Portugal City Travel Guide: Evora
Evora (then Ebora) dates back to Celtic times before the Romans arrived from 59 BCE onwards. Evora was also occupied by the Moors in the 12th century, who have left a lasting impression in some of the winding alleyways of the old town.
Evora's heyday was between the 14th-16th centuries when the city grew rich on the local wine trade and the patronage of the House of Avis. It was during this time that the impressive 3km-long city walls were built, the Jesuit university was founded and many of the fine Renaissance palaces and churches built. The city's decline after 1580 with the invasion of the Spanish has left the ancient architecture mostly untouched and a treasure house for present-day visitors.
The ornate, fortress-like Sé on Largo do Marques de Marialva is one of the most impressive cathedrals in Portugal. Begun at the end of the 12th century, the church has some splendid Gothic additions such as the chancel and the cloister. The cathedral has an interesting museum full of jewelled religious artefacts. The Museu de Evora is next to the cathedral and was once the palace of the archbishop. The museum exhibits Roman and medieval remains as well as religious art by Flemish painters from the Renaissance.
The lively, historic hub of Evora is Praça do Giraldo, where the tourist office is now located along with numerous pavement cafes for relaxing and watching the world go by.
Evora's spectacular Roman remains include the Templo Romano and the Termas Romanas (Roman Baths). The Templo Romano is one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in Europe and is thought to date to the 2nd or 3rd century. Fourteen Corinthian columns in granite support a marble entablature. The temple is popularly attributed to Diana - the Roman goddess of hunting though Jupiter or the Emperor Augustus are more likely candidates.
The Termas Romanas (Roman baths) were discovered under the Câmara Municipal or town hall in the 1980s and can be visited Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm during office hours. The baths include an arched brick doorway, leading to a room with a circular steam bath (laconicum) 9m in diameter.
Among Evora's many fine churches, the standout is the Igreja de Sao Francisco with its macabre Capela dos Ossos. Built in the Gothic and Manueline style in the early 16th century, the splendid interior has nautical motifs recalling Portugal's history of the Age of the Discoveries, when Portuguese sea captains set sail around the world. The Capela dos Ossos is a small chapel behind the main altar containing the bones of an estimated 5,000 people and two dessicated corpses, one that of a child.
Other beautiful churches include the Igreja de Sao Joao with fine azulejos. Next door the Convento dos Loios has been converted in to a top-end pousada with a noted restaurant.
The Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Graça (Church of our Lady of Grace) on Largo da Graça has a bizarre, baroque facade topped by four, giant, stone Atlases.
Images of Evora Dias dos Reis
Among Evora's Renaissance palaces, the Palacio dos Duques de Cadaval (Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval) is still owned by the Cadaval family and located opposite the Templo Romano. Once used by the governor of the city and as a royal residence, the palace has Moorish, Gothic and Manueline architectual touches and is dominated by its large tower. The first-floor rooms (Salas de Exposiçao do Palacio) house a collection of illustrated manuscripts, family portraits and religious art open to the public.
Evora's other main sights include the Universidade de Evora (Tel: 266 740 800) which lies outside the city walls and has beautiful, Italian-style courtyards and azulejos-decorated classrooms. The Jardim Publico (Public Gardens) contains the Palacio de Manuel and the fine Galeria das Damas (Ladies' Gallery) constructed in a Gothic-Renaissance style. The 9km-long Aqueduto de Agua de Prata (Aqueduct of Silver Water), designed by military architect Francisco de Arruda, who also built the Belem Tower, brought water in to the town and is noted now for the houses, shops and cafes built under its arches. The Porta de Moura (Moor's Gate) in Largo das Portas de Moura is surrounded by historic mansions with a Renaissance fountain in the shape of a globe surrounded by water, a nod to the Age of Discovery.
Praça do Giraldo 73 (tel. 266 702 671)
There are daily trains to Lisbon (2 hours, 30 mins) changing at Casa Branca as well as trains to Setubal (2 hours, 15 mins), Faro (4 hours, 30 mins) and Lagos (5 hours). The station (tel. 266 742 336) is south of the Jardim Publico.
Around an hour and a half by car from Lisbon on the A2 and the A6 highways. From Elvas or Spain (Badajoz), take the A6/E90.
The bus station (tel. 266 769 410) is just off Avenida de Sao Sebastiao.
Pousada Loios Hotel Evora, Largo do Conde de Vila Flor; 32 luxurious rooms in a converted Renaissance convent
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The average high June temperatures for Portugal is between 22 degrees Centigrade and 26 degrees Centigrade.
Praca do Giraldo, Evora, Portugal