Considered to be the best example of a city from Portugal’s golden era, Évora is a must-see UNESCO world heritage city. Many people visit Évora as a day trip from Lisbon but when you look beyond the popular things to do in Évora, it really does warrant a couple of nights if you want to really experience it.
This historic city has everything from Roman ruins, scenic gardens, great food and even a chapel of bones, so this week we’re going to show you the best things to do in Évora, Portugal, and the best Évora highlights so you can really make the most of your trip here!
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Where is Évora, Portugal?
Évora is located in the Alentejo region of Central Portugal. At only an hour and a half from Lisbon it’s an easy day trip option for those with a time crunch or travelling without a car.
How To Get To Évora, Portugal
The best option for visiting Évora, especially if you’re wanting a longer stay, is to hire a car from Lisbon but we understand that’s not an option for everyone so here’s a few alternative on how to get to Évora:
Getting to Évora by bus is fairly easy from the main Sete Rio station in Lisbon. They run frequently almost every hour, take roughly 1.5 hours and cost anywhere from €5-15 depending on the time of day. The bus station in Évora is next to the castle walls so it’ll be clear which direction to head once you get off the bus. We’ve used this website in the past to book bus tickets around Portugal.
Once again departs from the Sete Rio station. However, the train option isn’t necessarily an easy option as they appear to be a little less frequent than buses, require a transfer and take the same if not more time than the bus. Strikes are common at the moment too so it wouldn’t be an option we would choose. If you did want to try the trains though, it’ll cost you around €13 and land you a little further from the old city walls.
If you enjoy group tours, there are plenty of bus tours from Lisbon to Évora of all sizes and durations.
Chapel Of Bones – One Of The Most Quirky Things To Do In Évora
Best Time To Visit Évora
Like most places in Portugal, the best time to visit is Spring & Autumn. During this time the weather is nice but not unbearably hot and the crowds are still fairly small – although it’s never seemed overly busy whenever we’ve visited. It’s manageable any time of year but through summer you can expect massive crowds with scorching temperatures and in winter, while it’s much quieter, opening times will be patchy.
The climate in Évora is hot & dry through summer, then cold & quite rainy in the winter so catching it in those mid-seasons really is the best time to visit Évora.
Things To Do In Évora
In no particular order let’s dive into the best things to do in Évora, shall we? Below is a map of the best Évora highlights, keep reading to find out more information about these and a few bonuses that we couldn’t include on the map!
Chapel of Bones in Évora, Portugal
I thought the Chapel of Bones in Évora was going to be one of the most touristy things to do in Évora, especially since it’s the most written about monument in the city but it turns out it’s somewhat of an ‘on the down low’ activity. I’ll refrain from calling it a hidden gem, because it’s really not, but after speaking with several people who had been to Évora it turned out quite a few of them had no idea this place existed!
I really don’t know how because it was the sole reason for our trip to Évora, everything else was a bonus. In fact, we make it our mission to always take family here when they visit just to remind them that life is fragile… you know, because we love a fun and upbeat day trip!
Anyway, the Chapel of Bones in Évora is exactly what it says on the leaflet… A chapel decorated with human bones. It was built in the 16th Century by Franciscan monks in an attempt to remind the locals how fragile life is and that death ultimately comes for us all.
As you enter, you’ll be greeted by this script above the door: “We bones that are, here are waiting for yours”… and if that doesn’t make your hairs stand on end, wait until you’re inside because as soon as you step through the thought provoking doors you’ll instantly be surrounded by bones. Human bones. The whole chapel is wall to floor with skulls and other body parts but as spooky as it feels I have to say, it’s really impressive once you look past the fact it’s human remains.
The Chapel of Bones in Évora is €5 per person to enter and is technically part of the also popular St Francis Church (Igreja de São Francisco), although they do have separate entrances.
The St. Francis Church is free to enter and worth visiting while you’re there too!
Évora Public Gardens (Jardim Publico de Évora)
It was the public gardens that made us fall in love with Évora, we even considered moving here! These busy but somehow still peaceful gardens offer a lot for free and are a must for any list of things to do in Évora.
In true Portuguese style, they have free roaming peacocks who will happily join you for a coffee (Lilly loved these, and the duck-filled pond!)
