What to see and do in Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima charmed me at first sight. When I revisited a couple of years later, Portugal’s oldest town nestled itself deep inside my heart and is never coming out.

It’s got all the right ingredients for me: plenty of gardens, fancy mansions and other historical buildings, interesting small museums and plenty of restaurants. Best of all, it’s surrounded by gorgeous Minho countryside and walking / cycle paths. 

For all these reasons, it’s one of the towns where I recommend taking a rest day if you’re hiking the Portuguese Camino de Santiago.

Without further ado, here are the best things to do in Ponte de Lima, a town a I never tire of.

Note: If you want to stay overnight, check out my Ponte de Lima accommodation picks at the end of this post.

Cross the River Lima, following the Romans

Roman commander calling his troops across the River Lima, Ponte de Lima
Roman commander calling his troops across the River Lima, Ponte de Lima

Many moons ago, when Roman troops were marching through Portugal, they reached the River Lima but refused to cross. The area was so enchanting that they concluded this had to be the legendary River Lethe, which was famous not only for its beauty but for its ability to erase the memories of anyone who crossed it.

The only way the captain could persuade his soldiers that they wouldn’t forget everything and everyone they knew was to cross the river first and then call them over by name. This legendary tale explains the wooden models of Roman soldiers in the riverside car park.

The Roman bridge across river with church at one end, Ponte de Lima
The Roman bridge, Ponte de Lima

Once they were across, the Romans built a bridge, which became the only safe place to cross the Lima for centuries and formed part of the Roman road from Braga, their seat of power in Portugal, and Asturias in Spain. The stone bridge was rebuilt in the 14th century and is still a major focal point of the town.

Visit beautiful gardens in Ponte de Lima

A gorgeous array of colours, foliage and wisteria in Ponte de Lima
A gorgeous array of colours, Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima has been dubbed Portugal’s ‘most floral town’. It’s easy to see why; even the road leading to the historical centre is lined with flowers in spring and summer. The air is often full of the sweet scent of wisteria dangling from pergolas and arches while pots of petunias and pansies add splashes of colour to the historical centre.

The creative displays at the annual International Garden Festival, which is open from May to October every year, are also worth a visit – the individual gardens vary in appeal and you can vote for your favourite. The theme and the gardens change each year, although the winning garden from the previous year stays on for one more year.

Woman standing behind a large copper bow filled with water, hands outstretched
Interactive displays at the International Garden Festival in Ponte de Lima

Tip: To get to the International Garden Festival, cross the Roman bridge away from the town then turn left to walk alongside the river. Turn right to find the entrance beside the Nautical Centre. It’s about 500 metres each way so if you don’t want to walk very far, you may prefer to drive.

Gardens, pergola and mountains in the distance
A glimpse of the Themed Gardens of Arnado, Ponte da Lima

In the themed gardens of Jardims Temáticos do Arnado, on the other side of the Roman bridge, you can see examples of garden fashions through the ages such as the Roman Gardens, the Renaissance Gardens and the Baroque Gardens.

Go for a dip in the outdoor swimming pool

Outdoor swimming pool, Ponte de Lima
Outdoor swimming pool, Ponte de Lima

Next to the International Garden Festival site is a lovely open air swimming pool surrounded by lawns, trees and flowers. You can just about see the river through a gap in the greenery, too. There’s an onsite café, changing rooms and the usual facilities and you can buy a very reasonably priced daily pass or a weekly one.

Get your fix of art and architecture in Museu dos Terceiros

Azulejos and chapel, Museu dos Terceiros, Ponte de LIma
Azulejos and chapel, Museu dos Terceiros, Ponte de Lima

Museu dos Terceiros (Museum of the Third Order) hosts a collection of medieval and Baroque religious art and gold. The complex of museum buildings stem from the 15th century and was built as a place for lay people to practice their religion without having to commit to the restrictions of a monastic lifestyle.

Nowadays, you’ll find paintings, statues and azulejos dating from that period through to the 19th century, including a Rococo church, Manueline chapel and a stone with the Devil’s hand print. There is information in English throughout.

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 12:30 and 2 to 5:30 pm. Closed for most public holidays. €2.50 full price but discounts apply.

Bring out your inner child at Ponte de Lima Toy Museum

Assortment of toys. One of the many exhibits at the Toy museum, Ponte de Lima
One of the many exhibits at the Toy museum, Ponte de Lima

For a more modern, quirky experience, the Toy Museum (Museu do Brinquedo Português) offers an intriguing insight into Portuguese playthings from the 20th century. The exhibits are well displayed and you’ll find information in English about the history of Portuguese toy manufacturing that paints an insightful picture of the social and economic conditions prevalent in Portugal throughout the 20th century.

