Decorative skulls and paintings, Chapel of Bones, Evora

Many visitors to Portugal whizz through the UNESCO World Heritage city of Évora on a day trip from Lisbon, quickly ticking off the Roman Temple, Praça Giraldo and the eerie chapel of bones before moving on. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of reasons to stay at least a night or two, especially if you want to use Évora as a base for exploring the Alentejo region.

Having a car can make it easier to get around. Compare the best car hire prices at Discovercars and car rentals.

Read on to discover the best things to do in Évora, from must see sights to lesser-known treasures.

1. Contemplate your own mortality at the Chapel of Bones in Évora, Portugal

Chapel of Bones, Evora
Chapel of Bones, Evora

Among the best things to see in Évora is the haunting chapel of bones next to Igreja de São Francisco. This gruesome construction is one of the city’s most popular sights so expect it to be busy but it’s well worth seeing.

The Franciscan monks who conceived this grisly project certainly knew how to drive a message home. With the aim of provoking visitors into contemplating the transitory nature of human life, they gathered up the skeletons of over 5,000 dead from the town graves and used them to build this chapel. Five centuries later, the eerie atmosphere provides modern visitors with a grim reminder that despite medical and technological advances, there’s just no escaping death, no matter how rich or important you may be.

“We bones that are here are waiting for yours,” warns the inscription carved into the stone lintel above the entrance. Once inside the chapel, you will be surrounded by evidence of human mortality.

Every wall and column is crammed with the knobbly ends of femurs interspersed with rows of skulls and lengths of arm bones, all painstakingly arranged into artistic patterns. Even the vaulted ceilings are studded with rows of craniums and the traditional pictures of podgy cherubs have largely been replaced by paintings of gaunt skulls.

Practicalities: Praça 1º de Maio. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm November to March and until 6:30 pm from April to October. The €5 entrance includes access to whatever temporary exhibition is on and the nativity collection. For further information check here.

2. Explore Evora’s public gardens, peacocks and King Manuel’s Palace

Dom Manuel Palace, Evora
Dom Manuel Palace, Evora

To the left of the renovated 15th century church of St. Francis are the attractive public gardens. Amid the bushes, paths and ponds, you’ll find a ruined building which a pride of peacocks have claimed as their territory, making for some potential Instagram moments.

The rather splendid building just inside the park is what remains of the 16th century Royal Palace, once integrated into the Franciscan complex.

3. What to do in Évora – visit the Cathedral

We arrived just as people were gathering for mass so we spent very little time in the main church and headed straight for the cloisters. As the only visitors at that time, we were able to admire the vaulted ceilings, arches and stone roses in peace, apart from the clanging bells. The founder’s chapel in the far corner contains a beautifully carved marble tomb of Dom Pedro and a depressed lion.

There’s little information about the building so we almost missed the spiral staircase to the roof of the cloisters (it’s opposite the toilets). It’s worth the climb for the city views, the close up of the gigantic rose window and the 14th century relief carving of Gerald the Fearless, aka the Giraldo of Praça do Giraldo. This local hero was instrumental in turfing the Moors out of Évora in 1167 during the reconquest that resulted in the creation of Portugal as a country.

Marble relief sculpture of Gerald the Fearless, Evora Cathedral
Marble relief sculpture of Gerald the Fearless, Evora Cathedral

Practicalities: Largo do Marquês de Marialva. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4pm). Tickets range from €2.50 to €4.50 depending on how much you want to see. We paid €3.50 as we didn’t bother with the sacred art museum (you can see plenty of this in the Evora Museum).

4. Pop into the Carriage Museum

Carriage Museum, Evora
Carriage Museum, Evora

Walk around the back of the cathedral and you’ll find one of Evora’s hidden gems. Part of the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, this small museum displays the family’s fine collection of carriages and associated items. Watch the short video for context and an insight into the lives of this high profile family.

Practicalities: Páteo de S. Miguel, Largo Dr. Mário Chicó. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 13:30 pm to 18:00 pm. €1.

5. Megalithic monuments

Almendres Cromlech megalithic standing stones near Evora, Portugal
Almendres Cromlech megalithic standing stones

Around the outskirts of the city you’ll find some of the oldest monuments in Europe, dating from 5500-4500 BC. These megalithic enclosures were built here because this was the crossing point for various rivers.

The biggest megalithic monument in the Iberian Peninsula is the double circle of standing stones at Almendres Cromlech, built around 7000 years ago.

Others of note are Zambujeiro dolmen, a funerary monument whose contents are on display in the Évora Museum (see below) and Almendres Menhir.

