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).