Tomar may seem like a simple riverfront town, but it packs a strong historical punch. Set on the banks of the Nabão River, this small city is home to the impressive Castle of Tomar and the Convent of Christ, a 12th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site and the former medieval headquarters of the Knights Templar.
Located just two hours from Lisbon, Tomar is an ideal day trip destination from Portugal’s capital. Stroll through the city’s stone streets on your own, or opt for a guided tour to learn about Tomar’s storied past. A typical full-day excursion delves into the history of the Knights Templar, stopping at Tomar Castle, Almourol Castle, and Obidos Castle. Some Tomar tours also include a stop in Fátima to visit the Sanctuary of Fátima, an important Catholic pilgrimage site. Other tours visit Tomar along with Mafra, where the star attraction is the magnificent Mafra National Palace; Coimbra, which has one of the oldest universities in the world; or Alcobaça, with its UNESCO-listed monastery.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tomar is a must-see for history lovers.
- Due to its small size, Tomar’s historic center is easy traverse on foot.
- Wear comfortable shoes—the town is full of cobblestone streets and steep lanes.
- Some parts of the Convent of Christ are wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Tomar is located in central Portugal, roughly two hours from both Lisbon and Porto. Trains connect Tomar to Lisbon’s Santa Apolonia and Oriente train stations, and it’s also possible to arrive by private transport or guided tour.
When to Get There
Summer (particularly July and August) is the most popular time to visit, when Tomar can get very busy. To avoid crowds, opt for a private tour or arrive early in the morning.
The Architecture of the Convent of Christ
The vast Convent of Christ showcases a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture, including some unique Manueline characteristics influenced by the Portuguese Age of Discovery. This mix of styles is one of the reasons why the convent is so impressive—centuries of Portuguese styles and influences can be viewed in a single monument.