Miniature train enthusiasts must visit the adjoining building where you’ll find some intricate townscapes. The friendly ladies there will flick a switch and the vista comes to life.

The museum, housed in the red building just across the Roman bridge, also offers various temporary exhibitions. When we were there (early March 2024) there was a charming exhibition of dolls and cars collected by two siblings who were diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease. 

For more information, check out the museum’s website. Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday 10 to 12:30 pm and 2 to 6 pm. Closed Mondays.

Stroll along the riverside walking and cycle paths

An evening walk along the river, Ponte de Lima
An evening walk along the river, Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima has a wide avenue of plane trees to promenade under, providing a delightful place to relax on a bench and enjoy the River Lima. The Avenida dos Plátanos joins up with an Ecovia, a walking and cycling path that connects Ponte de Lima with various places of interest such as the nature reserve at Lagoas de Bertiandos.

See the Visit Ponte de Lima website for more details of these Ecopath trails.

You will undoubtedly spot some pilgrims when you visit Ponte de Lima. The Central Portuguese Camino de Santiago passes through the town so if you’re in the mood for a more serious walk in the Portuguese countryside, you can either follow the yellow arrows for a while and then turn back when you’re tired or follow the Way of St. James all the way to Spain over the course of several days.

Pilgrim on cobbled road near Ponte de Lima, Portuguese Way of St. James
Pilgrim on cobbled road near Ponte de Lima, Portuguese Way of St. James

Pose with a statue

If you’re the kind of person who likes having your photo taken while sitting on a bronze bull or next to a famous figure, Ponte de Lima will keep you entertained for a while.

Every time I visit, there are groups of tourists taking turns to pose and smile in front of the statue of traditionally clothed villagers. Ladies in sunglasses snuggle up to a bronze man on a bench while their lovers snap away without a hint of jealousy.

One little boy perched on the bull wasn’t so happy though. He was crying to be taken down but his family insisted on taking a photo first.

A boy sitting on a bronze bull surrounded by his family who are taking a photo
Poor little boy wasn’t allowed down until he’d had his picture taken.

Learn about Portuguese history and local culture through azulejos

Take a wander around the historical centre and you’ll find various painted tiled panels depicting elements of the town’s long, rich history. Among my favourites are the colourful panels on the municipal market and the one outside A Tulha restaurant.

Hand painted tiled panel of horses and soldiers in battle
This modern azulejo panel is on the wall outside A Tulha restaurant in Ponte de Lima.
Azulejo panel of Dom João IV arriving in Ponte da Lima
This more traditional azulejo shows King John IV arriving in Ponte de Lima in pomp and style.

Visit cute chapels and the Gothic parish church

Gothic parish church, Ponte de Lima
Gothic parish church, Ponte de Lima

In the heart of the medieval centre is the remarkable Gothic parish church, notable for its interior and exterior architecture. One of the statues is of Blessed Francisco Pacheco who locals would love to see canonised. Read more about his story and that of medieval Ponte de Lima in this article.

In its heyday, Ponte de Lima had more than its fair share of wealthy residents, several of whom could afford to have their own church or chapel built. Take a wander around the back of the historical centre and you’ll find Capela das Pereiras among others. My favourite is the tiny Capela de São João near ExpoLima.

Capela de São João, Ponte da Lima
Capela de São João, Ponte da Lima

Grab a bargain at Ponte de Lima markets

As well as the municipal market which supplies residents with fresh produce every weekday morning, a fortnightly tented market takes over the sandy car park on the river bank. You can buy all manner of textiles, household goods, cheap clothes and shoes here.

Tip: When this Monday market is not on, you can park for free by the river. On market days, use the overflow car park near the InLima Hotel.

Of more appeal to me personally are the Arts and Crafts market (every 4th Sunday) and the Antique market (every 2nd Sunday) which line the path to the right of the medieval bridge and the plane tree avenue beyond the municipal market to the left.

Riverside craft market, Ponte da Lima
Riverside craft market, Ponte de Lima

Tuck into local delicacies in Ponte de Lima restaurants

On one of my visits, I arrived on a Sunday at lunchtime and the town was swarming with people, including a fair proportion of Spaniards, who’d come to Ponte de Lima for a leisurely lunch.

Who can blame them?

