Templars of Tomar, Portugal

In En-Route, Europe, Our Journeys, Portugal, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

A charming find.

Tomar was recommended to us by a relative, as not only has it got an incredible Knights Templar church surrounded by a labyrinth of cloisters in the Convent of Christ, it has a charming town at its feet.

The Praça da República, Tomar, Portugal

Gary and I often seek out Templar churches, one of which we found in the legal district of London, so, we were intrigued to find out more about Tomar.

The Convent of Christ, Tomar, Portugal

The Grand Master

The Convent of Christ is an amazing place, it sits high on the hill overlooking Tomar in what was once a castle. There’s so much to discover in the maze of arcades, cloisters and walkways.

Outside of the Charola, Tomar, Portugal

The convent was initially founded in the 12th-century by the first Grand Master of the Order of the Templars, during which time the 16-sided Charola was built. Like many of the Knights Temples, it’s made to signify the Rotunda of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre.

Inside the Charola, Tomar, Portugal

It is incredibly ornate and colourful inside, all around the octagonal central structure are paintings and frescos it is quite astonishing, I didn’t expect it to be so decorative.

Intricate detail, Tomar, Portugal
The ornate detail, of the chapel Tomar, Portugal

Did you know?

That the Convent of Christ in Tomar has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.


Now, I mentioned the cloisters, I lost count how many there were, I believe there were seven or eight, in just one convent. Two of which were built under the order of Henry the Navigator during the 15th – century, the Washing Cloister and the Cemetery Cloister of which Monk’s tombstones pave the perimeter.

The Washing Cloister, Tomar, Portugal
The Cemetery Cloister, Tomar, Portugal

Not to be outdone King John III during his reign in the 1550’s requested that the Great Cloister be built.

In the corners, spiral stairways were constructed to reach the Terrace of Wax above.

The Great Cloister, Tomar, Portugal
The Stairway, Tomar, Portugal
Looking through the Stairway, Tomar, Portugal
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The dormitory area for the monks was huge and depending on your hierarchy was a factor in whether you got a room with a view or not.

The Dormitory, Tomar, Portugal
The window seat, Tomar, Portugal

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.

DK Portugal cover

There’s more

The cloister story continues with the Cloister of the Crows & the Bread Cloister, from within here bread was baked, which was then given to the poor that begged at the monastery.

The Cloister of the Crows, Tomar, Portugal
The Bread Cloister, Tomar, Portugal

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Manueline Window

Then you have Saint Barbara’s Cloister and this is a popular one, as it’s from here that you can see the magnificent Manueline Window of the Chapter House. Decorated in nautical motifs of twisting ropes, chains & coral.

Saint Barbara's Cloister, Tomar, Portugal

I really enjoyed strolling around the Convent, it had such a beautiful mix of architecture and so many arcades and staircases, it was easy to find a quiet little spot.

The Manueline Window, Tomar, Portugal

After visiting the convent, it was time to check in to our hotel and go & discover Tomar town.

On the streets

We honestly thought Tomar was a great find, it was a lovely size town very walkable, full of history and plenty of restaurants to choose from and actually not too many tourists.

The Nabão River, Tomar, Portugal
The waterwheel, Tomar, Portugal

Prince Henry

The heart of the old town is a grid of narrow cobbled lanes, which were instructed to be built in this fashion by Henry the Navigator, who at the time was the Grand Master of the Order of Christ (which succeeded the Order of the Knights Templar)

Statue to Henry the Navigator, Tomar, Portugal

Step back in time

It’s quite fascinating wandering these streets, life seems relatively unchanged for decades. Intriguing little alleyways, locals passing the time of day and rustic bars and restaurants.

A cobbled street, Tomar, Portugal
Little lanes, Tomar, Portugal
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Have a break

The main shopping street in Tomar is Rua Serpa Pinto, with the Convent of Christ looking down from above. Not just for shopping this attractive street has bustling cafes and some lovely architecture.

Rua Serpa Pinto, Tomar, Portugal
Rua Serpa Pinto at night, Tomar, Portugal
Attractive shop fronts, Tomar, Portugal

As you head up the street, the Praça da República opens out in front of you and you are greeted with the Gothic Church of São João Baptista, built during the 15th & 16th – centuries & the local town hall.

It’s a delightful square and quite irresistible not to stop, quench your thirst and sit and admire it.

Praça da República & Church of São João Baptista, Tomar, Portugal

Where we ate

We found a local restaurant for the evening called Os Moinhos, it was quite unassuming from the outside but looked friendly. The staff were excellent, there wasn’t a lot of conversation passed between us, just pointing and laughter.
The food was freshly cooked and great value, we had two courses each and a very generous carafe of red wine, and it came to €28.

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the one night we were in Tomar, was at the Hotel dos Templários, it was a large hotel along the river and just a short stroll into the old town. Although slightly impersonal the car parking facilities were fantastic.

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Inspired to visit Tomar?

Explore the ancient UNESCO Knights Templar and the Convent of Christ, then head to the old town and take a stroll around the narrow-cobbled lanes.

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Templars of Tomar, Portugal

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