It's nine in the morning. Busses start picking up passengers, students run to schools while their parents rush to offices. It's a common day in Évora - a city full of history, which we'll enjoy walking around and finding beautiful surprises, but for now it's time for breakfast and a brief chat about the city.
Even though it's early, the weather is quite promising. It will definitely be a great one! The climate is Mediterranean here and it's usually warm in Évora.
Évora is almost the capital of Alentejo, being the most populous city in the interior of the country with more than 50,000 people living and working there. In addition, it is a top city for students to follow their passions and take university courses. In fact, students are the soul of the city. Évora has a very elderly population and the students help to improve the dynamics of the place.
In addition, it has been classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1986 and we clearly understand why. The vestiges of the Romans, the Gothic, Romanesque and Manueline styles, as well as the huge wall that surrounds the city, make it a unique place in Europe.
The first place we decided to visit was the Roman Temple of Évora. I was curious because I had never visited that place and it is very famous in Portugal - it is such a gift that a monument like this has been preserved to this day!
Despite all the destruction suffered when the barbarian peoples invaded the region, the superb rectangular monument keeps its original features and the podium made of granite blocks is almost intact. The Roman Temple, also known as the Temple of Diana, is located at the top of the city, along with a beautiful garden where families enjoy sunny days over the weekends.
Igreja dos Lóios (Church of Lóios)
After leaving the temple, which is completely free of charge, you can visit the public library and Igreja dos Lóios, also known as Igreja de São João Evangelista, it is a place where Count Olivença and his all family rest in peace.
Next to a Muslim cistern (from the time when the Moors occupied the city), there is an opening in the ground where you can see many bones of the old monks (Lóios) who were there. But it's not just the dead bodies you'll find – you'll also be able to admire the beautiful tile panels and remarkable Gothic architecture.
Speaking of bones, there is a place that is an icon of the city, its name is Capela dos Ossos, in English “Chapel of Bones”. The name is weird, but it’s even more macabre as soon as you enter there – the morbid place has around 5,000 corpses decorating the walls and also skeletons hanging from ropes.
Arriving at the Chapel of bones, at the entrance you will find the message “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos", which in English means “We bones are here await yours”.
After this adventure, we decided to go for lunch. It's actually not a good idea after seeing all those bones, but the small restaurants were drawing us in with the smells wafting through the streets from the kitchens. It was 1pm and many people had begun to sit on the lovely terraces to enjoy their meals: tourists, workers and also students. The variety is huge and there are also cosy little vegan restaurants to eat at.
After lunch we decided to explore the beautiful Évora aqueduct, which we didn't expect to be so big. The aqueduct ends in the city of Évora and is home to people. Yes, there are houses built in the middle of the aqueduct, taking advantage of the stone walls.
The construction of the Água de Prata Aqueduct was started by D. João III in 1532. Évora has no river or sea nearby, so this 18km aqueduct continues to supply the city with water, even nowadays.
Also, we left the city (near the Cartuxa convent, which is closed to the public, as there are still monks living inside) and discovered a walking trail to walk along the aqueduct – if you go for it, it can be a good way to exercise your legs!
Built in 1915, it shows the history and culture of Évora. There are still several pieces of art that have been fundamental since the first people came to live in Évora. As part of the visit, you will find rare prehistoric artefacts and jewellery.
Panoramic view at Sé de Évora (Cathederal of Évora)
We decided to end our day at the highest point in Évora, the Sé de Évora, which turned it into an incredible viewpoint over the city's landscape, in addition to the beautiful garden and wonderful artworks that we found there.
For history lovers, I believe that this Sec. XIII cathedral is one of the main attractions of the city. There we found Gothic art, as it is a monument that shows a transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style.
São Brás do Regedouro
Leaving Évora is always a difficult decision to make. There is always something else to visit and a one-day visit can be too short for everything. So, we decided to stay in São Brás do Regedouro (15 minutes drive from the city centre) to rest, wake up early and return to the Algarve the next day.
If you've never heard of this village, São Brás do Regedouro is a small place with only 70 inhabitants in the Alentejo, which gives its name to a local accommodation project located in the heart of São Brás do Regedouro. We stayed in one of the traditional houses they have and loved it.
Arriving at São Brás do Regedouro we were warmly welcomed by the locals and by Margarida and Ricardo (the owners). But not only humans welcomed us, we were also very well received by a cute puppy and two ducks that walked freely through the stream that passes directly by the properties. It was the beginning of a wonderful story in this charming hidden village!
As a tiny village, São Brás do Regedouro has a low economy and an ever diminishing population. However, this new tourism village project brings new a life to the site and is helping the local producers. All this has been possible thanks to the efforts of siblings Ricardo, Margarida, Carlos and their father, Vítor Ribeiro.
If you go to São Brás do Regedouro to stay, you can also enjoy a visit to the small village that offers a completely immersive experience of what it is like to live in a Portuguese farming village.
If you use public transport, please note that you will be limited when planning to visit nearby villages like São Brás do Regedouro. However, it will be no less fun!
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252