Evora – an Alentejo plains outcrop

Sometimes, going into a place without expectations is a revelation. Evora is a city off the tourist trail yet offers a lot for the casual visitor. Evora is in the Alentejo, a Portuguese wine region in its own right. Nicely tucked away in wine country packed with historic attractions.

The first thing you notice in Evora is the Moorish influence — the streets are filled with short whitewashed buildings and have an unmistakeable mustard yellow trim. 

Like many small towns in Europe, the town square is the centre of activity.  Evora’s Placa de Giraldo doesn’t disappoint. It’s the kind of square where you could sit for hours and during our leisurely lunch, we paused to take in the scenery around square and watch the world go by. Following some research, this public square was where public executions took place during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, people come and go…alive. Just walking the cobbled winding streets is a fine way to spend some time in any city – lanterns hanging from walls and ivy and flowers cascading from walls.

Nothing is too far to walk to in Evora from the main square. When imaging ruins from the times of the Roman Empire scattered around the world, Evora wouldn’t be the first location that would come to mind. The Roman Temple, the Temple of Diana, from the 1st century AD is in remarkably good shape. Today, the ruins are undergoing restoration and it is possible to see several of the Corinthian columns in situ, which gives some idea of how it would have looked nearly 2000 years ago. And it is located virtually in the centre of town.

There is a small park behind the temple that offers nice views over the area beyond Evora.

As is the case in each city we visit, we oblige with a stop into Evora’s Se Cathedral. The cathedral dominates the town’s ‘skyline’. To be honest, it looks more like a fortress with its weathered granite than a cathedral. It’s one of the largest medieval cathedrals in southern Portugal and is said to be built on the site of a former mosque – what a surprise in this part of the world which was inhabited by the Moors, practicing Muslims. 

The interior was impressive with an 18th-century high altar and polished marble. 

We finished our tour of the cathedral by wandering around the cloisters.

On our departure walk, we paused to take a look at the intriguing Church of Our Lady of Grace. What caught my attention were the four stone statues atop the baroque facade. The figures seem to be supporting massive globes.

Evora was a nice way to break up the road trip to Merida from Lisbon. It’s a beautiful city full of amazing sites and is a worthy addition to any Portuguese road trip.

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