Ponte de Lima is the most beautiful Portuguese village! It is not just another place to visit. It is a place with a special beauty and history. Every street and every monument has a story to tell. Ponte de Lima is a fascinatingly photogenic place, with medieval architecture and where LENDS mingle with history. Do you know the legend of the river of forgetfulness? We’ll tell you all about it in this article.
Table of Contents
PONTE DE LIMA
It was founded in 1125, long before the birth of Portugal (1143). It belongs to the district of Viana do Castelo and has 5125 inhabitants. It is bathed by the magnificent Lima river and is the oldest town in Portugal. Throughout this article we will show you everything that the town of Ponte de Lima has to see and we will also teach you a little about the history of this place. The journey is fascinating! Are you ready for it?
WHERE IS PONTE DE LIMA?
If you leave from Lisbon, count on a journey of almost 4 hours to cover the 394 kilometers. If you leave from the city of Porto, 56 minutes will be enough to cover the 84 kilometers that separate these two cities.
WHAT TO VISIT IN PONTE DE LIMA?
Ponte de Lima is a town with soul. It is not just a set of monuments that we should visit. Each street, each bridge and each monument tells a story and adds to your general culture. Because there are so many attractions, we have prepared a map for you so that you can organize in a more rational and efficient way the sequence of your walks. We hope it will be useful to you!
HISTORIC CENTER AND CAMÕES SQUARE
Walking in Ponte de Lima is a real pleasure. Try walking without a specific destination. You will find houses with beautiful facades, chapels, churches, old grocery stores, cafes and typical taverns. Sit on a bench in the Camões square, which was built after the destruction of the old walls. In the center of the square is a beautiful fountain from 1603. Watch the people and listen to Ponte de Lima. Go into a tavern and strike up a conversation. Ask how it is to live there.
ROMAN AND MEDIEVAL BRIDGE
The Roman Bridge was, for many centuries, the only safe way to cross the Lima River. Nowadays, it is the town’s main attraction. The name of the village is precisely due to the river (Lima) and the bridge that crosses it. The bridge that we can use and admire today is, in fact, a fusion of two historically distinct constructions. The first version of the bridge was built by the Romans to connect Braga (formerly Bracara Augusta) to Artorga in Spain (formerly Asturica) and dates from the 1st century AD. The medieval section (left bank), spans two arches. The bridge has undergone several improvements and constructions that are recorded in Portuguese historical records. These improvements were linked to the kings Dom Pedro I, Dom Fernando, Dom Dinis and Dom Manuel I.
When you are visiting this bridge, look to your left. You will see on one bank the statues of Roman soldiers and on the other bank the statue of the commander of the troops.
One of the most beautiful legends of Ponte de Lima is the legend of the river of forgetfulness (rio Lethes). It is not known who was the first person to tell the legend but, according to Professor José Hermano Saraiva, it must have arisen already after the Renaissance (after the 16th century).
The army of the Roman commander Decius Junius brutes out of Lisbon towards Galicia. They crossed several rivers during that trip (Tagus, Zêzere, Mondego, Vouga and Douro rivers). When they reached the banks of the Lima River, doubt arose within the army as to whether they were not on the verge of crossing the river of oblivion. Someone shouted, “This is the River Lethes! If the suspicion was confirmed, a small contact with the waters of the river would be enough for them to immediately forget everything and everyone. Lethes represents the lower limit, the border to the world of the dead.
To convince his army, the general decided to prove that the river was harmless and swam across it. When he got to the other bank, he started shouting his soldiers their names, thus convincing the army that the river Lima was not the dreaded river Lethes.
PONTE DE LIMA MAIN CHURCH
It is located in the historic center of the village. It dates from the 15th century and was built on the same site of an old and small temple from the 12th century (which had ceased to be sufficient to accommodate the entire population). The exterior is very beautiful and is now the result of different architectural styles (as a result of the improvements it underwent over time).
Arnado Park is a garden that allows you to take a historical journey through the history of gardens. This “journey” is naturally linked to the history and rural culture of the region. There you will find, among others, examples of Roman gardens and Baroque gardens (which reflect the beauty of French gardens). Inside the park you can also visit the interpretation center of the territory. Here you will understand how the people of Ponte de Lima have lived (their traditions and daily life) throughout history.
The Portuguese toy museum is next to the bridge (on the side of the Roman building). It is a large salmon colored building. It has a (permanent) exhibition that will give you an insight into the evolution of toys in Portugal (produced by Portuguese factories) in a time window situated between the end of the 19th century and 1986 (date of Portugal’s entry into the EEC and, consequently, the end of production by Portuguese manufacturers). Don’t think that it is the children who are the most excited inside this museum. It is the adults! It is you who will make a trip to your own past. You will spend all the time saying, “Look at this one!”, “do you remember that one?” A wonder! An emotional journey into your past!
INTERNATIONAL GARDEN FESTIVAL
The international garden festival is unique to Ponte de Lima and first appeared in the year 2005. It is not just an ephemeral exhibition of gardening projects. It aims to promote the pleasure and taste for gardens, for the art of gardening and it also intends to be an authentic school of the environment. The theme is renewed every year between the months of May and October. This renewal allows us to maintain the dynamics and diversity of the projects exhibited.
