Travel information: Visiting Évora
As usual we take every opportunity we get, even if only for a weekend, to travel. It’s always nice to meet new places and sometimes new places don’t have to be that far away… Bordering the Algarve – south of Portugal – heading north we find Alentejo region.
Now, Alentejo is well known because of its quietness, for the peace, for the heat that makes you want to fall asleep wherever you stand in the middle of the day, for its golden fields, for its food and wine…
In the heart of Alentejo there is a city that has been watching for 2000 years history unfold. It was home to the Celts, the Romans, the Moors and then the Portuguese. Before all of them, from the Chalcolithic to Iron Age, there were important events going on around this city, when it wasn’t yet a city, some of the most important megalithic structures were built.
Well, there sure must be something about this City, so let’s find out more about ÉVORA.
Évora is located in the Alentejo region in Portugal, like some other Portuguese cities and towns it was declared as an World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and the reasons are well at plain sight.
This city not only has several neolithic structures in its surroundings, but its old town centre is still partially surrounded by medieval walls, its monuments are well preserved, there are a significant amount of Roman traces everywhere, not to mention the odd show of human imagination that is the Chapel of the Bones, just to name a few. If you add to that the youthful environment of a city that has a well-known University, the bars, the restaurants and the music all around, then you get a perfect place to rest, chill and have fun, while you get to take a tour throughout history.
PLACES YOU CAN’T MISS
So, where better to start than the Neolithic and work our way to our days…
Almendres Chromlech and other Neolithic structures
If you like rent a Jeep for this part of the trip… Just an advice. You can take one morning, if you start early, to discover the Neolithic structures around Évora and on your way back to Évora you can make a small detour and go have lunch at Evoramonte. But let me tell more about this.
The Cromlech of the Almendres is a megalithic structure just outside Évora in the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe . The Cromlech consists in a group of structured menhirs, this group is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in the whole of Europe. It is believed that the place had a religious and ceremonial purpose, as well as being an astronomical observatory. It is beautifully placed on top of a hill and allows you to enjoy a wonderful view. Don’t forget to visit the Menhir of the Almendres, also, which is close by to the Chromlech.
Hopping from one neolithic structure around Évora to the other is really fun and so afterwards you can visit the Great Dolmen of Zambujeiro in Our Lady of Tourega, near Valverde. This great Dolmen must have been a funerary chamber and it’s also one of the biggest in the Iberian Peninsula.
Back from the Neolithic why not have lunch at Evoramonte, just a few miles off Évora and enjoy not only a fabulous view, but also the feel of a medieval village enclosed by its walls, with its castle still standing guard and a lovely restaurant with typical food and wonderful wine. Perfect place to stop and rest for a while before actually visiting Évora.
The temple of Diana and the museum
So, back to Évora head to the old town centre surrounded the medieval walls, the best is to park the car and walk. Everything is quite near and there is so much to see and you can only really see it if you walk. The buildings, the people, the cafes and in that walk you will for sure not miss the Temple of Diana. Beautifully place in the middle of the old town centre, near some cafes and its promenades you find the Temple. It was built in the first century A.D. and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Goddess of Hunt, Diana, but actually it was a tribute to the Emperor Augustus. Nonetheless, in the 17th century a priest came up with a legend that linked the temple to Diana and the name stuck. This temple was destroyed by the Germanics in the 5th century, its ruins, its stones were used on one of the towers of the Castle of Évora during the Middle Age. Later on, believe it or not, the late temple was used as a Butcher Shop and ironically this was what helped preserve the structure. By the second half of the 19th century the temple started being restored and it stands proud today in the centre of historic Évora just besides Évora’s museum.
This Museum has around 20.000 pieces and the building where it is located (between the Cathedral and the Roman Temple), stands on history. Some excavations disclosed the existence of roman paving, as well as some houses dating back from the Islamic period and graves from medieval times, all these beneath the foundations of the museum.
Visiting the museum will allow to see the influences of the people that lived in this area, you can find important pieces from Roman times, you can see the remains from Moorish culture, you can dive into Medieval days and you can see the wonderful works of Portuguese and foreign painters and so many others. It is truly worth your time.
The Cathedral of Évora
You find the Cathedral in the highest part of the city, it started being built in the end of the 12th century, right after the city was conquered from the Arabs and throughout the centuries it was a work in progress, rising from the modest gothic building from the first days to its actual grandeur. It is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal and it even played a part in Portuguese Discoveries, since it is believed that the flags from Vasco da Gama's fleet, in his first trip to the Orient, were blessed here. Don’t forget to visit the Cloisters, which are fabulous and to go to the upper storey of the cloister that offers an amazing view over the city and a different perspective on the cathedral.
Chapel of the bones
Located inside Saint Francis Church, this chapel is one of the most well-known monuments in Évora. At the entrance of the chapel we can read the following inscription: “We, bones that lay here, wait for yours”. The chapel is the work of three monks inspired by the religious spirit of the 16th century, the Counter-Reform, and they aimed to show how life was a mere passage and nothing more. With that in mind the message at the entrance of the chapel could not be clearer, except for when you cross the entrance and actually go inside, finding yourself surrounded by humans bones and skulls. All the walls and pillars of the chapel are covered in human bones and skulls, two desiccated corpses dangle from a chain and here and there you find another poem to enlighten you on the meaning of life… or not.
But Évora has much more, try having a coffee or a tea at Giraldo's Square - a central square that allows you to take your time and enjoy the view around - check the houses, the people, the architecture and basically breath a bit of Évora. Don't forget to check the Water Fountain there, which was built in 1571.
Then, you should definitely head to the public garden and enjoy the shade, particularly if it's one of those hot days... The public garden was built during the second half of the 19th century and it is basically a romantic garden that strechs over 3,3 hectares and offers a lot of exotic species of trees and plants. The garden is connected to the Woods and the Playground Almeida Margiochi and features a bandstand and the so-called Fake Ruins that evoke love and romance and it's near D. Manuel's Palace.
Finally, don't forget to check the medieval walls of the city and the Silver Water Aqueduct, which was built during the 16th century and provided water for the city.
Had you ever heard about the city of Évora?
Last, but not least…
Finally, it is very important where you stay and where you eat, so here are a couple of pointers, so that you can fully enjoy your stay:
M'ar de Ar Hotels - Timeless Charm Hotel
Convento Do Espinheiro, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa
And don't forget to try the restaurants on each of these hotels...
But, of course, there are others, for instance:
Restaurant O Antão
Or Restaurant Dom Joaquim
And, of course, Restaurant/Bar Molhóbico, which you really can't miss, because not only you'll enjoy a wonderdful meal, but you'll also be able to have some fun with a music concert or a stand-up night, well there is always something happening at Molhóbico...
And if you do visit Évora, don’t forget to let me know how it went…
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© Copyright May 07 2012 / Algarveview.hubpages.com. To use part or the whole article you must first get written permission from the author. Feel free, nonetheless, to use an intro of the hub with a link to the article here on hubpages for the rest of the article.
© 2012 Joana e Bruno