Évora is considered the capital city of the Alentejo, a Center-South region of Portugal, about one hour and 30 minutes from Lisbon and three hours from Porto. This is a place full of history, still very much visible in its well-kept heritage. A trip to Évora is a journey back in time, and you will definitely feel like the main character of a historic novel while walking its streets. The only thing that might be challenging is to place your novel in a certain period in history, as monuments from different eras multiply in the city and give a perfect testimony to bygone ages. In this day and age, when successions of images seem to pass us at the speed of light, Évora contradicts that tendency by welcoming us into a new pace of life and to a new way of experiencing history and culture.
Given its excellently preserved historic center and the effort of the different institutions to keep the city a real-life museum for visitors from all over the world, the city has gotten used to being awarded several prizes throughout the last century. Recently, the city’s incredible heritage was again recognized with a fantastic distinction: Évora will be the European Capital of Culture in 2027. We promise you that this is a completely deserved award, and even though much longed for, we believe that it comes at just the right time.
After so many fast-changing events going on in the world in the past few years, with people trying to live as best as they can and hoping for better days, Évora and the Alentejo are precisely the perfect antidote to those days of hardship and portrait a new hope in the horizon. Évora represents all things good in life, as it is a city of cozy warmth: warm weather, warm folk and warm food. A city that is ready for whatever challenges lie ahead, because it has seen so many others throughout its history and still remained beautiful, calm and ready to welcome you with a smile. Welcome to Évora, the European Capital of Culture 2027!
What is the “European Capital of Culture” Award?
The European Capital of Culture is an initiative of the European Union aimed at promoting a city in Europe for a period of one year, during which the said city has the chance to show Europe its life and cultural development, allowing a better mutual understanding among the citizens of the European Union and world recognition.
This initiative started in 1985, due to a suggestion of the Greek Minister Melina Mercouri, who came up with the name European City of Culture. Initially, only one city was nominated each year, and the city was left with the responsibility of organizing the event with the support of the country to which it belonged. Different cities succeeded each other yearly in alphabetical order of countries.
In 1990, the Council of Ministers of the European Union decided to extend the initiative to other countries in Europe outside the European Union. This rule would only begin in 1996, the year in which a complete cycle came to an end, and was limited to countries that, according to the European Community, respected the principles of democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law. According to the new rules, it was suggested to alternate between member countries and other countries, just as it was proposed to alternate between capitals and provincial cities.
In 1999, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament decided to change the name from European City of Culture to European Capital of Culture.
Portugal has had 3 cities with this distinction in the past: Lisbon in 1994, Porto in 2001 and Guimarães in 2012. In 2027, it is Évora’s turn to have the spotlight!
Much has been said about Évora yet nothing seems to prepare you to the awe of arriving in the city that is a Portuguese art history book for the first time.
While easily accessible from Lisbon or Porto by car, train or bus, the best way to visit the city is to walk through the narrow, cobbled streets of white houses to discover the monuments and small details that reveal the history of Évora and the profound wealth of its heritage.
Even though the region of the Alentejo dates back to pre-historic times and presents still today a wide display of Neolithic monuments, the history of this city originated in Roman times, when Évora was elevated to the category of head of the surrounding municipality, and named Ebora Liberalitas Julia by Julius Cesar. Later in the 15th century, it was chosen by the kings of Portugal as a place of residence, a fact that contributed to the development and cultural importance it had in the following centuries.
Évora’s long history, and the fact that it has kept an extremely well-preserved urban center, representative of the Roman times, of the 16th to 18th centuries and all the centuries in between, until today, led UNESCO to classify Évora as a World Heritage Site in 1986.
A quick walking tour of Évora
Start at the Giraldo Square, a regular meeting point at the heart of the city, boasting a variety of cafes, restaurant terraces, stores and also the tourist office. At one end of the square is the Santo Antão Church and the marble fountain with eight spouts, representing the eight streets that lead to the square.
Walk from the arcades in the Giraldo Square to the nearby monuments, such as the Temple and the Roman baths, the medieval walls, the Cathedral, the Church of Graça and the Church of São Francisco, with its eerie Bones Chapel.
If you have the time, be sure to include in your itinerary the Museu de Évora, built in 1915 and renewed in 2009; the Fundação Eugénio de Almeida, an arts and culture center owned by the famous wine producer Cartuxa; and the old University, founded in the 16th century, and one of the reasons why Évora is so sought-after by the younger generations nowadays. It is also worth walking through the romantic garden where you can find the Palace of D. Manuel, the great sponsor of the Portuguese navigations. You can also vsit the Hermitage of São Brás, from the 13th century, located outside the city walls.
You can do all of this on foot, and while you walk you can stop along the way to refuel in the many delicious and inexpensive restaurants in town, offering traditional dishes. Enjoy the different types of cheese, wheat bread and charcuteries, as well as some of the best wines in Portugal, locally produced and at a very reasonable cost.
We told you before!
Whether for cultural reasons or quite simply to spend a relaxed weekend in a Tuscany-like scenery, Évora is an inspiring city with a lot to discover. Many people already visit the city every year in search of the quiet, simple way of life of the Alentejo, together with a world of unique history, culture and gastronomy, which is always available throughout the year in Évora. So why wait for 2027? Évora has its doors open for you now and is eager to show you the best of the country’s life and traditions at any time, without the crowds that you usually find in other stops. To us, Évora is the European Capital of Culture already, and we can safely bet that you will fall in love with it as well, from the moment you arrive.