If your foreign friends come to visit you in Lisbon more than once, odds are you are sick of showing them Sintra, Belém or Cascais. You both want to see something new and exciting, but your bucket lists won’t always match.
Too far, too seasidy, too small, too expensive – we were struggling to find a place where I haven’t been that was affordable to get to and also showed a different side of Portugal to Nick’s family.
After a bit of research on Sunday morning, we finally settled for Tomar, a Templar town dating back to the 12th century, that is only two hours away from Lisbon. I did visit Tomar in 2013 for one of my dad’s conferences, but I figured it was worth going back, and I am really glad that I did!
At 12:15pm we were queueing in Santa Apolónia to buy train tickets and after a few misunderstandings over Senior and Young discounts, we took over a 6-seater on the train and settled there until Tomar, which was the last stop.
We passed by numerous towns and villages and I made a list of places I want to visit. In fact, I would love to do an article about the whole train route between Lisbon and Tomar!
The first thing we spotted when we got off the train was a hill with the wall surrounding Convento de Cristo, a monastery/convent with an astonishing architecture, featuring Manueline, Gothic and Renaissance styles. It was inside this wall that Tomar was born.
Far from the historical sites and its unique churches, the city also has a modern vibe, with places like Casa dos Cubos and the Centre for Contemporary Art boasting some of the best examples of Portuguese modern artwork. They even have a Matchbox Museum which apparently holds the biggest private matchbox collection in Europe. I guess I will save that for my third visit.
We walked towards the center, guided by the Knights Templar’ crosses, occasionally stopping to admire the buildings’ façades or capture its reflections on the Nabão River.
Nick’s uncle, who taught me how to fish in Poland, was taken by the carps swimming under the bridges. “That is what I am used to fishing” – he said while he pointed to the biggest ones of the shoal.
At this point we started getting peckish and quickly look for a place to snack. I read about the delicious sweets made in Tomar, like Fatias de Tomar and Beija-me depressa (Kiss me Quickly), but I decided to trade the egg overload for a hot dog instead. Not very typical I know, but when you are walking around with British retirees, eating traditional food is not always a priority.
Gastronomy aside, we did get a feel of the city by walking around the castle wall, visiting the churches and chatting with local people.
We spent around 4 hours exploring Tomar, some enjoying the sun on the main square, others hiking up the hill to enjoy the best view. Nick got to see a new city and I got to know a bit more about the Templars history. Maybe that will come in handy for the next pub quiz…
I plan to go back to Tomar in 2019 to see Festa dos Tabuleiros (Festival of the Trays), a colorful event that takes over the city every four years in July. It is an ancient tradition, where women basically carry a tower of bread and flowers on their heads, like you see here. Sounds like a good enough reason to visit again 🙂