Seeing all the things to do in Evora, Portugal is like taking a trip back in time. In fact, Évora is often called Portugal’s “Museum City” because of its preserved architecture. Evora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to more than 2,000 years of history and an escape from damage in the 1755 earthquake that nearly leveled Lisbon. History-lovers will be drawn to Evora’s Roman temple, aqueduct, monoliths, and medieval cathedral complete with a bone chapel ossuary. Later architecture from Evora’s Renaissance includes palaces, churches, convents and a city square. But some of the most recognizable and charming features of Evora are its everyday spaces. Low houses line the narrow city streets, painted in bright white and ochre yellow, with terracotta roofs and wrought-iron balconies.
Many people are starting to discover Evora as a day trip from Lisbon, but I absolutely recommend staying a few days here. There’s much to explore in the city, as well as day trips in the surrounding area to visit megalithic stones, medieval castles, and local wineries. In this guide, I’ll share the best things to do in Evora, Portugal: what to see, where to stay, and why Evora definitely belongs on your Portugal itinerary!
How to get to Evora
Evora is in the Alentejo region of Portugal, an area rich in vineyards, farmlands, hilltop castles and beautiful coastlines. There are so many things to do in Evora, Portugal, it deserves a 1-2 night stay rather than just a day trip.
If you drive, Evora is about an hour and a half from Lisbon, and an easy stopover on the way to or from the Algarve beaches. Some hotels have parking lots. Other parking is limited within the city walls, but there’s free public parking a quick 15 minutes’ walk from the city center.
Buses and trains run daily between Lisbon and Evora – check route information here.
If your time is limited (and I can’t convince you in this guide to stay longer!), you can also visit Evora on a day trip from Lisbon.
Where to Stay in Evora
One of the best reasons to spend a few days in Evora is for the chance to stay at a historic hotel within the city walls. I’ll share a few quick suggestions so you can understand my excitement about this, then I’ll include a longer list of recommended Evora hotels at the end of this guide.
Keep in mind that at many pousadas, you can stop in for a drink or coffee to see the public areas of a hotel, even if you aren’t staying there.
Pousada Convento de Evora
The Pousada Convento de Evora is located in the center of the old city, and overlooks the Roman Temple and Cathedral. The guest rooms are the carefully-renovated convent of the former Lóios monks, and many original features like arched halls and vaulted ceilings were preserved. Parking is available here, plus a pool and onsite restaurant.
Albergaria Do Calvario
Located within the old city walls in a 16th-century olive oil mill, the Albergaria Do Calvario is a few minutes’ walk from the main sights of Evora. Bright rooms, tasty breakfast, and parking available.
The Noble House
Centrally located within the old city, the Noble House includes traditional architectural features, bright spaces and comfy rooms. Limited parking is available, and spring for a suite or upgraded room to be sure you’re in the main hotel, where the WiFi signal is stronger. I stayed here, and loved the location and breakfast, but wish I’d booked earlier to get a room with a view.
Evora, first known as Ebora, was settled more than 2,000 years ago by Celtic tribes. Outside of the city, megaliths older than Stonehenge remain, known as the Almendres Cromlech. Romans conquered the town in 57 BC and expanded it into a walled city; ruins from this time include a temple, aqueduct and city baths. It later fell under Visigoth rule, until being conquered and ruled by Moors from 715 – 1165. Evora was retaken from the Moors by Geraldo the Fearless, who became a symbol of the city, including its coat of arms. He also lent his name to the city square, Praça do Giraldo.
During its Renaissance years, Évora was a favorite location of Portuguese kings, and many sights remain from these golden years including palaces, churches and convents. The city became a center of learning; the Jesuits formed a university in 1559 until being expelled in 1759. The University of Evora eventually reopened, nearly 200 years later.
The historic center of Evora has retained its history and charms, while the city has expanded outside its original walls. There is a large student population here; I nearly mistook them from Hogwarts’ students in their black capes!
Things to Do in Evora, Portugal
You can see the things to do in Evora by foot within a day, but I’ve added on some day trips at the end of this section in case you have more time. Some sights like the Cathedral are closed for the lunch hours of 12-2pm; be sure to check opening hours.
I’ve also marked the best things to do in Evora on the map below.
Silver Water Aqueduct (Aqueduto de Agua da Prata)
There are actually two parts to Evora’s aqueduct system: traces of an old Roman aqueduct, and a newer aqueduct commissioned in 1531 by King Joao III. It was designed by a military architect, Francisco de Arruda, also known for designing the Torre de Belém in Lisbon.
Evora’s aqueduct is visible as you approach the city. But as you walk Evora’s streets, you’ll also see houses and shops built within its arches as it descends to the main square. Look for this around the Travessa das Nunes, which I’ve marked on the map.
Roman Temple of Evora, or Temple of Diana (Templo Romano de Évora)
People can’t seem to agree if this temple is dedicated to the Goddess Diana, but its Roman origin of the 1st century AD isn’t in doubt. The temple’s ruins are mainly Corinthian stone columns on a base. Located in the center of Evora at its highest point, there’s also a small park here (Jardim de Diana) and an outdoor cafe overlooking the city.
