The small town of Évora lays in what was once one of the most important provinces in the Roman Empire. These days that region is known as Alentejo and it’s fast becoming a destination for lovers of wine, rustic food, hiking, biking, beaches and whitewashed villages.
The UNESCO listed town of Évora is one of the most beautifully preserved in the region and it’s an easy day-trip from Lisbon. Although, despite being just 2 hours by bus from the city, it pays to spend at least one night in this pretty little hilltop town.
Praça do Giraldo
The best way to see Évora is on foot – exploring its cobbled streets and passages that are lined with beautiful old white and mustard-coloured houses. A lot of rich heritage fills the streets, and it isn’t long before you stumble upon a historic monument, museum or stunning old church.
A good starting point is Praça do Giraldo, a large open plaza dotted with cafés and small shops. You can’t miss the imposing 16th century Igreja de Santo Antão, which forms the perfect backdrop to the square.
Branching from the east side of Praça do Giraldo is Rua 5 de Outubro, a pedestrian street lined with many souvenir stores that sell the usual garb. Sift past all of the fridge magnets and coffee mugs and you can nab yourself some lovely hand-painted ceramics and products made using local cork: including well-crafted handbags and satchels, which you can see above.
Running off this touristy street is Rua Alcarcova de Baixo, a popular thoroughfare that’s filled with restaurants, bars and a gelato café. It’s a little sleepy during the day, but come the evenings and it launches into a hive of eating and drinking activity.
Igreja da Graça
Templo Romano de Évora
The old town of Évora is built upon a hill and the higher you go, the more you discover. One structure that stands out from the rest is the remains of a Roman temple built over 2000 years ago.
Considered one of the most important historic ruins in the country, Templo Romano de Évora has a long history for serving as a bank vault, and even a butcher’s to the Évora castle from the 14th century to 1836. Let’s not forget it was a prominent temple in the town’s main forum; once the highest point of the city’s acropolis.
Not much is left today, but you can walk around it at no charge.
One could think the largest cathedral in Portugal would be found in its capital. Not the case, as you can find it here in Évora.
The fortified 15th century Sé de Évora crowns the old town with its bold towers and imposing stone walls, and you can visit the cloisters and roof terrace for €3.50. A small price to pay for the best views in town!
Sé de Évora – Évora Cathedral
Molotov and queijadas at Café Arcada – Praça do Giraldo 7
All this exploring calls for a little downtime at a café somewhere – sipping on espresso, chocolate or tea and forking into a traditional sweet.
Café Arcada is the perfect place to start as they’re conveniently located on Praça do Giraldo. They may not have outdoor seating, but there’s plenty of room inside to enjoy local sweets, ice cream and very good espresso. Don’t miss the pastel de natas, torta de laranja or the hefty chunk of molotov: a delightfully light and sweet meringue flan.
Art Café – Rua de Serpa Pinto 6
Uafas Café – Largo de Álvaro Velho, 4
Whether it’s coffee, beer, iced tea or sangria, the wisteria-shaded cloisters of Palácio Barroca are ideal for some down time. This serene spot is home to Art Café, just down from Igreja de Santo Antão. It’s a fab escape from the heat, a perfect spot to chill to some electronic tunes and even chow on a toasted sandwich, huge salad or chocolate cake.
Then there’s Uafas Café on the small square called Largo de Álvaro Velho. Come here for freshly made waffles, crêpes and ice cream, and you can sit outside beneath shady trees or inside the air-conditioned, wifi-serviced comfort.
Dinner for us on our only night in Évora was at Tragos e Condutos, right in the heart of Alcarcova de Baixo. Typical food of the region, excellent service, decent house vino and generous portions. The feijoada de chocos com gambas (beans with cuttlefish & prawns; 10.9) was absolutely divine and the migas de bacalhau (9.9) wasn’t too shabby, either.
Tragos e Condutos – Alcarcova de Baixo, 26
Rede Expresso buses depart at 11.30am and arrive about two hours later. Cost per person is €12. The Rede Expresso terminal is opposite Jardim Zoológico de Lisboa. Check the map for location.