Portugal

Évora – more than just a day trip!

Are you looking to visit one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns? Évora is an UNESCO World Heritage site  due to its well-preserved old town center, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, an elaborate medieval cathedral and cloisters, a picturesque town square; and endless narrow winding alleyways to other architectural works. Only a 90-minute car or train ride away from Lisbon,  Évora could easily be done as a day trip, but think it is better explored with an overnight stay, especially because they have some great restaurants.

Évora, the capital of the Alentejo region, has been shaped by more than twenty centuries of history, going as far back as Celtic times. It fell under Roman domination in 57 BC and expanded into a walled town. The city walls and ruins of Roman baths still remain. During the Visigoth period in 584, the town was elevated to a cathedral city. Under Moorish rule (715 to 1165), further improvements were made to include a fortified gate and the Cathedral (completed in the 13th century). But it was in the 15th century, when the Portuguese kings began living in Évora on an increasingly regular basis, and that is when Évora’s growth began. At that time, convents and royal palaces sprung up everywhere: St Claire Convent, the royal church and convent of São Francisco, and Os Lóios Convent with the São João Evangelista Church.

Around the walled center runs a ring road, built in the 20th century, from which you can enter the town on one of the several spoke roads. What you will immediately notice is the stunning architecture of the low whitewash houses, decorated with painted tiles, mustard-yellow trim, wrought-iron balconies and red tile rooftops. All of these features make Évora the best example of a historic city, especially as it remained undamaged by the great earthquake of 1755 which destroyed many towns in Portugal, including Lisbon.

What to see

Aqueduct of Silver Water (Adqueduto da Agua de Prata) – just outside the city walls is the aqueduct, was completed in 1530 to bring water to the city. It was designed by Francisco de Arruda, famously known as the designer of the Tower Belem in Lisbon.

The Aqueduct is 9 km long, and originally continued all the way to the Praça do Giraldo.

Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) – small chapel connected to the Church of Sao Francisco is lined inside with human bones (approximately 5,000) dating back to the 17th century. 

The inscription above the chapel entrance translates as, “We bones who lie here await yours.” That is as far as I wanted to get!

Church of Our Lady of Grace (Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Graca) – is tucked away on Rua da Republic and I loved the statues at the top.

Diana Temple (Templo de Diana) – the roman temple dates back to the 1st century, with references in 2nd and 3rd centuries, was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Today what remains still intact are 14 columns.

Fountain of Portas de Moura – a Renaissance fountain was built in 1556, and the design of the globe surrounded by water is meant to reference the Age of Discovery.

Palace of the Counts of Basto – once a primitive Moorish castle and later residence of the kings. Its outer architecture displays features of Gothic, Manueline, Mudéjar and Renaissance styles. However, most of the structure needed to be rebuilt in the 1950s.

Praca do Giraldo – the main and busiest square was named after the 12th century hero of the Reconquista Gerald the Fearless, who defeated the Moors and expelled them after 450 years of rule in the city.

The public square was where the public executions took place, mainly during the period of the Inquisition. 

The 16th century Church of Santo Antao (St Andrew) sits closely to the fountain.

São João Evangelista Church – where the entire walls are decorated with the blue and white Portuguese tiles (azulejos) from early 18th century. 

The hand painted tiles are a mix of leaves and flowers as well as biblical scenes. 

Se Cathedral – is an example of Gothic architecture built in 1186, it is known for having asymmetrical towers. It took a half a century to be built, and was later added to throughout the Middle Ages.

As such, it dominates the city, and is almost always visual when looking at the skyline of this city. 

Where to eat

Enoteca Cartuxa (Rua Vasco da Gama) *can also serve as a wine tour

Origens (Rua de Burgos)

Tasquinha d’Oliveira (Rua Cándido dos Reis)

Dom Joaquim (Rua dos Penedos)

Reservations are required to these fine dining/chef-owned restaurants.

Enoteca Cartuxa

Where to stay

We stayed at Villa Extramuros, which is situated in the countryside on the outskirts of a small village called Arraiolos, only 15 minutes north of Évora. If you are a lover of modern architectural design and/or want a quiet escape in the countryside where you will be treated to a delicious breakfast, then you have to check out this property.

So, have I inspired you to make Évora one of your must-see destinations when in Portugal? 

It truly has enough charm and things to see to capture your interest for a 1-2 night stay.

My advice, put away the map and simply wander and discover every hidden corner of it. Nothing is better than getting lost inside the walls of this old city. 

Évora is an UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved old town centre, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, an elaborate medieval cathedral and cloisters, a picturesque town square; and endless narrow winding alleyways to other architectural works.
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38 Comments

  • Faith Hernly

    This was a lovely read! Slowly adding more places to my bucket list through your posts. Safe travels!

  • MY RIG Adventures

    I just love Medieval times. The buildings look so magnificent, although the history is pretty rough sometimes. I’d love to get here myself one day, thanks for the great write up.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for the time to comment and your kind words. Yes, there is so much history in this small city, that I hope you do get there one day.

