On the last day of our March puente, or long weekend, M, J and I decided to check out the fortified city of Évora, Portugal because it was relatively close to where we were staying. J had already been, but for M and I this meant a new city to explore. Although we were very tired from our hike to Marvão the day before, we woke up early the morning of our last full day of vacation and set out for Évora by car.
We got to Évora in about two hours after a brief pit stop at a farmer’s market in a nearby town. The first thing we did was walk to the main plaza, the Praça do Girlado. The plaza, which was used as a marketplace during the Moorish period, was a very lively place to sit and enjoy the nice weather.
We sat out on a terrace for about an hour, enjoying the recommended local “green wine.” It looked and tasted just like white wine and was served chilled in a glass vase with a round bottom. The flavor was similar to white wine, but it seemed a little less sweet and more bitter. It wasn’t my favorite wine by any means, but it was a refreshing drink for such a warm day.
Our next stop was the famous Capela dos Ossos, one of Évora’s best-known monuments. It is a small chapel whose interior walls are covered by human skulls and bones. This tourist attraction is definitely not for the faint of heart.
The chapel was built in the 1500’s by a Franciscan monk who wanted his contemporaries to accept the fact that life is transitory. Building a chapel made of human bones could help convey this message to the people. The skeletons were collected from local cemeteries and it is estimated that there are about 5,000 of them in the chapel. Upon entering the chapel, we can read the famous warning: Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (more or less: we bones who are here are waiting for yours to come and join us). Creepy but true.
After the bone chapel, we needed some fresh air, so we explored more parts of the city. I was still contemplating my existence as we passed the Sé cathedral, an early Gothic-style cathedral, and some interesting street art.
It seems like graffiti is the universal language.
Our next stop was Évora’s other famous landmark, the Roman Temple of Évora, also called the Templo de Diana. It’s located in the central square of Évora, which would have been the highest part of the city at the time.This temple was believed to have been built sometime in the 1st century A.D and it was dedicated to Emperor Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately, the temple suffered many hardships throughout the years and only part of it is still intact. However, what remains today is well-preserved and definitely worth seeing.
On our way out of the walled-city, we saw Évora’s aqueduct, called the Agua de Prata Aqueduct (Silver Water Aqueduct). This impressive structure stretches almost 9km and is one of the only aqueducts I’ve seen in my travels that is truly integrated into the city and does not feel like a separate entity.
On our way out of Évora, we marveled once again at the beautiful white buildings with yellow and blue stripes around the edges and borders of windows and doors. This style is not only characteristic of Évora, but of the whole Alentejo region. According to one travel guide we read, the blue stripes were meant to keep away bad spirits and the yellow ones were said to keep away mosquitoes.
I really enjoyed our day trip to Évora. It is a beautiful and quirky city with a lot of history and charm. I’d highly recommend visiting if you are in the Alentejo region or in southern Portugal or Lisbon, since it can easily be reached by train, bus or car.