TOMAR is a charming, small town on the banks of the Rio Nabão – close enough to Lisbon for a day-trip, handsome enough and certainly interesting enough to warrant an overnight stay. Its old quarter is typically attractive, laid out as a grid of cobbled streets centred on a fine square, and there are riverside strolls to enjoy and green woods for picnicking. But standing sentry over town, high on the hill above, is the real reason for a visit – the mighty Convento do Cristo, founded (along with the town) in 1160 as the headquarters of the Order of the Knights Templar, scourge of the Moors and defenders of the faith. Castle and town both survived Moorish siege and attack in 1190, after which Tomar prospered in line with the gradual establishment of Portugal as a regional and, later, imperial force.

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