10+ Things To Do In Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s Oldest Town

Bom dia! Welcome to Ponte de Lima, a small yet very charming place known for being Portugal’s oldest town. It’s full of history and its streets invite you to take a step back in time. Ponte de Lima is one of the most popular destinations for a one-day trip in Northern Portugal, but it also can be a great home base for travelers who wish to stay longer in the area and discover it slowly. The old town and its surroundings won our hearts in the blink of an eye. Will it win yours too? Vamos, let’s discover the best things to do in Ponte de Lima, Portugal.

Interesting fact – Ponte de Lima is named after a medieval bridge (pt. Ponte) that crosses the Lima River in the town.

Things To Do In Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s Oldest Town
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Ponte de Lima, Portugal FAQ

Where is Ponte de Lima located?

Ponte de Lima is located in Northern Portugal in the Alto Minho region in Viana do Castelo district. It sits on the banks of the Lima River and lies in close proximity to the country’s only National Park – Peneda-Geres. Ponte de Lima is a great starting point to explore other places in the area, like Viana do Castelo, Guimaraes, Ponte da Barca, or Caminha.

What is Ponte de Lima best known for?

Ponte de Lima is best known for being the oldest town in Portugal. It was founded in 1125 by Teresa de Leão, countess of Portugal and the mother of the country’s first king – Afonso I. There is also an iconic Ponte Romana bridge that spans over the Lima River and together with Santo Antonio church creates an unforgettable sight.

Is Ponte de Lima worth a visit?

Of course! Ponte de Lima is one of the most charming North Portugal towns, definitely worth visiting while in the area. Old town with medieval streets and squares, peaceful surroundings full of natural beauty, a famed bridge, and Roman soldiers, are waiting for you there.

Views over Ponte de Lima surroundings from Ponte Romana Bridge
Views over Ponte de Lima Old Town from Ponte Romana Bridge

Legend of Ponte de Lima

Around 139 B.C. Roman troops were marching through current regions of Portugal, to conquer new territories. One day they arrived at Lima River and… were terrified to cross it. They believed that it was the mythical River Lethe (River of Forgetfulness), one of five rivers of the Underworld. Soldiers were so scared that their memories would be erased that they refused to move forward. Eventually, frustrated general Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus decided to cross the river himself to show soldiers they won’t forget anything. He crossed the river on the horse, but that didn’t convince the soldiers. So the general started to call each of his men by name. Luckily that worked, and the soldiers crossed the river safely keeping all their memories. 

More than 2000 years later this legend still lives in Ponte de Lima. On one side of the Lima River, you’ll find 24 life-sized Roman soldiers, waiting to cross the river. On the other side, there is a statue of General Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus, encouraging them to cross it. 

Legend of Ponte de Lima town in Portugal
Legend of Ponte de Lima, Portugal - Roman soldiers

Things to do in Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Ponte Romana – Roman Bridge

Ponte Romana (eng. Roman Bridge) is an unquestionable number one Ponte de Lima highlight, majestically stretching over the Lima River. This medieval stone bridge dates from 1368, although some parts of it date back to Roman Empire times, probably early 1st century! It’s 277m long, 4m wide, and available only for pedestrians. 

Nowadays, it’s also a place where some Camino de Santiago pilgrims cross while heading to Santiago de Compostela. We recommend sitting for a while on the grass by the riverbank and just enjoying the lovely views.

On the other side of the bridge (opposite the old town), you’ll find places like Santo Antonio da Torre Velha church, Portuguese Toy Museum, and Theme Arnado Park.

Discover Things To Do In Ponte de Lima
Ponte Romana medieval bridge in Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Old Town of Ponte de Lima

One of the things to do in Ponte de Lima that can’t be missed is to slowly stroll among its delightful old town streets that are full of beautiful old buildings and charming corners. There you’ll find points of interest like the Palace of the Marquis, Igreja Matriz church, towers: Cadeia Velha and Saint Paul, Noble Fountain, Plane Tree Avenue, or Terceiros Museum.  Let’s take a closer look at each.