Zambujeira dolmen, megalithic burial chamber made from large stones, Évora, Portugal
Zambujeira dolmen

How to get there: You can visit 3 megalithic monuments and a cork oak forest on this megalithic tour from Evora or if you’re coming from Lisbon try this Small-Group Évora and Almendres Cromlech Full Day Tour.

6. Visit Évora Museum

Evora Museum
Evora Museum

In front of the cathedral you have the city museum. Having spent the previous morning on a tour of the nearby megalithic monuments, Jules and I were keen to see the first room of the Archaeology section. It contains the engraved slate plates, ceramic dishes, beads and other treasures that were placed with the dead inside the Neolithic Zambujeiro dolmen.

The exhibition progresses through the Bronze and Iron Ages to the Roman era. As you might imagine for a city that was important enough to have a Roman temple, there is no shortage of Roman sculptures.

The upper floor of the museum is replete with religious art including the altarpiece from Evora Cathedral and paintings by Grão Vasco.

Practicalities: Largo do Conde de Vila Flor. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm November to March and 10 am to 6 pm April to October. €3.

7. See the frescoes at Casas Pintadas

Both Jules and I are fresco fans so we were keen to see the Casas Pintadas (Painted Houses). These paintings of mythical creatures and other animals represent moral characteristics, virtues and vices and adorn a 15th century nobleman’s house.

While this artwork is around 500 years old, the exhibitions inside the Centro de Arte e Cultura are utterly modern, providing an interesting contrast. Make sure you go to the top floor to see the Inquisitor’s Room. It’s so dark that you can barely see the painted ceiling – instead, the details are projected onto a lumpy light display on the floor.

Practicalities: Largo do Conde de Vila Flor. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (7 pm May to September). €1 including entrance to the contemporary art exhibitions and the Inquisitor’s Room.

8. Pose beside the Roman temple, aka Templo de Diana

Roman temple Evora
Roman temple Evora

A surprisingly small but reasonably well-preserved Roman temple dating back to the 1st century AD dominates the square in front of the museum.

It was a hub for the city’s activity for a couple of hundred years until Germanic invaders destroyed it. You can’t go inside but if the weather’s nice and you want to simply contemplate its history, there’s an outdoor café in the small gardens beside the temple.

9. See the azulejos inside Cadaval Palace and Loios church

One side of the Roman temple is flanked by the Archbishop’s palace and the other by the Cadaval Ducal Palace. This latter palace adjoins the Church of Loios, which in turn is connected to the former convent, now luxury hotel.

The church is a wonderful example of how specially commissioned azulejo panels were used for floor-to-ceiling decoration and illustrations of saintly lives in the early 18th century. However, unless you pay €4 to step behind the thick red velvet curtain, you won’t get to see this as it’s still private property.

Practicalities: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. €4.

10. Wander the ancient corridors of University of Evora

Courtyard, University of Évora
Courtyard, University of Évora

While not as impressive (in my eyes) as the University of Coimbra, as one of Portugal’s longest running universities, Evora’s seat of learning is still worth a visit. The stunning cloistered courtyard is lined with lecture rooms that ooze history via their blue and white tile panels and the Grand Hall has some intriguing designs.

Practicalities: Largo dos Colegiais, 2. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm except holidays. €3.

11. Walk alongside the Agua da Prata / Silver Water aqueduct

Houses in the aqueduct, Evora
Houses in the aqueduct, Evora

Jules and I were staying very near to the 15th century aqueduct so we followed a tiny section of its 18 km length into and out of the heart of the walled city several times. This gave us ample opportunity to marvel at the impossibly narrow houses that have been built into the arches of this medieval waterway. You can even stay in one of them!

12. Go wine tasting in Évora

We had intended to visit a nearby winery but ran out of time. Instead, we went to the Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo tasting room, shop and information centre. For €3, you can taste 6 or 7 wines that are being featured that week. If you like any of them enough, you can buy some, or any of the other bottles they have in stock.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to taste some vinho da talha – wine made in giant terracotta urns like the one in this photo.

Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo, Evora
Rota dos Vinhos do Alentejo, Evora

Practicalities: Praça Joaquim António de Aguiar 20. Open Monday to Friday from 11 am to 7 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm.

If you’re coming from Lisbon you could try this Cork and Wine Tour around the region of Evora.

Where to stay in Evora – Best hotels and guesthouses

Well worth an overnight stay, Évora has accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.

You’ll find my top picks from the various categories in this dedicated article about Evora hotels.

