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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something to make your travels easier?
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.
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.
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.
Something for the Traveller
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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