Planning A Day Trip To Evora In Alentejo Region
On our stay in Beja, we planned a day trip to Evora in Alentejo region of Portugal. We found a lot to see on our visit and could easily have spent more time in Evora.
The UNESCO city of Evora was high on our list of places to visit when we finally visited the Alentejo region. It was even better when we learned that Evora was named as the European Capital of Culture for 2027. We visited the charming town of Matera in Italy before it became the European Capital of Culture in 2019. And we were glad we saw both of these cities before they were discovered by hoards of tourists.
We enjoyed a busy day wandering in Evora. And we saw several of the key big tourist sites – the Temple Diana (Romano), Evora Cathedral and the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos). One day we will return and explore at a slower pace.
Entering The Walled City Of Evora
There were many gates to enter the city of Evora. When we plotted the drive from our stay in Beja, we wanted to enter by the Roman Aqueduct. Ancient aqueducts still stood in many walled cities we visited. The aqueduct was an impressive site as it ran into the city. And when we were inside the gate, we found other views of the aqueduct up close.
Before we started out we did our research on key sites we wanted to visit. So we had some idea where we wanted to park. But the narrow cobblestone streets with narrow archways soon sent us searching for a parking spot. It reminded us very much of navigating inside the walled city of Obidos in Portugal.
We found a parking spot right in front of the Evora Cathedral and could not believe our luck. But an old man sitting in the shade waved us off. When we looked at the signs carefully we saw that many of the spots were for locals only. So we headed off again. We finally got parked and had no intention of moving the car again until it was time to end our day trip to Evora.
Starting With The Roman Temple (or Templo de Diana)
We parked our car and as we came up the hill we got an amazing first view of the Roman Temple of Évora (also referred to as the Templo de Diana). This was one of the greatest and best preserved Roman temples in the Iberian Peninsula. It was built in Corinthian style in the early 1st century AD. 14 of the original Corinthian columns still remained. It reminded us of the many Roman ruins we found in Athens. We wandered around and saw it from different angles. A stunning first view of Evora.
Across from the Temple was the Diana Garden (Jardim de Diana). We wandered in the quiet tranquil spot and admired the different sculptures in the park.
There was a coffee shop by the garden but it was not open yet. Above the Roman Temple we saw the roof of the Evora Cathedral. That was the next stop on our day trip to Evora in Alentejo. When we got on the roof of the Cathedral, we even saw right back to this spot.
Heading High At The Evora Cathedral
We arrived at the Evora Cathedral very early in the day. It was known as the Sé de Évora, a short form for the Basílica Sé de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption). It was the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal.
While we planned to explore the interior, we wanted to get up on the roof terrace before the crowds arrived. We paid the admission price and headed right for the narrow stairs up.
We were delighted to find few people on the top as we wandered along the different wings on the roof. There were no guardrails and the walking was not even. So this was not a place for everyone.
At one end we found the bell towers. While we were on top we were even serenaded by the bells.
From this high spot over Evora we got amazing panoramic views of the city and the countryside in the distance. We even got a view back to the Roman Temple of Évora. A great way to start our day trip to Evora in Alentejo.
We found the spiral stairs and headed down.
Exploring The Cloisters
We came out on the ground level by the Cloisters. The corridors went in a square and the ceiling was formed by gothic arches. As we walked around the Cloisters, we got looked through the columns and saw the inside courtyard.
We found the tombs of previous archbishops of Evora as we walked around the Cloister corridor. In one spot we found 3 decorated sarcophagi. When we went into the small corner room, we found another sarcophagus and wall decorations. It reminded us of sights we found in the Canterbury Cathedral in England.
We followed the signs up another narrow stairway and came out on the roof above the cloister. From this point we got clear views of the Evora Cathedral. And down into the courtyard of the Cloister.
We found the spiral stairs and again descended to the ground level. An interesting addition to our day trip to Evora in Alentejo.
Wandering Inside The Evora Cathedral
After exploring the outer parts of the Evora Cathedral we headed inside. We admired the combination of the gothic and baroque styles we found as we wandered. The main altar drew our eyes first.
