On the outside the complex looks like a massive, fortress-like castle. When you go inside (through a tiny and well-hidden door) the richnesses of the convent come to you.
The major attraction inside, in the church, is the charola, a Romanesque rotunda full of frescoes and gold.
I visited this WHS in August 2014. It's only 137km away from Lisbon and very close to another the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca. Nonetheless I decided to spend a night here to be able to visit late in the afternoon and early in the morning without the crowds. From the town centre, the Convent of Tomar is visible and it looks more like a castle or fort than a convent. Even when you arrive near the entrance and pass through the fortified walls, you wouldn't think it's a convent. Inside though it's a different story. There are several courtyards and cloisters, a dormitory, a refectory, a kitchen and a set of spiralling staircases that are quite similar to the ones in the Chambord Castle, France. The exterior is exquisitely carved in the Manueline (Portuguese Baroque) style with numerous gargoyles and Templar crosses. The highlight of the exterior is definitely the Manueline window (picture) while the highlight of the interior is the recently restored charola. This is one of the most beautiful and unique monastries/convents I have visited and I would suggest you allow at least 3-4 hours to visit. It's true that the exterior needs to be cleaned up from lichens and moss but at the same time I felt it was more authentic this way when compared to the whitewashed/cleaned up cloisters in other WHS around Portugal so at the end I was undecided. Either way I'd recommend a visit to anyone!
Date posted: August 2014 Kristine Fisher (United States): I visited the Convent of Christ in July 2013 with my mother. It was difficult to find due to road construction meaning you need to approach from a back road. The size of the site is not clear from the approach Inside you just seem to find more and more of the complex as you walk around and go up and down stairs. The site is like a rose with more and more layers of petals that show something new with each layer. While the Templar part and history is fascinating, I found the complete history of the site surprising. The walk along the wall and the enclosed garden space was a joy to walk around in on a hot afternoon. Worth the drive off the main highway. Date posted: July 2013 David Cris?stomo (Portugal): The Convent of Christ in Tomar was the headquarters and most important building of the Order od Christ, the same order that played a very important roll in the portuguese discoveries. It is a fascinating place that even today hides a lot of secrets in it's walls. Date posted: June 2008 ():
One of the most intriguing and unforgettable places we've ever been in Europe. So calm and charming, but almost impossible to explain WHY. Perhabs in there we still feel that right way of living and faith. By the way there's very tasty oranges at the garden beneath the cafe terrace. At least we gathered about 10 kilos. Imagine - in March!! Sorry if it was criminal!!
Seriously, you can spend 2-3 days there just reading books
in the yard or exploring more and more rooms and spaces inside! Don't forget bottle of Portwine with you!!
In town try most popular restaurant not far from the Cathedral, just down the street on the left, oder just half of portions, otherwise, you're dead.
Jeff Davis (USA): A truly special place. Far more mystical and religious in impact than (somewhat) nearby Fatima, which is overrun by Marian Kitsch. Tomar is enormous, and completely open--no ropes keeping you away from exploring at your leisure. The Convento his prayer-soaked walls, and and unbelievable architetural richness, including an impressive Renaissance cloister. Definitely NOT over-run by tourism, and more than well worth the effort of getting there. I would return to Portugal for this site alone! Date posted: August 2006 Denise Farrar (England): What a beautiful, calm and unexpected building-and wonderfully cool on a very hot day. We loved the fact that we were the only English speakers there-and that there were so few of us visiting-and that we were able to explore so freely;it added to the whole experience. We printed off guides to the building beforehand and found those available at the site perfectly adequate. The staff were friendly and, despite our mutual language problem, helpful. It's worth staying overnight in Tomar, which itself is picturesque, to allow you to follow the Templar 'trail' and see Portugal's only mediaeval synagogue. Overall, we felt the visit to the convento and Tomar well worth travelling slightly off the beaten track for.   Gianfranco (Italy, Rome): Fantastic! Full of mistery (if you like Templars and their history) but written description miss in a lot of rooms and places (particular in the last part of the visit) and the famous manuelino style window is covered with lichens! I think it's not a good situation for a UNESCO's world Heritage.
stephen andrews (United Kingdom): July 2002 - So very very hot and the swifts and swallows screaming and swooping through the courtyards. The guide books were expensive or limited in their content and an english spoken guide would have added to our enjoyment of the trip. A clear explanation of the rope carvings around the windows would also have helped.
Amongst the cloisters - a cool haven from the heat - at the heart of the building a strange representation of Jesus the Christ - sitting on a chair, looking mighty fed up and just like the rest of us on a bad day! Is that the spear mark in his side? What did the carver of the statue mean?
The clear crisp blue sky and the smell from the formal gardens was superb.
The charola was the same as many other Templar round churches or copies (e.g. Northampton UK) but nontheless spectacular. I would have loved to be told who stood on the column plinths around that special space...but the sense of calm that I felt meant that it didn't matter!
Please keep the place safe.
Have you been to Convent of Christ in Tomar? Share your experiences!