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Évora - A view from our expert author


Cathedral Evora Alentejo Portugal by Migel, ShutterstockÉvora's cathedral towers over terracotta roofs © Migel, Shutterstock

Évora is eternally youthful, its streets rejuvenated annually by the arrival of fresh batches of students rushing to attend lectures at the Alentejo’s biggest university, gathering to gossip under the arcade in the Praça do Giraldo and nursing weekend hangovers over thick, steaming coffees in the town’s myriad cafes.

Nowhere in the Alentejo is more redolent with history than its capital, Évora. Rising in narrow, winding Moorish streets to a central praça, crowned with a magnificent ruined Roman temple, ringing with the peal of bells from an array of Portuguese Golden Age churches and littered with stately mansions and monuments, the city has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. Its listing as such owes as much to its architectural unity as it does to its magnificent churches and small museums, for while Lisbon was levelled by the 1755 earthquake, Évora retains its medieval and Renaissance buildings. Nowhere in Portugal better preserves the country’s architecture of Empire.

Évora is large enough to lose yourself in over a long summer day – idly wandering the cobbles, pausing to visit the Roman Temple, the cavernous cathedral and the beautiful churches of the Convento do Carmo and the Igreja de São Francisco (with its grisly chapel of bones). There are countless cafés serving local cakes, pastries and thick coffee, and fine restaurants dishing up traditional cooking from the area. The shopping is the best in the region – not just for souvenirs, but for everyday items like shoes, clothes and hats, which are so much better value in Portugal than back home, and for fine food and drink, including wonderful Alentejo wine, aromatic cheeses, pastries and cakes.

But Évora is more than a historic monument. It is a bustling community too. And while many of the smaller villages in the Alentejo feel abandoned by the younger generation, Évora is eternally youthful, its streets rejuvenated annually by the arrival of fresh batches of students rushing to attend lectures at the Alentejo’s biggest university, gathering to gossip under the arcade in the Praça do Giraldo and nursing weekend hangovers over thick, steaming coffees in the town’s myriad cafés.

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