Évora is one of the most important cities in the Alentejo. Its historic center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is often called a city museum, as you can find traces of different historical eras spread throughout the city.
In addition to being charming and filled with important monuments, Évora is also one of the best places to eat Alentejo food. For all these reasons, a visit to Évora is mandatory, in almost any Portugal itinerary. Come and discover what to visit and the best things to do in Évora.
What to do and visit in Évora? 10 things not to miss
Visiting Évora is like going back in history. The city has traces of various civilizations, such as Romans, Arabs, Jews, and Christians. And as it was not affected by the 1755 earthquake, it is the ideal example of a Portuguese city from the 14th and 15th centuries. For this reason, the city is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.
The historic center is made up of narrow streets, lanes, patios, and squares. Therefore, the best way to visit the city is on foot and explore all the squares, churches, and monuments. It is also a city of terraces that invite you to sit under an umbrella and drink a cold drink.
The main squares and streets to explore are:
- Praça de Giraldo: a central square with several terraces and restaurants, the church of Santo Antão, and a fountain.
- Rua 5 de Outubro: it is the best place to buy a memento, it is full of shops with regional products and handicrafts. Various items made from cork, such as shoes, clothing, and postcards. It’s all so beautiful and some of the best souvenirs you can buy in Portugal.
- Largo do Conde de Vila Flor: one of the main squares in Évora where the Cathedral and the Roman Temple are located.
- Praça do Sertório: Pleasant square in front of Évora City Hall. It has a lounger to rest.
Silver Water Aqueduct (Água de Prata Aqueduct)
The Água de Prata Aqueduct was built in 1537 by order of King João III to supply the city of Évora, transporting water from the source in Graça do Divor to Évora covering 18 km. The aqueduct continues to function to this day, with few aqueducts as old still in operation.
The aqueduct enters the historic center from Porta do Lago, accompanying the city. Over time, the population of Évora built houses in the arches of the aqueduct in order to take advantage of the space. It is quite interesting to walk along the aqueduct and appreciate human ingenuity. You will also find some Renaissance water boxes, along the aqueduct, which served to supply water to the population.
Another way to explore the aqueduct is to take the footpath along it. It runs 8.3 km along the aqueduct, passing through fields of cork oak forests and farms. It is a very pleasant trail that allows you to appreciate the landscape and the aqueduct.
Roman Temple of Évora
The Roman Temple of Évora is a Roman religious building, from the 1st century. It was part of the Roman Forum and was dedicated to Emperor Augustus.
The Temple is located in the Largo do Conde de Vila Flor, surrounded by the Cathedral of Évora, the Inquisition Court, the Church and Convent of Loios, and Diana’s garden.
A funny curiosity is that the temple was reused in the past as a municipal butchery (a kind of butchery). And, yet, it still is one of the best-preserved Roman buildings on the Iberian Peninsula.
Until recently, 1990, the Temple was known as the Temple of Diana; it was thought that it was dedicated to Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. This idea was refuted when traces were discovered that it was dedicated to Emperor Augustus.
Viewpoint and Garden of Diana
In front of the Roman Temple in the Largo do Conde de Vila Flor is the Garden of Diana. It’s a small but very pleasant garden, with leaves, benches to rest on, a kiosk, and a terrace. It’s a great refuge from the heat and have a short rest. Keep in mind that Évora is very hot, especially in the summer.
In the garden, you will find a statue of Dr. Francisco Barahona, a benefactor of Évora. And at the bottom of the garden is a viewpoint overlooking the historic center of Évora and the Alentejo plain.
Chapel of Bones and Church of São Francisco
The Capela dos Ossos is the most intriguing and sinister monument in Évora. The chapel is located inside the São Francisco Church. The walls and pillars of the chapel are lined with thousands of bones. It is estimated that it has 5,000 bones, including skulls, vertebrae, femurs, and others.
The chapel was built in the 17th century by 3 Franciscan monks. The purpose of the chapel was to reflect on the fragility and ephemerality of life. It also had a more practical function, vacating the 42 monastic cemeteries that existed in the region of Évora, in order to use them for other purposes.
The chapel has an impressive entrance with two marble columns. Over the entrance door is the inscription: “We bones that are here for yours await.” At the exit of the chapel, on the wall, there is a tile panel by the famous architect Siza Vieira, which reflects on the miracle of life.
In addition to the chapel, the Church of São Francisco, despite not being so intriguing, is an important church, classified as a Royal Church. Important ceremonies were held here, such as the wedding of Prince D. Afonso with D. Isabel of Castile. The Church was built in the 15th century in a Manueline-Mudejar style.
