Évora: The Complete Guide

Evora

Évora, the capital of Alto Alentejo and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fascinating mix of historical styles and architectural wonders that belies its small size and location. The town’s medieval walls have preserved it as a living museum, with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century homes with ornate tile patios lining its cobblestone streets. Moorish-inspired arches, arcades, and bubbling fountains dot the town’s squares, adding to its charm.

Évora has been the home of many conquerors throughout its history, leaving behind their own unique architectural marks. Even the Romans, during Julius Caesar’s time, knew the town as Liberalitas Julia. During the reign of João III in the sixteenth century, Évora became the Montmartre of Portugal, a hub for avant-garde artists like the famous playwright Gil Vicente.

Despite its attractions, Évora remains a sleepy provincial capital today, although it is acutely aware of its cultural heritage. Local historians recommend seeing at least 59 monuments, but visitors can capture the essence of the town by exploring only a fraction of them. While Évora is a popular day trip from Lisbon, it is a long journey that may not allow enough time to fully appreciate the town’s beauty.

History of Évora

Évora, one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns, boasts a rich history that spans over two millennia. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers an exceptional window into the past, with its roots going deep into history. Here’s an overview of Évora’s historical development:

Prehistoric to Roman Times

The region around Évora has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by nearby megalithic stones such as the Almendres Cromlech, which is older than Stonehenge. By the time of the Romans, Évora was known as Ebora and was already recognized as an important urban center. The Romans left a significant mark on the city, including the construction of a prominent temple, traditionally attributed to the goddess Diana, although it may have been dedicated to Emperor Augustus.

Moorish and Medieval Period

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Évora came under the control of the Moors in the 8th century. They fortified the city and left a lasting cultural impact that can still be seen in its architecture and urban layout. Évora was reconquered by the Portuguese during the Christian Reconquista in 1165, led by Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless). The city flourished under Portuguese rule, with significant growth during the medieval period.

Renaissance and Golden Age

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Évora became a major center for culture and learning, home to a university founded in 1559 by Cardinal Henrique, who later became King Henry of Portugal. This period marked the city’s golden age, with the construction of numerous Renaissance palaces, churches, and convents. The city’s architecture from this era is characterized by a blend of Gothic, Manueline, Moorish, and Renaissance styles.

Decline and Recovery

The 17th and 18th centuries saw a period of economic decline for Évora, mirroring broader struggles in Portugal. However, the city maintained its cultural significance, primarily due to its university, which was a center of intellectual pursuit until its closure in 1779 by the Marquis of Pombal. The university was later reopened in the 20th century.

20th Century to Present

The 20th century brought revitalization to Évora, with the restoration of its historic buildings and revival of its cultural heritage. The city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, recognized for its well-preserved old town center that still echoes the past, from Roman ruins and medieval walls to colonial-era homes.

Today, Évora remains a key cultural and tourist destination in Portugal, celebrated for its rich history, architecture, and vibrant university life. Its ancient streets and historic buildings make it a fascinating place to explore, providing a deep sense of connection to the past while continuing to be a lively modern city.

Visiting Évora for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Évora on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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10 Best places to See in Évora

This complete guide to Évora not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Évora and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Evora walls

Evora City Walls
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Patrick Nouhailler
The walls of Evora are a remarkable feature of the city, transporting visitors to ancient times. Designated as a National Monument in Portugal since 1922, they form part of the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the historic centre of Evora. Unlike many other Portuguese cities, Evora has managed to preserve its old walls almost […]
Location: Muralhas de Évora, Beco da Horta da Porta, Evora, Portugal | Distance: 0.30km
Visiting Evora walls

Praça do Giraldo

Praça Do Giraldo Evora
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Sergei Gussev
Throughout Portuguese history, the city’s main square has witnessed significant events such as the execution of Fernando, Duke of Bragança in 1483, the public burning of victims of the Inquisition in the 16th century, and heated debates on agrarian reform in the 1970s. Despite its tumultuous past, the square remains the heart of the city, […]
Location: Praça do Giraldo, Evora, Portugal | Distance: 0.40km
Visiting Praça do Giraldo

