Évora; City of Kings and Queens

Évora is an old, charming and quiet city. Full of unique sites, with stunning landscapes, it also presents itself with centuries of history and a vast list of Portuguese heritage monuments and sites. If this isn’t enough to take you there, we can also tell you that Évora and the Alentejo region are known for having some of excellent wines, gastronomy, and ancient traditions. And did we mention Évora’s Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

History

Where is Evora? In the Alentejo geographic center, halfway between Lisbon and the Estremadura region of Spain.

Located on the heart of Alentejo, is heir to a rich and diverse cultural heritage, built and preserved over time. The Visigoth era between the 5th and 8th centuries left few notable traces but the ensuing Moorish rule had much influence, including the establishing of the town’s present name: under the Muslims it became Yeborah. Arches typical of the Moors still exist throughout the old labyrinthine quarters of the city.

The city was the stronghold that consolidated in Além-Tejo (beyond-tejo) the formation of the new kingdom of Portugal, during the twelfth century Christian peninsular reconquest. Following the consolidating of frontiers with Castela, several kings settled his court here particularly in the period of the maritime expansion. The well-preserved historic and artistic heritage of the city, resulted in good measure of that long permanence of the royal court. The monumental set that these golden times bequeathed to the city in harmony with the urban fabric of popular nature, underlie the classification of Évora as World Cultural Heritage since 1986.

In addition to this heritage, unique in the country, the region around Évora has much more to offer the visitor, meaning the unique megalithic archaeological landscape, one of the oldest and monumental in Europe, perfectly integrated into the surrounding countryside, being the megalithic enclosure of Almendres its utmost expression.

Architecture

The presence of the Moors can still be felt in the narrow maze of streets which wend their way around the centre, but which often lead to large, light squares which denote other eras. Its first city walls date from the 1st century BC when the Evora, then Liberalitas Jullia, first found itself under Roman rule. During this time the city became increasingly important in Iberia, occasioning the erection of many impressive buildings and monuments a fair number of which have remains that survive to this day. The Corinthian-like imperial temple, with its twelve granite columns, believed to have been dedicated to Diana the Goddess of the hunt, dates from the 2nd century AD and vestiges of the Roman walls can be found between the palaces of the Dukes of Cadaval and Counts of Basto. Under the present day town hall are also found the remains of Roman baths.

Places of interest include the impressive 9km long aqueduct built in the 1530s, the regional museum found in one of the many aristocratic palaces and the old Jewish quarter or the 12th century Roman-Gothic cathedral (the largest in Portugal housing the Sacred Art Museum), the Chapel of the bones decorated entirely with human bones and the Jesuit University.

Eating and Drinking Alentejo Style

The gastronomy of Alentejo is one of the richest, most notorious in Portugal and a worthy representative of the mediterranean diet.

In the past, life in Alentejo was very hard and the economical resources of the people were scarce. These factors made the tradicional Alentejo gastronomy to become simple but imaginative, by mixing the seasonal ingredients available to create dishes with origins which are easy to recognise.

In Evora and its surroundings it is easy to find a restaurant to taste delicious food served with the world-wide reputed wines of the region of Alentejo.  The many traditional dishes are invariably seasoned with condiments grown in Alentejo (coriander, mint, pennyroyal, oregano, olive oil, garlic, onions, laurel leaves,…).

Don’t forget to try the Alentejo bread, dense and tasty. Among many other dishes, Alentejo gastronomy is immediately identified on the so-called “açordas” or “sopas de pão” (bread stew/bread soup). They consist of simple but tasty broths in which you submerge Alentejo bread. Dishes names vary, depending on the Alentejo region you are.

In the pastries and cafes, pick one (or two) cakes from the amazing Portuguese pastry and/or a chicken pot pie.

Évora hides the fascinating character of ancient cities, both in the fabric of old medieval alleyways, in the exuberance of palaces, monasteries and churches or in places to socialize and taste the exquisite flavours of traditional cuisine.

What are you waiting for? Time to pack your things and go…

 

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