Tomar is mostly known for being the home of the famous world heritage castle, the Castle of Tomar or convent of christ.
The castle was built to be the headquarters of the knights Templar in Portugal, the first stone was laid in 1160.
It is a very impressive castle that became Unesco world heritage during the early nineties of the last century.
The castle by itself is amazingly beautiful and surrounded by Knights Templar mysticism and it is a very good reason to visit Tomar but many blinded by it’s beauty, forget to Discover the town that it created below and the reason for its existence, the fertile lands that surround the city.
The town and the surrounding district came as a complete surprise to us and it provides everything necessary for a fantastic holiday or get away in almost any style or need!
In the city you’ll find everything necessary for a relaxing city break – fine dining, traffic free pedestrian city strolling in a very fascinating historical centre, a good range of accommodation to fit every need and pocket and a selection of interesting regional products that are unique to Tomar.
In the district surrounding Tomar you’ll discover amazing, quiet swimming beaches in the surprisingly warm Castelo do Bode lake, Large historical Manor houses and grounds, rehabilitated convents, cottages and country houses that provide accommodation, wine tasting of great regional wines from local wine producers, swimming pools, river streams, water activities and many, many great views!
The landscape is filled with old vineyards, olive, pine and fig trees, fertile landscapes and the warm waters and vibrant blue of the cleanest ‘lake’ of Portugal, Castelo do Bode. It’s as vibrant and fast changing as only Ribatejo can be.
At night the town of Tomar is a bustling holiday paradise not made for loud music or alcohol abuse but of a more refined and pleasant type.
People are very friendly and the old city has a relaxed and tranquil ambiance, even in the busiest summer months.
Everywhere you go, you’ll be reminded of it’s mystical knights Templar past.
During the summer months people come to visit the monuments, taste regional specialities or take shade on one of it’s many terraces or drive a few kilometres to cool down on one of the beaches off the Castelo do Bode lake.
On warm summer nights the city comes to live – children gather and play on the main square while the adults enjoy a coffee or a drink on the terrace of the old Pepe bar or finish a meal at the Taberna Antigua and the terraces, tapaz bars and beer houses in the little streets connected to the square, the main street and across the bridge start to fill up with a cheery bustle. Often in June, July and August temperatures reach 40c or more and at night 30c but you will also get many, more comfortable days and cooler nights. Rain seldom falls in the summer months.
Tomar is also one of the best places in Portugal to visit in the winter when the winter mists add to it’s medieval charm and the many fireplaces that most of the buildings have are lit up to create comforting winter warmth. Portuguese winters are generally warm (19 to 22c afternoon) but at night cold (1 – 9c), the coldest period is short, generally from the end of December to half February.
February to the end of April is the tricky season, it could rain everyday or reach 25 degrees and be sunny all the time, but mostly it’s a mix where you could find yourself in t-shirts and shorts and a coat and trousers all on the same day.
Tomar is divided into 2 parts by the river Naboa that runs through its centre, most of the historical city is build on the banks of this river, this also where you’ll find most of the nicest restaurants and bars, though there are also some other very interesting ones within walking distance.
The main street (pedestrian) is the rua Serpa Pinto and it leads to the main square the praca da republica,
In the opposite direction the Rua Serpa Pinta is connected by the old bridge which takes you to the other side of the historical centre, here you’ll find the convent and chapel of st. Iria (16th century) and the temple of the Knights Templar (12th century), where originally the knights where buried, an impressive building connected In view to the castle.
Towards the Praca da Republica you’ll find the little medieval streets that will lead you through the largest part of the completely medieval centre to the church of ………and the Synagogue.
From the entire old centre you can see the castle spread over the hill, above Tomar, on which it was build.
Most of the historical centre does not allow cars or traffic so you will only get to see it if you take the time to park, trying to park in the little streets close to the centre is a hassle best avoided but very close to the railway station there is a very large, free car park next to a museum and the courthouse in an area that hasn’t yet been rehabilitated but from here, it’s a short walk to the old centre.
There are also commercial but low priced parking garages in the centre on both sides of the river.
One behind the Praca da Republica (2 minutes walk removed) and one behind restaurant Naboa close to the municipal camping.
Tomar is a small compact city and everything is walkable, for those with walking problems we would suggest the central garages, which are built very close to the main leisure areas.
Tomar was originally built on the remnants of the Roman city of Sellium and in 1160 the first stone for the castle was laid. The knights Templar build their main headquarters here and after Pope Clement V wanted the Templars banned throughout Europe in 1314 they reinvented themselves and became the Order of Christ and it remained so until 1834 when all the religious orders, including the Order of Christ, were disbanded.
The city was home to many Jewish people who, before the expulsion of Jews from Portugal in the late 15th century, had held high positions in both political and intellectual life. The best remaining witness of this is the best preserved synagogue in Portugal which still stands in Tomar.
The city throughout all the centuries up to the nineteenth remained an influential city with an important position in Portuguese history.
The street plan is quite exceptional for medieval times as it is based on a chessboard grid and it served as the example for Lisbon’s rebuild after the earthquake in 1775.
next article. The district surrounding Tomar!
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