Évora, the largest city of the Alentejo region, is a lovely weekend getaway. Évora is undoubtedly Portugal's most interesting city. While Porto and Lisbon remain popular weekend destinations, the Douro Valley is a visually stunning wine escape, and the Comporta coastline is endlessly beautiful, the town of Évora, just an hour away from Lisbon, has all the elements of an idyllic city break, with stunning architecture, endless history, and memorable cuisine.
Évora, the capital of the Alentejo region, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. It runs from the Tagus River in the north to the Algarve in the south and is famed for its cork-tree-lined scenery, hearty meals, and wine production. But there's more to see here than just wildlife. Évora has a colorful and rich history that is said to date back to Celtic times.
The city was first inhabited by Romans in the second century BC, and several ruins, including the Temple of Diana, exist from that period. There have been various occupiers since then, from the Moors to Portuguese royalty, who built palaces and convents in the 15th century that still stand, producing a mismatch of artistic styles that is still mostly intact today.
Évora has inspired cities around the world, including Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, with its cobblestone lanes within the city walls, traditional whitewashed Portuguese buildings, and attractive tiles. It's also poised to be the European Cultural Capital in 2027, and just walking around here is immensely inspiring. There's nothing quite like Évora, shaped by more than two decades of history; here's what you shouldn't miss.
What to do in Evora - A few reasons why you have to visit Evora
Although some may regard Évora as an excellent day excursion from Lisbon, the reality is there is just too much to see here in a few hours. Set aside two or three days if possible to enjoy what's on offer and soak in the atmosphere without feeling pressured. Aside from the obvious - the 16th-century aqueduct that runs through the old town - there's plenty to do here:
Visit the Bones Chapel of Evora
Unquestionably one of Évora's must-see sights is So Francisco, a 15th-century church that was formerly a part of the Franciscan Monastery and today draws visitors because of the Chapel of Bones. The French invasion in 1808 largely devastated the monastery. Even still, the church was left standing (with almost little mention of the several skeletons discovered here), possibly out of concern for what would happen if it were demolished. Above the door is a fairly ominous sign that reads, "We bones that lay here wait for your bones."
Stroll around the narrow streets of Evora
Évora is relatively small for a stroll around, but without the insider knowledge of a local, you'll almost likely miss out on some of the most intriguing sights. There are some great Walking Tours, just head to the Tourist Information and conduct a free walking tour that can be done in a morning and will provide you with a greater grasp of the town's historical and social subtleties.
Diana Temple - Don't miss this place
This enormous Roman temple is above the old town in the Conde Vila Flor square, a sign of the emperor's worship that was considered to be devoted to the goddess Diana for many years. This prominent building marked the beginning of the Roman Empire's prosperous time. It was virtually always used by the Arabs as a mosque throughout the Moorish period, then as a marketplace in mediaeval times until becoming a butcher in the nineteenth century. It is now preserved for visitors to Évora to see and learn more about the area's history.
Relax in the wonderful parks
The public garden was created in the 1800s from Italian architect José Cinatti, who was inspired by a classic English garden. There's a bandstand here, the remains of the royal palace from 1468 which had been abandoned in the 17th century, and even 'artificial ruins' that are now home to the peacocks who walk freely through the space.
Don't miss the Evora Cathedral
The cathedral spire, considered the best gothic building in Portugal, marks the city's center and is visible from practically everywhere in Évora. Visitors can go on the roof, which offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside. Inside, you'll find a collection of 14th-century apostle statues, as well as the oldest organ in Portugal, which was added in the 16th century.
Of course, no trip to Évora would be completed without sampling some of the local wine. While wine tastings are offered within the walls of the ancient town, visiting adjacent wineries and seeing the process from field to bottle is an unforgettable experience.
Visit the University of Evora
The University of Evora (Evora University) is made up of multiple buildings scattered around town and the surrounding area that house the various departments. Almost all of them are renovations of old historical structures that are inextricably related to Evora's rich past.
The Colégio do Esprito Santo, the most prominent structure of the University of Evora, is one of the most visited destinations in the world, whether for its history or its magnificence.
The University of Evora was created in 1559 by Cardinal D. Henrique from the already existing Colégio do Esprito Santo (Holy Spirit), and is Portugal's second oldest university after the University of Coimbra (1537).
Stroll around Praca do Giraldo
Praca do Giraldo, the city's major plaza, is home to a fountain featuring eight spouts, thought to represent each of the roads that run away from the square. Rua 5 de Outubro is home to stores selling local pottery, cork souvenirs, and wooden handicrafts. Such a wonderful reason why you have to visit Evora in Portugal.