The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
Evora is one of the finest tourist destinations in central Portugal. It is a delightful city, that combines Portuguese charm with a varied selection of fascinating historical sights.
Evora was one of the most influential cities of medieval Portugal, being an important religious centre and situated on the main trading route to Spain. This rich history is reflected in the sheer number of historical monuments. There are medieval palaces, gothic religious buildings, delightful plazas, and cobbled streets, all contained within Evora's ancient walls.
Evora should not be mistaken for a sleepy relic that is reliant upon its glorious past; the city is young and vibrant, with a large student population who attend one of the world's oldest universities.
Evora is surrounded by the Alentejo, a region of sun-baked olive groves, fortified towns and traditional villages, all of which are a joy to explore from Evora. The Alentejo region offers a truly unique Portuguese experience, with a distinctive heritage and an unhurried pace of life, a consequence of the sweltering hot summer months.
Evora may not be as famous as other larger Portuguese cities, but it should be high on your list of places to visit while in Portugal.
There are many outstanding tourist sights in Evora, and the best are:
The Templo Romano Évora – Constructed in the first century as a temple dedicated to the cult of Augustus, it is the best-preserved Roman Temple on the Iberian Peninsula.
The Capela dos Ossos – A macabre chapel lined with the bones of over 5,000 bodies that were exhumed from the city's medieval graves. Ghoulish, but still the most popular tourist attraction in Evora... more information
The Aqueduto da Água de Prata – The 16th century aqueduct that once transported water from over 9 km away to Evora. Outside of the city walls, the aqueduct rises alone on the grand aches, while within the city walls, houses and shops have been constructed beneath the stone arches.
The Catedral de Évora – This mighty 13th-century cathedral is regarded as the finest gothic building in Portugal and signifies Evora's medieval importance.
Related articles: The best sights of Evora
Evora is a must-see day trip destination when staying in Lisbon. However, it will take up an entire day as there is a lot of travel involved, especially if you are reliant on public transport. Once in Evora, all of the major tourist sites can be visited within about 4-5 hours of sightseeing.
A typical 1-day tour of Evora is shown in the interactive map below. The green route is the classic tour of the historic centre, which includes the cathedral, the Roman Temple, the university, and the Bone Chapel. The yellow route is an additional tour covering the north of the city, which follows the aqueduct. The two grey lines are the routes to and from the train and bus stations.
Tour sights; 1) Praça do Giraldo 2) Igreja de Santo Antão 3) Catedral de Évora 4) Evora museum 5) Roman Temple 6) Evora university 7) Igreja do Carmo 8) Igreja da Graça 9) Igreja de São Francisco 10) Capela dos Ossos (bone Chapel) 11) Ruínas Fingidas 12) Palácio de Dom Manuel (Royal Palace) 13) Câmara Municipal (city hall) 14) Arco Romano 15) Beginning of the aqueduct 16) Arches of the aqueduct
Warning: Many of the tourist attractions are managed by the city council and shut for a two-hour lunch.
Advice: During the summer, Evora is significantly hotter than Lisbon, and the intense sun makes sightseeing very draining from 11-3pm.
Related articles: A day trip to Evora
The pretty cobble backstreets in Evora
If you have the time, Evora is the ideal place to slow down the pace of travel and experience authentic Portugal. The surrounding region is also offers rural tours, yoga retreats and the chance to truly unwind.
Spending at least one night in Evora allows visitors to discover the city at a relaxed pace and is highly recommended in the hot summer months. For those staying two nights, a third day can be spent visiting the pre-historic standing stones of Cromeleque dos Almendres and the majestic castle at Evoramonte.
Advice: To get the most of the Alentejo region a rental car is a must as there are limited public transport services.
The Cromeleque dos Almendres date from 6000 to 4000bc, and certain stones have ancient circular engravings
A longer stay in Evora will allow much more exploration of the Alentejo region, including day trips to marble towns of Estremoz, Vila Viçosa and Borba, and the fortified town of Elvas. Elvas has unique star-shaped defences and forts, which were constructed from centuries of border fighting against Spain, and is a fascinating tourist destination.
Related articles: Guide to Elvas
Evora has the added benefit of providing great value for accommodation and food, with prices significantly cheaper than Lisbon or the Algarve.
The map below shows the location of hotels and rental rooms in Evora, and by altering the date to your holiday, the map will display current prices:
Evoramonte castle stands atop one of the highest hills of the Alentejo region
Evora is connected to Lisbon by regular and inexpensive rail and bus services. There are more daily bus departures than the train, but the railway provides a more relaxing journey.
Travel times for both bus and train are approximately 1.5 hours, and the fares are comparable at €13 for a one-way adult ticket. The frequency of the public transport means that Evora can be visited as a day trip Lisbon.
Related articles: Lisbon to Evora
Evora train station is modern but very quiet, with only a handful of departures per day
There are three must-see historical monuments in Evora; they are the Sé Cathedral, the Roman Templo de Diana and the Aqueduto de Água de Prata. Most visitors to Evora will also want to see the Bone Chapel.
The Templo de Diana
The Templo de Diana is the best-preserved Roman temple on the Iberian Peninsula. The temple is named after the Roman goddess Diana but when it was constructed in the 1st century, it was actually dedicated to Augustus – the emperor who created a cult about himself.
The temple has been so well preserved, as during the medieval era it was incorporated into the palace that stood here. Later, after the destruction of the palace, the temple was used as an abattoir and even a wood store!
The Templo de Diana with the cathedral to the rear
The Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel)
There is no stranger tourist attraction in Evora (and possibly central Portugal) than the macabre Capela dos Ossos. The walls of this small chapel are lined with the bones and skulls of more than 5,000 bodies that were exhumed from the crowded graveyards of Evora.
These bones have not just been stored in the walls, but indeed create the decoration of the chapel. The Franciscan monks who designed the chapel followed the Counter-Reformation belief, that death is purely a transitory stage.
The creepiness is compounded by the wording above the entrance, which reads "We the bones wait for yours".
Skulls and bones form decorations
The Aqueduto de Agua de Prata
The Aqueduto de Agua de Prata provided a constant supply of water to the city and is connected to the water springs in Graça do Divor, 18km to the north. The aqueduct was commanded by King João III and was completed in 1537.
The highest arches are seen outside of the city walls, while inside the city, houses and shops have been constructed beneath the arches.
Historic intrigue: The name of the aqueduct (the Silver Water Aqueduct) has a double meaning. The first, and more obvious, is the silver appearance of the water under the bright summer sun. The second reflects the astronomical construction costs, which were so high that it nearly bankrupted the regional government.
The huge arches of the aqueduct span the valley outside of the city walls
The Sé cathedral
The Sé cathedral is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
The cathedral has two mismatched towers, and this is unique for gothic religious buildings, which usually have a panel of symmetry across the front portal.
A visit to the cathedral allows access to the roof, from which there are wonderful views over Evora.
The cathedral with its two very different towers
Evora is incredibly hot in the summer warm in both spring and autumn: Winters are mild but there is always the chance of wet days.
Early spring is the best season to visit Evora, when the rolling plains are lush and full of flowers and the days are pleasant temperatures for sightseeing on foot.
The average weather of Evora
Summers are extremely hot in the Alentejo region and sightseeing can only be done in the early morning or late in the afternoon. For tourists intending on visiting during the summer, follow the locals’ example, by taking a much slower pace and enjoying a long lunch. All municipal tourist attractions close for an extended two-hour lunch, irrespective of the season, so plan your day of sightseeing around this long break.