Porto-North-Portugal.com

The best independent guide to north Portugal

Porto-North-Portugal.com

The best independent guide to north Portugal

Ponte de Lima, Portugal; a tourism guide for 2021

Ponte de Lima is one of the most characterful and charming towns of northern Portugal.

The town sits on the slow-flowing Lima River, and has been the primary river crossing since the Romans constructed a bridge here in 1AD.

Ponte de Lima is also one of the oldest towns in Portugal, and this is reflected delightful assortment of medieval houses, pretty plazas and ancient religious buildings found throughout the town.

Adding to this captivating mix of historical sights, are pretty flower gardens, interesting museums and stunning natural scenery, which all together creates a wonderful tourist destination.

There is so much to love about Ponte de Lima, and the town should be included in your tour of northern Portugal.
Related articles: Viana do CasteloDay trips from Porto

Highlights of Ponte de Lima

Ponte Medieval – The ancient stone bridge that spans the Rio Lima. Originally constructed by the Romans, and later in the medieval period, it was the only crossing point on the pilgrimage route from Braga to Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

Ponte Medieval bridge Ponte de Lima

Vinho Verde – Ponte de Lima is the centre for Vinho Verde wine production, a refreshing, fizzy wine fermented from freshly harvested grapes (the name "Green Wine" means young grapes). To learn about the heritage of Vinho Verde, visit the the "Interpretation and Promotion centre", https://www.cipvv.pt/

Interpretation and Promotion centre Ponte de Lima

The historic centre of Ponte de Lima – The medieval quarter of Ponte de Lima may be small, but it is delightful. There is the gothic Igreja Matriz, the ancient town walls and the charming Largo de Camões plaza.

Igreja Matriz Ponte de Lima

The Festival Internacional de Jardins – The premier gardening competition of Portugal. During the summer months, twelve international designed gardens line the banks of the Rio Lima and compete to be the best around a set theme.

Is Ponte de Lima worth visiting?

Ponte de Lima is one of the finest small towns in northern Portugal. The town is an adorable mix of stunning scenery, quaint sights and beautiful gardens.

Tourist literature frequently boasts of Ponte de Lima being the "most floral town of Portugal", and again this is no overstatement. During the Festival Internacional de Jardins the town is awash with flowers, and sweet floral scents waft from the numerous gardens and parks.

For a longer stay, the town has a relaxed and personable ambience, and it is easy to while-away a day in one of the many excellent restaurants or cafes.

Ponte de Lima is also a centre for adventure activities and outdoor pursuits. There is the river side cycling or hiking route; you can hire kayaks and paddle along the Rio Limar, while in Serra d'Arga hills there are mountain biking or hiking trails.

Simply put, Ponte de Lima is a delightful Portuguese town, and will appeal to a wide variety of tourists.

Torre da Cadeia Velha Ponte de Lima

The pretty historic centre of Ponte de Lima and the Torre da Cadeia Velha

A day trip to Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima is a fantastic destination for day trip, but it is only a small town and can fully be seen within two hours of sightseeing.

The day trip could be extended by visiting the gardens of the Festival Internacional de Jardins or taking a pleasant walk along the river. If you have a car, the day trip could include the pretty village of Ponte da Barca, which is 20km to the east.

A day trip to Ponte de Lima is possible using public transport when based in Viana do Castelo (32km away), but there is no direct public transport from Porto, so a car is needed.

Below is a suggested tour of Ponte de Lima, which begins and ends at the main bus stop on the Praça da República.

Sights along the route: 1) Praça da República 2) Estátua de Dona Teresa 3) Câmara Municipal 4) Igreja da Misericórdia 5) Torre da Cadeia Velha 6) Torre de São Paulo 7) Santo António dos Capuchos 8) Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Guia 9) Festival Internacional de Jardins (Jun-Oct) 10) Igreja de Santo António 11) Parque do Arnado 12) Museu Rural de Ponte de Lima 13) Museu do Brinquedo 14) Ponte Medieval 15) Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde 16) Paço do Marquês
Note: All of Ponte de Lima's museums are closed on Mondays

Câmara Municipal Ponte de Lima

The Câmara Municipal of Ponte de Lima

A longer stay in Ponte de Lima?

Ponte de Lima is often visited as a day trip but it does make for a pleasant base from which to explore the region.

