Évora: The Unexpected Beauty of Portugal

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When I added Évora to my Iberian itinerary, I didn’t have many expectations.  I heard it was a lovely town, but my main goal was to see the Capela dos Ossos, the bone chapel.  Anything else would be a fringe benefit.

Sometimes, going into a place without expectations is best — because I was absolutely bowled over by the beauty of Évora!

The first thing you notice in Évora is the Moorish influence — the streets are filled with short whitewashed buildings with mustard-yellow trim.  You see this style throughout the old part of the city.

The street signs add to the decor nicely:

Like many small towns in Europe, the town square is the center of activity.  Évora’s Plaça de Giraldo doesn’t disappoint — it’s the kind of square where you could sit for hours.

It reminded me more of Italy than anywhere else in Portugal — you can have an Italian-style plaza experience, down to the well-groomed people sitting at the cafes, without needing to book Italy flights or Rome short stay apartments.

Don’t let the weather in these photos put you off — everyone in Évora told me it had been the first cloudy day in three months.  Portugal’s fabulous weather is such a big secret — I don’t know why everyone doesn’t know it!

But cloudy weather made it a good time to head indoors.

And yes, I made it to the Capela dos Ossos.  The chapel was small, but filled with so many bones, skulls and femurs stacked tightly on each other.  Expect to see much more on this soon.

And finally, I’ve been eating lots of pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, in Portugal, but I had THE BEST ONE EVER in Évora!  The filling was so smooth, the crust had the perfect amount of crunch, the sugary top was melted but not charred — it was perfect.

I don’t remember the name of the cafe, but it was a modern place with “Inn” in the name, right on Plaça de Giraldo.

Finally, I decided to see where I could get a great aerial view of Évora.  It turns out that you can climb the towers of the Se, the cathedral, and walk around on top.

I wouldn’t call it the safest activity in Évora.  This is one you should skip if you have young kids — the barriers are more or less nonexistent!

But the views are pretty remarkable.

And just for good measure: Évora has a Roman temple!

It’s easy to get to Évora from Lisbon — it’s a 90-minute bus ride, and several run each day.  The train is a bit slower and less frequent.  You could do it as a day trip from Lisbon, but I’d recommend spending a few days there to soak up the atmosphere.

This is one place in Portugal you shouldn’t miss!