  • Wendy

    I have always wanted to visit Spain. Evora sounds like a wonderful day trip. The Castle of Bones sounds fasinating. I love the ruins. This is now on my list. Thank you…

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Évora is very close to the Spain border, so certainly feasible. Thanks for commenting Wendy. I am always happy to inspire.

  • Patricia Pagenel

    Evora could be called the White City! These buildings are so lovely, all whitewashed with a touch of gold for effects. I keep reading so much about Portugal that we should pack and visit! Plus the idea of seeing Roman ruins, Moorish monuments, and Gothic architecture all in place would be such a draw.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks for commenting Patricia! I had Portugal on my travel list for so long and then when we got there I was kicking myself for not going sooner. Evora was chock full of historical landmarks, unlike any other place we visited in Portugal. So it would be the destination to see if you are interested.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Evan for taking the time to comment. I am happy to inspire, and hope you get there one day soon.

      • Laura Pedlar

        I visited Lisbon on a cruise last year and never knew this place was so close. I thought the aqueduct looked great as well as the temple. I think I’d like to visit here if I stopped in Lisbon again, I think I’d even venture to see some bones!

        • The.Holidaymaker

          Thanks for commenting Laura. The aqueduct is really quite amazing to see, there are parts of it that you can hike around. You are very brave to want to see those bones.

  • Nic

    Wow, the history, culture and architecture here is amazing. I bet it was just magical wandering around these streets. Sometimes these smaller cities are so much nicer to explore, you can cover pretty much everything and there are no crowds and only local people. It sound ideal!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Nic, it truly was a pleasure to visit this small city. It had it all, and that is why I really do recommend more than just a day here. Appreciate your comments.

  • Danik

    I been to Portugal several times, but mainly to Lisboa, Porto and surrounding areas and the Algarve but never even heard of this place. I love visiting the smaller unknown towns which has a lot of history and I hope to check this place out on my visit. I love the fact most of the buildings are white on the facades which makes the area looks stunning.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes, I was very happy to discover this small city. The main square is so beautiful with it’s all white buildings and large marble fountain. You will love it, hope you get to see it one day soon. Thanks for stopping by Danik.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes, so much history or just a beautiful city to roam around in. Thanks for commenting Carol.

  • Brianna

    Portugal is definitely on our list, but I wasn’t aware of Evora.. something new to add to our list! But… Chapel of Bones??? Creepy!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Brianna. Yes, Portugal was long on our list too! Yes, I didn’t go in, so I only snapped a photo from the entrance. Can you imagine all those bones…yikes!

  • Tania Muthusamy

    Yes you have inspired me to want to visit this beautiful town. I love the historic buildings, cathedral and the whitewashed homes with yellow trim are beautiful. I’ll definitely add Evora to my bucket list!

  • Ketki

    Honestly, I had not heard of Évora before but it looks as lovely as other typical European cities. Would love to visit someday 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for your comment. What makes this city different than your typical European city is that it is full of locals, not many tourists know about it. So it’s a wonderful place to visit and see architecture from all different periods of influence.

  • Lou

    I’ve never been to Portugal so will add this to the list for when I make it there. Lovely photos and the villa you stayed in looks amazing!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Lou for commenting. I am pleased to hear that you may add this to your destination list when traveling to Portugal.

  • Amy

    I am inspired by Portugal in general, but Evora definitely makes the list of dreamy, charming places to ensure is on the list. Even though it is not far from Lisbon I know I would appreciate a night or two to fully explore. The architecture is so well preserved, stunning!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Amy for your wonderful comments. You are exactly right. Evora has been so well preserved that it really is a destination to visit. And, a convenient one from Lisbon, or why not on your way to Spain.

  • Candy

    My sister visited Lisbon, Portugal and said she had a great time. I would like to visit with her someday and would stay at the recommended Villa Extramuros. I love all the history and the architecture here. That inscription above the chapel really was creepy! Not sure I would want to go in either 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It would be a great city to visit with your sister. If you want any recommendations for apartments, let me know. I stayed at a great one that was in Baixa neighbourhood. That will be another blog!
      Thank you for commenting Candy.

  • Melody Pittman

    I have a river trip scheduled for Portugal and I hope we get to visit this location during it. I’d definitely want to see Fountain of Portas de Moura and the church. Such beautiful architecture and ruins. Thanks for sharing. I really love Portugal and think it is one of the most overlooked European destinations.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Melody. How fantastic that you have plans to travel there soon. You are indeed right, Portugal is underrated, but think it is slowly becoming well known and soon will be overrun by tourism. See it while you can! Happy travels!

  • Michael Hodgson

    We simply love well-preserved European cities with their medieval walls, monuments and statues, cathedrals and temples, narrow alleys and quaint town squares that were typically the market places of the old city. And from your description Evora is all that and more. Portugal is on the list to visit next year … making a note to include Evora in our itinerary.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for commenting Michael. Indeed it is all that and more! Hopefully Evora will make it onto your itinerary for your future travels to Portugal.

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