Named after its Roman/Medieval bridge, which still carries automotive traffic, Ponte de Lima is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal's northwest corner, the Alto Minho (see the Minho Region Map). Ponte de Lima was a favored stop for pilgrims using the Caminhos do Minho on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The Minho region is largely left along by foreigners, and you'll find relatively unspoiled and easy to access villages and attractions here.
Where is Ponte de Lima?
Ponte de Lima is 90 km north of Porto and 25 km east of Viana do Castelo. It is close enough to Braga to be visited on a day trip, but if I had it over to do again, I would have stayed in Ponte de Lima and traveled to Braga for that day trip.
The closest airport is at Porto, where the A3 freeway towards Spain passes within 2km of Ponte de Lima (take the Ponte de Lima Sul exit). From the Porto Airport, you can take the airport-bus to Porto and then a bus to Ponte de Lima or Viana do Castelo.
Where to Stay
If you're searching for hotels, try Hipmunk, who compares prices from several sites to get you the best one.
If you prefer vacation rentals (from cottages to villas) HomeAway lists over 20 interesting vacation rental properties for Ponte de Lima, several for less than $100 a night.
The tourist Office is on Praça da República, which you are likely to pass if you've parked along the road from the A3 exit.
Upstairs you can visit a small museum with local handicrafts and historical information. You can get information here for staying in local manor houses as well.
You can get free internet access at the public library on Largo da Picota, just near by the Igreja Matriz (Matriz Church).
Ponte de Lima Attractions
Ponte de Lima is starting to be recognized as a tourist destination.
This is neither good nor bad, but depends on what you're looking for--tourist facilities are being added, as well as resort features like golf courses.
There are two plane tree lined walking streets along the Lima river, the Alameda de S. Joao, and the avenida d. Luis Felipe. They offer interesting strolling areas.
The huge Monday market, held twice a month, has been held in Ponte de Lima since 1125.
The Medieval Bridge is documented to have been started in 1368. It's 277 meters in length and 4 meters in width, with 16 large arches and 14 smaller ones. There are more arches buried below. On the opposite side of the river is the Roman bridge, built for military use between Braga and Astorga.
Across the bridge, the Guardian Angel is a stone quadrangular monument on the banks of the river. It's an ancient chapel, but there's no clue as to when it was erected. It's been rebuilt many times when persistent floods damaged it.
The Capela de Santo Antonio da Torre Velha dominates the scene across the river. To the east of the bridge is a delightful garden which includes a picnic area and a small folk museum.
The fountain in Ponte de Lima's Main Square was completed in 1603 but wasn't located in its present location until 1929, when it was moved to the Largo de Camoes.
Churches: Igreja de S. Francisco and Santo Antonio dos Capuchos. The Terceiros Museum is here, featuring ecclesiastical, archaeological and folk treasures.
Vaca das Cordas
Ponte di Lima's big festival happens in early June, when there's a "running of the bull" festival called Vaca das Cordas, literally "The Cow of the Ropes." The festival is thought to have Egyptian roots, but now seems to be an excuse for the young 'uns to get liquored up to run with the cow. After, there's a big street party.