To enter the Capela dos Ossos, you have to pay an entrance fee. And it is open every day with the exception of Christmas, New Year, and Easter.
Cathedral of Évora
The Basilica of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, also known as the Cathedral of Évora, is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal. It was built in 1250 in granite, it is a cathedral with Romanesque and Gothic style.
In addition to the interior of the Cathedral, you can visit the Gothic cloister, the Museum of Sacred Art and go up to the terrace. We strongly recommend you do it, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Évora, and offers beautiful panoramic views of the city.
An interesting curiosity is that it is said that the flags of Vasco da Gama’s fleet were blessed in the cathedral.
The University of Évora is one of the most important in Portugal, as it is the second oldest university in Portugal after Coimbra. It was founded in 1559, but in 1759 it was closed by the Marquis of Pombal when the Jesuits were expelled. Reopening in 1979.
The University has several buildings, the most important and beautiful being the Colégio do Espírito Santo. Colégio do Espírito Santo has an impressive entrance and a grand cloister with a fountain.
There are several classrooms divided by themes and decorated with elaborate tiles alluding to the subjects taught, such as the Mathematics, Astronomy, Geography, and Philosophy room, among others. The rooms also have several frescoes painted on the walls and ceilings.
You can visit the Colégio do Espírito Santo at the University of Évora, but as the University and its classrooms are open, it is natural to visit during class time. It may sound strange but it is, you just have to wait for the class to end and peek inside the room to see the tiles, frescoes, and pulpit.
Public Garden of Évora
Jardim Público de Évora is a cool, tree-filled park in the center of Évora. It is the ideal place to rest. The park has swings for children to play on, a cafe with a nice terrace, and several benches.
In addition to being a great place to relax, it has several important historical landmarks, with the Palace of D. Manuel, remains of the Medieval Wall, and the Fingidas ruins.
The Palace of D. Manuel was the royal residence of the monarchs during their stay in Évora. Nowadays, the palace has been transformed into an interactive museum of the city’s history, it is an interesting place, and the building is very beautiful.
As for the fake ruins, ruins of various monuments scattered around the city were gathered and placed in the garden. Some ruins are the remains of twin windows in the Manueline-Mudejar style.
For all these reasons, the public garden is a place that cannot go unnoticed on a visit to Évora. And don’t forget, it’s a fresher place in a really hot region.
Ruins of the Roman Baths
The Roman Baths were public baths and were built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. At that time, the spas, besides having an important role in hygiene, were a place for socializing and even doing business, therefore an important point in the cities.
The ruins of the Roman baths are a monument that can sometimes overlooked since they are inside the Évora City Hall building. They were discovered in 1987 during archaeological excavations in the Chamber building.
The City Hall of Évora is located in the beautiful Praça de Sertório. Entry to the hot springs is free, and to visit them, you have to enter inside the Town Hall, For any questions, you can ask the building security.
Almendres Cromlech and Almendres Menhir
The Almendres Cromlech is a prehistoric stone circle with 95 stone monoliths located 12 km from the city of Évora in the parish of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe. It has the nickname of the Portuguese Stonehenge, although the Almendres Cromlech is even older.
The Almendres Cromlech is estimated to date back to the 7th millennium BC. The archaeological zone comprises 95 monoliths measuring between 2.5 and 3 meters in height, 10 of which are decorated in reliefs or engravings. The function of the Cromlech and the Menhir is not well known, but is thought to be a place of pagan worship and astronomical observation.
The Menhir is 3 km from Cromlech and is made up of just one large monolith. It is thought to be probably associated with Cromlech. On the summer solstice, at sunrise, the Menhir points towards Cromlech.
To get to the Cromlech and the Menhir, you have to go by car. There is no public transport from Évora. You’ll have to take a dirt road from the parish of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe to reach the archaeological zones. Despite being unpaved, it is in good condition and can be accessed by any car. Both the Menhir and the Cromlech are on the same road, then it’s just a short walk through Montados Alentejanos.
You don’t have to pay admission, and in the village you will find a tourist information office with all the information you need.
Where to stay in Evora?
Évora Hotel is a good hotel to relax, go to the pool, play tennis and eat good food. It is not close to the center of Évora, it is 2km away. It has breakfast included, two swimming pools, one indoor and one outdoor, and tennis courts. It is also close to the Monolith of Our Lady Park. Book your stay here.
