Évora in the Alentejo region of Portugal is a fascinating historical city. Ruins from the Roman empire mingle with buildings, art, and artifacts worth exploring. Chefs work wonders with local ingredients, which pair with excellent Alentejo wines. There are lots of places to wander, shops to explore, and nearby excursions that uncover the remarkable area. Locals are friendly and accommodations can match any taste and budget. A 90-minute bus ride for a few euros will get you there from Lisbon, as will a car or train ride, making it the perfect spot for a long weekend.
Things To Do In Évora
Évora offers a variety of sights and activities. History, architecture, art, and local culture provide the opportunity to relax, explore, and enjoy it all. Here are just a few highlights of Évora.
Évora Roman Temple
The Roman Temple helps cement the historic center of Évora as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture we’ve ever seen. Made of granite and marble, the temple stands as a breathtaking structure for all to see. Visitors can get quite close for a better look at the detail. At the highest point of the city, where Évora’s ancient forum once stood, this is what could be Portugal’s greatest Roman monument.
Though the Roman Baths in Évora were built in ancient times, they were only rediscovered in 1987. Baths were important to Romans as a place for both hygiene and socializing. Interestingly, their location is where the Évora Town Hall now stands. So, in order to see them, enter the town hall building, walk through the modern administrative offices, and head to the back where part of the baths can be seen. There is one lucky worker whose window peeks out at the baths. One of the things we like best about Évora is that it brings both ancient history and modern times to life. Perhaps there is nowhere better to see this than at the Roman Baths.
Praça Do Giraldo
Established in the 16th century as the main square of Évora, Praça do Giraldo is a relaxing spot to take a break, enjoy a local dish, do a little shopping, or just people watch. An arcade of shops features round medieval arches, and several cafés and restaurants serve the plaza. A notable feature is the beautiful Baroque-marble fountain with eight water spouts, one for each of the eight streets branching off the square. On the northside of Praça do Giraldo is the Church of Saint Anthony with a stunning façade. It’s hard to believe that this lovely central square was where the Duke of Braganza was executed in the 1400s. His execution was a warning to other conspirators plotting with Spain to overthrow Portuguese King John II. It was later where victims of the Spanish Inquisition were punished.
Capela Dos Ossos
One of the strangest and most unforgettable buildings in Évora is the Chapel of Bones. The name really says it all. Every part of the building is lined with the skulls and bones of thousands of monks that were recovered in the 1500s. A Franciscan chapel, this was built at a time when cemeteries were consuming land around the city. The one belonging to the Church of São Francisco, to which the chapel is attached, was overcrowded. The bones also intend to serve as a reminder of the impermanence of life and inevitability of death. Writing above the entrance translates to “We bones that are here, await yours.”
Pro Tip: Go into the Church of São Francisco where royalty worshipped. Climb the stairs to the rooftop and you will be rewarded with a spectacular vista of the entire area. We think the view is worth the effort.
Rota Dos Vinhos Do Alentejo
The Alentejo is one of the best wine regions in Portugal. So we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to learn more about the wines, wineries, soils, and grapes there. Rota Dos Vinhos Do Alentejo is part educational museum and part wine tasting room. You can explore displays that offer a look at different types of soils and smell the essence of various grapes. Then pop over to the other side for a Portuguese wine tasting. The knowledgeable guide will explain all about the wines and where they came from. And if you find something you like, you can even purchase it right there.
Pro Tip: Cartuxa winery is a local favorite. They offer vineyard and winery tours, tastings, as well as a café to sit and relax. Don’t forget to taste the olive oils as well.
Cork Forests And Megaliths
For a real treat just outside the city, visit the cork forests and megaliths of the Alentejo. Cork oaks provide the bark that is used for everything from bottle stoppers and bulletin boards to purses and shoes. There are several guides who will take you to the forests and explain all about the sustainable harvesting practices. Also on the outskirts of town is the fascinating Almendres Cromlech, a megalithic complex from the 6th millennium B.C., older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. Many of the stones have carvings on them, adding to the intrigue. There are a variety of tours that will visit the cork forests, the megaliths, or both, while some offer lunch as well.
