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Ponte de Lima Portugal –
A tourism guide fully updated for 2018
Ponte de Lima is one of the most characterful and charming towns of northern Portugal, if not the whole of the country. The town sits on the southern banks of the slow-flowing Lima River and has been the primary crossing point since the Romans constructed a bridge in the first century.
The extensive history of Ponte de Lima is reflected in the delightful assortment of ancient houses, pretty plazas and grand 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.
The Ponte Medieval bridge, Lima River and the Igreja de Santo António
Ponte de Lima should not be confused as a boring, historic relic of a destination; it is a centre for adventure activities and outdoor pursuits based in the surrounding region. There is the riverside Ecovia cycling route, kayaking along the Rio Lima, mountain biking or hiking in the Serra D'Arga or nature trails and bird watching in the Lagoas de Bertiandos.
There is so much to love about Ponte de Lima, it may only be small and far from the popular tourist cities, but it delivers so much and is worthy of any journey. This article will provide an introduction Ponte de Lima.
Highlights of Ponte de Lima
Is Ponte de Lima really that good? Our Opinion
We have been exploring Portugal for over 15 years and would consider Ponte de Lima as one of the finest small towns in Portugal. Frequently tourist literature boasts of Ponte de Lima being the “most floral town of Portugal”, and again this no over statement; visit in the spring/summer when the Festival Internacional de Jardins is being hosted, and the town is awash with bright colour and sweet scents.
Simply put, Ponte de Lima is the quintessential Portuguese town, and is a tourist destination which must be visited.
The pretty historic centre of Ponte de Lima and the Torre da Cadeia Velha
Ponte de Lima, day trip or longer stay?
Ponte de Lima is a compact town and can be easily seen as a day trip, the issue of the day trip, is where you will be travelling from. The majority of tourists to the north of Portugal, are based in Porto and it is an hour’s drive from Porto to Ponte de Lima. The journey by public transport is even longer and there are terrible departure times (please see links later in the article). For a hassle-free visit to Ponte de Lima, we would recommend spending at least one night in the town.
The gothic Igreja da Misericórdia church
A typical day trip to Ponte de Lima is around three hours to explore the historic centre, and up to five hours to include all of the gardens and riverside walks. Ponte de Lima takes less time to see than Braga, Guimaraes or Viana do Castelo. If you have a rental car Ponte da Barca could be added to extend a day trip. For our guide to a day trip and suggested 1-day itinerary for Ponte de Lima, please see this article.
Warning: All of Ponte de Lima’s museums are closed on Mondays, including the centre for Vinho Verdes.
Ponte de Lima can be easily visited as a day trip from Viana do Castelo and there is good public transport between the two towns (details later on).
Our opinion: Viana do Castelo makes for a great holiday destination and base from which to explore the Minho region of Portugal.
Camino de Santiago (Caminho Português)
Ponte de Lima is one of the stops along the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago (called the Camino Portugués). You could not ask for a more picaresque town between two of the most challenging sections of the pilgrimage hike. The section between Barcelos and Ponte de Lima is one of the longest at 35km, while the 17km from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães, passes through the hills of the Serra D'Arga. The town has a good selection of shops, hotels and restaurants and is used to a constant flow of weary walkers. If you are planning a day’s rest along the route, Ponte de Lima would be a good choice.
There’s wine tasting?
The Lima valley is the natural home of the Loureiro grapes, and these are used to produce the region’s light and refreshing Vinho Verdes. The Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde (as the name indicates) actively promotes these wines and offers visitors wine tasting. This centre is conveniently located in the centre of Ponte de Lima (GPS: 41.76779, -8.58276) and should be added to any day trip to Ponte de Lima. More information can be found on their website:
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The Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde
The Ponte Medieval bridge
The most famous attraction of Ponte de Lima is the bridge which spans the Lima River. There are actually two sections of this bridge; the Ponte Romana and the Ponte Medieval.
The Roman general on his horse after crossing the Lethe River (Rio Lima)
The Ponte Romana is the much older part, being constructed by the Romans during a first century invasion. This bridge spanned the river when it flowed further north and today the seven arches just crosses a field. Ponte Medieval was built in 1370 in conjunction with the towns defensive walls and towers (Torre da Cadeia Velha). The bridge consisted of seventeen arches, (two are buried today) and stone battlements (which of most were removed to be used building houses) a few still can be seen close to the Largo de Camões plaza.
Other sights of Ponte de Lima
The Camara Municipal of Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima is designed to be driven to and there are multiple large car parks (GPS 41.77165, -8.58228 or GPS 41.76818, -8.58558) The public transport of Ponte de Lima reflects the size and importance of the town…..Basically it is very poor, there are no rail connections and bus services are surprisingly limited, even from Porto. The main bus stop of Ponte de Lima is on the Av. António Feijó (GPS: 41.76658, -8.58196). From Porto there are a selection of bus companies which head to Ponte de Lima but there are only a handful of services per day, with few at the weekends. The bus companies are:
http://www.barquense.com (from the airport)
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The bus from Viana do Castelo to Ponte de Lima is operated by Auto Viação do Minho (AVMinho), and a link to their website (and timetable) can be found here:
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Tickets are purchased from the bus driver and the bus departs from Viana do Castelo bus station.
Lethe River and the fearful Romans
The Lima river had an ominous reputation during the Roman rule of Portugal, as they considered it to be the Lethe, one of the five underworld rivers of Hades. The Roman believed that any soul who immersed in its waters would lose their mind to Oblivion.
The Roman soldiers who were fearful to cross the Lethe River