Did you know one of the most important pieces of Portuguese history is in the little town of Tomar? Just an hour north of Lisbon you’ll find the Tomar Castle and sacred Convent of Christ inside its elaborate walls. If that doesn’t impress you enough, the village of Tomar Portugal has its own local charm to experience. The Nabao River runs through the center of town with many traditional Tomar restaurants and cafes surrounding it. So come one come all… The Knights of Templar castle is waiting to be explored!
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Small Town of Tomar Portugal
While Tomar gets plenty of visitors on day trips during the summer, it’s largely unknown to the travel community. In fact, on our visit this past June we felt like we had Tomar Portugal all to ourselves! The main walking street is the centerpiece dotted with cute cafes and boutique clothing stores.
The streets run from the charming river straight towards the Tomar Castle. We loved how you have a view of the famous castle from almost anywhere in town! If you have time on your trip definitely stay overnight in Tomar to see a more traditional side of Portugal.
One day here felt perfect and we appreciated the history more seeing it at night and first thing in the morning. You can check out our recommended Tomar hotels at the bottom of this blog!
Tomar Portugal Festival of Trays
We were lucky enough to be in Tomar Portugal just days before the famous Trays Festival. This colorful ceremony is held only once every 4 years so I guess we just have impeccable timing!
The festival originally began in the late 13th century to show devotion to the holy spirit and has since become an integral part of Tomar history. Can you believe something so unique is still practiced to this day?
The most interesting part of the ceremony is the rainbow head dressings worn by the women. The crowns are filled with everything from flowers to ears of corn, templar crosses, and even loaves of bread! At the time of our visit, women of all ages were practicing the ritual and walking through the streets with these special decorations.
Delicious Tomar Restaurants
The food in Tomar is typical of Portugal and absolutely delicious! However, you should know there aren’t a ton of options because of how small the town is. We had an amazing local meal during our visit, but it wasn’t what we expected. After eating a ton of seafood up and down the coast we were craving some hearty steaks!
Yet, we found out they do them a little differently at Restaurante Sabores Ao Rubro. At this Tomar restaurant, the meat comes drenched in a tasty sauce with crispy potatoes and salad. Steak connoisseurs like Brigitte may not love a steak with sauce, but I certainly did!
You also may be happy to know they make their own pastries in Tomar Portugal. The unique sweet treats are made with egg yolk and almonds, and go perfectly with a morning espresso. We ate breakfast at Estrelas de Tomar, and it was fun trying the different cookies and specialties. They also have really good ice cream when you’re ready for dessert!
Tomar Restaurant Recommendation
For tourists and especially families Taverna Antiqua is the most popular of the Tomar restaurants. It features a cave-like atmosphere and even some role-playing that’s tied excitingly into Tomar history. The Taverna is located right in the main square of Praca Da Republica, so if this sounds up your alley then make sure to stop in for dinner!
Tomar Castle and Convent of Christ
Entry Fee: 6 Euros
How to Get There: Drive or Hike
The famous castle and Convent of Christ is the main reason why everyone should visit Tomar Portugal! It can be seen from everywhere in the city and is one of the most important pieces of military history in Portugal. We went early in the morning and only had to share the magnificent structure with a few other travelers.
Take your time exploring and taking in this former home of kings, queens, and legendary Templar Knights. Each room tells a story, and we found that the walls of the Tomar castle were still remarkably well intact. The star of the show is undoubtedly the Convent of Christ so definitely leave ample time for this room!
Quick Tomar History Facts
1. Construction began on the fortress on March 1st of 1160. That makes the Tomar Castle over 850 years old!
2. The circular Roman Catholic church inside the castle is home to the Convent of Christ, and it was built around the same time period.
3. Due to its location near the Tagus River, the Tomar Castle was hugely important in defending the kingdom against invaders like the Moors.
4. The Knights of Templar helped to build the massive fort and used it as their headquarters for almost 700 years.
5. Prince Henry the Navigator brought some of the world’s leading astronomers, mathematicians, and geographers to Tomar Portugal. His leadership led to many years of maritime prominence on the seas for his country.
6. The Tomar Castle and Convent of Christ were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Have any questions about Tomar history, or your own tips for visiting this amazing town? Comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Tomar Portugal
Ultra Luxury – Thomar Boutique Hotel – While there aren’t many luxury hotels to stay at in Tomar Portugal, this is definitely the best in town! The boutique hotel has a modern design and amenities while also being within walking distance to all the great Tomar restaurants.
Fun Vacation – Central Family Palace – A large traditional house that really feels like you’re staying in a palace! Huge rooms with beautiful Portuguese architecture, antique furniture, and wonderful gardens.
Hostel Life – Hostel 2300 Thomar – Set in the historical center of the city and just a few minutes walk to the main square. Dorms and private rooms are available with a large common area and 24 hour front desk.
For more places to stay in Tomar Portugal you can explore the latest prices here!
Portugal Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Portugal, you will want a set of wheels to get to all the beautiful castles, cities, and towns.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a sunset Sailboat tour in Lisbon, go Wine tasting cruise of the Douro Valley from Porto, or explore the Ponta da Piedade on a boat trip in Lagos!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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