The small town of Tomar is known as the Templar City because in the 12th century it was an influential and religious center ruled by the Knights Templar. After the Christian Crusaders defeated the Moors, Grand Master Gualdim Pais established Tomar in 1160. With traces of the Knights Templar all over town, we followed the trail leading back to that time.
Praça de República
Exploring the city center of Tomar does not require a lot of time, so we took care of this on our arrival day. Right away, we started our exploration at the main square, Praça de República. The plaza houses a couple of important buildings: town hall, the king’s former residence, and São João Baptista church. Also, the statue of Gualdim Pais stands in the center of the square.
Being Christmas season, vendors set up shop, selling holiday delights.
Holiday events and performances occur in the square as well. We witnessed traditional Portuguese dancing and folk costumes accompanied by traditional folk music.
The only vegan food in town is at an organic store a little outside of the historic center. We visited Bio Thomar for lunch, and it was simple, tasty food. We both had their soup-of-the-day, a pumpkin and beet soup, and a smoked tofu sandwich with sprouts, pesto, and carrots.
More of Tomar’s Historical Center
Back to the main center, we wandered and saw the rest of the old town.
Tomar’s main attraction is Convento de Cristo, which is also part castle (Tomar Castle). This fortified convent served as a defensive structure against the Moors and was the headquarters of the Knights Templar.
As we approached the inner courtyard of the convent, the mysterious atmosphere in the autumnal setting had an eerie beauty to it. Before exploring the inside, we were first drawn to its outside surroundings.
At the aromatic garden, lime and orange trees populate the area.
We walked along the fortress wall and saw the historical center in view. Praça de República was easily spotted in the landscape.
As a religious center, Convento de Cristo also had a church, the Charola, which was inspired by the great churches in Jerusalem.
It took an hour and half to explore Convento de Cristo at a leisure pace. There is so much to see of the place beside the pictures I’ve shared. This is one attraction not to be missed when visiting Tomar.
Tomar is in central Portugal and requires a one-night stay when exploring at a slow pace. It takes two hours to get here from Lisbon, a little longer from where we’re staying in Sesimbra, which would make the day rushed and hectic for a day trip, though it may be feasible in the summer months when there is more daylight. But whether you stay a night or come for just the day, Tomar is worth the visit for those interested in the Knights Templar.