The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
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 one of the oldest town in Portugal, and this history is reflected in the delightful assortment of medieval houses, pretty plazas and ancient religious buildings found throughout the town.
Adding to this captivating mix of historical sights, are a series of 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.
Ponte Romana – The ancient stone bridge that spans the Rio Lima. Originally constructed by the Romans and during the medieval period, it was the only crossing point on the pilgrimage route between Braga and Santiago de Compostela.
Vinho Verde – Ponte de Lima is the centre for Vinho Verde wine production, a refreshing, fizzy wine fermented from freshly harvested grapes. For wine tasting and to learn the history of winemaking visit the "Interpretation and Promotion centre"
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.
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 an infectious relaxed ambience, and it is so 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 Ecovia cycling route, you can kayak along the Lima River, mountain biking or hiking in the Serra D'Arga hills or find nature trails and bird watching in the Lagoas de Bertiandos.
Simply put, Ponte de Lima is a delightful Portuguese town, and will appeal to a wide variety of tourists.
The pretty historic centre of Ponte de Lima and the Torre da Cadeia Velha
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 all of the gardens and taking a pleasant walk along the river. If you have a car, a 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 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
The Câmara Municipal of Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima is a small town, and can be easily seen in a few hours, which makes it ideal as a day trip.
If you are touring northern Portugal and have a car, Ponte de Lima does make a pleasant base from which to explore the region. There is surprisingly poor public transport from Porto to 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:
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.
Ponte de Lima is one of the major towns along the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago (known as the Camino Portugués).
Ponte de Lima lies in the middle of two of the most challenging sections of the route. The hike 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 route, Ponte de Lima would be a good choice.
The Caminho Português route crosses the 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 river when it flowed further north, and today the seven arches of the bridge cross the field next to the Igreja de Santo António.
The Ponte Medieval was constructed in 1370, and was part of a project to improve the defences of the town, which included the town walls and towers (such as Torre da Cadeia Velha).
The bridge consisted of seventeen arches (two are buried today) and defensive battlements, but these stone fortifications were taken and used as building materials.
The Igreja de Santo António church stands on the northern side of the bridge
The Rio Lima does not flow under the ancient Roman section of the bridge
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 was immersed in the water 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.
The statue of Brutus commanding his troops to cross the Rio Lima
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:
http://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:
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The main bus stop in Ponte de Lima is on the Av. António Feijó (GPS: 41.76658, -8.58196).