At the center of the Alentejo (which is well communicated with Lisbon), the traveler finds Évora. It is a must-visit destination when in Portugal. Its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage; it has the largest cathedral of the country and many different monuments that make it unique, such as a chapel built out of human bones, a Roman temple, and a cute cromlech from the Neolithic era. Plus, it is surrounded by endless vineyards that offer delicious wine tasting. Do you see now why I said it is a “must”?
The Romans probably founded Évora. From this time, the main attraction is the so-called temple of Diana -which, however, was dedicated to the Imperial cult. Next to it (everything inside Évora is within walking distance!), the visitor can spot the enormous cathedral, imprisoned amidst many houses. It is a shame that there is no square around it, from where we can admire this fine work of architecture. I recommend going up to the ceiling and enjoying the view from there; it is simply breathtaking!
Not far away from here, there is a truly unique building: a chapel made of human bones! Yes, all the decoration inside is based on skulls, femurs… well, bones in general. There are over 5,000 skulls! This idea came from three monks who wanted to make sure that people attending mass would be aware of their mortality. In fact, at the very entrance, a Motus is making it clear: "we -the bones in here- wait for yours."
Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos
Apparently, in the XVIIth century, when it was built, there were too many cemeteries. So this place was a great solution for the excess of bones in the city. Creepy, right?
There are other places to visit in Évora: squares, churches, roman thermae, towers. The list goes endlessly! Just walk around, sit outside for a beer, enjoy the sun! Also, look for places that offer wine tasting. If you don’t have a car, you can do it inside Évora. For an excellent deal, you can taste many Alentejan wines -which are not super famous but are wines of high quality and even better price!
If you go to Evora by car, it may be of your interest to visit some vineyards. There are a lot of choices around the city! There is also a very special place, the cromlech of the Almendres- where many round stones are placed more or less on a circle, like an Alentejan Stonehenge. As always, its original meaning remains a mystery. There is another millenary footprint of the human being in the area: the Zambujeiro Dolmen, 13kms away from Évora. It is the biggest dolmen in Europe. It was built 5,000 years ago with 6 meters high stones, with a total diameter of 50 m.
If you are more into medieval monuments, you can also visit nearby towns. Following the line of the border with Spain, on the top of every hill, you will spot a medieval castle, surrounded by the typical white houses. It is the Alentejan Tuscany! I recommend Evoramonte, Vila Viçosa, Montemor-o-Novo… Do not hesitate: hit the road and have fun!
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