Castelinho38

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Meg Baber
Quixotic 1866 castle overlooking Rio from the heart of Santa Teresa, converted into a laidback 12-room hotel and artists’ forum
When you’ve tired of Rio’s bars and beaches, retreat to the bohemian Santa Teresa neighbourhood for a more relaxed sojourn. Its winding streets, crumbling mansions and ancient tram are fairytale charming; better still it's an artistic hotspot, sprinkled with studios and galleries.

Adjust to the pace from a hammock, swinging on the upper balcony of this elegant yet magically haphazard castelinho - literally ‘small castle’ - situated on the crest of Mount Santa Teresa. If you're at home with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture, and open to the prospect of meeting interesting guests, you'll love it. Absorb the stunning views over Rio while playing backgammon and sipping caipirinhas on the large terrace, complete with chilled melodies and slumbering Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Join the daily Pilates class in the overgrown garden, then cool off in the outdoor shower before you go exploring. Whether that's around the hotel or out and about in Santa Teresa, this place will have you hooked. Especially because you won't be burning your bucks on overpriced accommodation.

Highs

  • Vibes, views and value for money
  • Fab antiques in every room; staying here is like visiting an older relative whose house is full of objets
  • Friendly and attentive staff
  • Truly bespoke service; these guys will tailor an itinerary to meet your Rio-orienteering and partying needs
  • Great breakfasts served with awesome views on the terrace
  • Weekly-changing art in the lobby, plus exhibitions by local and international artists and photographers in the high-ceilinged hall

Lows

  • The barking of neighbourhood dogs sometimes builds to a cacophony
  • No air conditioning, except in the Suites Deluxe. But December-February is the only time when the heat and mosquitoes might give you sleepless nights
  • It's far from Rio’s famous beaches (20 minutes by taxi)
  • Santa Teresa is up and coming, and whilst there are lots of guesthouses, there are still limited bar and restaurant options. Expect public areas to be filled with tourists in high season

Best time to go

Visit at any time of year. December to February is the most humid, busiest and most expensive time, but also the most atmospheric owing to New Year and the Carnaval celebrations. July, August and September are the coolest months, but see less rain than other times.

Come in July if you want to experience Santa Teresa's Open Door Arts Festival, when artists open their studios and galleries to visitors - Castelinho38 plays a central role in this annual event.

Our top tips

If you're here during Carnaval, staff can source and hire out costumes for you (see the fantastic hats on top of the wardrobes in the bedrooms). A special Sunday brunch is also held on the terrace after Carnaval.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 11
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The owners’ local knowledge and great taste has enabled them to source fabulous vintage furniture from backstreet antique shops and flea markets. This means the mirrors, darkwood antique wardrobes, bedside tables, chests of drawers and lamps in the rooms are as unique as the artwork on the walls (provided as a gift by artists who have held exhibitions in the hall). This homely, artisan feel is further enhanced by colourful and varied patchwork quilts made to order in Minas Gerais, the vast gold-producing state in Brazil’s interior. Bathrooms are simple with basic toiletries and showers rather than tubs, though they have lovely antique mirrors and lamps.

In our opinion, it's worth splashing out on first-floor Mangueira or Palmeira, the Suites Deluxe in the main house, as the views through their original French windows are breathtaking and they are the only rooms with air con. Bougainville and Bamboo, both Master Suites, are also on the first floor and so benefit from the wonderfully high ceilings and stronger breezes. There are a further 2 Suites Deluxe (Abacate and Jabuticaba) which we're yet to see. They're set in an outhouse building in the garden and look like idyllic love-nests.

We'd also recommend modest Goiabeira, a Triple Room on the ground floor. What it lacks in terms of high ceilings, it makes up for with its calming pale blue décor and sense of space. This room or neighbouring Cactus (also a Triple Room) are ideal if you're bringing a small child, as they have a queensize double bed and an additional single bed. Just be aware that their bathrooms are across the hall rather than ensuite.

