Portugal is home to some truly incredible cities. From the enchanting Lisbon streets to the wonderful beaches of Porto, the country is easily a favorite of international travelers. But the charm of those hardly compares to the charm of Evora, an ancient city with an incredibly rich history. Many travelers go on a day trip from Lisbon to Evora, but the city deserves more than a day. There are so many amazing things to do in Evora that you should stay at least one day and one night there.
Whether you’re staying in the city for a while or just visiting Evora on a day trip, there are certain sights that you simply cannot miss out on. From a 2000-year-old temple to a chapel decorated entirely with human skulls and bones, here are the best things to do in Evora!
Unmissable things to see in Evora
Visit the Roman Temple of Evora
One of your first stops in the city should be the Roman Temple of Evora. It is one of the most important landmarks not just in Evora, but on entire Portuguese territory. The site is more than 2000 years old; it was built during the time of Caesar Augustus, sometime in the first century.
The Roman Temple of Evora is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its rich history. In the fifth century, the site was almost destroyed by invading Germanics, and it was not fully reconstructed until the 19th century. During the 14th century, the Roman Temple of Evora served as a butcher shop, which actually helped prevent further destruction of the grounds.
What remains of the temple today is a mere shadow of its original grandeur. But it is still awe-inspiring to stand in front of a building so old, and ponder everything that it has witnessed.
Stroll around Evora’s Historic Center
Although there are lots of more specific attractions in Evora, wandering the historic streets is a treat in and of itself. There is the main town square of course, where there are some great cafes and restaurants where you can while away a sunny afternoon.
However, you can also head back into the streets that gradually wind their way up to the Roman ruin and Cathedral too. There are a few other enjoyable squares dotted around the area, as well as some other churches and parks. I recommend just letting yourself get lost, after taking a city map from your accommodation of course, and seeing where you end up.
Oh, and if you are around that area at night, take a quick peek at the Conserva shop, which houses a wide variety of canned fish, something the Portuguese excel at. And seeing the shop lit up at night is quite a sight! One more reason to stay at least one night in the city extend the list of things to do in Evora beyond one day.
Capela dos Ossos for the brave ones
Evora’s historic city center is home to many incredible sights. One of those is Capela dos Ossos – a 16th century chapel with an interior decorated with human bones and skulls. If you like weird things and aren’t easily scared, you will love this chapel. But if you’re not a fan of the morbid, you might want to skip the visit to the Chapel of Bones.
It’s amazing to see all the decorations close-up, but things get scary pretty fast when you start to think about where all the skull came from. And that is, in fact, the entire purpose of the chapel – it was originally built in the 16th century, at the request of a Franciscan friar. He wanted to send a clear message that life is transitory and that death awaits us all – job well done if you ask us!
The Chapel of Bones is part of the Church of St. Francis, so you can explore two interesting sites in Evora in one visit. There’s no entrance fee if you just want to go inside the church, but you will need to pay 5 euros to go inside the chapel.
Admire the Aqueduct Evora
The city of Evora is home to one of the greatest 16th-century building projects on the Iberian Peninsula – the Aqueduct Evora. Its original purpose was to provide people of Evora with clean, drinking water, meaning that it was one of the most important structures for the city. Considering the hot and dry climate of the Alentejo region, it’s easy to see why the aqueduct held such importance for the quality of people’s lives.
And it’s even easier to see why it would be among the first constructions to be destroyed in the Spanish and Portuguese War of Restoration. The aqueduct was repaired in the 17th century, and it remains standing tall today.
Parts of the aqueduct are inside the city walls, but the main arches are north of Evora’s historic center. You can view the aqueduct from within the city walls – Rua do Cano and Rua do Salvador are both excellent viewing spots. And if you head to the ring road outside the city walls, you will have a view of the aqueduct arches that are outside of Evora’s historic center.
This is something you can do on your own if you’re not interested in knowing more about the aqueduct. But if you would like to learn more about its history and importance, you can always go on a guided tour.
Evora City Walls
Evora’s historic center is encircled and defined by city walls. It is one of the few Portuguese cities that boasts original city walls that are in nearly pristine condition.
Parts of the walls were built in different periods, with some of them being constructed as early as the third century. Their main purpose was the defense of the city, which is why the walls are considered an excellent example of military architecture. The original parts of the walls were built in Roman architectural style, hence the many different towers. But, since the entire city walls were constructed over several centuries, they also boast a variety of other styles as well.
You can take a guided tour of the city walls, which we recommend you to do. It allows you to ask a lot of questions and learn everything there is to know about the walls. And you will get a chance to take some good photos. Tours of the walls are usually not too crowded, meaning that there won’t be a lot of people photobombing you.
Cathedral of Evora
There are many churches in Evora to visit, but none are quite as important as the Cathedral of Evora. The Roman Catholic church was completed in the 18th century, and it is one of the most important landmarks in this city and a must-see in Evora.
