Tomar is a city of 41,000 people (2011) in central Portugal, in the district of Médio Tejo. Tomar is one of Portugal's historical jewels and, more significantly, was the last Templar town to be commissioned for construction.
Legend of Santa Iria
Iria, a young woman, as rich in physical as in moral gifts, had a religious education in the Benedictine convent of Santa Clara. When the young woman reached adolescence, the Benedictine abbot, her maternal uncle, entrusted her education to the monk Remígio, who he considered worthy of such a delicate mission. She would early gather the sympathy of the nuns and the people of the village, especially the young men and gentlemen, who disputed among themselves the virtues of the novice; among whom stood out the young Britaldo who, surrendered to so much beauty, fell madly in love. Because she intended to dedicate her life to the service of God, she always rejected his loving proposals.
Britaldo, mad with love, fell ill. Iria, moved by Christian charity, comforted him and convinced him of the impossibility of their marriage, as she had taken a vow of chastity. The monk Remígio was aware of Britaldo's loves, and also not indifferent to the maiden's beauty. Mad with jealousy, the monk made Iria drink a potion, provoking signs of pregnancy. Britaldo, considering himself deceived, commissioned his subordinate to kill Iria. And so, on October 20, 653, when Iria prayed her prayers devoutly in a small chapel by the river Nabão, the vile sicario buried a dagger in her chest, throwing her body into the waters.
Iria's body, according to legend, went downstream, ending up at Scalabis. From then on, Scalabis took the name of the Holy Virgin and Martyr, Sant'Iria, today Santarém.
The town of Tomar was born inside the walls of the Convento de Cristo, constructed under the orders of Gualdim de Pais, the fourth grand master of the Knights Templar in the late 12th century.
Tomar was especially important in the 15th century when it was a center of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, successor organization to the Templars in Portugal.
From Lisbon: there is hourly direct train from Lisbon (Santa Apolônia/Oriente), about 2 hr, €8.40.
From Porto: several per day, about 3½ hr, €19, need to change in Entrocamento or Lamarosa/Coimbra B.
Tomar is just over 1 hour from Lisbon. Coming from horth or south, the A1 is the most direct route. At km94, take the A23 exit, follow this road until you see the sign for Tomar on the IC3. 5 to 10 minutes later you will see the exit sign for Tomar on the N110. Go there and in a few minutes you will reach your destination.
It is a small city.
There is also citybus, 3 lines, €0.85/ticket valid for 1½ hr.
Tomar is a small city but holds an important ancient past and some of the most important monuments in Portugal.
The streets and squares of the picturesque centre of Tomar are organised following a chessboard pattern, a rare feature for a mediaeval city, instituted by Prince Henry the Navigator, which later inspired the pattern used for the rebuilding of Lisbon after the earthquake in 1755. Scattered throughout the town there are many interesting houses with Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic façades. By the river Nabão, near the bridge, there is a park and garden that offer nice views of the city and surroundings.
- 1 Convent of Christ and Castle of Tomar (Convento de Cristo and Castelo de Tomar). UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in 12th century. After the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in the 14th century, the Portuguese branch of the order was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, which supported Portugal's maritime discoveries of the 15th century. Entrance €6, free on Sundays and holidays till 14:00.
- 2 Church of Santa Maria do Olival. It was built in the second half of the 12th century by the provincial master of the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal, Gualdim Pais.
- Church of Saint John the Baptist and Republic Square, this church was built in the end of the 15th century, marked as National Monument in 1910 and is in Republica Square where is Gualdim Pais statue.
- Aqueduct of Pegões, (Quinta dos Pegões), it was built to deliever water to Convento de Cristo and has 6 km of extension. The construction started in 1593 and finished in 1614. The highest point of this aqueduct is 30 m above ground level. Take the small "train tour bus" in city center that takes you to the highest point. The easiest way to go to aqueduct is to follow the local road to Leiria.
- 3 Synagogue of Tomar. It is the best preserved of the medieval synagogues of Portugal. It is located in the historic centre of the city of Tomar, and houses a small Jewish Museum.
- Museum of Matches (Museu dos Fósforos), Av. Gen. Bernardo Faia, near raliway station. Surprisingly nice exhibition of matchboxes from all over the world. Open daily 14:00-17:00, free entrance.
- Festa dos Tabuleiros. It is a festival organized every 4 years during summer (beginning of July). The next one is in 2023. It an old tradition and in every event, Tomar becomes completely crowded and visitants can enjoy original decoration of streets, music concerts, traditional gastronomy and of course the main part of festival the trays parade.
Local food specialities include Fatias de Tomar, and Beija-me depressa ("kiss me quickly") made by the Estrelas Confeitery.
- Cervejaria do Fernando - serves typical Portuguese meals for about €6. Open: Tu-Su 10:00-01:00, closed on Mondays.
- Restaurante Baía (São João Batista), ☏ . Open for lunch and from 17:00 to midnight. Portuguese food mainly meat and fish, vegetarian soup and salads. Inexpensive, big pan of arroz marinero €22 for 2 persons.
- Café Paraíso, in the main street, is the oldest bar in the city.
- Residencial União, Rua Serpa Pinto Nº 94, ☏ . Single room €20-28, double €30-45, triple €45-50, breakfast included. No credit cards accepted.
- Residencial Luz, Rua Serpa Pinto Nº 144, ☏ . Single €17-20, double €22.5-32.5.
- [dead link] Residencial Cavaleiros de Cristo, Rua Alexandre Herculano Nº 7, ☏ , . Three-star. Single €30, double €50, 4-bed room €80.
- Estalagem de Santa Iria, ☏ . Mouchão Parque. Single €40-65, double €60-85, breakfast included.
- Hotel dos Templários, Largo Cândido dos Reis 1, ☏ . Four-star.