Evora Guide, Portugal
Jardim de Diana in Evora, with Roman temple, a cathedral in the background and the church of Sao Joao on the left.
Evora things to see and do
This is Portugal’s second most interesting town – after Lisbon – and a World Heritage site set in the Alto Alentejo, encompassing a wide variety of historical monuments, from this Roman temple to large and intact Moorish walls, churches gleaming with gold and fine azulejos (Sao Joao and Misercordia), baroque giants (Nossa Senhora da Graca), gruesome bones and skulls decor (Sao Fransisco’s Capela dos Ossos), or just elegant townhouses with balconies and arches.
The town’s main square, Praca do Giraldo, has seen many public executions, including Inquisition burnings in the 16thC, and now sees a lot of wandering tourists and coffee sipping students. Evora is a lively town, partly thanks to 6, 000 university students based there, and has a good selection of restaurants and accommodation.
If you arrive by car and have no prearranged hotel parking space and it’s high season, park outside the walls in one of the big free carparks.
Only 20 minutes away by car are the lovely, lonely prehistoric stones, Cromeleque dos Almendres, see below.
Praca do Giraldo, Evora’s main square.
Capela dos Ossos
A popular 17th century room makeover using the bones of 5, 000 people; Capela dos Ossos, or Chapel of Bones.
Evora has no shortage of things to do but high on most tourist’s list is a visit to this fairly gruesome room in the Manueline-Gothic Igreja (church) de Sao Francisco where skeletons do no belong in the closet.
Charmingly, as you enter the chapel you can’t help but notice an inscription over the door: ‘Our bones are here awaiting yours. ‘ Photo by Nsandre.
Clearly bored out of their skulls, 17th century monks collected bones from overflowing local graveyards and spent many happy hours constructing this uplifting room. They were doubtless bone-tired afterwards.
Portugal has other bony chapels including a popular one in Faro’s Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, though that one is from the 19th century and exclusively made from monk’s bones.
An Iberian Stonehenge – without the fencing, Almendres Cromlech (Cromeleque dos Almendres).
Just a few minutes from Evora in the Alto Alentejo, through a stupendous glade of cork trees lies this group of 95 prehistoric megaliths, some with vague inscriptions visible.
It’s not as impressive as England’s Stonehenge in size and shape of stones, but the magical aspect of a trip here is the freedom to enjoy the stones without having to buy tickets, stand outside fencing or go elbow-to-elbow with a herd of sightseers.
Up to recently the only fencing was around the neighbouring cork trees and the only discreet sign gave information in Portuguese and English about the site. No warning notices, no barbed wire, no kiosks, no vendors and practically no other visitors.
There is also a single large stone, Almendres Menhir, on the same road – bigger but somehow tamed by the farmer’s narrow fencing of the approach track.
A little further away at Zambujeiro (Anta Grande do Zambujeiro) is a group of Europe’s largest dolmen, seven stones each about 6m high, but covered by a metal shelter.
The picturesque cork forest on the way to Cromeleque dos Almendres.
Cork is big business here, providing 60% of the world’s corks, that’s 15, 000, 000, 000 a year. It’s used not only for stopping up bottles but also for flooring, footwear, car engine gaskets and more.
These Cork Oak trees grow for 25 years before their first cut, then they are stripped again every nine years, but this eco-friendly business is under threat from the spread of plastic, increasingly popular because in never ‘corks’ the wine.