3 days in Tomar, Portugal


Hey all! Here I go for another post of my series of music festivals. This year, as I launch this post, the Bons Sons (= Good Sounds) festival of Portuguese music will be starting in the village of Cem Soldos, in the municipality of Tomar (district of Santarém, Portugal). This village is about 135 Kms northeast of Lisbon and it is about a 1h30min drive from there. I had the chance to go there for free after I won a raffle and liked it a lot. If you are into Portuguese music, this festival has a great atmosphere and features lots of music genres for every audience. All the concerts are open air in several locations in the village and you even have a room with board games to spend your time there before the concerts. The camping is also quite nice but the negative point of the location is that you don’t have any beach in walking distance like many other summer festivals here in Portugal do. Last year it was unusually cold there for the second week of August but this year the temperatures are through the roof, so one’s got to get creative during the day. Unlike my previous post where I spent a weekend in Festival Músicas do Mundo and did not have a car, this time in Bons Sons I managed to take a car and this allowed us to get to know the city of Tomar, that I had never been to, and to a river beach nearby. Want to know about it?


I was in the festival for 4 nights. Since in the first day I arrived there in the afternoon to set our camping tent and watch the first concerts, it only leaves 3 days to visit around. Two of those days were spent going to Tomar and one to the river beach of Aldeia do Mato, municipality of Abrantes. 



This quite touristic city in Portugal is located 140 Kms away from Lisbon and if you don’t have a car it’s no problem, there’s a regional train and also buses that go there. This city features mainly historical attractions, being connected to the Templars military order and afterwards to the Order of Christ, another Christian military order. The main attraction, the Convent of Christ, is an UNESCO World Heritage site. This city also used to have a strong Jewish community before the Inquisition and there is still a small synagogue. The city is also famous for Festa dos Tabuleiros, a popular party that happens every 4 years (last one was in 2015) where locals parade with heavy crowns with flowers and bread. It is said that this ritual has origins on the worhship to the Roman Goddess Ceres, related to agriculture. The crown has to be the height of the bearer.

We spent the majority of our first day in Tomar hanging by the municipal pool. Since we had European Youth Cards, the entrance for the whole day was only 1.50€ but for a regular adult it’s 3€. It’s a simple pool but it was quite nice to rest and soak up a bit of sun (and wind since we weren’t very lucky with the weather =p)


In the end of the afternoon, we walked a bit in the small city center. Hanging out by river Nabão is nice with the park and it seems you can rent kayaks. We also managed to visit the Church of Santa Maria do Olival, a Gothic church also related to the Templars and then to the Christ Order. Walking around the streets still with flowers in the windows due to Festa dos Tabuleiros makes for pretty pictures and, since swimming and walking made us hungry, we went to a Medieval restaurant in the municipality square called Taverna Antiqua for dinner. The food was very delicious and for dessert I had the best pudding I have ever eaten, a perfect hazelnut pudding!


Church of Santa Maria do Olival


Church of São João Batista
So yummy @ Taverna Antiqua

In the second day we went right away to the Convent of Christ. This monument is located on the top of a hill and you have to climb quite a bit if you don’t have a car but it is worth it. The entrance for general audience is 6€ and the discounted is 3€ (another perk of European Youth Cards!). The convent was founded in the 12th century and has an impressive round church that was built around this time. After the Order of Christ was converted into a more contemplative one in the 15th century, the convent underwent some changes in architectural style and is one of the main examples of Renaissance and Manueline (from the King D. Manuel times, an example of which is the Monastery of Jerónimos in Lisbon) styles. It contains the widely published in Portuguese history school books Manueline window. I was really impressed by how ample and ornated the convent is, while also having calm and more simple cloisters and also the frugal habitations of the monks and the kitchens with tiled walls.





After grabbing something to eat by the center, there was still time to enter the Synagogue, which today is the Luso-Hebraic Museum. It’s a very small one and the lady there explained us a little about Jewish traditions. I did not take photographs inside but there are four columns which represent the four matriarchs of Jewish religion (Sarah, Rikvah, Rachel and Leah).


A bit outside the city (4 Kms west), we also walked on the top of Aqueduct of Pegões, built in the 16th and 17th century for water supply purposes to the Convent of Christ.


Aldeia do Mato

I don’t normally go to river beaches because I live close to several sea beaches but when I do I make sure it’s a good one! I had read about three river beaches nearby the festival location and after seeing some pictures we chose Aldeia do Mato because it has some blocks to limit it to a swimming pool like structure. This beach is 150 Kms away from Lisbon and was 25 Kms east of the festival location. The beach is located in the lake of Castelo do Bode, an artificial lake created by the Castelo do Bode dam, a large hydroelectric station in river Tagus that supplies energy and water to the Lisbon area. The whole lake features a lot of possible water sports amusements and this is no exception. It feels so calm hanging out there!




What are your favorite Medieval destinations? What are your favorite river beaches?


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