There are plenty of restaurants, several of which overlook the river. I can personally recommend the veal steak at A Tulha. I also had a very nice bacalhau (cod) with onions at Sabores do Lima. A no-frills local restaurant serving good Portuguese food is O Celeiro but if you want a modern place near the river, Casa da Terra is a good option – try their smoked meats and go inside to see the sausage chandelier (I kid you not).

Sausage chandelier, Casa da Terra, Ponte de Lima
Sausage chandelier, Casa da Terra, Ponte de Lima

I wasn’t brave enough to try the local speciality, arroz de sarrabulho (rice with shredded pork and blood) but I thoroughly enjoyed my charuta (cigar-shaped cake which consists of a sweet, eggy filling wrapped in rice paper.

Long thin cake wrapped in rice paper
Charuta, a long, thin cigar made of egg yolk and almonds wrapped in rice paper. Eat it, don’t smoke it.

Feiras Novas in Ponte de Lima

The first weekend of September marks the town’s annual festival, Feiras Novas. Three days and nights of colour, music and all manner of activities await.

I once went to Ponte de Lima specifically for this festival but I couldn’t stand the crowds for long enough to watch any of the parades (I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable in big crowds so this is a personal perspective, not a comment on the event itself). You need to get there early to nab a spot by the side of the road well in advance if you want to see the floats and costumed people.

Tip: You may wish to do as the locals do and bring a stool. And a hat/sun protection.

Practicalities for visiting Ponte de Lima

Tours that go to Ponte de Lima:

You could spend an afternoon, or longer, in Ponte de Lima on this 3-day tour of the Minho’s Historical Charms.

If you only have a day to spare, consider a day trip from Porto.

This private tour concentrates on just two towns, Ponte de Lima and Viana do Castelo.

And this private tour also includes Braga.

How to get to Ponte de Lima without a tour:

If you’re driving, once you reach the town, just keep heading towards the river for the free parking, unless it’s a market day.

Be warned that signposting in this part of northern Portugal is, quite frankly, rubbish. If you’re hiring a car, bring your GPS gadget or rent one. If you think I’m exaggerating, one roundabout I encountered had four exits and not one signpost!

There are no trains to Ponte de Lima so your other options are to come by bus or organised tour (see above).

Where to stay in Ponte de Lima. Hotels and guesthouses

Mercearia da Vila

Within the town itself you have this lovely Vila, inside a former traditional grocery story in a historical square. There are stairs and no elevator but the well-appointed rooms and helpful staff are worth the slight exertion. Choose a room to suit.

Casa da Travessa

Located right in the old town is this guesthouse with double rooms most of which have park views. Rooms are clean and spacious and the shared kitchen has all of the necessary facilities. The host, Cristina, is very welcoming. Check photos here. 

Hotel Império do Norte

This comfortable, clean and modern 3-star hotel near the river, right on the Camino, has a selection of modern rooms some with river views. Choose the room for you.

If you have a car, you could venture a little further out of town to one of these gorgeous places:

Terra Rosa Country House & Vineyards

View of building in the grounds at Terra Rosa Country House & Vineyards
View of the grounds at Terra Rosa Country House & Vineyards

With garden views, pool and a vineyard to wander around, this farm stay 10 kms from Ponte de Lima is a glorious place to relax. Rooms are luxurious with lovely views and you can eat at the small onsite restaurant. Book your stay now.

Carmo’s Boutique Hotel

For boutique luxury that you’ll never want to leave, try this delightful hotel. It’s a little out of the town centre so better if you have a car but there is an onsite restaurant and beautiful grounds to enjoy. Check availability and prices.

Furniture in room at Hotel Paço de Vitorino, Ponte de Lima
The sitting room at Hotel Paço de Vitorino, Ponte de Lima

Hotel Paço de Vitorino

Hotel Paço do Vitorino is a 4-star Ponte de Lima hotel a few kilometres from the town. This former palace has been tastefully restored 16th century palace has gorgeous grounds, an outdoor pool and highlights its wonderful historical  architectural features. Comfort, style and luxury are evident throughout. Check availability and photos.

Quinta do Ameal

This Quinta is a wine estate with recently renovated luxury chalets and studios for rent. Surrounded by vineyards, this secluded accommodation offers the opportunity to appreciate vinho verde wines while relaxing in peaceful surroundings. There’s an outdoor pool, too. See photos and check current prices.

