It may sound gruesome, and it certainly is a little strange, but visiting the Chapel of Bones in Evora in Portugal (Capela dos Ossos in Portuguese) is something you really should do – if only to get a sense of your own mortality. The Evora Bone Chapel wasn’t as creepy as I had expected, so don’t be afraid, and embrace one of the most popular things to do in Evora!
Should You Visit the Chapel of Bones in Evora?
After visiting an ossuary in Brno in the Czech Republic, I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit the Bone Chapel in Evora, Portugal. The experience in Brno had left me feeling nauseous so it wasn’t something I wanted to repeat. However, that ossuary was underground, with little fresh air, so I was relieved to find that the Chapel of Bones in Evora was much brighter and airier. If you’re worried about seeing all the bones or taking the kids to see it, then it probably won’t be as bad as you think either, just take time to explain to the children what it is they are seeing.
Igreja de Sao Francisco – The Church of San Francisco
The Chapel of Bones Evora is part of the Church of San Francisco. The church itself is free to enter and definitely worth a visit in its own right. It is huge inside and completed in 1510 it is Manueline-Gothic style. The entrance to the Bone Chapel is next door to the main church, so don’t miss the chance to come inside the church itself before or after visiting the chapel.
History of the Chapel of Bones in Evora
According to the information inside the chapel, The Bones Chapel was a place for prayer and meditation about the human condition for the Franciscan monks. The chapel was built in the 16th Century with bones from the graves in the town.
The Chapel of Bones & Museum
To the right-hand-side of the main church entrance, you will find the entrance and ticket office to the Bone Chapel. The room where the information & ticket desk is used to be the Chapter House and has some beautiful azulejo tiles to admire.
The Chapel of Bones costs €5 for an adult ticket, 3,50€ for under 25s or 65s, or 12,50€ for 2 adults with children. The ticket price also includes access to a museum upstairs which explains the history of the church and chapel and has various works of religious art and artefacts. The most interesting for me were the photographs taken before and during the huge restoration project which completely transformed the space.
There is another area for a temporary exhibition, which at the time of my visit had a collection of nativity scenes that one family had amassed over the years. The exhibition area led out to a terrace on the roof which had lovely views of Evora.
Inside the Bone Chapel
The Chapel is quite small, but it is brighter and lighter than the ossuary I had been to before, and the air was much fresher here, so I didn’t feel nauseous at all. The chapel is also right next to a school so I could hear the kids playing out in the yard while I was there which helped to lift the atmosphere. When the kids went back to class it was eerily quiet though!
Above the entrance to the chapel is an inscription – These bones that lay here wait to welcome yours – a potent reminder of how fragile life is.
All around the ceiling and walls, the bones are arranged in patterns, so at first glance, you might not notice what they are. Then you’ll see the skulls staring back at you. It is strange to think how many people’s remains lay here, or who had the job of stacking all the bones in such patterns. Not my ideal career I can tell you!
There used to be two skeletons hanging from the walls, but thankfully these have now been laid to rest in glass coffins which is slightly less gruesome than seeing them dangling, they look more peaceful now somehow. There is also a chest tomb which contains the remains of the founders
Information boards explain the meaning of the chapel and the inscription above the door, these are in Portuguese, French and English.
Although it isn’t exactly a fun thing to do in Evora, I am glad I went and took some time to admire the work that had gone into the chapel – and to pay my respects to the people whose bones line the walls. As the chapel is quite small, you can spend as little as 15 minutes here, but take your time if you can, and visit the museum upstairs as well.
Where to Stay in Evora in Portugal
I stayed at the fabulous Heaven Inn Hostel, which I loved. It is in a great location very close to the Chapel of Bones, and I highly recommend it as the best place to stay in Evora. Although it is a hostel with several dorm rooms, they also have a beautiful ensuite double room and it really does feel more like a boutique hotel than a hostel. Read my full review of the Heaven Inn Hostel Evora or book directly on their website here.
Hotels in Evora
If you prefer to stay in a hotel in Evora, there are plenty to choose from, including the highly rated Albergaria do Calvario.
Hostels in Evora
Airbnb in Evora
Or check the options on Airbnb in Evora, like this cosy apartment right in the centre of Evora. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
How to Get to Evora
Probably the easiest way to get to Evora is by train, it’s just an hour and a half from Lisbon. Evora train station is about 10 minutes’ walk from the centre of Evora, although all the streets are cobbled so pulling a suitcase or walking in stilettos is a bit tiresome (guess which one of those I was doing!). You could always arrange a taxi with your accommodation to pick you up from the station if needed.
Driving to Evora takes a similar amount of time, depending on traffic, although parking in the centre of Evora can be a challenge, so ask your accommodation for advice on the best place to park. If you do have your own car then getting to the wineries outside of town is easier, although less fun if you can’t drink!
READ MORE: Things to do in Evora Portugal
If you are short on time and only have time for a day trip to Evora from Lisbon, there are plenty of companies which arrange tours to include transport, a visit to the Chapel of Bones, and/or the Almendres Cromlech and wine tasting. This will give you a taste of what Evora has to offer, but if you can spare the time I highly recommend spending at least a night or two here to properly explore.
Have you been to the Chapel of Bones in Evora? Did you like it? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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