The National Forest of the Seven Hills (in Portuguese, Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes) is the main green park and public garden in the city of Tomar. With about 39 hectares, it’s also called Fence of the Convent of Christ (in Portuguese, Cerca do Convento de Cristo), as it was owned by the Order of Christ until the extinction of religious orders in 1834.
Nowadays, the National Forest of the Seven Hills is the ideal place in Tomar for walking, doing sports, relaxing, socializing, having picnics, and, of course, enjoying nature and the outdoors. Here, you’ll find several picnic parks and hiking trails, as well as a children’s playground and other points of interest – such as the Environmental Interpretation Center, the Charolinha, the Olive Oil Press, and the Cadeira d’El Rei Water Tank!
So, do you want to know How To Visit The National Forest Of The Seven Hills In 2023? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the National Forest of the Seven Hills
- How to Get to the National Forest of the Seven Hills
- What to See at the National Forest of the Seven Hills
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Gardens and Parks
- More Posts about World Heritage
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Brief History of the National Forest of the Seven Hills
Did you know that the first historical references to the National Forest of the Seven Hills date back to the 15th century? Even so, the Fence of the Convent of Christ was only planned in the following century, during the reign of João III (1521-1557). At that time, these properties were composed of forest areas and agricultural land.
With the addition of this “green lung” to the Convent of Christ, the monks gained a large outdoor space for a full enclosure, dedicated to retreat and prayer. Not to mention the many lands for cultivation, which allowed the sustainability of the convent community!
Nonetheless, everything changed on May 30th, 1834, with the enactment of the law that extinguished all religious orders in Portugal. As a result, the Fence of the Convent of Christ was sold at public auction in 1838, to António Costa Cabral (a minister of Queen Maria II, who received the titles of Count of Tomar and Duke of Tomar).
In 1936, the site was reacquired by the State and, two years later, it was converted into a forest park. Finally, in 1986, the Fence of the Convent of Christ was integrated into the National Service of Parks, Reserves, and Nature Conservation and received the current name of Forest of the Seven Hills!
Did you know that the National Forest of the Seven Hills was part of Portugal’s first set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 7th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Florence (Italy), between December 5th and 9th, 1983.
Three other Portuguese sites were announced in the session: the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores; the Monastery of Batalha; and the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon.
Nowadays, Portugal is the ninth country in Europe and the eighteenth country in the world with the most UNESCO sites, tied with Poland. It has seventeen heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit fourteen of them:
- Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)
- Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)
- Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995) – Chalet of the Countess of Edla, Convent of the Capuchos, Moorish Castle, National Palace of Pena, National Palace of Sintra, Palace of Monserrate, Quinta da Regaleira, Villa Sassetti
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)
- Historic Center of Évora (1986)
- Historic Center of Guimarães (2001)
- Historic Center of Porto, Luiz I Bridge, and Monastery of Serra do Pilar (1996)
- Monastery of Alcobaça (1989)
- Monastery of Batalha (1983)
- Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley (1998, 2010)
- Royal Building of Mafra – Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden, and Hunting Park (Tapada) (2019)
- Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (2019)
- University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2012)
How to Get to the National Forest of the Seven Hills
In my opinion, the best way to visit the National Forest of the Seven Hills (and the city of Tomar) is on a day trip from Lisbon. And to get there from the Portuguese capital, you have two options: travel by car (about 135 km) or by public transportation (2 hours by regional train or 1h45 by bus).
However, Tomar is also an excellent stop on a road trip through the Médio Tejo sub-region or the Santarém district! In that case, I suggest you explore other destinations in the vicinity: Constância (20 km), Entroncamento (22 km), Vila Nova da Barquinha (24 km), Torres Novas (26 km), Abrantes (30 km), or Sardoal (32 km).
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The National Forest of the Seven Hills is open every day, from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (from April to October) or from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (from November to March), with the last entry being at 7 pm or 5 pm, respectively. The only days of the year when the monument is closed are the holidays of January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.
Entrance to the National Forest of the Seven Hills is free for everyone!
What to See at the National Forest of the Seven Hills
Environmental Interpretation Center
The Environmental Interpretation Center, officially CISA – Center for Environmental Interpretation and Awareness (in Portuguese, Centro de Interpretação Ambiental or Centro de Interpretação e Sensibilização Ambiental), was inaugurated to the public in 2012. You can find it next to the entrance to the National Forest of the Seven Hills, in the Praceta Infante Dom Henrique.
This small museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 2 am to 5:30 pm. And entry is also free for everyone!
The Formal Garden of the National Forest of the Seven Hills (in Portuguese, Jardim Formal) is a municipal garden in the style of French formal gardens – such as the Cerco Garden (in Mafra), the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles, the Gardens of the Palace of Fontainebleau, or the Tuileries Garden (in Paris).
Located at the entrance to the National Forest of the Seven Hills and at its lowest level, the Formal Garden corresponded to the old area of vegetable gardens and orchards of the Fence of the Convent of Christ. Now, the boxwood beds with a geometric outline involve different species of flowers and other small shrubs.
The National Forest of the Seven Hills has been renovated in recent years to better accommodate families in their spare time and the Picnic Parks is one of the great examples of this. Altogether, there are three Picnic Parks: one to the north of the Formal Garden and parallel to both this municipal garden and the two pedestrian paths; and two built side by side, at the end of the Formal Garden and next to the Playground.
The Charolinha of the National Forest of the Seven Hills is the most emblematic element of this public park.
This carved stone cylindrical tower is what is usually called a “fresh pavilion”: a small building installed outside, which served as a “refreshing shelter” in the hottest hours. Another well-known “fresh pavilion” in Portugal is the Water Grotto, in the National Palace of Sintra!
The Charolinha is surrounded by a circular pond and can be accessed via a small stone bridge at the back. And its similarity with the lantern towers of the Convent of Christ is due to the fact that it was designed by João de Castilho (the architect responsible for the Renaissance renovation of the monument, in the first half of the 16th century)!
Olive Oil Press
These days, the National Forest of the Seven Hills has an access path to the Convent of Christ (through the Condessa Tower), besides two other walking routes, perfect for sports (running and walking):
- Cadeira d’El Rei Path (in Portuguese, Caminho da Cadeira d’El Rei) – of medium difficulty and with a distance of 3 km (1h30)
- Charolinha Path (in Portuguese, Caminho da Charolinha) – of medium difficulty, but with a distance of 2 km (1h)
If you want to visit the ruins of the old Olive Oil Press of the Convent of Christ (in Portuguese, Lagar de Azeite), you must choose the Cadeira d’El Rei Path, since the Charolinha Path doesn’t pass through these sides (the northernmost area of the National Forest of the Seven Hills).
Cadeira d’El Rei Water Tank
The Cadeira d’El Rei Water Tank is situated at the northwest end of the National Forest of the Seven Hills, just over 200 meters from the Swing Viewpoint (in Portuguese, Miradouro do Baloiço) – the latter opened in the summer of 2021. The large water reservoir was used to irrigate the olive groves, orchards, and vegetable gardens of the Fence of the Convent of Christ.
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