Évora is a beautiful city in Portugal with archeological findings dating back to 4,000 BC. With a well-preserved UNESCO-listed town center, some beautiful churches and plenty of historical flavor, it is one of the best places to visit during your trip to Portugal. Here are five reasons not to miss Évora.
1. Roman Ruins
Templo Romano is the best-preserved Roman temple in Portugal. It dates from 2AD and 14 ornate Corinthian columns still stand on a marble platform from which you can look across the rooftops of UNESCO protected Évora. Termas Romanos, the Roman Baths that date from 1AD lie beneath the town hall (Camara Municipal) and during office hours you can wander in and see the huge circular steam bath.
2. Convento dos Loios
Now a fancy hotel, you can often persuade the staff to let you in to see the fabulous architectural design of Francisco de Arruda who also designed the Belem Tower in Lisbon. The arches, doorways and columns of the 15th century former convent chapter house have fabulous carvings.
3. Church of Sao Joao Evangelista
Still part of the private palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, this church used to be part of the Convent dos Loios and has wonderful floor to ceiling azulejos, that blue tiling so typical of Portugal. These scenes from the life of Sao Lourenco Justiniano, who founded the Loios order, date from the 18th century. Look out for the two open trapdoors in the floor; one shows you a Moorish cistern and the other is full of the bones of the convent’s monks.
4. Se – Évora’s Cathedral
A great blend of Romanesque and Gothic, the cathedral was begun in the 12th century when Portugal won Évora back from the Moorish occupiers. Don’t miss the cathedral museum which has a Madonna whose belly opens to show scenes from the Bible.
5. Moorish streets and city walls
Évora grew under the Moors and the city layout within the walls still reflects the 11th century tangle of narrow streets. Its grand architecture came about under the House of Avis between the 14th and 16th centuries. Its preservation is thanks to the conquering Spanish monarchs choosing to live in Lisbon after 1580 leaving Évora to go back to a quiet rural town and remain just as you see it today.