Évora, the best preserved fortified city of Portugal, is a lovely city full of history. It has Roman origins and in the XV century it was the residence of the king of Portugal, giving a strong cultural boost to the city. For ages it has been one of the most important commercial and religious centers of Portugal, and today it is a lively university city.
Its century-old history has left several traces, making Évora a must-see destination during a holiday to Portugal. After Lisbon, it is the second most important city in terms of attractions and national museums; a very impressive achievement, considering the size of the capital compared to this small city!
Évora is also the ideal base to explore the Alto Alentejo, a charming inland region which is often ignored by tourists, but which is characterized by olive trees and fortified towns.
A good starting point for your exploration around the center of Évora is Praça do Giraldo, the main square as well as the beating heart of the city. In the past this square witnessed a series of bloody historical events, just like the execution of duke Fernando di Bragança or the stake where Inquisition’s victims were burned; today it is a place where to enjoy some relax, take a coffee, and do some people watching.
At the edge of the square it is possible to admire the Church of Santo Antão and the Chafariz, a marble fountain with eight spouts, symbolizing the eight streets taking towards the square.
One of these streets, Rua 5 de Outubro, leads to the Sé, that is to say the medieval cathedral where the blessing of Vasco da Gama’s fleets flags occurred. The exterior of the cathedral looks like a fortress characterized by two asymmetric pink granite towers, while its interior is a real masterpiece of gothic architecture. Do not miss the cloister from the XIV century, the archbishops’ tombs and the museum of sacred art.
Maybe you have never thought about going to Portugal to visit a Roman temple. However, Évora’s temple is one of the best preserved Roman monuments of the Iberian peninsula. It is also one of the most mysterious ones; today archaeologists have not determined which divinity it was dedicated to.
Take a minute to admire the beautiful and perfectly preserved temple’s Corinthian columns during your walk to the center.
Built in 1500 to provide fresh water to the city from North-West and projected by the same architect who designed the Belém Tower of Lisbon – Francisco de Arruda – the unfinished Évora Aqueduct represents a charming path long 8.5 kilometers – starting along the road to Arraiolos and ending at a neighborhood where houses and shops were built under its arches.
The most macabre yet charming Évora’s attractions is the Chapel of Bones, that is to say a church whose walls are decorated with human bones and skulls.
Built in 1600, the idea of lining bones along the walls had symbolic and aesthetic purposes; on the one hand it aimed at reminding the caducity of life, while on the other it was meant to play a spellbinding effect.
However, not all tourists appreciate the writing at the very entrance of the church: “We, the bones that are here await yours”. It takes a little bit of dark humour to appreciate it!
Évora is a city full of history and culture, featuring numerous monuments and historical sites to visit. We have listed the most important ones, and here comes a series of attractions that deserve a visit:
Around the city it is possible to admire the remains of Neolithic monuments and visit wine cellars.
Visiting Évora on a day trip can be quite tiring considering the number of interesting attractions to see around the city and its surroundings. During summer time the weather gets very hot, therefore you will need some time to rest under the shadow. Many attractions close for a couple of hours around lunch time.
Staying in Évora allows you to have more time to visit it and enjoy it when all the tourists have left; another advantage of sleeping in Évora is that hotels and b&b have more convenient rates compared to Lisbon and other coastal cities.
Évora is located 140 km from Lisbon; by renting a car it can be reached in one hour and a half by taking the motorway A2 and A6. Renting a car is recommended because it allows you to explore also the surroundings of Évora.
Another possibility is to reach Évora by train, but pay attention to the time schedule as direct trains are not very frequent. If you have to change train considered that you will have to waste some time.
Reaching Évora by train is a good solution for those who don’t feel like driving in a big city like Lisbon. If you decide to visit also its surroundings, you can still rent a car upon arrival. Roads around the Alentejo are very tranquil, easy to explore, and allow you to drive in total relax while admiring the landscape.
For those who want to visit Évora on a day trip we recommend to join a one day tour from Lisbon. Tourist itineraries usually allow to see the main attractions in short time.
A series of charming and picturesque villages located a few kilometers from Évora.