Evora in Portugal was one of my favourite places I visited during my month-long trip backpacking around Portugal. About an hour and a half away from the capital, most visitors just come here on a day trip from Lisbon to see the top sites of this beautifully preserved medieval town, then disappear just as quickly. However, there are more than enough things to do in Evora to keep you busy for several days, so spend a night or two here and you won’t regret it!
The History of Evora in Portugal
The Historic Centre of Evora was UNESCO listed in 1986, and Portugal’s history is everywhere you look in the city. Located in the Alentejo region of Portugal, renowned for its food, wine and cork production, Evora is the perfect base to explore the region.
Nearby megalithic sites show that the area around Evora was inhabited since at least 4000-6000 BC, and the Celtic settlement of Ebora was here before the Romans arrived in 59 BC and set up a military outpost which would become an important centre of Roman Iberia. The Romans and Moors left their mark on Evora, and during the Middle Ages, the city flourished as kings and scholars built palaces, universities and religious monuments.
Many of Evora’s historic buildings and monuments remain today, as the city survived the 1755 earthquake which destroyed much of Lisbon remarkably well. Simply wandering the streets and admiring the architecture within the city walls is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but there are lots of other things to see in Evora.
Things to do in Evora Portugal
The Sé (Evora Cathedral)
The huge cathedral dominates the city and was my favourite thing to do in Evora. It looks more like a fortress than a cathedral from the outside, as two huge towers guard the entrance. Inside, the Cathedral has more Gothic influence. I loved going up to the roof, there were excellent views of the rest of the city and countryside around as it is the highest point in Evora.
The cloisters were also pretty and there is another small spiral staircase to go up on the roof of the cloisters too, which is easily missed if you’re not careful. I visited on a Monday and the museum area was closed, but you can include the museum entry in your ticket price where you can see various religious items including a fragment of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The Temple of Diana
The remains of a Roman temple in Evora is evidence of the importance of the city for the Romans. The temple is just in front of the cathedral and is attributed to Diana, although there is no evidence that the Romans specifically worshipped her here. The ruins are one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in Portugal and are in the open air for everyone to see. They are lit up at night and are particularly striking at sunset.
The Igreja de São Francisco (San Francisco Church)
This church actually houses the chapel of bones, but the main building of the church is free to enter and worth a look inside. There are beautiful azulejos tiled walls, gold statues and decorations and a huge arched ceiling; it was where the kings worshipped after all!
The Chapel of Bones
The Bone Chapel is probably the most famous thing to do in Evora in Portugal. This creepy chapel is covered with bones of the monks who used to live in the Franciscan monastery. The skulls and bones are arranged as decoration all around the walls, arches and altar, and it is a little strange!
When I visited it was quiet but in high season expect it to be much busier with tour groups and other visitors. 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, and how we will all end up the same way! The chapel and temporary exhibition space (currently showcasing a huge collection of nativity scenes) cost 5€ per person.
Praça do Giraldo
The main square in Evora is a great place to sit, have a coffee and watch the world go by. In winter, the smoke from the roast chestnut carts drifts into the air and offers a tempting snack to enjoy too. The Church of Santo Antão sits at the north end of the praça, and in front is the Fonte Henrique fountain, commemorating the Agua Prata aqueduct.
The sides of the square are lined with cafes, and 16th century buildings overlooking the square which used to have a much darker purpose than simply enjoying the sunshine. During the inquisition this was the scene of many executions in the city, but thankfully that period in history is long gone!
Jardim Publico Park & Gardens
This park on the south side of the city is perfect for a gentle stroll or to sit and have an ice cream while watching the ducks, and occasional peacock strut past. There are some ‘fake’ ruins here, and a wall for graffiti and street art. Also inside the park is the 16th century palace of King Manuel, although it was undergoing restoration work and was closed off when I visited.
Agua da Prata Aqueduct
The Agua da Prata or Silver Water Aqueduct was built in the 1500s and brought fresh water to the city. You can walk along it for about 9km (although you have to then walk back), or simply admire the houses built into the archways.
Museums in Evora
Unsurprisingly, Evora has a plethora of museums where you can learn more about its history and culture. Unfortunately, they are all closed on Monday so I didn’t have chance to visit any of them. The Museu do Evora is said to be the best and has exhibits spanning the centuries, from archaeological finds from the megalithic sites near Evora, Roman artefacts and paintings. The Carriage Museum was also recommended to me, as was the Casas Pintadas, a collection of beautiful murals with real and imaginary creatures adorning the walls.
Wine Tasting in Evora
The Alentejo region is famous for wine, and some say that Alentejo wines are the best in all Portugal. That is debatable, after going on a fabulous day trip to the Douro Valley from Porto I am torn between the two! At Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo in the centre of Evora, you can go and learn about all the wine regions in Portugal and have a wine tasting for a bargain price of just 3€.
Apparently, it used to be free, but €3 to try 6 different wines still isn’t bad! Every Monday the wines are changed, and you are given 3 white wines and 3 reds to taste. The staff explain the different wine regions and the grape varieties in each wine, and I had a very pleasant 30 minutes or so here.
If you would like to try more Alentejo wines, there are several wineries nearby where you can arrange wine tastings and winery tours. They tend to book up well in advance so be sure to reserve your place as soon as you have booked your trip to Evora. Cartuxa Wineries offer guided tours of their winery with tastings, as does Dona Dorinda Organic Wines.
The Megalithic Sites in Evora
This really is a must-do in Evora, you can go by yourself if you have your own transport, but I highly recommend taking an Evora megaliths tour so your guide can explain the significance of the sites and meaning of the stones. There are three different megalithic sites close to Evora, the Almendres Cromlech, the Almendres Menir and the Anta Grande de Zambujeiro. Along the way you can also enjoy some of the countryside around Evora and see how cork is harvested from the trees in Portugal.
Restaurants in Evora
The food in the Alentejo region is incredible, and there are lots of delicious restaurants in Evora to try the local cuisine. Most won’t accept foreign credit cards, so make sure you take cash with you. These are some of my favourites:
Taberna Tipica Quarta-Feira
Eating at the Taberna Tipica Quarta-Feira restaurant is more than a meal, it is an experience. It was the most expensive meal I had in Evora, and Portugal in fact (excluding food tours) but it was worth every penny. Not that it was really expensive by any other European standards – 30€ for a 4-course meal with wine is excellent value. The service was excellent, the food was to die for, and I loved it here.
They don’t have a menu, the waiter said to me that guests don’t choose the food, the restaurant does – and he proceeded to bring out plate after plate of deliciousness. It is not suitable for vegetarians or if you have a food allergy! The restaurant is small, and you will probably need to book – I turned up on a Wednesday in January and was waiting for them to open at 7.30pm so I got a table no problem, but in busier times you will need to book for sure.
Famous for it’s typical Alentejo dish ‘migas’, this restaurant serves up large portions of migas – a mass made with bread crumbs and flavoured with tomato, onion, asparagus and other ingredients. I chose tomato migas with cod, and it was beautifully cooked – and very filling!
Restaurante Salsa Verde
If you need a break from the meat-heavy cuisine in Portugal, this buffet restaurant serves up tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes, which you choose yourself and weigh your plate to figure out the cost of your meal.
Where to Stay in Evora in Portugal
I stayed at the fabulous Heaven Inn Hostel, which I loved. 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. It is in a great location close to the Chapel of Bones, and I highly recommend it as the best place to stay in Evora. 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!
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 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.
Have you been to Evora in Portugal? What were your favourite things to do in Evora? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
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