One hour and a half away from Lisbon and two hours from Porto, you will find the city of Tomar. Located in the centre of Portugal, this city is perfect for a weekend getaway or for a stop between trips from north to south of the country. It was on one of these trips, from the Algarve to the north, that we made a stop to explore the city. In this post, we give you a taste of the places to visit in and around Tomar.
The city of the Templars is not big and you can visit it on foot. Park the car near the entrance of the National Forest of Sete Montes and start the adventure, climbing up to the Convent of Christ. You can easily visit the city by following the order of the places below.
Itinerary to visit Tomar
Convent of Christ
The Convent of Christ (Convento de Cristo) is Tomar’s landmark and, of course, a must-visit in the city. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, its architecture incorporates elements of various architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque. The ex-libris of the convent is the Chapter House Window, one of the main works of the Manueline style.
The grandeur of the convent and the spectacular nature of the various cloisters are undeniable.
Although we recommend the visit and consider that this place should be included in Tomar’s itinerary, we must confess that our experience was not the best.
We left the visit to the convent for later in the day and when we entered, it was still some time before closing and was within admission hours. However, a few minutes later and several minutes before closing time, the staff started closing the doors and informing us that they were closing. We were not able to enjoy the visit, as we rushed around and ended up not visiting all the areas (please note that opening hours apply to both the access to the inside of the building and to the gardens). So, you already know, to fully enjoy this experience, don’t leave it for the end of the day.
Another negative aspect is the lack of free parking on site and no indication of the average visiting time. If you choose not to park in town and choose the convent’s car parks, we suggest you pay for parking for an hour and a half/two hours.
Integrated in the Convent of Christ, you will find Tomar Castle. At the main entrance of the convent, you can immediately see the castle walls. Located high above the city, it offers a privileged view over the region. The castle is surrounded by gardens where you can stroll or relax in the shade.
“Mata dos Sete Montes” National Woodland
After visiting the castle, return to the city via the Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes, which covers 39 hectares and is the city’s main park. Once known as the “Cerca do Convento”, this forest was used by the Order of Christ as a retreat and cultivation area.
In the middle of the vegetation, you will find a miniature temple, known as “Charolinha” due to its cylindrical shape.
Convent of S. Francisco
At the exit of the Sete Montes National Forest, you will find the São Francisco Convent, which stands out for its Mannerist chapel. Currently, the convent houses the Museum of Matches (Museu dos Fósforos). This museum houses a collection of over 40,000 matchboxes.
On the way to Praça da República, you will find the Synagogue, believed to be the oldest in Portugal and where you can visit the Museu Luso-Hebraico de Abraão Zacuto (Abraham Zacuto Luso- Jewish Museum).
Republic Square (Praça da República)
You arrive at the Republic Square in the centre of Tomar. The statue of Gualdim Pais, the city’s founder, stands in the centre of the square as a tribute. You can also see the Church of São João Batista, the parish church and the Town Hall, the former Paços do Concelho building.
The square is complete with impeccably clean and cared for old houses and full of architectural details.
Corredoura, now called Rua Serpa Pinto, is Tomar’s main pedestrian street. It is there that you will find many shops, cafes, restaurants or local accommodation establishments.
Strolling along the cobbled street you will find the Residencial União, which dates back to the 19th century, the centenary Café Paraíso or the confectioner’s shop Estrelas de Tomar, where the famous Fatias de Tomar (Slices of Tomar), Tomar little cheeses and Beija-me Depressa were born.
River Nabão and Mouchão Park Wheel in Tomar
You’ve reached the place we enjoyed most in the city, the river Nabão and the Mouchão Park. In the park there is no lack of elements as in so many other parks, but this one stands out for its bandstand, the romantic pergola and the Mouchão Wheel. The wheel is cherished by all Tomarenses and few visitors remain indifferent to it. It was built in 1906 to irrigate the fields surrounding the river and to transport water to the mills.
Next to Parque do Mouchão is Ponte Velha, one of the most beautiful entrances to the city. The origin of the bridge is thought to be Roman, but there is no certainty. It is believed that when the Knights Templar arrived in Tomar they took advantage of an existing stone structure and built the bridge to cross the river safely.
Convent of Santa Iria
At the end of the bridge, on the banks of the river Nabão, you will find the convent of Santa Iria, which, like the bridge, was built on a very old building, which predates the castle. It was here that the martyrdom of Saint Iria took place, beheaded by Britaldo, whose body was thrown into the river. According to the legend, the waters of Tejo opened to show the coffin and, at that place, today a pattern marks the occurrence.
Cultural Complex of Levada de Tomar
The Levada de Tomar also dates back to the time of the Knights Templar and was created to supply power to the mills and olive oil presses on the banks of the river. Nowadays, it is home to the Levada de Tomar Electricity Plant, which you can visit, learning more about the production of electricity. If you want you can also walk along the banks of the levada on any of its walkways.
Pegões Altos Aqueduct
Once the visit to the city centre is over, we suggest you end the day at the Pegões Altos Aqueduct. Located very close to the Convent of Christ, the aqueduct is six kilometres long and was used to bring water to the convent.
Climbing the aqueduct is not suitable for people with heart conditions, children or those afraid of heights. If you are not afraid and feel up to it, you can admire the beauty of the aqueduct and the surrounding area from its height of 30 metres. Always be careful because there is no support base and the wind is usually strong.
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