Igreja Matriz – Ponte de Lima Parish Church

Igreja Matriz Ponte de Lima, or Igreja Paroquial de Ponte de Lima, is a village parish church. It was built in the 15th century in Gothic style, to replace a 13th-century church that became too small to fit all the people. Over the next centuries, the Igreja Matriz expanded until the version we can see today. Entrance to the church is free.

Ponte de Lima Old Town - Igreja Matriz Parish Church
Ponte de Lima Old Town - Igreja Matriz Parish Church

Palace of the Marquis

Palace of the Marquis (pt. Paço do Marquês de Ponte de Lima) is a 15th-century building that was erected as the residence of the mayor, Leonel de Lima. Currently, it hosts the Interpretation Center Of Military History (pt. Centro de Interpretação da História Militar), a museum where you can learn for example about the importance of the geostrategic location of Ponte de Lima, military history, as well as see the evolution of weapons and uniforms. To enter you need to pay a symbolic €1 per person (February 2024). 

On the street just below the Palace of the Marquis, on Aveniva Antonio Feijó, you can see the statue of Countess Teresa de Leão, the founder of the village in 1125. 

Palace of the Marquis in Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Towers: Cadeia Velha & Saint Paul

Tower Cadeia Velha and Tower Saint Paul (pt. Torre da Cadeia Velha and Torre de São Paulo) are two well-preserved towers, the remains of the town’s 14th-century ramparts. Back in the days, there was a prison in Cadeia Velha, and now it is serving as a Tourist Information Centre. On the front wall of the Tower of Saint Paul, you’ll find an interesting azulejos (hand-painted-tiles) picture titled “Cabras são Senhor!” (eng. They’re goats m’lord!). It’s a reference to a story in which the former king of Portugal, Afonso I, almost attacked a herd of goats, mistaking them for Moors.

Towers: Cadeia Velha & Saint Paul in Ponte de Lima, Portugal
Azulejos on Tower of Saint Paul - Cabras são Senhor!

Right beside Tower Cadeia Velha, you’ll also find gates that once served as one of the entrances to the town. Pass them and be sure to go all the way to the top of the ramparts to experience another great thing to do in Ponte de Lima – admiring the town’s amazing views from above!

Views over Ponte de Lima Old Town from ramparts behind Tower Cadeia Velha
Views over Ponte de Lima from ramparts behind Tower Cadeia Velha
Stairs leading to ramparts in Ponte de Lima

Fountain Chafariz Nobre

Few steps from Torre de São Paulo and Ponte Romana you’ll find a lovely square, Largo de Camões, with a stunning fountain Chafariz Nobre (eng. Noble Fountain) dating back to 1603. Initially, the fountain was built in the square known today as Largo Dr. António Magalhães but was transferred into Largo de Camões square in 1929. Currently, there are several cafes in the square where you can sit and relax for a while with a cup of coffee in your hand.

Chafariz Nobre do Largo de Camões, Noble Fountain, in Ponte de Lima

Chapel of Pereiras

Capela das Pereiras (eng. Chapel of Pereiras) replaced a small hermitage that was located in that very same place in 1525. Later, in 1818, it was rebuilt to the form that we currently see. But what really makes this place worth visiting are the views. You see, the chapel is located in higher parts of the Ponte de Lima Old Town from where you can enjoy amazing views over the mountains, and some parts of the village. 

Capela das Pereiras in Ponte de Lima
Views from Capela das Pereiras in Ponte de lima

Avenida dos Platanos

Strolling along Avenida dos Platanos (eng. Plane Tree Avenue) is a thing to do in Ponte de Lima that you can’t miss during your visit. It’s a pedestrian-only avenue lined with plane trees planted in 1901. Avenida dos Plátanos is perfect for a lazy stroll all year round but it looks most spectacular in the summer and autumn. During the walk, you’ll be able to admire amazing views over the Lima River, Ponte Romana, and the mountains in the distance. 