Best Restaurants In Evora
We could write an entire article (or more) just about the food in Évora. It is authentic, delicious, local, seasonal, and prepared lovingly by everyone from grandmas to Michelin chefs. We’ve chosen a small selection with some variety, and encourage all visitors in Évora to take advantage of as many local food experiences as possible.
Botequim Da Mouraria
The reputation of tiny Botequim da Mouraria has made it a difficult seat to get. That’s because there are only eight of them around a counter. The owner takes your order (in order) moving around the space, while his wife prepares your meal in the small kitchen at the end. We arrived 15 minutes before opening, and were glad we did. The “closed” sign went up a minute after we and the others in line were seated. Try the famous Alentejo black pork with fresh-made potato chips and local wine. The food is mouth-watering and it’s fun to eat near your fellow diners, all of whom were thrilled with their food and the attentive care of the owner/server.
Restaurante O Templo
One of our food-loving friends insisted that we try Restaurante O Templo while we were in town. And we are glad we did. This local gem is fun as well as delicious. Our server, Vasco, shared with us that some of the menu items are his grandmother’s recipes, so we were sure to include them. Fresh mushrooms served lightly braised in a broth with poejo (a minty herb) and oregano made us swoon. Also memorable were the braised pork cheeks and grilled cuttlefish. The small restaurant had lots of charm and Vasco shared story after story with us so that we felt like long lost family. We were too full for dessert but were told that they have the best chocolate mousse “in the world.” Something to look forward to next time.
5 Amendoas Restaurant
For something more refined than rustic, 5 Amendoas Restaurant offers a more upscale environment. Traditional dishes are given sophisticated preparations without being fussy. The seating is attractive and subtly stylish. The star of the show for us was the Évora sheep milk cheese served in an Alentejo bread loaf. Melted with whole cloves of garlic, the cheese danced in our mouths. The menu is extensive, offering fish and seafood options as well as shareable meat servings, which makes it easy to sample a variety of flavors.
Best Hotels In Evora
Convento Do Espinheiro, Historic Hotel & Spa
A couple miles outside the city center, the five-star Convento do Espinheiro is a renovated 1400s convent with beautiful gardens and elegant decor. The outstanding restaurant also happens to host a free wine tasting everyday. Rooms are luxurious and the hotel offers spa treatments as well. Indoor and outdoor pools, a poolside bar, a fitness center, and a tennis court round out the sumptuous accommodations.
Vitória Stone Hotel
Each room at the Vitória Stone Hotel has a private balcony, and the rooftop bar and terrace overlook the historic city. With a blend of modern decor and traditional stone walls, the hotel has a cool, unhurried, comfortable vibe. Enjoy a sunset drink of creative cocktails at the bar. The spa offers various treatments and there’s a gym and outdoor swimming pool with panoramic views. 5 Amendoas Restaurant is located at the hotel, which is about a 15-minute walk to the historic Roman Temple.
Templo Boutique Hotel
Just a couple minutes’ walk from the heart of the city, Templo Boutique Hotel (unfortunately their English version of the site is currently down) is as convenient as it is charming. Newly transformed into a 10-room hotel, this is a great affordable option for those traveling on a budget. An excellent breakfast is available at the hotel, and the cheerful staff are happy to answer your questions, make reservations, and provide suggestions. The location is quiet but near the city center, making it a great jumping off point for exploring Évora and beyond.
One thing to know is that the Alentejo gets exceedingly hot in the warmer months, so unless that is your preference, visit Évora in the fall or winter when temperatures are less intense.
We think beautiful Évora, Portugal, makes a fascinating and delicious city for a perfect 3-day visit.
Be sure to check out Sue and Diana’s spectacular Portugal coverage, including: