If you’ve ever imagined what it would be like to spend a night in a real museum, the Áurea Museum Hotel in Lisbon will make your dreams come true. Part museum and mostly hotel, this one-of-a-kind lodging option offers family travelers one of the most unique stays in the world.
When the Eurostars Hotel Co. bought the property along the Tagus River in Lisbon’s historic Alfama neighborhood, the site was already known to be home to ancient ruins dating as far back as the fourth century. As excavations continued, the plan of building a property that was part luxury hotel, part museum, began to take shape.
Today, the Áurea Hotel Museum sits atop the ruins of a portion of a Roman city that once occupied Lisbon, complete with the original Roman wall that protected the city from both the river and invaders. The beautifully preserved wall, a piece of Portuguese national heritage, serves proudly as the backdrop for the hotel’s restaurant. While much of the ruins have been preserved in what has become a museum, the wall itself runs the length of the dining area, giving guests the opportunity to relax in a modern setting right alongside an ancient remnant of the city’s past.
Ever since the property opened in 2018, it has welcomed guests to visit its museum with daily tours provided by an on-site archaeologist. Available for free to everyone, whether you are a guest of the hotel or not, this tour begins with ruins visible throughout the hotel’s ground floor where a trading post once existed. These ruins include what is left of a house and its beautiful mosaic floor, along with a display containing a collection of English and Dutch tobacco pipes excavated from the site.
The tour then continues behind the scenes, where a larger portion of the excavated site provides a snapshot of fourth-century daily life. Ruins of an ancient road, a fountain, dwellings and artifacts such as a 2,600-year-old Phoenician funerary tablet (the oldest written inscription found to date in Portugal) comprise the tour.
The hotel itself exceeds expectations with comfortable rooms and exceptional customer service from the staff. The location is ideal for exploring Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon, where the city’s architecture and tile work is at its finest. In keeping with its efforts to preserve the city’s beauty and traditions, a central courtyard creates a beautiful visual effect with a beautiful mosaic replicating the distinct wave design found throughout the city.
While you should definitely head out into the city to explore Lisbon’s world-class culinary scene, it is definitely worth catching breakfast at the hotel before you head out for a day of sightseeing. Unlike many European hotels, which offer a basic continental breakfast, the Aurea provides an extensive breakfast buffet with elegant details like fresh honeycomb and the city’s signature pastries, pastéis de nata. And as if that isn’t enough, there is always fresh water and a pastry-of-the-day waiting for guests in the lobby upon their return from exploring the city, giving you a pleasant reminder of the warm hospitality for which both the Áurea Museum Hotel and the country of Portugal are known.
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