I haven’t heard of Tomar before my time in Portugal, but it’s one of the homes to the Knights of Templar.
This town is known for this big convent and castle on top of the hill, which was home to friars and knights apart of the order in the beginning of the 12 century.
A century or two later, they were expelled only to be replaced by a new order, which was basically the same.
The town is 2 hours north of Lisbon. It’s almost to Coimbra. If you have your own car, I suggest perhaps doing both in one long day on your way from Porto to Lisbon.
There are 2 other UNESCO towns near Tomar and also very doable to do all three if you have your own car.
I don’t. So I took the 9.45 train (pretty much every hour) from St. Apolonia station to arrive in Tomar at 11.51. The tourist office is pretty much a direct shot from the train, it’s near a lovely park at the base of the hill.
I grabbed some info such as a map and a self guided tour map. The man didn’t speak much English, but as I was walking around I noticed it was mainly Portuguese tourists. The tourist office man showed great excitement when pointing things out on the map- like circling where we were on the map so much that that spot is barely recognizable. I think his excitement was from the fact that I was American and or English speaker.
I did the convent/castle first as I read that that takes an hour to two hours. It’s not a far hike, but it’s a bit steep.
Remember I said there are other towns? Well you can buy a combined ticket for this and those 2 for 15 euros (reduced prices for students, etc of 50%). I didn’t know they were in other towns and thought maybe it was all in the same building. I’ve seen other places have separate tickets for different parts of the building.
“Ola, do you speak English?”
He shook his head,
“Bad. What do you want?” He growled.
“Are all these here?”
“No. Different cities.”
I got the single ticket for 3 euros (6 full price).
That seemed to put a smile on his face and I entered.
I got lost a few times I have to admit. There are so many rooms and they basically let you wander around exploring. There is a famous window here and of course the classic blue and white tiles.
It was so beautiful. I did end up spending an hour or so here.
The castle are the medieval walls around the convent (you enter through its gate) and below the convent is some gardens that were part of the castle.
I made my way down to the main square and walked to the small park near the river and over to another church where the founder of the order is buried. I walked around the town a bit and tried to see the oldest Portuguese synagogue, but it was undergoing severe repairs.
Even though I was really cold when I arrived, the sun heated up a bit to the point that I was craving ice cream. I got stratticela gelato. It tasted different and I realized it was because it was made with brownie pieces and not chocolate chips.
The ice cream lady also chuckled when I said Obrigada (thank you for females). I’m pretty sure I’m saying it right, but again, maybe she was just surprised I was trying to speak it?
It was also strange. There was this fog in the air when I left Lisbon and it still persisted when I entered Tomar. When u got off the train, the scent was familiar to me. I’ve been around many fires and this fog smelled like smoke. It persisted the whole day even with the sun shinning brightly- it must have been a fire and in which many locals told me that Portugal gets bad fires often. Recently there was a bad fire that killed over 100 people, maybe 150?
I got on the 15.11 train back to Lisbon (every hour). It was a nice town. Like I mentioned, I wish I had my own car so I could explore the area more, but it was nice and I’m glad I went.