The best independent guide to north Portugal
The best independent guide to north Portugal
Ponte de Lima is one of the most scenic towns of northern Portugal and is a wonderful destination for a day trip.
This pretty little town lies on the banks of the slow-flowing Rio Lima, and was the original crossing point of the river, with a bridge here since the Roman era.
For visitors, Ponte de Lima has a charming historic centre, beautiful ornamental gardens and a selection of outstanding tourist attractions.
This article will provide a guide to a day trip to Ponte de Lima and includes a suggested itinerary, details of the main sights and an image tour.
The Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde
Below is a suggested tour of Ponte de Lima
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
Warning: All of Ponte de Lima’s museums are closed on Mondays, including the Vinho Verdes wine tasting centre.
Note: All of Ponte de Lima museums are closed on Mondays.
The bridge (Ponte) and Rio Lima after which the town is named, Ponte de Lima (Lima Bridge)
Ponte de Lima is a relatively small town, and a typical day trip lasts between three to five hours. Three hours would allow time to explore the historic centre, cross the Ponte Medieval Bridge, view the Parque do Arnado and walk along the Avenida dos Plátanos.
Two extra hours would include the Toy Museum, Museu dos Terceiros and the Centro do Vinho Verde . In the summer months (May to October) the gardens of the Festival Internacional de Jardins should not be missed, and would extend the trip by one hour.
If you have a car, a day trip could include Ponte da Barca, 20km further up the Rio Lima. The region surrounding Ponte de Lima is popular for outdoor pursuits, activities including cycling along the Ecovia, hiking in the Serra D'Arga hills, bird watching in the Lagoas de Bertiandos or kayaking along the Rio Lima.
The following is our suggested itinerary for a day trip to Ponte de Lima and includes details of the main sights and attractions
• All bus services to Ponte de Lima terminate on the edge of the Praça da República (GPS: 41.766547, -8.58196). If you are driving, park at the main car parks on the riverfront (GPS 41.76855, -8.58534 or GPS: 41.77033, -8.58464) and walk to the plaza.
• At the centre of the Praça da República (GPS: 41.76698, -8.58320) is a statue dedicated to Queen Teresa. She gave the first Portuguese municipal charter to Ponte de Lima, and hence the town is often referred to as the oldest town in Portugal.
The Camara Municipal of Ponte de Lima
• To the northern side of the Praça da República is the charming Câmara Municipal (town hall), which was once a traditional 16th-century manor house.
• Head down the Rua Cardeal Saraivato to the Gothic Igreja da Misericórdia church (GPS: 41.76762, -8.58439). We encourage you to visit the church, as the interior is lined with grey stones that give it an ancient and unique appearance.
• Opposite the church is a statue of a bull which commemorates the yearly Vaca Das Cordas festival.
The simple but striking interior of the Igreja da Misericórdia church
• Follow the road down to the Rio Lima and admire the bridge, which gives the name to the town. There are actually two bridges, the Ponte Romana (Roman Bridge) and the Ponte Medieval (Medieval Bridge).
During the Roman era the river flowed further to the north (closer to the Igreja de Santo António) and today the original Roman bridge is partially buried and spans just a field. The 17 stone arches of the Ponte Medieval date from the 14th century and is the bridge that crosses the Rio Lima.
The Ponte Medieval and the Igreja de Santo António
• The Torre da Cadeia Velha (Old Prison Tower - GPS: 41.76731, -8.58518) was part of the medieval defences, which constructed at the same time as the Ponte Medieval. In the 16th century it was converted into a prison that was used up until the 1970s. Today it houses the tourist information and has temporary exhibits on the upper floors.
• To the rear of the Torre da Cadeia Velha is the Largo da Picota; climb the stairs and you’ll be able to enjoy a rooftop view of the historic centre.
The elevated view of the Igreja da Misericórdia church
• Return back to the waterfront and the view the Torre de São Paulo. On the side of this tower is an Azulejos tile painting that depicts King Afonso about to kill a herd of goats, thinking they were invading Moors.
Also marked on the side of the Torre de São Paulo is the height of previous floods, this includes the devasting flood of 1987. The original 14th-century town defences included a town wall and seven towers, but all that remains today are the Torre de São Paulo and Torre da Cadeia Velha.
The Torre da Cadeia Velha was once part of the town’s defences
• Next stroll along the tree-lined Avenida dos Plátanos (GPS 41.76648, -8.58612), south to the Santo António dos Capuchos Convent. This spawning convent is home to the Museu dos Terceiros, which has exhibits of religious art and artefacts.
• Continue along the Avenida dos Plátanos to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Guia church (GPS 41.76356, -8.58998)
• The Rio Lima is crossed using the modern Ponte de Nossa Senhora da Guia bridge; this is a major road but has great views over the town and river.
• On the northern banks of the Rio Lima is the location for the Festival Internacional de Jardins (GPS: 41.76627, -8.59055). This annual competition has designers and artists create a garden based about a theme (the 2018 theme is O Clima nos Jardins, the weather in the garden). Within the gardens is a swimming pool, which is popular with Portuguese families.
• Next to the bridge is the Clube Nautico where you can rent canoes, kayaks or stand up paddle boards.
Ponte de Lima is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery
• Extending along the northern banks is the Caminho da Oliveirinha cycleway. This route is part of a national project to construct cycle paths across Portugal (referred to greenways Ecovia). For the tour follow the Ecovia upstream, which provides more beautiful riverside views of Ponte de Lima.
• Take the obligatory photo of the Roman horse rider statue (GPS 41.76864, -8.587879). In the Roman, the Rio Lima was considered to be the mythological Lethe River (which lead to oblivion and caused forgetfulness). The two sets of statues depict general Decimus Brutus who has crossed the river (on horseback) and is commanding his reluctant troops on the opposite banks to cross the dreaded waters.
General Brutus encouraging his troops to cross the river
• The Igreja de Santo António (GPS 41.769516, -8.587877) is the much-photographed church that stands next to the Ponte Medieval. Next to the church is the Capela do Anjo da Guarda (GPS: 41.77000, -8.58751).
• The Parque do Arnado (GPS: 41.77034, -8.58880) is the best permanent garden in Ponte de Lima. These formal gardens are divided into different design styles and contain water features, shaded pathways and numerous flower beds.
• In the grounds of the Parque do Arnado is the Museu Rural de Ponte de Lima.
• The toy museum (Museu do Brinquedo - GPS 41.76979, -8.58919) details the history and progression of Portuguese toys from the early nineteenth century up until the mid-1980s. The 2,000 exhibits include cars, dolls and baby toys, and the museum is popular with Portuguese, as they reminisce about their childhoods.
The toy museum is in a building which is difficult to miss…
• Cross the Ponte Medieval into Ponte de Lima and the Largo de Camões (GPS: 41.76861, -8.58427. This pretty plaza is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, and is a great location for a drink or a late lunch. At the centre of this square is the Chafariz Fonte Publica fountain.
The Ponte Medieval bridge
• The Lima Valley is famed for its Vinho Verde wines, and the Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde (GPS: 41.76779, -8.58276) provides an insight into the heritage and production of these wines. Best of all, at the end of the tour there is the chance for wine tasting.
• The Paço do Marquês palace houses the Centro De Interpretação De História Militar (GPS 41.76665, -8.583470). Even if military history is not your thing the palace is a fascinating building and is surrounded by beautiful formal gardens.
• The last sight are the Jardim da Lapa gardens and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa (GPS: 41.76568, -8.58266)
• From the gardens it is just a short walk back to the bus stop (GPS: 41.766547, -8.58196) or the car parks.