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Even if you don’t plan to extensively explore the region (although you should!) the city merits a visit by itself. In fact the historic city centre is classed as World Heritage. According to UNESCO it became the finest example of a Portugese golden age city after the destruction of Lisbon by the 1755 earthquake.
Capela Dos Ossos
Probably the most remarkable site in Évora is the bones chapel.
“We bones that are here, we are waiting for yours.”
This – “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos” – is the welcome message at the entrance of the bones chapel. It was built in the XVI century by a Franciscan monk, using approximately 5000 skeletons of overcrowded burial places. The walls and pillars are decorated with bones and skulls. To add the finishing touch the ceiling murals have death themes.
Although it may seem a macabre place to be, it does not feel that way (to me). The subdued light, the beautiful arrangement of bones and skulls make it an interesting, yet somewhat bizarre site to visit.
The bones chapel is part of the Saint Francis church, which lies between the Jardim Publico and the Praça do Giraldo (central square).
The Templo Romano de Évora, also (incorrectly) referred to as the Templo de Diana, has twelve Corinthian column with its connecting beams still intact.
This structure is the central feature on the Largo Conde de Vila Flor square, in the historical city centre. It is also the highest point of the city and therefore easy to locate, just walk uphill. It can be viewed at any time of the day, there is no entrance fee.
Surrounding the temple stand several buildings associated with the inquisition in Portugal: the Cathedral, the Palace of the Inquisitor, Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, the Court of the Inquisition and the Church and Lóios’ Convent, as well as the Public Library and Museum of Évora.
Cathedral Sé de Évora
The Cathedral of Évora (Portuguese: Sé de Évora) is the seat of the Archdiocese. It is also one of the oldest and most important monuments in the city, situated on the highest spot close to the Roman temple.
For some great views of Évora visit the roof, accessible via the bell tower, the staircase has 135 steps. In short, an ideal way to work off those copious dinners that you will undoubtedly enjoy whilst staying in the city.
If you like some fine wining and dining head to Café Alentejo, an old tavern dating back to the fifteenth century. The ancient architecture of the former royal inn has been largely retained. The original vaults (picture on top) are still visible in what is now the wine cellar. The furniture is also typical for bygone times; wooden chairs with straight backs are not the most comfortable. Luckily you will soon enough forget about these once the food on the table takes centre stage.
The restaurant offers traditional meals; typical dishes are regional produced cheese served with pumpkin jam, squid, oxtail, pork cheeks and dogfish soup seasoned with coriander, olive oil and garlic. But best of all are the desserts like the ‘flat cake’ with cinnamon. Simply delicious.
The main dish is served in lavish portions, it easily serves two. A typical three course meal (sharing the main dish) will set you back around twenty euros per person.
- Address Rue do Raimundo 5, Évora
- Telephone +351 266 706 296
The Vitoria Stone is a quirky modern hotel ideal for couples during a weekend break. A copious breakfast buffet with yoghurts, choice of bread, juices, fruits, jams and pastries are served in a stylish restaurant with a view, which at night doubles as a rooftop bar.
The hotel boasts a rooftop infinity pool and other facilities like a gym, a spa and last but not least a sauna for those cold nights. Yes, they do occur even in Portugal. It was -5C when we were there, mid January.
Évora is an excellent start for a visit to Alentejo, but the region has a lot more to offer. Although it is one of the poorest regions in the country it has an abundance of richness to offer for those that are willing to step off the beaten track. You won´t find any mass tourism here.
Visit the gorgeous beaches surrounded by tall cliffs. Enjoy a wine-tour or engage in some outdoors activities; the countryside is ideal for hiking and biking.
From Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, it is an easy one and a half hours drive, mostly highway.
So you know, I travelled to Alentejo as a guest of APTECE and the Alentejo Tourism Board, as a part of the Rota do Peixe initiative.
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