What I love about Tomar is that the downtown still has an “old-world”, traditional Portuguese feel to it. Tree-lined streets, small stores, no real traffic… I also love that the buildings are such a quintessential style of Portuguese architecture (although styles of architecture vary greatly between the north and south). Having previous taken you on a night-time stroll around picturesque Tomar, it was only fair to show you its beauty during the day, when you can truly see the buildings… never quite forgetting about the huge Templar castle overlooking the city.
The charming, cobblestone streets are sort of timeless: they haven’t changed much over time – that’s what’s so wonderful about being here. It’s difficult to imagine that its “modern” (by which I mean post-Roman and post-Moorish) history actually began in 1160, when construction began on the castle. In time, it would become the headquarters for the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal, which later transformed into the Order of Christ.
Henry the Navigator used Tomar as a center from which to expand his country’s influence. The crosses you can see all over the town today are known as the Cruz da Ordem de Cristo (Cross of the Order of Christ) are the same crosses that were used on Portuguese ships during the Discoveries.
Curious fact: Tomar was a popular destination for Jews fleeing persecution in Spain in 1492 and their influence greatly dynamized the city with their arts and trades (although the Portuguese Inquisition would follow a few decades later). The city still has a synagogue, which is the most well-preserved medieval synagogue in Portugal.
From the 18th century to the first half of the 20th century, Tomar was bustling with industry, including some powered by the Nabão river that flows through the city. Unfortunately, some of the buildings nowadays are in need of a good lick of paint and restoration. However, this doesn’t detract too much from its quaint charm, nor does it keep me from admiring the lovely, quintessentially Portuguese architecture. So, tell me: which building is your favorite?