It’s a tricky thing to pull off mixing historic elements with modern design, but Hotel M’AR de Ar Aqueduto in Evora, Portugal manages to pull it off by keeping each in its place.
The centerpiece of the hotel—and its namesake—is the arched aqueduct running into the walled city of Evora from a water source miles away. It was built in the 1500s and is in full view from one restaurant, the grounds, and swimming pool. The history in this UNESCO World Heritage city ends there, however, as the contemporary design hotel is unabashedly modern throughout.
M’ar de Ar Hotel works as a well-designed experience, the wide hallways and ample full windows working well with the clean lines and white interiors, contrasting with the greenery just outside. The whole swimming pool complex is sunny and inviting, even in early May when we were visiting, as the water is heated when the weather cools off. Plenty of lounge chairs are at the ready and you can flag someone down for a glass of Alentejo wine with some local cheese and olives.
The main restaurant is on the second floor, with a view of the arches. Named Degust’AR, it serves Mediterranean cuisine on a covered terrace or inside. Further inside is an attractive and spacious cocktail lounge with a variety of spaces to cozy up with a partner or share stories with a group. The adjoining reading room has beautiful coffee table books and two computers guests can use gratis.
A large spa is on site for anyone looking for treatments and since my traveling partner wife not just wanted but needed a good massage while there because of some back issues, I can vouch that the services and atmosphere are top-notch.
The 62 rooms at M’ar de Ar are beautiful, comfortable, and functional, a holy trinity that very few contemporary design hotels manage to pull off. While the lighting is attractive and the furniture photographs well, you don’t get frustrating by maddening controls or struggle with cutesy bathroom fixtures that empty into splashy sinks.
There are three main room classes, the “classic” ones being the smallest (but still ample), the next step up having more room, and the suites being two full rooms. Try to book a room facing the aqueduct from the furnished terrace or balcony. All have HDTVs, safes, minibars, single-cup coffee makers, and robes. The spacious baths have a separate tub and shower and a partial glass wall lets in some natural light. Room service runs 24 hours and wireless internet is complimentary.
Staffers were fluent in English and very helpful during the two nights we spent in the hotel while touring Portugal by bike and they helped us store the bicycles in a locked room each night. This has a reputation as the best hotel in Evora, but at a price that’s quite reasonable for Europe.
Rates at M’ar de Ar Hotel Aqueduto start at about $185 double with breakfast when booked direct, but sometimes you’ll find lower rates on booking sites like Hotels.com or Priceline. Either way, they run more than $300 for a suite.