The little town of Ponte de Lima was not on our original itinerary, but after several people we met on our trip suggested we make it a stop on our tour, we did just that. A half hour drive from Viana do Castelo, the town with a population of 2,800 was a nice stop on our way to Braga.
Ponte de Lima is one of the oldest towns in Portugal, beginning life as a Roman settlement on the road between Braga and Santiago de Campostela, Spain. A popular spot with Portuguese tourists, the village is full of charming shops and restaurants. Historical towers and walls are integrated into the newer buildings.
The most famous attraction, and namesake of the town, is the ponte, an ancient stone bridge that crosses the Ria Lima. The bridge was extensively rebuilt in the 14th century but the north end is still of Roman origin.
The local legend is that when the Romans first reached Ria Lima they mistook it for the River Lethe, the river of forgetfulness and one of the five rivers of Hades. The soldiers, afraid that the water would cause them to lose all memory, refused to cross the river. The Roman commander, frustrated that the river was impeding his military campaign, rode across the river. The soldiers were not convinced until the General, now on the opposite bank of the river, called each of the men by name. Today the legend is celebrated by a display of statues along the river banks- the troops on the near bank and the general on the opposite side of the river.
Another interesting little legend is the story pictured in azelejos on the Torre that now houses the Tourist Information Center. The azelejo is titled “Cabras São Senhor!” (They’re goats, M’lord!) The story goes that King Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, mistook a herd of goats for Moors and nearly attacked the herd. Fortunately for the goats, the king called off the attack once he realized his mistake.
There’s a lot of artwork, including several sculptures like this one celebrating folk life.
Walking through town is like walking through a park. There’s a lot of green space, monuments, and artwork. We spent time exploring the streets and stopped for coffee and cake in one of the cafés in town. It seemed that everywhere we turned we found another beautiful street.
Could we live in Ponte de Lima? Definitely, yes. For such a small town there are a lot of things to see and do. The one drawback would be that we’d have to drive more, as amenities are a little more limited than in larger cities. We enjoyed the short time we spent in Ponte de Lima and have this fantastic little town in our top three of places we’d like to live in Portugal.