The M’AR De AR Muralhas is a very good hotel located in the center of Évora, 400 m from Praça do Giraldo. That’s why it’s very well located. It is a luxurious hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and a huge garden. Breakfast is included. Book your stay here
The Pousada de Juventude de Évora is a great choice if you want something cheaper. The youth hostel is very well located, only 200 meters from Giraldo Square. Breakfast is included, and it has a bedroom and a private bathroom—everything you need for a great stay. For more information, click here.
What to eat in Évora?
Évora is the largest and most important city in the Alentejo, it is also one of the best cities to eat. The Alentejo gastronomy is rich and varied, and the people in Alentejo have the ability to transform humble ingredients into delicacies. Black pig, lamb, olives, and bread are vital elements in the main dishes.
We recommend trying migas, black pork, açorda, pezinhos de coetrada, and carne porco alentejana.
As for sweets, Évora is one of the best places in Portugal to indulge in sweets. The sweets you should try are Pão de Rala, Toucinho do Céu, Queijadas de Évora, and Fidalgo, which, in addition to the general sweets from Alentejo we have Évora’s specialties.
Where to eat in Évora?
- A Gruta: It is a restaurant with delicious and cheap traditional Alentejo food. It’s not a fancy restaurant. And the menu is limited, mostly grills, but the food is good and typical. This restaurant is located right in front of the Public Garden of Évora, but outside the walls.
- Monte da Graciete: this restaurant is located 7 km from the center of Évora, so you need a car to get there. It is a restaurant that serves traditional Alentejo food in a buffet style, with many delicious options. Go treat yourself.
- Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala: Évora has lots of pastry shops filled with delicious sweets, but Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala is the place to go to eat Pão de Rala. In addition to it, you can find other sweets such as Fidalgo, which is difficult to find.
What to visit near Évora?
Gameiro Walkways (Passadiços do Gameiro) are located in the Ecological Park of Gameiro in Mora and are 60 km from Évora, about 50 minutes by car. These walkways are 1.5 km long and are among the most accessible in Portugal. The trail runs along the river, allowing you to enjoy the typical Alentejo landscapes easily and comfortably.
In addition to the walkways, in the Ecological Park of Gameiro, there is a river beach, a children’s playground, a café with an esplanade, and several picnic areas. It is a very pleasant and fun area and an ideal place to do sports.
Finally, close to the park, there is the Fluviário de Mora, which is a public aquarium dedicated to freshwater ecosystems.
Monsaraz is a picturesque village in Alentejo, 53 km from Évora, taking about 50 minutes by car. It is a white village on top of a mountain surrounded by walls. The village has beautiful views of the Alqueva Lagoon.
The best way to visit Monsaraz is on foot. In the village, there is a castle, walls, typical white houses, and narrow streets and terraces. The village also has some restaurants with very good traditional food.
As the village is not very big, you can visit it in the afternoon or morning. You can also go to the River Beach of Monsaraz in Alqueva.
This was the winner of the 7 Wonders of Portugal competition in the category of best villages, and it is a mandatory stop on a visit to the Alentejo.
Great Lake of Alqueva
The large lake or reservoir of Alqueva is the largest artificial lake in Europe formed with the Alqueva Dam’s construction. The dam’s reservoir has an area of 250 km2 and covers five municipalities in the Alentejo. The dam’s main purpose is to supply water to the arid region of Alentejo.
But besides its practical function, the reservoir is beautiful and has several activities to do. How to enjoy the various river beaches, Praia Fluvial de Monsaraz, Praia Fluvial de Amieira, Praia Fluvial de Mourão. In addition to swimming in the lake’s waters and resting, you can take a boat trip and visit the Alqueva dam.
Going to Alqueva is one of the most fun activities in the Alentejo, and it is close to the city of Évora, 60 km away, 50 minutes by car.
How to go to Évora?
The best way to get to Évora from Lisbon is by using the intercity train. The trip takes 1:30 and is a comfortable and easy way to go to Évora. The station is located 1 km from the city center. Another option is to take the bus, Rede Expresso or Flixbus.
From Porto, things are more complicated as the distance is much greater, and the options are more complex. If you go by train, you must go to Lisbon and take another one to Évora. It takes 3h15 on the intercity train. By bus, it takes 5 to 6 hours, and you must stop in Lisbon. You can go with Rede Expresso or FlixBus, which have cheaper options.
From Lisbon to Évora, it is 133 km and takes 1h30. You can take the A2 or A6 motorway, which is faster, but you have to pay tolls. Or you can take a more scenic route on the N4 road, which is 130 km and takes 2 hours. The road is in good condition and allows you to stop at Vendas Novas and eat the famous bifana.
From Porto to Évora, it is 411 km, and takes 3h40 on the A1 motorway. The highway is paid, and you can pay the toll with cash or card.