Home to Neolithic monuments and the only Roman temple in Portugal, Évora lives and breathes history.
The city was founded by the Romans, fortified by the Moorish and became the residence of Portuguese kings in the 15th century.
Today, Évora is an open-air museum, surrounded by historical monuments and a dozen churches. Évora’s cathedral boasts incredible views of the city, while the Church of São Francisco wows visitors with its eerie bone chapel.
Most attractions are located within the historic centre which has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. While you can see the main sights in one day, you can also spend a few extra days and explore the rest of the Alentejo region from here.
If you’re still wondering what to do in Évora, we’ve created an itinerary below including the main attractions and other activities you shouldn’t miss.
Start your morning in Évora with a tour of the city’s main attractions. While there are many churches around the city, you can’t miss a visit to the Church of São Francisco and its Chapel of Bones.
Then make your way to the historic centre, where you’ll find the Roman temple of Évora.
From there, you can explore other nearby attractions like the Diana Garden or Évora’s University, one of the oldest universities in Portugal.
Since you’re in the capital of Alentejo, make sure to try the local cuisine for lunch in one of the city’srestaurants.
Here’s a list of things to do in Évora on your morning walk.
The first thing I visited when I arrived in Évora was the Chapel of Bones. Set inside the Church of São Francisco, this chapel has entire walls lined with human bones and skulls. These remains belonged to Franciscan monks and were recovered from nearby crypts and cemeteries in the 16th century.
Before you enter the chapel, you’ll see an inscription saying “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos” which translates as “We bones, that are here, await for yours”. This sentence is here to remind us of the transitory nature of life.
As I stepped inside, I was astonished by the number of bones on display. Even without counting them, I could tell there were at least a thousand bodies in this room. These bones are not just stacked on top of each other though, they also form interesting patterns, as you’ll notice on the pillars.
There’s not much light in the room, which contributes to the eerie atmosphere of it all.
As I walked towards the historic centre, it was hard to miss Évora’s Cathedral and its conical spires. The cathedral is so large it almost looks like a fortress from a distance.
While it dates from the 13th century, it took several phases to complete it, which is why you’ll notice a mix of architecture styles from the Romanesque to the Gothic.
The whole building is open to visitors, including the Baroque chapels and the Gothic cloisters. The best part, however, has to be the rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
If you have time, you can also visit the treasury, which features rare religious pieces made out of gold and silver.
There are Roman ruins spread all over Évora, but the Roman Temple is the city’s most famous attraction.
Built around the 1st century B.C., it’s one of the best-preserved Roman structures in the Iberian Peninsula. Some say the temple was devoted to the goddess Diana, but there is no proof of that.
It seems odd, but the temple was not always as prominent as it is today. For centuries, it was hidden inside a fortress, and it was only restored in the 1870s. This is probably the reason why it’s in such good condition. Now, it’s impossible to leave Évora without capturing this historical monument.
After seeing the Roman temple, I took a stroll around the historic centre. First, I took a walk around the Diana Garden, a small green area located right next to the temple. The garden has a few benches and a kiosk where you can grab a coffee.
Next, I visited the Cadaval Palace, one of the many noble houses scattered around Évora. The palace has been the home of the Dukes of Cadaval since the 14th century. While it’s a private residence, there are a few rooms open to the public, showcasing rare items like porcelain and old furniture. The highlight of my visit, however, was going in the private chapel next door. Inside this chapel, I found walls covered with stunning Portuguese tiles from top to bottom.
From here, I walked to the University of Évora. Dating back to the 16th century, it’s one of the oldest universities in Portugal, second to Coimbra. The most remarkable building at the university is the Colégio do Espírito Santo, with its beautiful facade and cloisters leading to a quiet courtyard. If you have the chance, make sure to visit the university library and look up to admire the gorgeous painted ceiling.
Now that you’ve ticked off the main attractions in Évora, you can enjoy other activities nearby.
Portugal is one of the biggest exporters of cork, and one of its oak forests is just a few miles away from Évora. Many souvenir shops in the city sell a variety of cork items, but if you want to learn about the source, we suggest taking a tour of Évora’s cork factory.
After that, why not take a trip to the wineries? After all, you’re in Alentejo, one of the best wine regions in the country.
For a bit more history, you can drive through the megalithic circuit, before returning to the centre for another delicious meal.
I knew that Portugal was one of the leading producers of cork, so I was curious to see a cork factory up close. Luckily, I found Cortiçarte, and the team of Iberian Escapes booked me in for a tour.
During the tour, I learned about the different quality levels of cork and the harvesting process. Turns out, it takes around three harvests to produce good cork. If you want to use cork of the highest quality, it can take up to 50 years!
Cork trees are sacred in this country, and if you own one you need permission to take it down, otherwise, you might get fined.
While wine stoppers are the priority product, I was surprised to see how many other things you can make with cork, including furniture, and even clothing.
There are two wineries close to Évora: Adega Cartuxa and Dona Dorinda. Both of them offer wine tasting tours, so all I had to do was pick one.