Igreja de São Francisco & Capela dos Ossos

Capela Dos Ossos Évora
CC BY-SA 2.0 / xiquinhosilva
The church’s façade is notable for its porch with arches that showcase a fusion of Gothic and Moorish styles, a common feature found in many monuments in the region. Above the Manueline doorway, one can see the emblems of the kings who commissioned its construction, D. João II and D. Manuel I, represented by the […]
Location: Igreja de São Francisco, Praça 1º de Maio, Évora, Portugal | Hours: 9am-6.30pm Jun-Sep, to 5pm Oct-May | Price: adult/student €5/3.50 | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Igreja de São Francisco & Capela dos Ossos

Agua de Prata Aqueduct

Aqueduto Da Água De Prata
CC BY-SA 2.0 / F Delventhal
The Agua de Prata Aqueduct in Évora, also known as the Aqueduto da Água de Prata, is one of the city’s most impressive monuments due to its size and historical significance. The aqueduct is a testament to the ingenuity of ancient times in providing water to the people of Évora. It has been considered a […]
Location: Acueducto de Agua de Plata, Rua do Muro, Evora, Portugal | Distance: 0.50km
Visiting Agua de Prata Aqueduct

Évora Roman Temple

Evora Roman Temple
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Digitalsignal
The Roman Temple, which dates back more than 2000 years, is Évora’s most iconic monument and a significant historical site in Portugal. Constructed in the 1st century during the reign of Caesar Augustus, the Roman temple in Évora has undergone many changes and transformations over the years. It suffered extensive damage when barbarians invaded the […]
Location: Templo Romano Évora, Largo do Conde de Vila Flor, Evora, Portugal | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Évora Roman Temple

Museu de Évora

Evora Museum
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Retogenes
This graceful museum is located next to the cathedral, occupying the former archbishop’s palace, which was constructed during the 16th century. The cloistered courtyard showcases remnants from various historical periods, including Islamic, Roman, and medieval artifacts. Upstairs, the museum features refined rooms displaying former Episcopal furnishings and a collection of Flemish paintings. Particularly noteworthy is […]
Location: Museu de Évora, Largo do Conde de Vila Flor, Evora, Portugal | Hours: 9.30am-5.30pm Tue-Sun | Price: adult/child €3/free | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Museu de Évora

Évora Cathedral

Cathedral Of Évora
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Joaomartinho63
The Évora Cathedral is a massive structure, showcasing an architectural transition from Romanesque to Gothic style, with Renaissance and Baroque influences introduced later. It was initiated in 1186 and consecrated in 1204, and is currently the largest cathedral in Portugal. The exterior of the cathedral features a notable central dome built in the 13th century, […]
Location: Cathedral of Évora, Largo do Marquês de Marialva, Evora, Portugal | Hours: 9am-5pm | Price: €2.50 cathedral & cloister, with towers €3.50, with museum €4.50 | Distance: 0.60km
Visiting Évora Cathedral

Universidade de Évora

Universidade De Évora
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Pedro Paulo Palazzo
The University of Évora was established in the sixteenth century under the initiative of Cardinal D. Henrique, the 1st Archbishop of Évora, with the approval of King João III. The initial purpose was to build a facility for Jesuit seminarians, and in 1553, the community extended its building to include the Cloister of the ‘Botica’ […]
Location: Universidade de Évora, Largo dos Colegiais, Evora, Portugal | Hours: Main building 9am-8pm Mon-Fri, to 6pm Sat | Price: €3 | Distance: 0.70km
Visiting Universidade de Évora

Anta Grande do Zambujeiro

Anta Grande De Zambujeiro
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Ángel M. Felicísimo
Anta Grande do Zambujeiro de Valverde is a megalithic monument located in the Évora District of Portugal. It is considered to be one of the largest dolmens in the Iberian Peninsula and is estimated to date back to the Chalcolithic period, around 4000-3500 BCE. The monument has a diameter of approximately 50 meters and is […]
Location: Anta Grande do Zambujeiro, Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, Portugal | Distance: 9.50km
Visiting Anta Grande do Zambujeiro

Almendres Cromlech

Cromeleque Dos Almendres
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Ángel M. Felicísimo
The Cromlech of Almendres consists of two circles made up of 95 stones, some of which are adorned with schematic and geometric carvings. Additionally, in the vicinity, there is a 4-meter-tall Menhir. Recent investigations have confirmed that the majority of the stones remain in their original location and date back to the Neolithic period (4000 […]
Location: Almendres Cromlech, Almendras, Portugal | Distance: 12.90km
Visiting Almendres Cromlech

