A day trip from Guimarães
Gary and I based ourselves in Guimarães for a couple of nights, so, that we could enjoy the delights of its UNESCO historic centre.
However, we also wanted to tour around a little bit more of Portugal’s north west Minho region, famed for its Vinho Verde wine.
So, we jumped in the car to find out what Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima & Bom Jesus do Monte had to offer.
Head to the coastline
Viana do Castelo was our first stop and around 80km (50 miles) from Guimarães.
The 13th-century city is located on the mouth of the Lima river and played a prominent role in maritime discoveries during the 16th-century.
Viana do Castelo has quite a mix of architectural styles amongst its winding streets some of which are Renaissance, Baroque & Manueline. It’s a very easy town to explore on foot and had a charming, relaxed feel about it.
We enjoyed just strolling around the streets and lanes; it’s impressive just turning a corner what you come across. In particular, a 15th-century Romanesque style Sé Cathedral of Viana do Castelo.
We continue to wander through the old town, along the riverside passing by everyday life and admiring the local traditions and culture.
A reference guide
Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.
We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.
Still, in Viana do Castelo we head vertically up to Santuário de Santa Luzia. This sanctuary is relatively modern in style as it was built in the 20th-century, and stands proud, high above the city almost protecting it.
Once you are up to the top the views across the Minho countryside are wonderful, you can see across the rolling hills for miles.
Ponte de Lima
Just east of Viana do Castelo is Ponte de Lima our second stop, as the name suggests it sits on the banks of the River Lima.
The town is one of the oldest in Portugal and was founded in 1125. You must head to the river as one of the highlights of the town is the eye-catching Roman bridge.
Only five are arches remain of the original bridge; however, restoration was completed during the 14th & 15th centuries.
Have a wander
Like Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima is very easy to explore on foot, dotted around the town and along the river are some lovely sculptures and monuments, reflecting Portugal’s historical past.
A couple of towers still remain from the original fortification, and as you stroll back into the narrow streets of Ponte de Lima, reveals itself more.
We visited on Portugal’s Liberation Day, 25th April, so it was reasonably bustling; however, this meant there was a market along the riverside.
Even if it’s not market day, there are traditional cafés and restaurants that you can enjoy along the river bank.
Bom Jesus do Monte
Our third & final stop for the day was at Bom Jesus do Monte a spectacular sanctuary sitting high on a hill, just 3 miles from Braga.
It is impressive standing at the bottom and seeing row upon row of intricate Baroque stairways crossing each other & stretching 116 metres (381ft) high above.
Church of Bom Jesus at the top was completed in 1811 by Carlos Amarante and was built on the grounds of a 15th-century sanctuary.
As you start your slow meander down the Baroque terraces, take a little time to admire the detail of the statues and fountains.
When you get to the bottom, there is a pleasant stroll through woodland known as the ‘Sacred Way’, as you wander through there are little chapels along the way.
We cheated a little bit, as we parked at the base of Bom Jesus do Monte and caught the funicular railway up & walked back down.
Where we stayed
Our accommodation for the two nights we were in Guimarães, was at Casa Dos Pombais. This old manor house was just on the edge of the old town.
Perhaps an unusual place to stay but it had great parking was very reasonably priced.