Pin this for later

Why visit Ponte de Lima Portugal
Why visit Ponte de Lima Portugal


  1. A friend and I will visit Ponte de LIma in early October and plan to stay two nights. We also want to go to Braga. Would it be possible to take the tour and to Barcelos and then dont go back to Ponte de Lima but go to Braga instead. Another question- will it be possible to take a train/bus from Santiago to Ponte de Lima?

    1. Hi Marietjie, If you take a private tour, you can customise it to suit your plans, including having a different drop off point. If it’s a group tour, there is no obligation to complete the return journey to Ponte de Lima but you’d need to make your own arrangements for onward travel to Braga.
      This site is a good resource for finding out about transport, including your second question: https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Ponte-de-Lima/Santiago-de-Compostela

  2. Looks like a lovely place. After digging out a map we will unfortunately not be able to include it on our visit this September on our 1st visit to Portugal. Hopefully we will return and see it then. One small suggestion….perhaps include a small map to show location on your visits to save hunting around for a map. Great info on places to see.

    1. I usually include a link to Google Maps in my articles as I haven’t been able to find a suitable map plugin for the website so far.

  3. We visited Ponte de Lima on family holiday a few years ago and were so impressed with the town and the surrounding area we bought and restored a ruined farm house.
    It is an excellent base for exploring the towns and beaches in the north, visiting the national park, day trips to Spain, playing the excellent local golf courses, enjoying the stunning local food and wine or simply chilling out by the pool.

    1. Author

      The Quinta looks lovely, John. And I’m not surprised you chose to buy there.

  4. Just home from doing the Portuguse Camino. We were a group of twelve and started our walk just outside Barcelos. Our first days walk brought us to Ponte de Lima. Having discovered your blog before travelling, I was delighted to find that it was everything you said. A really nice place. I will be back1

    1. Author

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for taking the time to report back after your trip. I’m so glad it lived up to your expectations, especially to the point that you’d like to return. What was the highlight of the trip for you?

  5. Hi, Julie. I too fell in love with Ponte do Lima the first time I bicycled there on my way from Lisbon to Santiago do Compostela. The year was 1987, and the town was relatively untouched by tourism. I made a painting of the bridge and church in 2008 upon returning to the town.

    1. Author

      Lovely painting, David. Not just the Ponte de Lima one, but all of them. I love your style and use of colour. Thanks for sharing the link.

  6. Hi Julie! I’m from Ponte de Lima, i was searching for some information about my home town when i found you this page! I’m even more pround of living here after reading your great description about Ponte de Lima.
    Thank you Julie! You should come here more times, we have new things every year..

    Sorry for my bad english 😛

    1. Author

      Hi Mi, I’m very happy to hear that you approve of my description of your home town. It’s a beautiful place and one I could happily live in myself, I think. I will definitely be back, I just don’t know when!

      1. You can’t visit Ponte de Lima and not fall in love! Yes, I’ve since bought a house there, who would want to settle anywhere else? 🙂
        There was only one thing missing in your article: the people! They’re so warm and welcoming! And the Town Hall deserves praise for their great management and friendliness to residents and visitors.

  7. Hi Julie, nice descriptive piece on Ponte de Lima, it gives us a wonderful vision and paints a picture of a town I would love to see.

    1. Author

      Thanks, David. It’s kind of you to say so. I love the place and would recommend it to anyone. I would advise thinking twice about going during Feiras Novas (1st weekend of September, I think) as unless you cope well with hoards of people, it’s a bit chaotic and I found it overwhelming.

  8. Ah, Julie- it looks like exactly my kind of place, and you’ve set me off planning and scheming again! I envy you that September visit.
    Great overview. I look forward to checking it out someday. (sorry I’m late getting here- I’m still playing catchup from an Algarve visit)

    1. Author

      I think you’ll love Ponte da Lima, Jo. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving it but even so, from what I know of you, it does sound like just the spot for you.

  9. Excellent overview…just the right amount of detail, fun to read and hitting all the points that make a trip memorable. Thanks for another great article.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback. It’s reassuring to know that you enjoyed reading it.

      I’ve just been organising my next trip up north and am really looking forward to it.

  10. Very nice – it’s a lovely place, although we haven’t been there for a couple of years. And I can vouch for the “arrôz de sarrabluho” – it’s great if you’re a determined carnivore with a taste for offal! Make sure you have a big appetite!

    1. Author

      I’m glad you told me about the offal, Robert. I’m done with tripe now, having tried it twice, although I do like liver. Is there any tripe in arroz de sarrabulho? If so, I’ll leave it alone and stick to the charutas 😉

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.