Tomar is a beautiful city located in the Centre of Portugal, a city that will take you to the time of the Knights Templar, of kings and queens. In this article, you’ll discover everything this city has to offer, from its natural beauty to its cultural and architectural richness – among others, discover the amazing castle and Convent of Christ!
Also known as the “Knights Templar city” (“cidade dos Templários”), Tomar has earned this title after the conquest of these lands from the Moors by the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques.
After the conquest, in the 12th century, the king gave the lands to the Order of the Knights Templar as a “token” of appreciation for the effort of the knights of this order in maintaining and expanding the Christian faith in the Portuguese territory.
Two centuries later, as the pope wanted to abolish this religious order in Europe, king D. Dinis created the Order of Christ. This order would take all the properties and men of the extinct Order of the Knights Templar.
A fun fact about this city is that its historic centre was designed as a cross, having a convent in each cardinal point: to the north you’ll find the old Convento da Anunciada; the Convent of St. Francis (Convento de São Francisco) is located to the south; to the east there is Convento de Santa Iria; finally, to the west, you’ll find the ex-libris of Tomar, the Convent of Christ .
At the centre of this cross, there is the square Praça da República with the city hall on one side and the Church of St. John the Baptist (Igreja de São João Baptista) on the other side.
To admire some of the beauty of the wonderful city of Tomar, don’t hesitate to watch this small video with some of the points of interest that you’ll discover later on on this article.
What to visit in Tomar?
Begin your visit to the historic centre of the “Knights Templar city” with a stroll next to the shores of Nabão river. Enjoy this beautiful river, and go for a walk through the street Rua João Carlos Everard and the avenue Avenida Marquês de Tomar.
Halfway this avenue you can rest at the beautiful Mouchão Park (Parque do Mouchão). This park is located on a small islet in Nabão river where you can admire one of the ex-libris of the city of Tomar – the wheel of Mouchão (Roda do Mouchão). This hydraulic wooden wheel is a symbol of the economic prosperity that once existed in the city.
After relaxing for a while in Mouchão Park, make your way back to the avenue and go through the street Rua Gil Avô, then turn left on the street Rua da Silva Magalhães until you get to the square Praça da República.
At the beautiful square Praça da República you’ll find the Church of St. John the Baptist (Igreja de São João Baptista). This church, built in the 15th century, stands out because of its manueline portal and its octagonal steeple; in the interior you’ll find some paintings of Gregório Lopes, dating back to the 16th century.
This square is the main place for the celebration of the Festival of the Trays (Festa dos Tabuleiros) that takes place every four years, in the beginning of July (the next will occur in 2019). This festival attracts thousands of tourists to city of Tomar, coming from other regions of Portugal but also from abroad.
Facing the Church of St. John the Baptist, in the middle of the square, you can admire the statue of D. Gualdim Pais, Grand-Master of the Order of the Knights Templar and responsible for the construction of the castle and Convent of Christ, the place that would become the headquarters of this order in Portugal.
On the other side of the square you can also admire the beautiful building of the city hall.
After taking some time admiring Praça da República and everything around it, resume your walk. Go through the street Rua Infantaria 15 and turn left on the street Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto. Walk some metres until you arrive to the synagogue of Tomar – here you’ll find the Abraão Zacuto Luso-Hebrew Museum.
This national monument had multiple purposes before it became a museum: it was a synagogue for some decades but, with the forced conversion of Jews to Christianity in the late 15th century, this place was turned into a prison; after that, it became a place for Christian worship (chapel of St. Bartholomew), a cellar and even a warehouse until it finally became property of the Portuguese state in the mid-20th century.
- Location: Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto 73
Go back to Rua Infantaria 15 and continue to the avenue Avenida Dr. Cândido Madureira; there, walk some metres upwards, towards the square Praceta Infante Dom Henrique. Here, you’ll find the entrance to the lung of the city, the National Forest of the Seven Hills (Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes), a park where you can relax for some minutes and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty.
Once, this forest was part of the castle and Convent of Christ, a place that was used to farm and for meditation by the members of the Order of Christ.
Next, exit the park and turn left to the avenue Avenida Dr. Vieira Guimarães until you get to Calçada de S. Tiago. Here, go upwards until you get to the most anticipated place since the time you have arrived to the beautiful city of Tomar, the Castle and Convent of Christ (it’s just a ten-minute hike).
The Castle and Convent of Christ
Listed by UNESCO in 1983 as a World Heritage Site, the Convent of Christ is one of the most beautiful Portuguese monuments, a monument that had the influence of several architectural styles throughout the centuries, namely Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance styles.
As I have mentioned before, the responsible for the construction of the castle and Convent of Christ was the Grand-Master of the Order of the Knights Templar, Gualdim Pais, in the 12th century. Two centuries later, these properties became part of the Order of Christ and, afterwards, of the Portuguese state.
This monument offers its visitors several points of interest such as the castle, the Gothic and Renaissance cloisters, the charola and the Manueline church.
One of the first things you can admire when you enter this medieval complex, is the castle and its majestic ramparts and the imposing donjon.