Where to eat and drink in Évora

Probably my favourite restaurant in Evora is Taberna Típica Quarta Feira. 3 generations of the same family work tirelessly to produce delicious Portuguese food served with a smile. You don’t get to choose what to eat – it’s whatever the chef decides is the dish of the day. I’m a bit squeamish about fatty meat but we had braised pork neck which was slow cooked, tender and tasty and not too fatty at all. This was after a myriad of starters and followed by an array of desserts. At €30 a head including house wine, it was excellent value. 

Reservations are essential. Cash only. Rua do Inverno 16-18. Open for lunch Tuesday to Saturday and for dinner from Monday to Saturday.

Another rustic traditional restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths and a simple menu chalked on the wall is Adega do Alentejano, where the house wine is still drawn from large wooden barrels. After hearing that this is THE best place for my favourite tomato and bread soup, we booked a table. At this restaurant, not only do you get a poached egg in the soup, it comes with a side dish of fried Portuguese sausages. We also had the bacalhau dourada (golden cod), which was home made and tasty.

Rua Gabriel Victor do Monte Pereira 21A. Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday. Cash only.

We found a lovely ‘secret’ café down the side of the Carriage Museum, just through a gate on the left. We weren’t even sure it was open to begin with as we were the only ones there. The interior is lovely but the main feature is the outdoor terrace. Pateo de São Miguel. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

If you like pasteis de nata, Portuguese custard tarts to die for, or just pies in general, try the Fabrica dos Pasteis (Pie Factory). Tucked away on a side street near Praça Giraldo, you can eat in or take away but either way, you’ll be getting freshly baked sweet or savoury pies to make your mouth water. Alcárcova de Cima 10. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 9 pm.

How to get to Évora

The train from Lisbon to Evora (approx. 1.5 hours) runs several times a day from Entrecampos station.

Driving to Evora is easy as it’s motorway pretty much all the way – it takes around 1.5 hours, depending on traffic – compare rental car prices.

If you are short on time and don’t have a car, there are several full day tours from Lisbon that include time in Évora.

Staying in Lisbon? Then try this Small-Group Évora and Almendres Cromlech Full Day Tour.

Alternatively, you can take a private tour by one of my trusted partners, with an emphasis on sustainability and meeting local producers and craftspeople. Complete this enquiry form.

If your focus is more on the wine than the history, you may prefer this Évora Full-Day Tour with Wine Tasting from Lisbon.

Évora is also the base for my 3-Day Taste Of The Alentejo itinerary

Or a day trip on my 2-Week Discover Portugal Itinerary

Looking for a Portugal guide book?

Click on the links below to see my top picks via Amazon

My first choice would be a

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Portugal

, partly because I’ve contributed to them in the past and partly because I like the pictures, maps and layout.


Frommer’s Portugal Guide

is written by two well-respected journalists who live in the Lisbon area, one Portuguese and the other British. Having met them both, I would certainly trust their recommendations.

I also like Rough Guides’ approach to travel guides and their Portugal travel guide is no exception.

As for Portuguese phrasebooks, the best of the bunch is probably the

Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary

, which has sections on eating and drinking as well as all the functional language you’d expect and help with pronunciation.

Pin away!

Insider travel tips for Évora Portugal
Insider travel tips for Évora Portugal
Evora travel guide. Sights, restaurants, hotels, practical tips
Evora travel guide


  1. Hello, so glad to have discovered your website. I have signed up.
    My husband and I purchased a small studio apt in Paco de Acros and are back now for 4 mos to explore this beautiful country. We are going to Evora in the next few weeks for 4 days and staying just outside town to enjoy the area. Your suggestions for the town are most helpful- thanks! I will get back to you again when we next venture out of Lisbon.

  2. I remember visiting Evora many years ago, but we never visited the Chapel of Bones.

  3. I enjoyed your updated review of Évora, and you’ve pointed me to one or two places I didn’t know. I’m a great fan of the tomato soup at Adega do Alentejano, too. Re the Cathedral cloister – on our last visit, I nearly spent the night on the roof as they locked the door while I was up there!

    1. Lol. Good job you managed to get out! That soup…. drooling

  4. Thank you for providing so many fascinating places to see in Evora. We plan to visit there sometime in the next 10 days. It has been on our list for our 1st time visit to Portugal. Too bad there seems to be so much rain this year. We will spend a week in Lisbon and then a week in Oporto.
    We still need a little help in deciding how to best see the Douro Valley, even after we read your info.
    Thank you for your valuable information on so many places!!

  5. Must be awesome place. Thank You for Your excellent travel tip.

    Have a wonderful day!

  6. Sounds fascinating. A must see maybe next time in Portugal.

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