I decided to go to Adega Cartuxa, which had an afternoon tour at 3 p.m. The tour took around 90 minutes and included a visit to the cellars at Quinta de Valbom and a wine tasting session.
Besides wine, Cartuxa also produces olive oil. The olive trees occupy an area of around 400 hectares and include several olive varieties like Galega and Cordovil. At the end of the tour, I was able to sample their olive oil as well.
If you enjoy a specific wine or olive oil, you can buy the bottles directly at the farm.
Long before the Romans arrived, Évora was a Neolithic site. Remains of this period are still visible today in a circuit on the outskirts of the city.
There are two monuments worth capturing in this region—the Almendres Cromlech and the Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro. The first one is a collection of 95 standing stones, and it’s one of the largest settlements in Europe. If you look close enough, you’ll also notice a few geometric carvings.
Further south, is the Dolmen of Zambujeiro, a funerary chamber made with granite stones. Most artefacts found here are now on display at the Évora Museum.
On the way to the city centre, I stopped by Alto de São Bento to catch the sunset. This isolated spot offers incredible views of Évora and the countryside. Standing here, you can see the fields of cork and olive trees, and even spot the spires of the cathedral at a distance.
After a busy day exploring Évora’s main sights, I couldn’t wait to sit down and relax. I ended up at Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala which sells a variety of local pastries. With so many sweets on offer, it was hard to choose just one, but in the end, I went for the Pão de Rala . It’s a typical sweet from Évora made with almonds, eggs, sugar, and gila (squash jam).
Some of our favourite restaurants in Évora are the Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira and O Combinado. Both of them offer delicious meals inspired by Alentejo cuisine.
At Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira, the chef decides what to cook each day, so you never know what’s coming. All you have to do is pick a drink and then wait for the food. It usually includes appetizers, a main dish and a dessert. Make sure to book a table in advance and bring cash with you.
O Combinado is also a great traditional restaurant in Évora. There are a variety of dishes on the menu, including both meat and fish. It’s usually quite full, so it’s best to make a reservation.
Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Alentejo wine.
There are many things worth buying in Évora, including cork items, hand-painted ceramics, and traditional tapestries.
Rua 5 de Outubro is the main shopping street in Évora. Lined with traditional shops, it’s the perfect place to get a local souvenir. We suggest visiting the shop O Cesto or Gente da Minha Terra.
For food souvenirs, head to À da Maria, a small grocery store specialised in regional products. It’s also a café, so you can grab a glass of wine inside, while you decide what to buy.
While you can make a day trip from Lisbon to Évora, it pays off to stay the night and enjoy everything this city has to offer. Plus, it’s a great place to stay if you want to explore the rest of the Alentejo region.
With that in mind, we suggest staying in one of these two hotels—Albergaria do Calvário or Convento do Espinheiro.
Albergaria do Calvário is a family-owned hotel located in a quiet traditional neighbourhood, yet very close to the city centre. They offer 22 guest rooms and a delicious homemade breakfast made with local ingredients. If you’re travelling by car, there’s a free onsite garage, so you don’t have to worry about extra parking expenses.
Convento do Espinheiro, on the other hand, is a place full of history. Many kings and queens have passed through this convent, which is now a luxury resort. With 8 hectares of outdoor space, the hotel offers many facilities including two pools, a spa, a fitness centre, and a tennis court.
There are three ways to get from Lisbon to Évora:
You should spend at least one day in Évora to see the main attractions like the Cathedral, the Roman Temple, and the University. An extra day will allow you to visit all the museums and other nearby attractions like the Megalithic circuit or Alto de São Bento. It’s also possible to combine these last two on your first day if you have a car.
You could even spend three nights in Évora. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city and take a few day trips to the countryside or visit small towns like Estremoz or Monsaraz. You don’t need to change hotels, you can stay in Évora and come back at night. We recommend hiring a car if you want to explore the whole region of Alentejo.
While you’re here, don’t forget to sample the local cuisine, and visit the vineyards.
If you fancy taking a day trip from Évora, we recommend visiting some of the fortified towns nearby like Elvas, Arraiolos or Estremoz.
Set near the Spanish border, in the east of Alentejo, you’ll find Elvas. In the mid-17th century, this town was in the line of defence between Spain and Portugal who wanted their independence back. Elvas is famous for its fortified walls in the shape of a star. Sadly, you can only see the scale of this design from above through aerial photographs. Even so, it’s worth wandering around the narrow streets and visiting monuments like the Elvas Castle or the Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça.
To the north of Évora, there’s Arraiolos. This ancient town is only a 30-minute drive from Évora, so it’s great for a short day trip. Set on a hill amid white cottage houses, is the Arraiolos castle, one of the town’s main attractions. Climb up here, and you’ll get a privileged view of the Alentejo landscape. The Arraiolos Carpets are also an important heritage of this town. Before you leave, make sure to visit a local shop to see these colourful carpets or even buy one.
For a scenic route to Estremoz take the N-18. Also known as “Cidade Branca”, this town is famous for its marble, which is featured in many of the town’s monuments. Highlights include the Estremoz Castle and the Capela da Rainha Santa.
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