As well as the usual things you come to expect from a public garden – a park, scenic benches etc. – Jardim Publico de Évora also hosts a couple of other attractions that you’ll want to see while visiting. Including some fake ruins that appear to be of the Roman era but they actually only date back to the 19th century.
In the gardens you’ll also find the Royal Palace of Évora that frequently runs different exhibitions so make sure to pop your head in and see what’s on!
Giraldo Square & Fountain
I’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll say it again – European cities for sure know how to create an incredible city centre and the one in Évora is another great example of this. It’s one of the best free things to do in Évora when you want to just sit and relax for a bit.
It’s the perfect place to rest your feet but honestly, I wouldn’t eat here unless you’re willing to pay inflated tourist prices for Ok (at best) food. You’ll get much better quality down any of the nearby laneways.
The fountain in the centre was built in the 13th Century and has some interesting history behind it. You can read more about that here.
Rua Cinco de Outubro
If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs & trinkets from your day trip to Évora, Rua Cinco de Outubro is the perfect place and it’s picturesque too! Here you’ll find the usual mass produced Portuguese souvenirs but, scattered in amongst those stores you’ll find some real authentic Évora bits too. Wine & cork products are popular things to pick up from here that make great gifts.
A list of things to do in Évora wouldn’t be complete without seeing Évora Cathedral! Not only is it over 800 years old but it’s also the largest mediaeval Cathedral in Portugal.
As you’d expect from any grand European building, inside is stunning but what really makes this Cathedral worth adding to your Évora travel guide are the views you get from the top and you only have to climb 106 steps to get there!
Tickets are €4.50 per person including entrance into the museum & €3.50 without the museum.
One Of The Most Popular Things To Do In Évora – The Cathedral
Just around the corner from the Cathedral, these Roman ruins are at the top of most people’s list of things to do in Évora!
Portugal certainly isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think about Roman ruins, but there’s certainly plenty of them here! Like these ones near Coimbra!
Built in the early 1st Century AD, The Roman Temple in Évora is the largest and best preserved Roman Temple in the Iberian Peninsula. Here you’ll be able to see the original staircase as well as columns holding up the original architrave. The floor would have been covered in Mosaic but that’s completely eroded, unlike the Roman Ruins of Conimbriga.
One Of The Pet Friendly Things To Do In Évora – The Roman Ruins
Evora Town Hall & Roman Baths
City or town halls don’t usually make an appearance on ‘things to do’ lists unless they’re really impressive. Now, the town hall itself is ok. Built in 1882 it’s nothing spectacular in my opinion, especially when compared to other amazing monuments in Évora but what makes the town hall an essential part of your list of things to do in Évora is what they found hidden underneath the town hall in 1987… An almost pristine Roman Bathhouse.
It always fascinates me to learn about ancient buildings hiding below modern cities and towns – Lisbon has a whole Roman empire below it that they know about but can’t excavate because, well, there’s a bustling city in the way – and these Roman Baths in Evora are another great example of how much history is below our feet.
The Roman Baths in Evora is now considered to have been the largest building in Roman Évora, and played an integral part of Roman socialisation as well as the obvious hygiene necessity.
Unbelievable, you can see these Roman Ruins for free by visiting during the Town Hall opening hours which are 9:00 – 17:30 Monday to Friday, making them possibly the most interesting free thing to do in Évora.
As with all historic cities, Évora has a plethora of museums to choose from. This is great if you’re looking for things to do in Évora on a wet day or you simply want to explore a more curated collection of Évora’s history.
The most popular museum in Évora is, unsurprisingly, the Museum of Evora. Here you’ll find a great collection of artefacts and art that showcase Évora’s long history. Entrance is €3 and opening times run Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00.
Other great museums in Évora include Cadaval Palace and the Carriage Museum.
If you’ve read our Lisbon to Porto road trip itinerary, you’ll know that Coimbra has the oldest university in Portugal. Well, Évora has the 2nd oldest and it’s beautiful.
Built in 1559 the interior and exterior showcase beautiful architecural design of times gone by. From beautiful tiling to reneasance architecture, every corner offers a great gimplse into the past as well as some good photo opportunities!
Évora University is one of the free things to do in Évora and it’s open during normal schooling hours. Of course, while walking around you will see classes in process and students wandering the halls alonside you but rest assured it’s perfectly fine for you to be on site. Just bare in mind some sections may be restricted and there will be signs advising this.
