The story of Évora dates back more than twenty centuries to Celtic times. This fascinating museum-city reached its golden age in medieval times when it became the residence of Portuguese kings.
Évora’s unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses richly decorated with tiles and wrought-iron balconies in many cases dating from the 16th century.
During the Roman occupation it was known as Liberalitas Julia, and the ruins of the city’s iconic temple are a striking reminder of those times.
The Christian city of the Visigothic period grew around the Roman walls that still enfold Évora’s well-preserved historic centre, and under the Moors further improvements were made to the city’s defensive system. Indeed, the remains of the kasbah and fortified gate are still visible today.
The initial construction of the cathedral started in 1186 and its final completion work took place in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Where to go in the Alentejo
Évora’s golden era began in the 15th century when the Portuguese monarchy started building royal palaces and a lavish convent in the city. From this period we can see the Royal Palace of St Francis dating from 1470, Convent of St Claire (1452) and the Lóios Convent and Evangelist Church of St John, both founded in 1485. These buildings (along with others in the inner city) are characterised by the Lóios Convent’s Manueline style of architecture.
Among other noteworthy buildings in the historic centre now protected under UNESCO World Heritage classification are the palace of the Counts of Basto built on the site of the Alcazar, the Church of the Knights of Calatrava and the convents of Carmo, da Graça, Santo Antão and Santa Helena do Monte Calvário.
After sightseeing in Évora, several key attractions can be found within easy striking distance of the city, such as the Great Lake of Alqueva (a premier boating destination in southern Europe), the magnificent and very historic town of Beja (founded by the great Julius Caesar himself), the charming border town of Elvas (home to the world’s largest bulwarked dry-ditch system), Vila Viçosa (once a much-favoured place of residence for the Portuguese royal family) and Marvão, a beautiful little village worth visiting for its spectacular views over nearby Spain.
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