Originally published on AWAYN’s website.
Whitewashed houses lined with yellow and coats of arms carved from stone, narrow streets leading to the lively main square known as Praça do Giraldo and impressive buildings from different periods…Welcome to Évora, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
The city is one of the oldest in Europe and is located in the heart of Portugal, in the central region of Alentejo. Its history starts five millennia ago with a Celtic settlement that was conquered by the Romans in 59 BC. During this time, ‘Ebora’ was one of the main wheat providers of the Roman Empire and you can understand the city’s significance by visiting the well-preserved Templo Romano, apparently erected in the 1st century to worship the goddess Diana and surprisingly, 14 of its columns are still standing.
The architecture of Évora is the result of a succession of Visigoths, Moors, Christians and Portuguese rulers. A clear example of this is Ruínas Fingidas, a monument next to the Jardim Público built with the remnants of constructions from different centuries.
Around the Praça 1 de Maio you’ll find the 16th-century Palácio de Dom Manuel, the city market, the ancient Jewish quarter and the Manueline-Gothic styled Igreja de Sao Francisco, which contains the unique (and creepy) Capela dos Ossos. This memento mori chapel is covered with the skulls and bones of approximately 5,000 people, which “await yours”, as noted in the inscription at the entrance.
Try to find the marble fountain of Largo da Porta da Mora and from there you can walk in the direction of the Cathedral and visit the beautiful building of the Universidade de Évora. If you travel between mid-September to the 1st of November, you’ll be able to enjoy the praxe , a ritual of initiation to the university life with different activities around the city. As I was told, J.K. Rowling was inspired by this tradition and included in her magical universe the capes that the students wear during this time.