Try A Local Delicacy – queijadas de Requeijão de Évora
I think it’s safe to say Portugal isn’t short on delicious desserts or pastries to try. Almost every small town you visit in Portugal will have their own speciality and Évora is no different.
The queijadas de Requeijão de Évora is a simple dessert made with sheep’s cheese, sugar and egg yolk – because it wouldn’t be a Portuguese dessert without an egg yolk!
While they’re not as popular as the famous Pastel De Nata, you’ll be able to find queijadas de Requeijão de Évora in every bakery you pass in Évora.
If you want to try more of the food & wine that this region has to offer, why not try a wine tour!
Cromlech of Almendres
If you’re anything like me, a lover of mystery history, paganism and anything that lends itself to a conspiracy, this next activity on our list of things to do in Évora will blow.your.mind.
The Comlech of Almendres is a circular collection of Megalithic rocks that are estimated to be around 7000 years old. That’s 2000 years older than Stonehenge.
Add These Megalithic Monuments To Your List of Things To Do In Évora
Sure the age is impressive, but it’s also the largest still-standing Megalithic complex in Europe… and they don’t really fully understand why they’re there since their usage likely spans over the Neolithic and Copper Ages.
The assumption is they were used for religious or ceremonial purposes but there’s also the possibility they functioned as a primitive astronomical observatory. Essentially, they could have been used for anything and the secrets will remain locked inside the stone boulders – much like Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand that reminded me of alien eggs.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Évora, while technically no in the city limits, this one needs to be at the top of your list. It’s a short 30 minute drive from the centre of Évora and even once the road turns to dirt it remains relatively easy to navigate – we’ve seen campervans and motorhomes make it down there ok and we’ve driven it easily in a small hire car. There’s also plenty of parking.
Is Évora Pet Friendly?
We’ve visited Évora a few times both with and without Lilly and you’ll be pleased to know there’s quite a few pet friendly things to do in Évora. The public gardens are a great place for dogs provided they’re on a lead, you can freely walk around the Roman Temple, city lane ways and the Cromlech of Almendres absolutely fine with dogs and many of the cafes in Évora are pet friendly too!
The only non pet friendly things to do in Évora are the inside attractions. The Chapel of Bones is a strict no dogs area (perhaps for obvious reasons) but the others don’t make it clear on their websites. I did reach out to the staff of Évora Cathedral but I’m yet to hear back – I think it’s safe to assume they don’t allow dogs though.
Is Évora Worth Visiting?
Hopefully our full guide to the best things to do in Évora has highlighted that yes, Évora is absolutely worth visiting.
What makes Évora stand out to me is that it doesn’t feel touristy. Yes it has some popular tourist attractions like the Chapel of Bones and the Roman Temple but every time we’ve visited it’s felt quite tranquil. Completely different to the feel you get in places like Nazare or Obidos in the summer!
Checkout what Lilly got up to in Évora
How Long Do I Need In Évora?
Most Évora travel guides will say one full day is plenty and that’s certainly true if you just want to hit the highlights of Évora.
To really take everything in, we recommend planning for 2 days (1 night). This will give you a chance to explore everything there is to do in Évora with plenty of time to enjoy a couple of cafes and a nice evening meal.
Don’t get me wrong, if you only have a day Évora is still worth scheduling in. You’ll just have to make sure it’s really well planned and you know exactly what it is you want to see.
What Should I Pack For Évora?
Since this is a bustling place with plenty of cafes & shops, you’re not necessarily going to want to pack anything specific for your trip. What you will want to be mindful of though is that this Évora itinerary includes a lot of walking and the streets of hilly & often cobbled. So, with that in mind, pack comfortable shoes and plenty of suncream. Évora is a sun trap of a city and it’s very easy to get burned when wandering the streets between attractions.
Final Thoughts On The Best Things To Do In Évora
Now you’ve seen the best things to do in Évora, I hope it’s encouraged you to book a day trip from Lisbon or even an extended trip!
Our Évora highlights are definitely the public gardens, Chapel of Bones and quite simply just wandering around the streets here. There’s such a great atmosphere in Évora and it feels completely different to the likes of the Algarve and other popular destinations.
I hope you’re able to visit Évora while you’re in Portugal! Maybe you’ve been recently and discovered something we haven’t mentioned here? If that’s the case, let us know in the comments! We love hearing what you get up to in the places we recommend.