Tomar, Portugal: the last Templar town

About halfway between Porto and Lisbon, Tomar is a little hidden gem in Portugal.



On a hot September day, on our way to Lisbon from Porto, we stopped in Tomar to visit what my Portuguese husband announced was the last of the Templars' towns to be commissioned for construction. I had never heard of it.

Tomar streets
Cobbled streets of Tomar

After researching it, I discovered that, in 2013, The Guardian voted Tomar as the best day trip from Lisbon: "The Convento de Cristo in Tomar is probably one of the most spectacular places in Portugal. Founded by the Knights Templar, it's a beautiful, mysterious and magical place, wonderful to discover and enjoy."

Church of São João Baptista

The small city is a gem. We strolled around the narrow streets and the centre just before lunch.

Church of São João Baptista in the centre of Tomar.
Church of São João Baptista (15-16th centuries) in the centre of Tomar.

Tomar town hall
Praça da República and Paços do Concelho (17th century Town Hall), in Tomar. The bronze statue represents Gualdim Pais, founder of the town.

From the central square (pictured below), you can see a glimpse of the Convento de Cristo high up on the hill. You can hike up the hill but we decided to take our car there as it is not really child-friendly.

The real beauty in Tomar is the Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is a magnificent combination of castle and convent dating back from 12th- to 16th-century. Its architecture and art are stunning. It is the main monument of the city and one of the most important in Portugal.

Convento de Cristo


Convento de Cristo, Tomar



Convento de Cristo, Tomar, Portugal

Originally a 12th-century Templar stronghold, when the order was dissolved in the 14th century the Portuguese branch was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, that later supported Portugal's maritime discoveries of the 15th century.

Convento de Cristo

The castle are full of small cloisters, stunning azulejos tiles, secret passages, stairs, chapels and beautiful windows. There is a different style of architecture at every turn and something amazing to look at behind every door. 

Visiting Convento de Cristo

The kids (5 and 18 months at the time) loved it. Our eldest loved hearing little stories about the knights and Portuguese explorers. Our youngest just loved being able to roam free, climb every stairs, run and look out every window. The visit can be quite long as there is a lot to see. But it is mostly open-air and you can go at your own speed (with an audio-guide). So it was not a problem. 

Convento de Cristo

We highly recommend a stopover if you can. Beautiful place full of fascinating history.

Tomar is a great little day out from Lisbon (about 1h30min away).  Nearby is also Almourol castle: a medieval castle on an islet in the River Tagus. The castle was part of the defensive line controlled by the Knights Templar, and a stronghold used during the Portuguese Reconquista (the period during which Christians fought to conquer the Iberian peninsula from Muslims). Worth a little detour at least even if just for a quick look from the shore. 

Almourol
Almourol
Tomar, Portugal
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A Journey in South Africa - Globe Trottin' Kids
Sports to Try When Visiting France - La Cité des Vents
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Tomar, Portugal: the Last Templar Town - the piri-piri lexicon
7 Places to Explore in the Netherlands - Expat Life with a Double Buggy
Explore Buenos Aires, Argentina - Hispanic Mama
Kid-Friendly Vacation in Puerto Rico - Discovering the World Through My Son's Eyes

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1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous photos! I need to put Portugal on my list!

    ReplyDelete

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