Last autumn Max took a trip to Portugal including a visit to wonderful Évora. Here’s why Évora should be on your list of places to visit in Central Portugal…
Where is Évora?
The city and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Évora lies around 100km east of Lisbon, in the Alentejo region of Portugal.
How do I get to Évora?
Évora is reachable by car or by train in about 1.5-2hrs from Lisbon.
A holiday in Évora
We can put together a tailor made holiday in Portugal to suit you. If you’d like some inspiration then we’ve put together an 11-night suggestion for a holiday that you will find at archipelagochoice.com/holidays/the-best-of-central-portugal/.
Why visit Évora?
Architecture and history – Évora escaped the effects of the earthquake of 1755 which destroyed much of Lisbon. The centre of the town is within medieval city walls, and today the architecture is a patchwork reflecting rule by the Romans, the Moors and the Portuguese. There are many impressive churches and palaces which themselves have been passed from owner to owner, each leaving their own mark.
I took a full-day privately guided walking tour of the city. My guide Paulo was a walking Wikipedia and really brought the place alive, casually spouting history like a pro and pointing out the interesting details that you’d – well, I’d – easily miss: impressively neat and strong Roman walls abutted by more recent yet more crumbly Medieval construction; stonework on the steps of the Cathedral that looks like graffiti but is actually the calling card of the makers, advertising their work; lush renaissance-era adornments of otherwise austere chapels; shop fronts built into the ancient aqueduct archways; the influence of the Knights Templar, the Jewish community, Portuguese kings and dukes.
The Bone Chapel situated in the Church of St Francis deserves a special mention. Évora has a long history of settlement, and so a long history of births and deaths. Bodies were buried and by the 16th century the land that the cemeteries took up was becoming pressured. The monks had a solution – relocate the bones to a chapel so as not to condemn the souls of the dead. Instead of hiding the bones, the monks set them into the interior walls of the chapel, thus creating a place to contemplate the transience of existence. The inscription above the chapel door reads: Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos – “We bones that here are, await yours”. For me, the fact that the monks created patterns with the bones, mixing up bodies, only adds to the feeling of transience experienced in the chapel.
The Alentejo region is rich in wine and tastings are possible in the city itself, at the Ervideira Wine Shop, delicious wines certainly not worth spitting out during tastings. Ervideira produce a unique ‘invisible’ wine made from peeled red grapes – it’s a unique tasting clear wine.
60% of the world’s wine bottle corks come from the forests around Évora and as it’s waterproof and stronger than leather, the tourist shops are full of cork wallets, hats, waistcoats, postcards – pretty much whatever you can think of, they’ve made it in cork.
Where to stay in Évora?
There are many wonderful hotel choices. I stayed at the Mar D’Ar Aqueducto– lovely large rooms, amazing breakfast, quiet garden, nice pool, good bar. There’s also a spa facility. Many of the rooms are in a new wing, with the reception, restaurant and bar being situated in the older building, and it all works very well together.
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