public space in the centre of the city dedicated to leisure and socializing.

The expression ‘open door’ has a double meaning in Braga

This is one of those rare occasions where the pandemic situation has actually brought on a new and hopefully better perspective on the habits of a city and its residents. The closures and then subsequent openings of the streets and squares have caused a newfound appreciation for urban spaces, something that might not have been necessarily true before that.

After going through a strict lockdown at the beginning of the year, Portugal’s Covid cases are steadily going down but authorities are clearly not taking chances. The closure of the street for vehicles will allow restaurants to set up tables outside and create patios, which would ensure that safety standards are met and also bring social and economic life back where it belongs.

On the municipality’s Facebook page there is an announcement to restaurant owners anywhere on its territory that they can apply for a permit to create outdoor patios as part of the ‘Open Door Braga’ plan, thus it likely will extend beyond D. Gonçalo Pereira Street.

Curiously, the name of the plan might bear an allusion to Portuguese lore where if someone forgets to close a door is commonly asked whether he is from Braga. The saying supposedly refers to the Porta Nova gate in the city wall, which on a 16th-century archbishop’s orders was left open so that a marketplace could be set up there, given that the city was already extending beyond its perimeter. The other seven gates of the city continued to be shut down, except for this one, something which made Braga a pioneer at the time.

For the time being, the new pedestrianization policy seems to be of a temporary nature, aimed at providing a happier summer, but who knows what the future may hold for having such zones might become more and more appreciated and therefore demanded by citizens.

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