From the Gothic and Renaissance cloisters, we can point out the Cemetery cloister (claustro do Cemitério), the Hospice cloister (claustro da Hospedaria), the cloister of the Crows (claustro dos Corvos) and the magnificent Great cloister or D. João III cloister (claustro Grande ou claustro D. João III). This cloister reflects the love of king D. João III for the Italian art.
In the corners of this cloister you’ll find spiral staircases that will take you to the beautiful Wax Terrace (Terraço de Cera) where honeycombs were left to dry – definitely one of the places to see when you visit the Convent of Christ!
One of the ex-libris of this monument can be found in the interior of the convent, in the part corresponding to the Manueline chrurch – the charola (a round church). Created in the image of the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the charola presents a decoration that reflects the richness of the Order of the Knights Templar by the time of the 12th century.
Apart from the beautiful charola, you can also admire an amazing example of the Manueline architecture in the western façade of the church – the chapter house Manueline window. This window has unique characteristics of the Portuguese architecture of the 15th and 16th centuries such as the armillary sphere, the cross of the Order of Christ, entangled ropes and much more.
If you go to Tomar, don’t forget to visit the castle and Convent of Christ, one of the most beautiful and majestic monuments in Portugal – it will be worth your while!
- Location: Colina do Castelo, Tomar
- Site: www.conventocristo.gov.pt/en
After your visit to the magnificent Convent of Christ, you can, on your way out, turn left and go through Estrada do Convento to admire the beautiful Pegões Aqueduct. This 6 km aqueduct was built with the purpose of supplying the Convent of Christ with water; its construction lasted 21 years, between the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century.
If you have time, I suggest that you visit some other points of interest in the city of Tomar, such as the (Igreja de) Santa Maria do Olival Church, located on the other shore of Nabão river. This church is an important Portuguese monument since it is a perfect example of the Portuguese Gothic style.
Aside from the simple architectural style, this church also stands out because of the fact that it was founded in the 12th century by the already mentioned Gualdim Pais to serve as the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal. It was here that some masters of this order were buried.
- Location: Rua Aquiles da Mota Lima, Tomar
You can also visit the (Capela de) Nossa Senhora da Conceição Chapel, the (Igreja da) Nossa Senhora da Graça Church and the Aquiles da Mota Lima Matchboxes Museum.
How to get to Tomar?
If you want to visit Tomar and the surrounding area, then my suggestion is that you rent a car so that it is easier for you to move from one place to another, especially between the points of interest outside the historic centre of Tomar. Tomar is two hours away from Porto and the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
One last alternative, if you’re in Lisbon, is going on one of these excursions:
Where to eat in Tomar?
If you want to eat in one of the most beautiful locations of Tomar, the square Praça da República, then you should have lunch or dinner at Taverna Antiqua, a thematic restaurant where you can eat meals as if you were in the Middle Ages.
- Location: Praça da República 23-25, Tomar
- TripAdvisor reviews
Located in the street Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto, you can also find one of the well known restaurants in Tomar, the restaurant Casa das Ratas.
- Location: Rua Dr. Joaquim Jacinto 6, Tomar
- TripAdvisor reviews
Another option for a great meal in the historic centre of Tomar is A Tasquinha da Mitas, located right next to river Nabão.
- Location: Rua Alexandre Herculano 1, Tomar
- TripAdvisor reviews
Where to sleep in Tomar?
If you visit this Portuguese region and want to spend one or more nights in the city of Tomar, then my suggestion is that you book a room in the historic centre.
Facing river Nabão and located in the heart of the historic city, we’ve chosen Thomar Story to spend the night in this beautiful city.
This place offers to its guests everything they’ll need to spend the most calm and relaxing night(s): all rooms are equipped with a television, free wifi and a private bathroom; some also have a kitchenette so that you can prepare fast meals for children and adults.
Apart from its great location and affordable prices, we recommend Thomar Story because it’s a welcoming place in a completely refurbished building. From here, you can leave on foot and get to know the historic centre.
Important information: I wasn’t paid to promote this property. I’m only doing it because I loved the time spent at this Guest House.
What to visit near Tomar?
If you want to explore more of this beautiful Portuguese region, then we suggest that you visit some of the places located less than 50 km away from Tomar.
If you rent a car for these holidays, you can drive some quilometres and visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, the biggest pilgrimage site in Portugal. Here, you can admire the majestic basilicas of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima and of the Holy Trinity and, why not, see the original statue of the Virgin Mary at the Chapel of the Apparitions.
Another place you can visit, located 30 km away from Tomar, is the magnificent Castle of Almourol. Located on a islet in Tagus river, this castle was built in the 12th century and is associated with the already mentioned Order of the Knights Templar and the Order of Christ. No doubt, this is one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal!
Located 45 km away from the historic centre of Tomar you’ll find Batalha Monastery. This is another amazing monument listed by UNESCO in 1983 as a World Heritage Site.
This monastery was commissioned by the king as a way to thank Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Kingdom of Castile, at the Aljubarrota Battle (Batalha de Aljubarrota). Its construction took two centuries and had the Manueline Gothic as the main architectural style, used throughout the years.
Finally, we recommend a visit to the wonderful Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Nature Park. This park, located 40 km away from Tomar, has a great natural beauty and enthrals those visiting it – discover its amazing landscapes and beautiful caves!
Are you going to visit Tomar? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!
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