The best independent guide to Evora
Evora is a delightful Portuguese town that was originally founded by the Romans, later fortified by the Moors and flourished during the 15th century. This extensive history has provided Evora with a variety of interesting tourist attractions and historical monuments. This guide will detail the main tourist sights and attractions of Evora.
Related articles: Introduction to Evora
Evora was an important Roman trading town, so it is fitting that the city's finest monument is a beautiful preserved Roman temple. The Diana Temple is regarded as the best preserved Roman structure on the Iberian Peninsula, but it has had an eventful history since Roman occupation.
The Diana Roman Temple
Initially the temple was incorporated into Evora castle, later used as a gallows during the inquisition, then converted into an abattoir and finally used as a lowly wood store. The historical importance of the temple was finally identified in the 19th century. The temple is incorrectly dedicated to the goddess Diana, but this adds to the charm of the beautifully preserved column structure.
The Praça do Giraldo is the main central plaza of Evora and is the heart of the city. The square is lined by exquisite examples of 16th century Gothic architecture, while the simplistic Igreja de Santo Antao stands at one end of the square.
The gothic architecture of the Praça do Giraldo
The Praça do Giraldo is the place for visitors to come for a relaxing drink during the day or to sample fine food and wine once the sun sets. The square has not always been so peaceful: it was the main inquisitorial court during the Spanish inquisition and it was the scene of numerous protests and rebellions during the early formation of Portugal.
The bone chapel is the most ghoulish sight of Portugal and thus one of the most memorable monuments of Evora. Inside the small chapel, the walls are lined with bones of the long-deceased, exhumed from the city's graves as the city expanded to allow further burials.
There are thousands of bones and skulls in the bone temple
The bones are not just respectfully stacked but completely integrated in the chapel’s design features, with human skulls forming decorative patterns and bones as borders. The inscription above the door simply adds to the macabre atmosphere. One of the strangest sights of Portugal and certainly not for the faint hearted.
The Jardim Publico is a pleasant park that were was once the grounds for the Palacio Manuel. The Women's Wing is the only section of the palace remains and is the central feature of the park.
There are also duck ponds, views out over the city walls and a large community of noisy peacocks. The park makes for a very nice place for a rest and coffee.
Evora aqueduct was one of the most advanced and technically challenging construction projects of the 16th century. The 9km long water system stretches from the nearest river and brought fresh water to Evora. Outside of the city walls, the aqueduct is formed of massive stone arches, while inside the city, houses and shops were constructed underneath the arches. The aqueduct originally ended in a large pool in the Praça do Giraldo, but this was destroyed during the 17th century.
The massive stone Evora aqueduct outside of the city walls
The main attraction of Evora is the charm of the city itself, and there is no better method to experience the city than by simply getting lost in the old quarter. Evora is a maze of immaculately maintained cobbled streets and traditionally painted houses. Along every street there is a delightful shop, pretty building or small hidden church to enjoy, and these minor sights that are never listed in any guidebooks cannot be discovered without simply wondering around the city.
The pretty and traditional streets of Evora
The Museu de Evora is the best museum in Evora and has a range of exhibits that detail the long history of the region. The exhibits are not limited to just to one genre, and the extensive collection includes archaeological artefacts (mainly Roman), artistic paintings and important historical items from Evora. The museum has good detailed descriptions of items and if you enjoy museums, then this little one will not disappoint you.
The standing stones of Cromlech Almendres were constructed between 5,000-2,000bc. The complex is believed to be part of an important religious site and is regarded as the finest example of prehistoric monuments in South Western Europe.
The Almendres Cromlech are a good day trip from Evora
The stones were not simply placed in a formal arrangement: many of the stones are decorated with patterns and engravings which all add to the mystery of the site. The poor public transport means that a rental car is needed to visit the site.