Terceiros Museum

Terceiros Museum (pt. Museu dos Terceiros) stands right besides the Avenida dos Plátanos. It spans across two churches: the former convent of Santo António and the church of the Ordem Terceira. The museum is from 1974, and inside it, you’ll find a valuable collection of sacred art, mainly sculptures from the 18th century.

Entrance to Museu dos Terceiros cost: normal – €2.5, reduced – €1.25 (February 2024. The museum is closed on Mondays. For current prices and opening hours visit cm-pontedelima website

Museu dos Terceiros in Ponte de Lima
Museu dos Terceiros in Ponte de Lima

Portuguese Toy Museum

Portuguese Toy Museum (pt. Museu do Brinquedo Português) is located on the other side of the Ponte Romana bridge, just a few steps behind Santo António da Torre Velha Church. Inside you’ll learn about things like Portuguese toy manufacturers from the late 19th century until the mid-1980s, or manufacturing techniques and materials. Of course, you’ll also see many toys like dolls, cars, trains, toy soldiers, or sandbox toys. In the building, you’ll also find a playroom and a toy shop. Isn’t it a unique thing to do in Ponte de Lima?

Entrance to Museu do Brinquedo Português cost: normal – €3, reduced – €1.5 (February 2024). The museum is closed on Mondays. For current prices and opening hours visit cm-pontedelima website

Ponte de Lima Market 

The village can also boast the oldest documented market in Portugal – it has existed since March 4th 1125! Currently, the market is open twice a month, every other Monday. It’s located near the river bank, in a place where on any other day there is a parking lot. At Ponte de Lima Market you can buy things like fresh vegetables and fruits, pastries, cheeses, clothes, or household items. 

Arnado Theme Park

Parque Temático do Arnado (eng. Theme Arnado Park) is a peaceful, well-kept green space in Ponte de Lima. The park is located on the other side of Ponte Romana, very close to the Portuguese Toy Museum. Inside you’ll find areas that mimic different garden styles: Roman Garden, Renaissance Garden, Labyrinth Garden, and Baroque Garden. In Arnado Park you’ll also find a greenhouse and a pond. The entrance is free. 

International Garden Festival

International Garden Festival (pt. Festival Internacional de Jardins) is an annual event taking place in Ponte de Lima. From May to October in the town, you can admire 12 garden displays prepared based on the contest winners’ projects. From November to May old gardens are dismantled and new displays, from recent winners, are prepared. Everyone, from every country, can take part and send projects. If you’ll be in Ponte de Lima during the time of the displays – don’t miss seeing them.

Vinho Verde tours in Ponte de Lima

There are two interesting places to visit in Ponte de Lima connected with the popular Vinho Verde: 

  • Center for the Interpretation and Promotion of Vinho Verde (pt. Centro de Interpretação e Promoção do Vinho Verde) – a museum dedicated to the history of this popular Portuguese wine. Entrance cost: normal – €3, reduced – €1.5 (February 2024). The museum is closed on Mondays. For current prices and opening hours visit cipvv.pt website.
  • Ponte de Lima’s wine cellar (pt. Adega de Ponte de Lima) – tour in one of the most substantial cellars in the region, during which you can see the winery, learn about the production, as well as take part in the tasting. You need to book the tour in advance via email. 
Old Town of Ponte de Lima, Portugal

How to get to Ponte de Lima, Portugal?

Ponte de Lima is located about 85km from Porto, 60km from Guimaraes, 30km from Viana do Castelo, and 20km from Ponte da Barca. The most convenient way to get to Ponte de Lima is by car or by bus. 

Where to park in Ponte de Lima?

Your best option is to leave your car in the free, huge but unpaved parking lot near the Ponte Romana (not available on Mondays when the Market takes place), or in this cobblestone parking lot, just a few steps further. 