It is located in the highest part of the historical center. Besides being able to visit the Capela das Pereiras, in this part of the village you will also have the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful view of the mountains that surround Ponte de Lima. The chapel was built in 1525 and later renovated in the 19th century.
The residents’ favorite avenue. On weekends, whole families used to walk here. No cars are allowed. It is the perfect place to relax, admire the bridge and the Lima river. Also be sure to admire the trees (plátanos) that line the avenue.
SÃO PAULO TOWER AND OLD JAIL TOWER
These are the two monuments that testify the existence of an ancient defensive line (protective wall from the 14th century). They face the Lima River and are easily identifiable if you are in the middle of the bridge deck. The tower of the old jail was a prison that was in operation from the 14th century until the 60’s (!) of the last century. It is currently the town’s tourist office and also provides a space for temporary exhibitions. Climb up to the tower wall to get another view of the village.
CENTER FOR THE INTERPRETATION OF MILITARY HISTORY
It opened its doors in 2016. The center for the interpretation of military history shows the geographical and strategic importance of Ponte de Lima in the defense of the territory throughout history. This historical perspective starts at the time of Roman rule until the 19th century (Napoleonic invasions). If you visit this museum you will have the opportunity to know the main military events that took place not only in Ponte de Lima but also in the nearby regions. You will also have the chance to know the evolution of the war costumes and the main personalities born in Ponte de Lima and that, assumed a relevant role in the Portuguese military history. Before leaving the museum, be sure to go up to the last floor so you can have a more magnificent perspective of the town.
CENTER FOR INTERPRETATION AND PROMOTION OF VINHO VERDE
The center for interpretation and promotion of vinho verde is an instrument for promoting and divulging the past, present and future of vinho verde. Vinho verde is a wine produced uniquely in Portugal. It is produced in the area between the Douro River and the Minho River (northwest of the country). A visit to this center offers you a historical overview of wine production. But it also offers you the chance to admire the evolution of the work utensils involved in the production of vinho verde. But the best is saved for the end of the visit: a tasting of this wonderful nectar!
It is located next to Avenida dos Plátanos (mentioned above). The Museu dos terceiros was created in the 1970s and occupies two religious facilities: the (former) convent of Santo António dos Capuchos and the building of the Third Order of São Francisco. The convent of Santo António dos Capuchos dates from the 15th century. Here you can visit a beautiful exhibition of sacred art and also admire this beautiful building.
VIRTUAL TOUR TO PONTE DE LIMA
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR PONTE DE LIMA?
The town of Ponte de Lima has a lot to see and enjoy (3 to 4 days is enough time to see the most important things there)! But it is located in such a beautiful region that in the vicinity of the oldest town in Portugal, there are also a lot of fantastic things to see. If you have some time and energy left, take a look at the following suggestions (around Ponte de Lima). Once again we have prepared a map so you can check distances and make your own choices. Best wishes for good walks!
It is on the outskirts of Ponte de Lima (3.5 kilometers and 10 minutes by car). It is probably the viewpoint that gives you the best perspective of the town and surrounding areas. From here you can see the town, the mountains and the magnificent Lima river!
When you come down from Monte da Madalena (next door), stop for a while at the Parque da Vila. There you can stroll a bit, and if you like to do acrobatics with a bike (or a skateboard) then you are in paradise because the park has a pump track available.
The lagoons are 5,9 kilometers from Ponte de Lima, a distance that can be covered in 10 minutes (by car). A protected area consisting of two lagoons of great beauty and a must-see for those who like to be in close contact with nature. A perfect place to go for a walk and enjoy a very diverse fauna and flora. It has several very accessible pedestrian paths so that everyone can do them without great difficulty. Still, don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear and a bottle of water.
From Ponte de Lima to the Santuário do Senhor do Socorro is a distance of 11,8 kilometers (an 18 minute drive). A very beautiful monument erected in 1773 (curiously) by a Brazilian citizen (perhaps to pay a promise). A rococo façade (a French style associated with shells and inlays) with two towers. Inside the sanctuary you will find several statues, paintings and a carving also rococo style.
33 minutes and 25 kilometers separate Ponte de Lima from Paredes de Coura. Nowadays, the name Paredes de Coura is immediately associated with its summer festival. But its attractions are not limited to this musical event. Paredes de Coura has a rich natural heritage, it has churches and chapels, pedestrian trails, archaeological findings, a magnificent gastronomy and a people that knows how to welcome those who visit.
From Ponte de Lima to the Peneda Gerês National Park is a distance of 82 kilometers, a distance that can be covered in 1 hour and 17 minutes. A small effort to see one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. The park is almost 70,000 hectares (that’s 70,000 soccer fields!). A mountainous area with deep valleys and a beautiful, diverse and rare fauna and flora. A diversity of species that includes the Iberian wolf. In addition to its natural wealth, there is also a historical heritage that includes granary castles, Roman remains, megalithic necropolis, remote villages, and much more.