As we walked around we took in the different themes of the side altars. The chambers were ornate and varied in design.
We found the ceiling decorated with tiles. And there were more tombs under the floors. Art works and statues were everywhere inside the Evora Cathdral. When we looked up we saw the very rare Iberian organ made of oak. It was the only of its type in Portugal. We understood that it was still played.
There was so much to see when we visited inside the Evora Cathdral. We were glad we started here on our day trip to Evora in Alentejo.
A Stop For Lunch On Our Day Trip To Evora In Alentejo
When we planned our visit to Evora, we had a long list of options for lunch. On our luxury stay in Sintra, our lovely host provided us with her many favourite restaurants in Evora. We navigated to the spot at the top of her list but we found that Tua Madre was closed. On the day we visited, many restaurants were closed. But luckily right beside we found the Tasca Tosca Wine Restaurant and knew we would eat well.
We settled into a table on the cobblestone street and selected a tasty lunch feast. Since we knew we still had hours of walking, in very European style we added a bottle of rosé wine.
We ate slowly and enjoyed the delicious food. It was great to relax for lunch on our day trip to Evora in Alentejo. When we got back up we were energized and continued wandering the city streets.
Heading To The Chapel Of Bones
Our next stop was the Chapel of Bones (or the Capela dos Ossos). We visited bone churches in many different spots in Italy. So we were drawn to visit the one in Evora.
The Chapel was built by Franciscan monks in the 13th century. At the time, the graveyards were so crowded that old graves were exhumed to make way for new bodies. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people exhumed, the monks chose to build the Chapel and relocate the bones. Over 5,000 corpses decorated the walls of the chapel.
We headed to the Igreja de Sao Francisco. This National Monument was one of the most impressive monuments built in the Gothic and Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) style. We peeked in for a quick look but did not have time to spend more time in the church or the museum.
When we headed inside the door marked for the Chapel of Bones we were in one of the small chapels of the church. A beautiful altar with a stunning gold ceiling was the first thing we saw. And even though it was not the Christmas holiday season, we saw a Nativity scene with intricate detail.
This foyer for the Chapel of Bones was decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles. Some were geometric and other religious in design.
We waited until a group of people exited and went into the Chapel of Bones.
Inside The Capela dos Ossos
We were told that the Chapel of Bones was meant to make visitors meditate about life and death and the undeniable presence of death. This was made clear when we saw the message above the door … “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”
We stopped inside the entrance and took in the whole scene. If we did not look closely, the bones and skulls were not immediately obvious. But when we looked close, the macabre design was quite strange.
We saw a small white coffin by the altar. Inside were the bones of the three Franciscan monks who founded the church. On one side we found two mummies. The sign indicated this was a woman and a girl. The woman died between the age of 30 and 50, probably from a tooth infection and the girl was just 2 or 3 years old. We were not sure why these mummies were left here.
On our day trip to Evora in Alentejo the Chapel of Bones was the most unusual thing we saw.
Wandering Around On Our Day Trip To Evora In Alentejo
We wandered from spot to spot on our day trip to Evora in Alentejo. The narrow cobblestone streets provided much to look at. We found local crafts on display. The cork items for sale intrigued us. As we explored the Alentejo region, we found the cork harvesting sights amazing.
We loved to explore the architecture when we wandered in new cities. And we loved the variety we found in the churches and building design in Evora. We were not surprised when we found colourful tile works decorated the buildings in this Portuguese city.
When we literally could not walk anymore, we navigated the twisted path back to our parked car. We were happy we found the car safe and secure. Not so for the man parked on the same street amazed at the damage someone did to his car. A reminder of the challenge with driving inside the gates of the cities in Europe.
A Great Day Trip To Evora In Alentejo Region
We were glad we did a day trip to Evora in Alentejo region of Portugal. It was a full and busy day. But we only got to see some of the main sights. On a return visit to the Alentejo region, we knew that Evora required more time to explore.
Did you enjoy a day trip to Evora in Alentejo or did you stay there and explore at a slower pace? What should be top of our list for a return visit?
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