The history of the Convent of Santa Cruz do Bussaco (Convento de Santa Cruz do Bussaco) dates back to 1628, when the Order of the Discalced Carmelites founded, in the forest, the only Portuguese Deserto (place of retreat). Of this complex, which included the convent and small chapels (representing hermitages), the church has survived.
After the extinction of the religious orders, the Convent of Bussaco (Convento do Bussaco) remained in state ownership and in the last decades of the 19th century the Minister of Public Works, Emídio Navarro, proposed that a hotel be built, commissioning the scenographer Luigi Manini with the project.
The building in neo-Gothic style, Manueline-inspired, is considered the most important work done by Manini, and was designed as a mansion, with three floors and a turret, in which are visible a series of architectural elements that evoke the Portugality and symbolism around the empire, such as profiles of the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), among others. This work began in 1888 and was completed in 1897.
In 1905, the architect Norte Júnior designed a second annex building, the so-called Casa dos Brasões (House of Arms), in which he maintained the Neo-manueline language of the main body. The elevations of this building include the main windows inserted in perfect round arches, cordons, medallions and the coats of arms that give the space its name. Norte Júnior was also responsible for the wing connecting this building to the Casa do Cedro, around the church, and for the remodelling and extension of the Casa dos Embrechados, as well as the interior works commissioned by Alexandre de Almeida, the hotel entrepreneur who modernised the complex in the 1920s.
The interior of the hotel boasts a veritable palatial feel, with luxuriously decorated spaces, which decorative painting, sculpture and tile programmes were given to renowned artists of the time, such as António Ramalho, Carlos Reis, João Vaz, Jorge Colaço and Costa Motta Sobrinho. The furniture and tapestries, an authentic museum collection, are also of admirable wealth and beauty, including Portuguese, Chinese and Indo-Portuguese pieces.