29/04/2013 08:29 BST | Updated 24/06/2013 06:12 BST

The Museum of Images in Braga, Portugal

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Serendipity can be a good thing when we travel. Sometimes luck, as well as pre-trip research, is helpful in finding places of interest.

Many visitors to the Portuguese city of Braga stumble upon the Museum of Images - known in Portuguese as the Museu da Imagem - while seeking out one of the city's best known landmarks. The New City Gate - the Arco da Porta Nova - was designed by Andre Soares and built from 1772 to 1773 long before photography was invented. It stands just a few paces from the museum entrance.

You might even say that it's somehow poetic that, as a consequence of coming to take pictures of a city landmark, visitors discover one of Portugal's leading photography galleries.

In fact, from the street, the Museum of Images, with its rust coloured, three storey facade, seems almost too small to warrant a visit. But exteriors are to museums what covers are to books. Judging the contents by them would be a mistake.

The windows and peeling paint of the street level doors create a somewhat careworn appearance and, consequently, you might stroll into the Museum of Images with low expectations. Happily though, they will be exceeded by far. The interior of this cultural hub has been renovated so that the old walls give the feel of a place with history yet the finish has a contemporary look and is smartly maintained.

The lighting within the museum is good and, as an exhibition space, it proves effective. If you're here on a hot summer's day you might even be tempted to linger for a little while longer than usual in front of photographs, simply because it feels so good to enjoy the calm and cool of the museum's interior.

That, however, in no way denigrates the quality of the work shown here, it stands up to a critical viewing and warrants being seen. The photographs exhibited in the Museum of Images often provide insights into aspects of history and the lives of Portuguese people, making this an interesting destination for people seeking a deeper understanding of the country they are visiting.


Anyone passionate about photography, and interested in gaining an insight into the work of Portuguese practitioners of the art, should pencil a visit here onto the list of "must see" things in Braga, a city that has much to see and photograph.

The Museum of Images' exhibitions change on a regular basis, are well-curated and attractively presented in a building that, Tardis like, makes a significantly roomier impression from the inside than it does from down on the street.

Until last year Rui Prata, the museum's director, was also one of the people involved in the organisation of the annual Entrocos da Imagem (Meetings of Images) international photography festival. The highly regarded autumn festival - which encompasses a spectrum of work from conceptual to documentary - is held across approximately thirty venues in the city.

A lift runs between floors providing access for anyone with limited mobility. Entry to the museum is free of charge.