Tomar is a city and municipality in the Santarém district, situated just over 130 km from Lisbon. This means that this Tomar itinerary is the ideal choice for a day trip from the Portuguese capital, or even the perfect stopover on a multi-day road trip through the Médio Tejo sub-region (in the Central Region)!
The city of Tomar was founded by the Knights Templar and has some of the most emblematic monuments in the country. One of them is the Convent of Christ, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. But, on this Tomar itinerary, you’ll be able to visit others – such as the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, the Synagogue of Tomar, or the Church of Saint John the Baptist!
So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Tomar: The Perfect Tomar Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of Tomar
- Visiting Tomar
- Tomar Itinerary
- Map of the Tomar Itinerary
Brief History of Tomar
The region where Tomar is found today has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by multiple archaeological artifacts found in excavations. Furthermore, it’s known that the area was occupied by the Turduli (in the 1st century BC) and later by the Romans (in the 1st century AD). At that time, the village was nicknamed Sellium.
These peoples were followed by the Suevi, the Visigoths, and the Arabs. It was precisely from the Moors that Afonso Henriques conquered this territory, around 1129. And as a way of thanking them for their help in combat, the first king of Portugal offered this and other lands to the Knights Templar, in 1159.
Here, the role of Gualdim Pais, the 6th Grand Master of the Order of Solomon’s Temple in Portugal and founder of the cities of Tomar and Pombal and their respective castles – as well as the castles of Almourol, Idanha-a-Nova, and Monsanto, stands out. But the Templar Order was extinguished in 1312 and converted into the Order of Christ.
Due to the influence that the new Order of Christ had on the Portuguese Discoveries, King Manuel I and King João III sent some of the most renowned national and international artists to Tomar, such as Diogo de Arruda, João de Castilho, Gregório Lopes, Diogo de Torralva, and João de Ruão, among others.
At the same time, Tomar began to see the growth of a powerful and wealthy Jewish community. Coming mostly from Spain, the Jews developed the town’s commercial activity and sponsored the Portuguese Discoveries with their knowledge and funding.
However, King Manuel I was forced to sign an edict of expulsion of the heretics on December 5th, 1496. As a result, Tomar lost a large part of its Jewish community and its Hebrew culture. In the following centuries, the historic town continued to evolve and ended up receiving city status in 1844.
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to enjoy this Tomar itinerary 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).
Convent of Christ
This Tomar itinerary begins at the Convent of Christ (in Portuguese, Convento de Cristo), one of the first Portuguese monuments inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in the year 1983. Founded by the Knights Templar as a symbol of the Christian Reconquista, its construction began in 1160 and lasted more than five centuries!
As a result, the Convent of Christ incorporated different architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque. With the extinction of the Order of Solomon’s Temple in the 14th century, the medieval castle was handed over to the newly created Order of Christ, adopting its current name!
The Convent of Christ is open every day from 9 am to 5:30 pm (from October to May) or from 9 am to 6:30 pm (from June to September), with the last entry at 5 pm and at 6 pm, respectively. The only closing days are January 1st, March 1st (Tomar Day), Easter Sunday, May 1st, December 24th and 25th.
As for tickets, they cost €6 (over 12 years old) or €3 (Student Card, Youth Card, and seniors aged 65 and over). And admission is free on Sundays and holidays, for all citizens residing in Portugal (upon presentation of proof)!
Read my complete guide to the Convent of Christ, a must-see tourist attraction on any Tomar itinerary!
Hermitage of Our Lady of Conception
The next stop on this Tomar itinerary is the Hermitage of Our Lady of Conception (in Portuguese, Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição), a small basilical church made up of three vaulted naves.
Located on the slopes of the Convent of Christ, the Hermitage of Our Lady of Conception was erected between 1547 and the years 1572/3, to serve as a funerary chapel for King João III. However, that never happened.
Currently, the Hermitage of Our Lady of Conception is considered the best evocation of Greco-Roman art in the Iberian Peninsula. After all, the Catholic temple was conceived by João de Castilho and finished by Diogo de Torralva – two of the greatest architects in Portugal and Europe!
Unfortunately, the Hermitage of Our Lady of Conception is closed!
