Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Tomar, a city in the heart of Portugal, encapsulates two pillars of Portuguese culture: amazing food and incredible history. We’re taking an Insightful dive into this medieval town, looking at its unique delicacies, local restaurants and rich historical heritage. With the help of a Local Expert, we’ll explore Tomar’s fascinating legacy and why it offers an authentic slice of traditional Portuguese life.

Tomar features on Insightful, the travel trivia quiz focusing on the world’s most fascinating destinations. Test your knowledge against leading travel experts for the chance to win a fabulous prize.

Sweet Treats

Fatias de Tomar, Tomar's signature local deicacy, presented on a plate with. two cinnamon sticks

Like the rest of Portugal, Tomar has a long tradition of convent-inspired confectionary. After all, even the country’s national dessert – the pastel de nata – was created in a Lisbon Monastery. Similarly, the nuns of Tomar’s incredible Convent of Christ created their own special treats. Look out for “Beija-me depressa” (translated as “kiss me quickly”), which you can only get from one shop in Tomar: Estrelas de Tomar. Make sure to also try the the local “Queijinhos doces” or “sweet cheeses”, made from almonds, eggs, and sugar.

The standout delicacy has to be “Fatias de Tomar” – also known as “China slices” or Tomar slices. Like many other convent desserts, the nuns of the Convent would use egg whites to starch and iron clothing. Thus, they needed something to do with all the remaining egg yolk. That created many of the Portuguese treats we know today, including Fatias de Tomar. These were cooked in unique “chimney pots”, and were reportedly the favored dessert of the local friars. You must try these treats upon a visit to Tomar, smiling with glee with every glorious bite. One must imagine the fascinating characters, from Templars to medieval friars, who centuries ago would wear the very same smiles after each heavenly bite.

Convent of Christ

Let’s take a journey up to the Convent, where the delectable Fatias de Tomar were born. This incredible building is the city’s star attraction, built by and serving as the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar. To help navigate the Convent, we’re lucky enough to have Local Expert Sandra guide the way.

Picture of Local Expert Sandra smiling

‘Hello from the Convent of Christ in Tomar! I’m Sandra, a Local Expert, and I’m excited to share four exciting facts about this UNESCO World Heritage Site with you.
 

  1. Dating back to the 12th century, the Convent served as the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal and played a crucial role in the defence of the region during the Reconquista.
  2. Spanning over five centuries, the Convent’s architecture is a mesmerizing blend of Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque styles.
  3. Inside the Convent, you’ll find the magnificent Charola – a 12th-century round church used for Templar ceremonies. Exquisite altarpiece paintings, murals, and wooden carvings adorn the walls.
  4. The Janela do Capítulo Window on the west side of the Church is the pinnacle of Manueline architecture. Designed by Portuguese architect Diogo de Arruda, its nautical motifs vividly illustrate Portugal’s dominance of the seas in the 15th and 16th centuries.’
     
a close up shot of a brown bear’s face, with shaggy brown fur

Tomar’s local heritage

Tomar is in the Ribatejo region of Portugal, which is known for its game dishes. The city’s most famous dish is Coelho na abóbora  – a hare baked in a pumpkin. The pumpkin is served on the table, with the meat stew inside. Another famous dish is Morcela de arroz, black pudding with rice – normally served with potatoes and greens.

When in Tomar, you have to go local. The restaurants and cafés here are fantastically authentic, and some have been around longer than most of the population. Plus, supporting local businesses helps preserve the local identity, traditional recipes, and is more sustainable. Here are some of the best local haunts to try out:

Chico Eias – One of the best traditional restaurants in Tomar. It’s just outside the center of the city and you’ll need a reservation. Expect huge portions, as well as the local pumpkin-hare delicacy.

Taverna Antiqua – This is a themed restaurant that recreates the medieval time that Tomar comes from. As well as medieval-themed decoration and ambiance, you’ll find the menu itself is based off the few remaining records of medieval cuisine!

Café Paraíso – Founded just seven months and 15 days after the 1910 revolution in Portugal, Café Paraíso has been running for over 100 years. This family-owned business is a local institution, as much a part of the city’s identity as the Convent of Christ! There was a time when the café was the meeting spot for the elders of Tomar, where they’d gather to have a coffee and discuss important affairs. It’s truly a symbol of how small businesses can thrive, adding economic value while preserving cultural heritage.

Locals say the coffeeshop ‘is a paradise in the morning, limbo in the afternoon, and a hell at night!’

 

Visit Tomar with Insight Vacations for truly a fascinating experience of this medieval city. Guided by Local Experts and veteran Travel Directors, you’ll get the full experience as you explore the octagonal Templars’ Rotunda in the cloister, and glimpse the day-to-day life of a warrior monk in the domestic areas. You also visit the Synagogue of Tomar, one of the best preserved medieval synagogues in Portugal, housing a small Jewish museum. Make sure to try find some Farias de Tomar, as well as stopping by Café Paraíso along the way!

Source: https://www.insightvacations.com/

By Lala