Airports near Ponte de Lima

The closest airport to Ponte de Lima in Portugal is located in Porto (80km away). Other ones are located in Spain – in Vigo (60km away), Santiago de Compostela (160km away), and A Coruna (280km away). From each airport, you can get to Ponte de Lima by bus or bus+train. To check the connections that interest you please visit rome2rio.com website. 

To Ponte de Lima by bus

You can quite easily get to Ponte de Lima by bus. For example, the journey from Porto will take about 1.5h (€5-21), from Viana do Castelo 50min (€2-10), and 1h from Braga (€3-10). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.

To Ponte de Lima by taxi

The most expensive option but also available from almost every place you might be near Ponte de Lima. For example, a trip from Ponte da Barca will take about 15min (€24-29), 30min from Braga (€50-65) and 20min from Viana do Castelo (€35-45). To learn more about taxi connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website. For great train ticket deals visit the Trainline website.

To Ponte de Lima by train

Unfortunately, you can’t reach Ponte de Lima by train. But for example, you can take a train from Porto, Lisbon, or even Albufeira to Viana do Castelo, and then take a bus from it to Ponte de Lima. Here you can check out a map of Portugal train connections

Camping Ponte de Lima

If you’re traveling by camper, places like Lima Escape Camping & Glamping, Camping Covas Park, or Park Camping Paço might interest you. They are located near Ponte de Lima.

10+ Things To Do In Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s Oldest Town

Things to do in Ponte De Lima, Portugal – Summing Up

All right, that’s it about Ponte de Lima. Not that big, yet not that small, and absolutely worth the visit! We hope that thanks to this post you’ll get the most out of your trip to the oldest village in Portugal and won’t forget everything like the Romans feared that they would. We still remember everything just fine so you should be ok as well. But you’ll never know for sure until you try it for yourself, right…? 🙂 Enjoy your time in Ponte de Lima!

Our opinion about Ponte de Lima

For us, a visit to Ponte de Lima was a day trip from nearby Ponte da Barca where we lived for a few weeks during our digital nomad #season1. We visited it in mid-April during one very sunny Sunday and we were fairly surprised by the number of visitors. Probably one of the first really nice and really warm weekends that encouraged people to leave their houses after winter. During one day we managed to visit all the places we had on our list, and it took us about 3 or 4 hours.

We think Ponte de Lima is a very pleasant place and we enjoyed strolling through its old town streets. Oh, and we really liked the peaceful lush green views of the surroundings and eating dinner on the Lima River shores. Besides the crowds – nothing to complain about! Now it’s your turn to discover its Northern Portugal charm, beauty, and secrets. Enjoy!

Restaurants, accommodations, and map

Check out various recommended places below.

Where to eat in Ponte de Lima?

Here are your best, high-rated options in Ponte de Lima:

Where to sleep in Ponte de Lima?

Axis Ponte de Lima Resort Hotel

Axis Ponte de Lima Resort Hotel

Axis Ponte de Lima Resort Hotel is a luxury resort situated in the heart of the city. The hotel features beautifully decorated rooms and suites with private balconies, modern amenities, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Guests can enjoy a range of facilities including an outdoor pool, spa, restaurant, and bar.

Hotel Império do Norte in Ponte de Lima

Hotel Império do Norte

Hotel Império do Norte is a cozy and comfortable hotel located in the center of Ponte de Lima, a historic town in the north of Portugal. The hotel features 34 rooms, each with air conditioning, flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Guests can enjoy a daily breakfast buffet and relax in the hotel's bar and lounge area.

Pinheiro Guest House in Ponte de Lima Portugal

Pinheiro Guest House

Pinheiro Guest House is a charming bed and breakfast located in the historic center of Ponte de Lima. The guest house offers a cozy and welcoming atmosphere with comfortable rooms and a shared lounge area. The location is ideal for exploring the town on foot and enjoying the nearby outdoor activities.

Accommodations photos source: booking.com

Ponte De Lima, Portugal - Map of places

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10+ Things To Do In Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s Oldest Town

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