Tomar is a place best known for its Templar castle, the Convento de Cristo, and the Festa dos Tabuleiros – a fantastic, traditional celebration that happens every four years. And whilst it’s easy to focus on both these aspects of Tomar, instead of on the beauty of the city itself, it would be a huge oversight. Especially as I’ve come to realize that walking around Tomar at dusk and nighttime is surprisingly therapeutic and offers a very different experience than the castle or the Festa dos Tabuleiros celebrations. This is Tomar by night…
Whilst technically a city, Tomar’s center has a quaint, town feel to it. You can exit straight out of the train station (passing some gorgeous stone arches) and into the city center, where the traditional architectural style of the house-lined streets take you back to a different time: it could just as easily be the 1930s or the 1960s, it’s difficult to pinpoint. The only thing that hints at the 21st century is the occasional present-day clothing and technology in shop windows.
You can stroll along the Nabão river and admire the reflection of the buildings you see alongside it. Nowadays, they’re exhibition spaces. Prior to this, in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a foundry there. Before that, 500 years ago, these buildings were the King’s mills, although they have changed significantly in appearance since then.
Following the river, past a charming stone bridge that joins the town where the river divides it, you come across a park, the Parque do Mouchão, where you can find a picture-worthy water wheel. During the day, it contains a children’s park, walking grounds, a summer swimming pool and a river-front restaurant. You can even rent a pedal-boat or canoe (which is both romantic and fun)!
Heading back into the city, towards the Praça, or square, you find yourself passing what during the day are bustling cafés and shops, but are now silent, as if under a sleeping spell. I look up, and at the top of the hill ahead I see the castle lit up. It appears to be the only thing awake right now. Its 12th century grandeur is enchanting. Reaching the Praça da República, you can really appreciate the view of the castle in its full glory. It’s easy to sit down on one of the benches in the square, listening to birds chirp, and to contemplate life, and get lost in thought indefinitely. But take a moment to look behind you at the 12th century São João Batista church, which is pretty on the outside, but deceptively ornate on the inside.
I’ll never understand why people spend so much money on relaxation treatments when, really, all they need to do is walk around the serene setting of Tomar by night to forget their problems, and to get lost in time and thoughts. It certainly works for me.