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Tomar Guide

Portugal City Travel Guide: Tomar

Tomar

Tomar is a pleasant town in the Estremadura region of Portugal, 135km north east of the Portuguese capital Lisbon and close to the pilgrimage town of Fatima.

Church of St John the Baptist, Tomar, Portugal.
Igreja de São João Baptista, Praça da República, Tomar, Portugal

Located on the banks of the River Nabão, Tomar is best known for the superb Convento de Cristo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and former headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal.

Located on a hill above the town, the historical site covers around 45 hectares and was founded in the 12th century by Gualdim Paes (1118-1195) - a statue of whom stands in the central square of Praça da República in Tomar.

The Convent of Christ offers the wonderful Charola chapel, seven magnificent cloisters and the huge Manueline Window (Janela do Capítulo) created from 1510-1513 by Diogo Arruda, who also worked on Belem Tower in Belem.

After the Templars were suppressed in the 14th century, they were simply re-established as the Order of Christ in Portugal. Henry the Navigator, who led the order for twenty years and did so much to inspire Portugal's "Age of the Discoveries" used the wealth of the Convento de Cristo to finance his voyages of exploration and colonization.

Convent of Christ, Portugal.
The exterior of the Charola, Convent of Christ, Tomar, Portugal
House of the Fountains Mosaic, Convent of Christ, Portugal.
The interior of the Charola, Convent of Christ, Tomar, Portugal

The highlight of a visit to the Convento de Cristo is the charola - the original Romanesque Templar church which dates to the foundation of the convent in the late 12th century.

During the 16th century altarpiece paintings, murals, stucco work and carvings were added during the reign of King Manuel I (himself a Grand Master) to create an amazing space full of historic atmosphere. The round church is supposedly modeled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is sixteen sided on the outside and octagonal on the inside.

A 10-15 minute walk from the main buildings is the 16th century Renaissance basilica of the Hermitage of Our Lady of the Conception (Ermida of Nossa Senhora da Conceição) done in limestone, which was initially intended as João III's mortuary chapel.

Hermitage of Our Lady of the Conception, Tomar, Portugal.
Hermitage of Our Lady of the Conception, Tomar, Portugal
Synagogue of Tomar, Estremadura, Portugal.
Synagogue of Tomar, Museu Luso-Hebraico Abraão Zacuto, Portugal

Tomar's other attractions include the Museu Luso-Hebraico Abraão Zacuto - the former Jewish synagogue in Tomar. The building is named after the famous Jewish astronomer, Abraham Zacuto (1452-1515?), who made navigational tools for the explorer Vasco da Gama, and for a time served as Royal Astronomer to King John II of Portugal. After the forced conversion or expulsion of the Jewish population in 1496, the synagogue served as both a prison and private residence before its restoration from the 1920's onwards.

Near Tomar Station, the quirky Museu dos Fósforos claims to have Europe's largest collection of match boxes with over 40,000 of them from 127 countries from all over the world, exhibited in seven rooms. Other museums and galleries in Tomar include the Lopes-Graça Museum, Casa dos Cubos and Núcleo de Arte Contemporânea José-Augusto França.

Praca da Republica, Tomar, Portugal.
Praça da República, Tomar, Portugal

Praça da República is Tomar's central square with its statue of Gualdim Paes, usually with a pigeon perched on his helmet. The square is ringed by a number of elegant 17th century buildings, cafes and the old town hall. The 16th century Igreja de São João Baptista includes a handsome Manueline doorway and a fine octagonal bell tower with further Manueline motifs, such as the armillary sphere and the Templar Cross. Inside the church are paintings by Gregório Lopes (1490-1550).

The Aqueduto de Pegões was built to supply the Convento de Cristo with water in the 17th century. The best place to view this impressive aqueduct is about 2km out of town just off the N113 road to Leiria.

Turismo

The Turismo is located on Avenida Dr Cândido Madureira (Tel: 249 329 823).

Tomar Station, Portugal.
Tomar Station, Tomar, Portugal

Arrival

There are direct trains to Tomar from Lisbon's Gare do Oriente which take from 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the train. Some trains may involve a change at Entroncamento. If travelling north to Coimbra or Porto, you will need to change trains at Lamarosa or Entroncamento. There are also frequent trains to Santarém (50 minutes).

The bus station is adjacent to Tomar railway station and there are buses to Lisbon, Leiria, Fatima and Santarém.

By car from Coimbra take the motorway A13 or the N110 road. From Lisbon Airport drive north on motorway A1 to the Torres Novas exit and then motorway A23 and A13 toll-free. There is free parking in the large Varzea Grande square in front of Tomar Station.

River at Tomar, Portugal.
River Nabão, Tomar, Portugal

Accommodation in Tomar

Tomar has a number of good hotels and residencial. Most of the main places to stay are on Rua Silva Pinto and the parallel street Rua Alexandre Herculano. Residencial Cavaleiros de CristoResidencial Uniao, Hotel Sinagoga and Residencial Luz are all recommended. Hostel 2300 Thomar is a hostel catering to budget travellers and backpackers. The most upmarket hotel in Tomar is the four star Hotel Dos Templarios complete with swimming pool.

See here for a full list of accommodation in Tomar.

Entertainment

There is no shortage of places to eat and drink in Tomar with a number of cafes and restaurants on Rua Silva Pinto. At No. 48, Cervejaria Claustro is recommended for petiscos along with good beer and wines. At No. 148, Restaurante O Tabuleiro serves traditional Portuguese dishes and at No. 149, La Bella is a popular Italian-style restaurant.

Cervejaria do Fernando on Rua Silva Magalhães, 47 2300-593 (Tel: 249 314 014) also has good hearty Portuguese food, as does Restaurante Jardim on the same street.

By the river, Bela Vista, R. Marquês de Pombal, 68, 2300-510 has a covered terrace for dining outside in summer.

Festivals

Held every four years in the first week of July - (next in 2019, 2023, 2027 etc) the pagan-inspired Festa dos Tabuleiros (The Festival of the Trays) sees a procession of young girls, dressed in white, balancing large trays of bread and wheat on their heads.

The Festa Templaria began in 2013 and features a torch light parade of mounted knights in costume down from the Convento de Cristo and around the streets of Tomar, a medieval market and workshops in medieval martial arts. The four-day 2016 Festa Templaria will be held July 7-10. See www.facebook.com/festatemplaria for further details.

Internet

Your accommodation will most likely have Wifi internet.

Map of Tomar



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