Tomar is history, sweets and wines

Discover Tomar which is calm, not so touristic and has amazing sightseeing views from the highest points. The city is known for its historical / religious monuments and its desserts.  

The city offers much more than that, denominated the “Templars City”, its history is long and rich – that nomination was given after the city was conquered from the moors while the country was under the reign of D. Afonso Henriques. After that, in the 12th Century, the king gave away the land to the Templars Order, to thank them for their help in spreading the Christian Religion in the Portuguese territory. 

Tomar, Convento de Cristo
Tomar, Convento de Cristo

During that era, several religious buildings were constructed, and they are some of the main points of interest when visiting the city. Some of most notable are the “Convento da Anunciada” in the north; the “Convento de São Francisco” situated in the south and the “Convento de Santa Iria” in the east.

Convent of Christ is UNESCO World Heritage

But, it’s in the west that lies the most famous building, listed as part of the UNESCO world Heritage in 1983, the “Convento de Cristo” (Convent of Christ), offers unique examples of Romanesque, Ghotic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture style. And it is, without doubt, one of the city’s ex-libris. There, it’s possible to find the beautiful chapterhouse window, made by Diogo de Arruda in the 16th Century. Inside it’s also possible to admire the building’s Church as well as several Cloisters.

Tomar, Porta, Convento Cristo

When it comes to churches, it’s worth mentioning the “Santa Maria do Olival” church, where there are placed the tombs of several templar knights, as well as the “Matriz” Church, dedicated to São João Baptista (John the Baptist), placed exactly in the center of the city.

There are also two castles in the whereabouts of the city – The “Castelo do Bode” and the “Castelo de Almourol”. For a fun cultural activity, in the city center, it is possible to find the “Matchboxes Museum” – it has seven different rooms, all filled with numerous matchbox collections, from all over the world and from different eras!

Almourol, Tomar
Castelo de Almourol

It is also important to mention the “Festa dos Tabuleiros” or “Festival of the Trays” (also known as the “Holy Spirit Festival). It happens every four years, in July and it’s the most important celebration of the city. Being an ancient tradition, this festival attracts people from all over the world and it consists of parades, with girls carrying the “Tabuleiros” (trays) on their heads.

Tomar, Festa dos Tabuleiros
© Fotografia : Jornal de Tomar

The trays themselves, are made of stacked pieces of bread, with a crown on top, which sometimes contains a white dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit) or the armillary sphere (a symbol of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries, also present in the national flag), and, over the sphere, it’s placed the cross of the Order of Christ.

Tomar , Conventual Desserts

When it comes to food, Tomar is hometown of the Conventual Desserts. The most famous are “Fatias de Tomar” (Tomar Slices). Locals made them with egg yolks and cooked in bain-marie, in a special pot, created only for this unique dessert. They cut in slices and after they will cover with a sugar syrup, while it’s still hot.

Another worth mentioning dessert is the “Beija-me Depressa” (Kiss me Fast). Its little bite-sized cakes made with a sugar syrup and egg yolks and covered in sugar. Like most Conventual desserts in Portugal, typical Tomar sweets are rich in two ingredients which are : sugar and egg yolks.

Tomar is also full of flavourful savory dishes, and some of the most common ingredients are the Lamprey Eel, the Shad and of course codfish.
If you like Lamb, we have great news. You will find it in the region.

Two of the most striking dishes though are : “Pumpkin Rabbit” and Snails with Beans Stew (Feijoada de Caracóis). You will find also more common dishes from Portuguese gastronomy. Mostly comfort food, different tastes, but always wonderful meal, delicious on every bite .

Wines from Tomar

Tomar is located on Tejo Wine Region . The famous river is located on the South of the city. There is still amazing traditions, specially related with Lagares. You will find them as a large shallow stone or concrete tank in several wine produces. Harvesting is a community affair in most of the wineries in this wine region. The Lagares are to crushing grapes by foot, which is a more gentle process for the fruit.

Winemakers main focus is quality and balance. You will find wines based on several Portuguese grapes. Main grapes varieties on the region are : Touriga Nacional, Castelão, Aragonês, Trincadeira, Fernão Pires and Arinto. Which means that, you find mainly reds and whites.

Herdade dos Templários, Wines
© Fotografia : Herdade dos Templários

The Tejo wine region has a warm climate and complex soils which retain a highest level of acidity. However, winemakers still can produce along their path balanced wines with bright characteristics.

Tomar is the perfect city for religious site-seeing and cultural activities. The city’s traditions and unique heritage will enrich anyone who visits it. Plus, if you have a sweet-tooth, it is definitely worth stopping by to try it’s unique styled desserts. The city is located 137 kms to North of Lisbon (1h30 by car).

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