26 minutes and 31 kilometers separate Ponte de Lima from Viana do Castelo. Landscape, culture and history are three words that define Viana. A city with an amazing religious patrimonial wealth, standing out the Sagrado Coração de Jesus temple. But there’s more, much more: festivals, pilgrimages and concerts join a top gastronomy and make the city a must for all Portuguese.
From Ponte de Lima to Barcelos is a 35-minute drive (a distance of 40 kilometers). Barcelos is a city with a lot to tell. A city of great historical and religious importance with a strong connection to the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela. If you accept our suggestion be sure to visit the parish church, the pillory, the temple of Bom Jesus da Cruz and the tower of Barcelos. But believe us, there is much more to see in the city of Barcelos. By the way, do you know why Barcelos is associated with the rooster?
WHEN TO VISIT PONTE DE LIMA?
The north of Portugal can be quite cold in winter and quite hot in summer. For this reason, and so that you can enjoy your walks, we suggest a visit in the spring or early fall.
PONTE DE LIMA FAIR
If you are in the process of choosing your dates, then be sure to include a Monday that coincides with the fortnightly fair (the oldest fair in Portugal that there is memory and records). Check the dates of the next fairs HERE! The first records (charter of March 4, 1125) date back to the time of Dona Teresa (mother of Afonso Henriques).
ROPE COW (VACA DAS CORDAS)
60 days after Easter (eve of the body of Christ) each year, the feast of the rope cow is held. It is a feast that dates back to the 15th century. A bull is taken by ropes to the center of the village. For those who like this kind of events (which is definitely not my case…), here is a video illustrating the event.
The day after the “cow of the ropes” event, there is a religious procession through the center of the village. It is a festivity that deserves to be seen for the beauty of the flower carpets specifically created for the event. At night, the participants head for the bars and restaurants in the village to eat and drink the typical food and drink of the region. The “eats and drinks” are accompanied by Portuguese music and music from the typical region. Many people from neighboring towns visit Ponte de Lima to participate in this festivity.
HOTELS IN PONTE DE LIMA
PAÇO DE VITORINO HOTEL
Over 100 customer reviews and an overall rating of 9.7/10! Charming 16th century hotel about 10 minutes drive from Ponte de Lima. A mansion with a baroque garden. Some of the rooms have a fantastic view of the Lima river. The rest of the rooms have views to the garden or to nature. If you visit this hotel in winter you can enjoy the old wine cellar, the small library and the table games.
CARMO’S BOUTIQUE HOTEL
More than 180 reviews and an overall rating of 8.9/10. In addition to the usual amenities of a hotel of this quality, it also offers a spa with special treatments (pure goat milk baths), an outdoor pool and guided tours of the region. On site you will find a restaurant specializing in the typical delicacies of the region.
CASA DAS ANDORINHAS
300 reviews and an overall rating of 8.9/10. It is a popular choice in Ponte de Lima. Its central location is one of its strong points. The reception is available 24 hours a day and the accommodation has a friendly garden. The rooms have a flat-screen TV and other amenities such as a desk, kettle, shower and a kettle.
PONTE DE LIMA GASTRONOMY
Gastronomy in the North of Portugal is fantastic. But in Ponte de Lima it is even better! Here you can’t miss Arroz de sarrabulho with pork rojões and lamprey from the Lima river.
The “bacalhau de cebolada” (onion cod onions) is one of the most popular dishes among the inhabitants of the village and is prepared in many restaurants and taverns in the town. If you can’t live without a good sweet after your meal, then you can’t miss the opportunity to try the “leite creme queimado” (burnt custard) from Ponte de Lima.
RESTAURANTS IN PONTE DE LIMA
O CANTINHO DA QUEIJADA
182 reviews on google and an overall rating of 4.2/5. The comments consistently refer to the quality of the food and the good relationship between price and quality. The speed of service seems to be its weakest point, but we should not forget that the price is very competitive. It has a parking lot.
Over 800 comments and an overall rating of 4.5/5. The comments insist on the quality of the meat (steak and loin chops). It is also a good choice to eat the typical dishes (rojões and sarrabulho) of Ponte de Lima. The comments sometimes mention the waiting time for a table, which shows the demand for this restaurant.
HISTORY OF PONTE DE LIMA
Its first name was Torre de Ponte (name given by its founder – Countess D. Teresa de Leão). Dom Pedro, recognizing the importance of the village’s location in the 14th century, had the walls built. The result was a medieval burgo (small fortress) with ramparts and 9 towers. Of this construction, 2 towers still remain and some vestiges of the remaining defensive elements. The town bridge has always been an element of great importance in the entire Alto Minho region. It was, until the end of the middle ages, the only way to cross the Lima river safely. The first bridge in the village was built by the Romans (a section on the right bank of the river still remains). In the 18th century, the industrial and urban development destroyed the wall that surrounded the village. The large manor houses of the great noblemen appeared and spread. The beauty of the town is due to the harmonious combination between natural beauty and gothic, baroque, neoclassical and eighteenth century architecture.