But the original construction of the church began in the 12th century, which is why you will notice elements of several different architectural styles. Gothic elements are the most prominent, particularly the cloisters. The Cathedral also boasts elements from Romanesque, Baroque and Manueline architectural styles, which work wonderfully well together.
There’s a museum inside the church, with monuments, paintings, and artifacts from ancient times. The 16th-century scepter of Cardinal-King Henrique is certainly an interesting sight, as are the paintings by some of Portugal’s most prominent Renaissance painters.
The 18th-century church is also popular for the scenic views of Evora. You can climb to the top of the tower and walk across the stone-paved roof, all the while admiring the panoramic vistas. With views of Evora fields in the south and the green hills in the north, it will be impossible to look away.
Get close to the Almendres Cromlech
Not all interesting sights are located in Evora’s historic city center. One of the country’s most ancient sites is just half an hour outside the city center. And if you’re staying in Evora for more than one day, you will have plenty of time to visit the stone circles of Almendres Cromlech and admire their history.
This is a megalithic complex, with structures that date back to 6000 BC. It is the largest surviving complex of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula, making it a unique tourist attraction that you must see if you have the time.
You can visit the site on your own, or you can go on a guided tour. The latter lasts about three hours and includes transportation to and from Evora. It would also allow you to pester the tour guide with endless questions, and learn quite a lot about this historic Portuguese site.
Where to stay in Evora – hotels and hostels
With so much to see and do in Evora, you really should try and stay a couple of days there. And by the end of a day exploring the city, it’s such a rewarding feeling to know you have chosen the perfect accommodation in Evora. But since there are so many options to choose from, we did the homework for you and selected the top places to stay in Evora, from luxury to affordable, so that everyone gets the perfect bed to lay their head on. Here are some of the best hotels in Evora:
Located about 3km from Evora’s main attractions, Convento do Espinheiro was a convent dating back to the 15th-century that was restored into a luxurious hotel and spa resort. It has nearly a hundred spacious elegant rooms, some private balconies with gorgeous countryside views, a swimming pool surrounded by trees, a top-notch spa and even a kids club. It is also pet-friendly and has an excellent restaurant serving regional food.
A palace in the past, M’AR De AR AQUEDUTO is now a trendy hotel that sits by the aqueducts of Evora. Besides the privileged view of the impressive monument, the hotel has state of the art structure with contemporary rooms, a refreshing pool, a restaurant, a wine cellar and a spa center. Plus, all the things to do in Evora are within walking distance.
This is one of the top picks in Evora. The Vitória Stone Hotel is just outside the city walls, so when you’re on the rooftop terrace or enjoying its infinity pool, you have the whole city at your feet. The hotel is very modern, has its own restaurant, two bars and spa facilities. There are free and paid parking spaces available.
ZOETIC is a bed & breakfast with an authentic and cozy atmosphere that enchants all of its guests – traveling couples love this place. It has 6 comfortable rooms, a delicious natural breakfast, a shared lounge and a garden that make you feel like home. This b&b is close to the main plaza and offers bike hire.
With a convenient terrace from which you can see the monuments nearby, Raymundo is a charming hostel in Evora that has neat clean dorms and continental breakfast served each morning. Among its facilities, there is a shared kitchen, free wi-fi throughout the property and an ATM.
And did you know you can rent a house, a boat, a castle or a room on Airbnb? Curious? Sign up here and get a discount on your first booking!
How to get to Evora and around
We’re sure you will have a lovely time in Evora no matter when you decide to visit it, but be advised that summer is peak season, so you may prefer to travel to Evora in May, September or October if you wish to avoid the crowds and get the best prices for hotels in Evora. With that in mind, let’s find out how to get to Evora.
If you’re traveling by plane, you should fly into Lisbon Airport, which is served by flights from all around the world. From there you can either take the bus or the train from Lisbon to Evora, they are fast and run daily to/from the city.
If you are planning to travel in Portugal or in Europe by train, you should click here to have a look at the Eurail Pass.
You may also hire a car as it takes less than 2h to get from Lisbon to Evora. We use and recommend Rentalcars for searching for the best prices of car rentals in Lisbon/Evora. Although Evora is a bit hilly, it is quite walkable, but if you didn’t rent a car and starts to rain or you just don’t feel like stretching your legs that day, there’s a very cheap local bus service. Check their official website (only in Portuguese) here: www.trevo.com.pt.
Don’t forget to buy your Travel Insurance!
Now that you know everything you need to travel to Evora, where to stay and what to do, it’s time to book your tickets. What are you waiting for? For sure you are going to have a great time in this fantasy place. Let us know in the comments if you went there (and what you liked the most) or if you’re planning to visit Evora any time soon.
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Mike is addicted to both adventure and travel, so he decided to combine the two to form TheAdventourist. There he shares his journey from one adrenaline rush to another, always exploring new places as he goes. You can find him sharing his travels on Facebook.