The Mini Apartment, Limoeiro, is aimed at families but we found it more befitting for revellers, as it's a little cramped and the stairs leading up to the 2 bedrooms are awkward. It would be fun and good value for 4 friends prepared to give up their privacy for Carnaval or other festivities.

The garden-facing Suite on the ground floor was full (usually a good sign!) so we couldn't have a peek inside. Samambaia is said to be the prettiest and most popular.

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Fan
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

To our delight, breakfast was better quality than at most of Rio’s top-end hotels and pousadas, and served on the sail-covered terrace with its fantastic views. The fruit selection is extensive, much of it sourced from the garden and varying each day to include mango, pineapple, star fruit, jabuticaba (Brazilian grapes), strawberries and different types of melon. Eggs are cooked however you please; salami, ham, cheeses and jams are all on offer; and there's a choice of fresh brown and white bread. Sweet bread, Bolo de Fuba cake and cheese bread are also provided. Most importantly, the coffee, freshly ground each morning, is excellent (perversely a rarity in Rio).

For lunch and dinner, the hotel offers a fixed menu based on Brazilian dishes - meat or fish, salads, rice and beans. Alternatively, there's a handful of fairly good restaurants and bars within walking distance. Jasmin Manga, the closest, is excellent for lunch (salads, bruschettas, quiches, pizzas and desserts). The homemade soup at Simplismente is delicious, but many of the other dishes are too salty. Asia, a British-run outfit at 256 Rua Almirante Alexandrino, is the swankiest restaurant in the neighbourhood.

Espirito Santa was our preferred restaurant in central Santa Teresa in terms of atmosphere and value for money. The neighbouring seafood restaurant Sobrenatural was disappointing (more lashings of salt), but the sushi bar Sansushi, close by on the same street, is good. Aprazivel, a short taxi drive away at Santa Teresa's uppermost peak, is undoubtedly our favourite restaurant in Rio - amazing views, a romantic atmosphere, delicious local cuisine and good value.

For drinks we liked low-key Bar do Gomez. Just around the corner from Castelinho38 is Bar do Miniero, touted by many travel guides as being ‘the meeting point’ for Santa Teresa’s resident artists, though when we visited we found it filled with Lonely Planet readers eagerly seeking these mythically bohemian locals but finding only each other.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander around the neighbourhood. Santa Teresa is heralded by many as Rio's coolest quarter, thanks to the bohemian vibe that pervades it. Saunter through its narrow winding roads and you'll come across stunning old mansions, art galleries, poetry recitals and authentic choro and samba performances
  • Ride the 100-year-old tram, the last remaining tram in the city and a Rio landmark. The Museu do Bonde tells the history of the tram since its origins, when it was pulled uphill by donkeys!
  • Visit the Carioca Aqueduct, a colonial structure used to bring water to the centre of Rio. It was converted into a bridge for the tram in 1896 - the tram still goes over it today
  • One of Santa Teresa's most famous inhabitants was the art collector Raimundo Otoni Castro Maya. Upon his death, his mansion was turned into a museum (Museu da Chácara do Céu); its exhibits include works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Jean Metzinger, Eliseu Visconti and Candido Portinari
  • Back at the ranch, there are Pilates classes every week day in the very retro gym (aka the garden)
  • Castelinho38 can also organise yoga classes, massages, Shiatsu, acupuncture and manicures; therapists will visit the hotel and provide treatments in the holistic room
  • Bespoke tours of Rio and the city’s favelas can also be arranged; enquire at reception

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Pilates
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome at Castelinho38.

Family friendly accommodation:

The Triple Rooms (Cactus and Goiabeira) are best suited to families, although those with young kids may prefer the Mini Apartment (but note there are steep stairs leading to its sleeping areas). All bathrooms have showers only (no tubs) and for some rooms the bathrooms are located across the hall.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots and highchairs can be provided.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Children's meals can be cooked on request.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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