The Historic, Underrated Town In Portugal That Reminds Rick Steves Of Tuscany, Italy

There's something special about Portugal that attracts millions of visitors every year. You can visit the country's sprawling vineyards in foodie and wine-lover destinations like the Douro Valley, stay at some of the most iconic European hostels in Lisbon, soak up the sunshine in one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve, or travelerblog historic sites in and around Porto. Needless to say, the European destination has plenty going for it in terms of mouthwatering cuisine, cultural attractions, and natural beauty. However, Portugal's true allure starts to shine when you venture off the beaten path and into the more rural and untravelerblogd destinations. One of these — favored by travel expert and writer Rick Steves — is the unassuming, yet captivating, town of Évora.

Nestled in Portugal's picturesque Alentejo region and just 80 miles east of Lisbon, Évora is a little town filled with history and charm — both of which transport Steves back to another traveler-favorite gem: Tuscany, Italy. Luckily, however, Évora still remains relatively undiscovered — meaning you can still wander cobblestone streets and sip local wine without hordes of tourists and tour buses to crowd you along.

Exploring the best Évora has to offer

With a combination of Roman, Moorish, and Portuguese history shaping its architecture, Évora has plenty to see. For starters, there's the Roman temple — also known as the Diana Temple. Considered one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the Iberian Peninsula, the Diana Temple was officially declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

From there, there's also the Cathedral of Évora. Known to locals as Sé de Évora — and built between 1186 and 1250 — the building is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal, boasting two towers (one of which functions as a bell tower), a dome, and a collection of three wood carved altars on the inside. Along with this, the cathedral is also home to a religious art museum, which houses a collection of centuries-old paintings, sculptures, and jewelry.

Last but definitely not least is the Church of St. Francis — which coincidentally happens to be Rick Steves' favorite over the Cathedral of Évora. Inside, you'll find the macabre Chapel of Bones — adorned with a collection of human skulls and bones that the monks arranged along the walls. Per local history, the remains once belonged to over 5,000 people whose bodies had to be exhumed once the cemetery became too crowded. A symbol of our own mortality, the bones were placed there as a reminder of where we come from and where we're headed, with a nearby (and, let's be honest, relatively ominous) plaque that reads: "We bones that are here, await yours."

Where to stay and dine in Évora

The best thing about Évora is that, because of its proximity to Lisbon, the town can easily be travelerblogd in a day before making your way back to the city. That said, Rick Steves explains that a better way to soak up even more of the town's atmosphere is to actually spend the night there.

First, in terms of accommodation, you'll be happy to know that Évora caters to all wants and budgets. So while the more upscale Octant Évora (starting at $511 a night) might be a great choice for travelers looking to soak up a touch of luxury, the town also offers mid-range options like the Convento do Espinheiro ($235 a night) — located within the grounds of a fully-renovated 15th-century convent — and M'AR De AR Muralhas ($120 a night). Alternatively, Airbnb is also a great option, with cozy apartments starting around $80 a night.

Now when it comes to dining, one of the best local experiences is the Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira. Family-owned and operated, the restaurant doesn't have a menu where you can pick and choose what you'll eat that evening. Instead, the dishes and drinks change daily — depending on what's available fresh — and works similarly to a tasting menu experience. Just be warned: The restaurant is small, which means it tends to book up very quickly, sometimes even weeks in advance. If you are planning to eat there (and, trust us, you really should!), you're better off booking before trying your luck.