There is surprisingly poor public transport between Porto and Ponte de Lima; therefore we would recommend a stay of one night for a hassle-free visit.

The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Ponte de Lima; by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:

Booking.com
Ponte de Lima the oldest town in Portugal

Ponte de Lima is frequently referred to as the oldest town in Portugal. This was due to the town being given a royal charter by Queen Teresa on the 4th March 1125. This was technically three years before Portugal was established as an independent country in 1128.
A statue of Queen Teresa presenting the charter to the town stands on the Avandia António Feijó.

Queen Teresa Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima and Camino de Santiago (Caminho Português)

Ponte de Lima is one of the major towns along the Portuguese section of the Camino de Santiago (referred to as the Camino Portugués).

Ponte de Lima lies in the middle of two of the most challenging sections of the route. The section from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima is one of the longest at 35km, while Ponte de Lima to Rubiães is shorter (at 17km), but passes through the Serra D'Arga hills.

Ponte de Lima is a great destination for a longer stop and has a good selection of shops, hotels and restaurants. The town is also used to a constant flow of weary walkers. If you are planning a location for a rest day along the Camino Portugués, Ponte de Lima is a good choice.

Caminho Português Ponte de Lima

The Caminho Português route crosses the medieval bridge

The Ponte Romana and the Ponte Medieval bridge

The most famous attraction of Ponte de Lima is the bridge that spans the Lima River. There are actually two sections of this bridge; the Ponte Romana and the Ponte Medieval.

The Ponte Romana is the much older bridge, being constructed by the Romans in the first century. This bridge spanned the Lima River when it flowed further north, and today the seven arches of the bridge cross the field in front of the Santo António church.

The Ponte Medieval was constructed in 1370 and was part of a larger project to improve the defences of the town, which also included the construction of the town walls and towers (such as Torre da Cadeia Velha).

The bridge consisted of seventeen arches (two are buried today) along with defensive battlements. These stone fortifications were removed during the 17th century and used as building materials in the town's houses.

Igreja de Santo António  Ponte de Lima

The Igreja de Santo António church stands on the northern side of the bridge

Ponte Romana de Ponte de Lima

The Ponte Romana, where the Rio Lima used to flow during the Roman era

The Lethe River and the fearful Romans

During the early Roman rule of Portugal, they believed that the Rio Lima was the fabled Lethe River, one of the underworld rivers of Hades. They feared that anyone who entered the river would lose their mind to Oblivion.

General Decimus Junius Brutus was forced to test this superstition in 138BC, during a campaign into northern Spain. He crossed first on his horse and then had his men shout their names out as they waded through the water, so as not to lose their minds to "Oblivion".

This first crossing of the Lima River is commemorated by the Roman statues on either side of the riverbanks.

statue of Brutus roman Ponte de Lima

The statue of Brutus commanding his troops to cross the Rio Lima

Ponte de Lima International Garden Festival

The Festival Internacional de Jardins is a gardening competition that is hosted every summer between the last Friday of May until the end of October.

Gardening teams from around the world apply, and the top 12 designs are invited to be planted for the summer season. The theme for 2022 is "Gardens and Climate Change".

The gardens are varied and pretty with many styles and plants. Also found within the festival site is a swimming pool. Further information can be found on their website: www.festivaldejardins.cm-pontedelima.pt/

Travel information

Ponte de Lima is designed to be driven to, and there is ample parking in the two large car parks. During the low season these carparks are popular with campervans.

There is surprisingly poor public transport to Ponte de Lima; there are no rail connections and bus services are very limited, even from Porto. There are multiple bus companies offering services from Porto to Ponte de Lima, but each only has infrequent departures, the bus companies are:
/www.ovnitur.pt/expresso.php
www.avminho.pt/horarios
www.rede-expressos.pt/en/
www.barquense.com (from the airport)

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It is much easier to travel from Viana do Castelo to Ponte de Lima by public transport and the number of departures means that the town can be visited as a day trip. The bus route is operated by Auto Viação do Minho (AVMinho), and a link to their website (and timetable) can be found here:
www.avminho.pt/horarios

(link opens new link)

The main bus stop in Ponte de Lima is on the Av. António Feijó (GPS: 41.76658, -8.58196).

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