Cathedral of Évora (Sé de Évora)
Evora’s cathedral (or sé) is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal. Located near the Roman Temple, the cathedral has massive towers, a cloister, chapels, rose window, and cathedral museum with religious art. Climb up the bell tower spiral steps to a rooftop terrace with views of the surrounding countryside.
San Francisco Church (Igreja de São Francisco) & Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos)
Built between 1475 and 1550, the San Francisco Church has a large porch with arches of different styles. Inside, there’s a main nave, plus a dozen chapels of Baroque woodwork.
But the real star of the San Francisco Church is its separate Bone Chapel, with a small entrance just to the right of the church. In this chapel, thousands of human bones line the walls, the work of monks who wanted local residents to mediate on materialism and the inevitability of death. An inscription above the chapel translates as: “We bones in here wait for yours to join us.” (“Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos.”)
The Bone Chapel is one of the best things to do in Evora, so be sure plan it in your itinerary! Also included in the Bone Chapel admission price, don’t miss the museum upstairs (Núcleo Museológico) which includes religious art and a large exhibit of nativity sets from around the world. I loved this because I have my own collection of world nativities!
Giraldo Square (Praça do Giraldo)
Evora’s main square has shops, open-air cafes and restaurants, and a large Baroque fountain. There’s a tourist office here, and it’s an excellent place for a coffee or meal.
Roman Baths Ruins
Discovered beneath the Evora City Hall, you can check the remains of ancient Roman baths during opening hours for free. If you’re interested in treating yourself to a reimagined Roman bath experience, check out the nearby In Acqua Veritas spa.
Evora University (Universidade de Évora, Colégio do Espírito Santo)
Established in 1559, this university has several buildings, the most picturesque of which is the Colégio do Espírito Santo. The building has a square plan around a grand cloister, known as Pátio dos Gerais, with a center fountain. Visitors can explore the halls decorated with tiles and artwork.
Evora has several museums, including the Museum of Evora, which faces the Roman Temple. The museum is small, but has medieval, Roman and modern pieces in its collection. The Cathedral and San Francisco Church both have museum collections with religious art.
Other Evora Churches
As you walk through Evora, you’ll encounter many smaller churches. Several are lined with beautiful azulejo tile, like the Igreja de São João Evangelista that faces the Roman Temple. I especially liked the Igreja da Misericórdia, which was just down the street from my hotel, The Nobel House. The church and convent Nossa Senhora da Graça or Igreja da Graça has an interesting facade, but isn’t often open, so I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
Evora Megaliths: Almendra Cromlech and others
Everyone has heard of Stonehenge, but until I visited Evora, I had never heard of Almendra Cromlech – which is actually 2,000 years older! It’s believed that these stones either had a ceremonial purpose or functioned as a primitive astronomical observatory. To get here, you’ll need a car or a tour, since public transit isn’t available.
Stop by the wine tasting room of the Wine Route of Alentejo in the old city center. Here you can learn more about the region’s wineries and book tours.
The Cartuxa winery just outside of Evora has daily tastings of wine and olive oil. Contact them to make a reservation and confirm a tour in English.
Visit here for more information on wines of Alentejo.
Evora Walking Tours
If you’d like to have a guide for a tour of Evora, check out this option here.
Dining in Evora
Evora has a varied food scene, from hearty, rustic meals to fine dining. Keep in mind that most Portuguese restaurants charge for the couvert course. These are appetizers placed on the table at the start of the meal, including bread, olives, sardine paste, butter, etc. It’s usually only a few Euros each per person, but don’t be surprised to see it on your bill unless you say “não obrigado” (no thank you) and refuse it.
Alentejo traditional cuisine is based on pork, lamb, olive oil and bread. Pork known as porco preto (black pork, or Iberico pork in Spain) is one of the most renowned ingredients. Other popular local dishes include dogfish soup, bread soup, migas, local cheese, and queijadas (cheese pastries).
More Evora Recommended Hotels
All of the recommended places to stay in Evora below are within the old city, with the exception of the last hotel.
Moov Hotel Évora
Featuring minimalist interiors, the eco-friendly Moov Hotel Évora is a budget option set in a former bullring in Évora city center.
Evora Inn is a budget guest house with a great location next to Évora’s main square, Praça do Giraldo.
Casa Morgado Esporão
Located a few minutes’ walk from the Roman ruins, Casa Morgado Esporão has private apartments with a boutique feel.
Casa do Escritor
Located within the walls of the old city, Casa do Escritor in Évora has an outdoor swimming pool, a shared lounge and a garden.
M’AR De AR Aqueduto
Housed in a 16th-century palace, this 5-star boutique hotel features a beautiful chapel and dome ceilings. Overlooking the aqueducts of Évora, it has an extensive spa with an outdoor pool.
Convento do Espinheiro, Historic Hotel & Spa
If you’d like to stay at a 5-star Evora hotel in an idyllic setting, check out the Convento do Espinheiro a few miles outside the city center. The guest rooms and shared spaces are a renovated 15th-century convent, surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Best Time to Visit Evora
Summers are hot in the Alentejo region, because of its inland location. In particular, July and August can have extreme daytime highs (above 30ºC / 90ºF).
Both spring and autumn are good times to visit Evora, when spring flowers are blooming or when autumn scenery turns golden.