The best independent guide to Central Portugal
The best independent guide to Central Portugal
Evora is one of the finest tourist destinations of central Portugal. It is a delightful city that exudes Portuguese charm and boasts a vast array of fascinating tourist attractions.
Evora was one of the most important cities in medieval Portugal, being an important trading and religious centre up until the 14th century. This rich history is reflected in the sheer number of historical monuments, all of which are all situated within the city’s ancient walls. Evora should not be mistaken for a sleepy old 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, delicious regional cuisines and an infectious unhurried pace of life, a consequence of the sweltering hot summer months.
Evora may not be as famous or instantly recognisable as other larger Portuguese cities, but it should be high on your list of places to visit while in Portugal.
Related articles: Elvas guide - The Alentejo region
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, and is the best-preserved Roman Temple on the Iberian Peninsula. It's fourteen granite columns have survived Visigoth destruction (5th century), were incorporated into the royal palace and even used as a slaughterhouse.
The Catedral de Évora – The mighty 13th-century cathedral of Evora, regarded as the finest gothic building in Portugal, signifies Evora's medieval importance. Heavily fortified walls and massive stone pillars conceal delicate art such as the rose window and carved apostles statues that surround the entrance.
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 the most popular tourist attraction in Evora.
The Aqueduto da Água de Prata – The 16th century aqueduct that transports water for over 9km to Evora. As the aqueduct meets the city, it rises into grand aches, while within the city walls, houses and shops have been constructed beneath these stone arches.
Evora is an outstanding destination as a day trip from Lisbon. This will be a very long day trip and will involve a lot of travelling, especially if you reliant on public transport. Once in Evora, all of the major tourist attractions can be seen 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 of 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 managed by the city council 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.
A less demanding method to see Evora in a single day is to join one of the organised tours that depart from Lisbon. These tours are designed for modern tourists and have the added benefit of local and knowledgeable guides.
We have worked with Getyourguide.com over the previous 6 years, and a selection of their best tours of Evora includes:
If you have the time, Evora is the ideal place to slow travel and experience authentic Portugal. The surround region is also popular for rural tourism, yoga retreats or to unwind from stressful lives.
Further days could explore the Alentejo region, with day trips to the 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: Elvas Guide
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:
There are three historical monuments that could be considered as the main tourist attractions of 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 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 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 actually 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".
Evora has incredibly hot summers, warm springs and autumns. 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 bright and pleasant.
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 operating at a much slower pace and taking 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.
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