Portugal Roadtrip: Alentejo

The Alentejo region of Southern Portugal is flat, dry and hot: all expansive plains, brush and porco preto. Driving into the sunset past vineyards, olive groves and agriculture felt like a meditation, slowly drying the thoughts.

Photo: Goncalo Verdasca

Photo: Goncalo Verdasca

The plains. The fields. The brush. 
All ends at the bone cathedral.
Cork, wine, and olives…Evora.

Alentejo (A Haiku)

Évora

is a historic city with Moorish and Arab influence, its perfect beauty cast in warm sunsets, tucked between vineyards, and well-preserved behind medieval walls.

If you’re lucky, you might hear Cante, the traditional Polyphonic ballads of the farmland.

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Évora is home to one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in: Pousada Convento Evora.

Pousadas are a special Portuguese phenomenon started by the government in the 1940s to help drive tourism by repurposing historic sites as hotels. 40 hotels are spread across the country under the “Pousada Portugal” umbrella, in former castles, mansions, fortresses, and monasteries.

Évora’s Pousada is in a former convent—the hotel rooms used to be monks cells. Pousada Évora once housed the King of Portugal, who’s honored to this day by the Pousada’s “Bolo Real,” a special cake only served there, its recipe closely guarded.

Bolo Real (the slice above) is served at the Pousada Évora’s outstanding breakfast buffet—along with other special cakes, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, charcuterie, and regional jams made from tomatoes and squash.

Our server revealed a secret ingredient of the “Bolo Real” cake which is…squash. It tasted like hazelnut cake with filaments like spaghetti squash and I swore to one day try to recreate this or convince George to.

The best restaurants in Évora

Full disclosure: we didn’t make it to the restaurants I wanted to go to. We waited too late and didn’t make a reservation. So if you go to these places, please plan ahead and share so I can live vicariously through you!

Taberna Típica Quarta-feira is a traditional restaurant serving regional Alentejana specialties in a tasting menu style for a fraction of the price you’d expect. They describe it best:

“Heir to the traditions of the old taverns of the city, the old “Tavern of the Brush” has a unique atmosphere, captivating and difficult to forget.”

Taberna Típica Quarta-feira

Around the corner, Restaurant Botequim da Mouraria provides an intimate culinary experience with only eight seats at the bar, and all food prepared and served by a husband and wife duo.

Tired from bickering the night before (nobody said Long Distance Relationships are easy!) but so in awe of Évora’s gravitas, we spent the following morning walking the city.

The Capella dos Ossos (Cathedral of Bones) is a must see, and the connected museum is a great place to learn about the history of the city.

We bought socks from Pedemeia, some cork souvenirs and a few cod croquettes for a snack before returning to the road.

I loved the pool at Pousada Convento Évora!

I loved the pool at Pousada Convento Évora!

We had a lot of ground to cover before arriving at our destination of Sesimbra, a picturesque seaside town, just South of Lisbon…

Read about the next leg of our journey here!

PS - If we had more time in the Alentejo, I would have loved to have visited a vineyard as so many great ones are just around Évora, such as Quinta do Quetzal and Mouchau.