Best Time to Visit Évora

Évora, a captivating UNESCO World Heritage city located in the heart of Portugal’s Alentejo region, offers different experiences throughout the year. The best time to visit Évora largely depends on your preferences for weather, crowd size, and activities. Here’s a seasonal guide:

Spring (March to May): Spring is one of the best times to visit Évora. The weather is pleasantly mild, making it ideal for exploring the city’s extensive historical sites like the Roman Temple, the Cathedral, and the Chapel of Bones. The landscape of the Alentejo is vibrant with wildflowers and green fields during this time, enhancing the scenic beauty of the area. Tourist numbers are lower than in summer, providing a more relaxed atmosphere.

Summer (June to August): Summers in Évora can be quite hot, with temperatures often rising above 30°C (86°F). While this may deter some, the city remains lively with cultural activities and festivals. The streets are bustling, and there are often concerts and events taking place, capturing the vibrant Portuguese summer spirit. If you don’t mind the heat, you can enjoy late evening strolls and the lively ambiance of outdoor dining.

Fall (September to November): Autumn is another excellent time to visit Évora. The temperatures cool down but remain warm enough to comfortably enjoy outdoor activities. This season is particularly good for those interested in food and wine, as it coincides with the grape harvest in the Alentejo region. The vineyards are active and many local wineries offer tours and tastings, providing a great way to experience the local culture and cuisine.

Winter (December to February): Winters in Évora are mild compared to northern Europe, though it can get quite cold, especially at night. This is the low season for tourism, so it’s a good time to visit if you prefer to avoid crowds and don’t mind cooler weather. The city has a different charm during winter, with less tourist activity and more local interactions. Also, accommodation prices tend to be lower during this time.

Given these options, spring and fall are generally considered the best times to visit Évora due to the pleasant weather and the opportunity to experience local festivals and the harvest. These seasons offer a perfect blend of comfortable weather and cultural engagement, making your visit enjoyable and fulfilling.

Average Temperatures in Évora

  • January 16°C 6
  • February 19°C 8
  • March 20°C 9
  • April 27°C 9
  • May 29°C 5
  • June 33°C 1
  • July 38°C 0
  • August 36°C 0
  • September 32°C 4
  • October 28°C 9
  • November 20°C 9
  • December 17°C 9

How to get to Évora

Getting to Évora, a fascinating historical city in the Alentejo region of Portugal, is relatively straightforward, whether you’re starting from Lisbon or another major city. Here are the best ways to reach Évora:

  1. By Car:
    • From Lisbon, Évora is about a 1.5-hour drive east on the A2 motorway, followed by a switch to the A6 towards Évora. This is often the preferred method for many travelers as it allows flexibility to explore the scenic Alentejo region at your own pace.
  2. By Train:
    • There are regular trains from Lisbon’s Entrecampos or Sete Rios stations to Évora. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours and offers a comfortable and scenic route into the heart of Alentejo. The trains are operated by Comboios de Portugal (CP), and it’s advisable to check the timetable and book tickets in advance, especially during peak travel times.
  3. By Bus:
    • Buses also run frequently from Lisbon to Évora, operated by Rede Expressos. The bus station in Lisbon is located at Sete Rios, and the journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. Buses might offer more flexible schedules throughout the day compared to trains.
  4. By Taxi or Rideshare:
    • For a more direct and flexible option, you can hire a taxi or use rideshare services like Uber from Lisbon to Évora. While this is the most expensive option, it provides door-to-door service and can be cost-effective for groups.
  5. From Other Cities:
    • If you’re traveling from Porto or another city further north, you may need to first travel to Lisbon to catch a direct train or bus to Évora. Alternatively, renting a car from these cities would provide a direct and scenic drive through Portugal’s diverse landscapes.

Each of these options offers a different balance of cost, convenience, and travel time, so you can choose the best method according to your preferences and itinerary. The train and bus services are generally reliable and offer a scenic introduction to the Alentejo region, making them popular choices for reaching Évora.