National Forest of the Seven Hills
This Tomar itinerary continues at the National Forest of the Seven Hills (in Portuguese, Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes), the main green park and public garden in the city. 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, and enjoying nature and the outdoors. Here, you’ll find several picnic parks and hiking trails, as well as the Environmental Interpretation Center, the Charolinha, the Olive Oil Press, and the Cadeira d’El Rei Water Tank!
The National Forest of the Seven Hills is open every day, from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (April-October) or from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (November-March), with the last entry being at 7 pm or 5 pm, respectively. The only closing days are January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th. And admission is free for all!
Read my complete guide to the National Forest of the Seven Hills, a must-see tourist attraction on any Tomar itinerary!
Aquiles da Mota Lima Matches Museum
The next stop on this Tomar itinerary is the Aquiles da Mota Lima Matches Museum (in Portuguese, Museu dos Fósforos – Aquiles da Mota Lima), whose collection contains more than 80,000 matchboxes, matchbooks, and match labels. Yes, you read it right! Installed in the Convent of Saint Francis, this is the largest and most complete match museum in Europe!
Aquiles da Mota Lima started his phillumenist collection in 1953 and ended up donating it to the Municipality of Tomar in 1980. These days, the thousands of pieces on display represent around 127 countries around the world and are spread over seven rooms, depending on their place and period of origin.
The Aquiles da Mota Lima Matches Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm (from April to September) or from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm (from October to March). The only closing days are January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. And admission is free for everyone!
Synagogue (Abraão Zacuto Luso-Hebraic Museum)
This Tomar itinerary continues at the Synagogue (in Portuguese, Sinagoga), located in the heart of the old Jewish quarter of the city. And did you know that the Synagogue of Tomar is the oldest synagogue in Portugal and the only Gothic example in the country? Yes, this Hebrew temple was built between 1430 and 1460, by order of Prince Henry the Navigator!
Of the original elements dating from the mid-15th century, the four columns you see in the photo above and the pitchers (or corbels) built into the walls are still preserved. As far as is known, the latter were aimed at improving the acoustics of this small quadrangular space.
The Synagogue is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm (from April to September) or from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm (from October to March). The only closing days are January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. And admission is free for all!
Church of Saint John the Baptist
The next stop on this Tomar itinerary in Tomar is the Church of Saint John the Baptist (in Portuguese, Igreja de São João Batista), situated in the heart of the historic center. And despite the primitive structure dating back to the 12th century – more precisely to the time when D. Gualdim Pais founded the castle and the city of Tomar – the truth is that the current building is the result of a renovation completed in the 16th century.
Among its architectural and decorative elements, stand out: the main façade portal in Manueline style; the octagonal bell tower, with a 16th-century clock; the various Renaissance panels by the painter Gregório Lopes; and the baptistery, adorned with a Flemish triptych of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist (or Parish Church of Tomar) is open every day (except on Mondays), from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7:30 pm (from Tuesday to Saturday ), or from 9 am to 12 pm (on Sundays and holy days). And, like other points of interest mentioned in this Tomar itinerary, admission is free for everyone!
This Tomar itinerary continues at Mouchão Park (in Portuguese, Parque do Mouchão), the perfect site to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Designed as a small island in the middle of the Nabão River, this idyllic green space invites you to romantic walks, family picnics, friendly get-togethers, or individual jogging sessions – you choose!
Crossing one of the pedestrian bridges that give access to the island, you’ll find the Mouchão Wheel (or Roda do Mouchão). Made of wood and with clay buckets, this noria was created at the beginning of the 20th century, to remember the times when its hydraulic energy allowed to irrigate crop fields and supply water to mills and presses.
Church of Santa Maria do Olival
This Tomar itinerary ends at the Church of Santa Maria do Olival (in Portuguese, Igreja de Santa Maria do Olival), once the Pantheon of the Templar Masters! Erected in the 13th century on the foundations of an old Benedictine monastery, this Gothic church is deeply linked to the origins of the city of Tomar – especially since its founder D. Gualdim Pais buried here!
Even before entering the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, it’s impossible not to notice the imposing rose window or the bell tower – the latter an ancient Roman watchtower. Inside, the Catholic temple is divided into three naves, from which the interventions carried out in the following centuries stand out.
Some of these are the Renaissance pulpit from the 16th century and the Tomb of D. Diogo Pinheiro in the chancel, also in Renaissance style and from the same century. Still in the chancel, you can see an image of Our Lady of the Milk, also dating from the 16th century.
Map of the Tomar Itinerary
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