Hotel Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil Book from US$340

Reviewed by Meg Baber
Luxury neo-colonial hotel in Rio's boho mountainside barrio, evoking tropical and ethnic Brazil in its art and interior design
After 3 years of painstaking restoration, this fabulous hotel quickly became the leading light in Santa Teresa when it opened in 2009. It's just as appealing today, and ideal for anyone seeking an indulgent base among the laidback bars, galleries and crumbling mansions of this arty neighbourhood.

The French owners' celebration of Brazil’s native art in the neo-colonial décor is impressive in itself. But combined with unrivalled cuisine, unique spa treatments, fantastic service and 44 glorious bedrooms, it's a knockout. This place is a seriously stylish cut above other hotels in the area - and the only Relais & Châteaux member in Rio to date. The techniques and wealth of experience brought to bear may be French, but - with the exception of the remarkably comfortable beds imported from North America - every other resource and material has been sourced from within Latin America. The end result is quintessentially Brazilian; refreshing in a part of town that others would like to turn into Montmartre.

Highs

  • The restaurant, Térèze, with its delicious global cuisine, pastoral yet elegant interiors and sweeping views
  • Le Spa - this neighbourhood's first, and the flagship of luxury Brazilian aromatherapy brand Natura
  • The 25m pool, with its lounge bar and awesome views up to the mountains and down over Guanabara Bay
  • Just a minute's walk from Largo dos Guimarães, the centre of Santa Teresa
  • Lovely little touches - free Havaianas wrapped up in a pretty box, fresh orchids in every room, welcome drinks on arrival

Lows

  • The hotel hosts weddings most weekends, so it can get a little noisy, especially around the pool
  • It's a 15-20 minute taxi ride from Rio's beaches
  • It's expensive for the area, and rates don't include breakfast or taxes
  • Given the rather dilapidated barrio, you might feel self-conscious emerging onto the streets from such an exclusive, upmarket hotel

Best time to go

Visit at any time of year. December to February are the busiest, most humid and most expensive months, but also the most atmospheric owing to the New Year and Carnaval celebrations. June, July and August are the coolest months, but also the driest.

Our top tips

Take time to admire the Brazilian arts and crafts scattered throughout the hotel - a small selection is available for sale at the mini boutique by reception. And, at the end of July, Santa Teresa's annual 3-day Open Door Arts Festival takes place, when about 75 artists open their studios to visitors.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 44
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Deluxe Room with veranda

Rooms

There are 44 rooms and suites, making this by far the largest hotel in Santa Teresa. All are light, airy and generously sized, with white walls, wood furnishings and a handsome mixture of indigenous Brazilian and neo-colonial décor. No 2 are the same, but smooth slate shower rooms, top-quality bed linen and exceptionally comfortable kingsize beds come as standard. We don't use the word 'exceptionally' lightly here - the owners took the 150% import tax on the fine North American beds on the chin, so intent were they on providing their guests with the optimum sleeping conditions.

Ground-floor rooms have smooth burnt-cement floors, while those upstairs have varnished wood floors. If you want a bathtub and a good view, make a special request. All rooms come with fresh orchids, giant wood-framed mirrors and fluffy white bathrobes.

The Superior Rooms are the smallest and cheapest. However, we found some on the first floor to be sunnier and more private than the more expensive Deluxe Rooms on the ground floor. Superior Room 22 has a view down to Rio through the foliage.

Of the Deluxe Rooms we saw, we recommend Room 3, furthest away from the main entrance and nearer the pool. It has a bath, too. Although their balconies are so small you can barely stand on them, the upstairs Deluxe Rooms felt more spacious inside than their ground-floor counterparts. Room 47 has panoramic views over the yellow spires of Santa Teresa's Anglican church to Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer.

The Junior Suites have sitting areas behind veil partitions and are slightly bigger than the Deluxe Rooms; number 32 has nice views over Rio. You could cartwheel across each of the huge Master Suites, and breathtaking views, fine art and free-standing bathtubs are guaranteed.

The Loft Suite takes up the entire top floor and boasts a panoramic 360-degree vista over Guanabara Bay and the mountains. It also has a balcony, living areas and a telescope for making the most of the view. Glorious.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Imagine a Florentine hilltop barn gracefully converted into a dining area and you have an idea of the atmosphere in the hotel's fabulous restaurant, Térèze. It's separated from the Bar dos Descasados (onetime slaves' quarters, now seeing better times) by ceramic tile steps that sweep up through the terraced garden to the pool and lawn.

The best tables are the round ones in the 5 large archway windows (come early to bag these). From here, you can enjoy views over Santa Teresa's eclectic jumble of dilapidated mansions while savouring creative cuisine from one of France's finest chefs, Philippe Moulin, who mixes things up by cooking Brazilian-Mexican fusion food using French methods.

Ingredients are sourced from the 4 corners of Latin America, so the dishes change in accordance with the seasons. On our 2014 revisit, our salmon tartare with coconut foam, grapefruit chipotle and guacamole was a winning starter, and we loved our main of suckling pig with mashed sweet potatoes, truffles and a red onion compote. Need we elaborate?

Breakfast - taken either in your room or in the restaurant - is also a work of art. The content is unextraordinary but the presentation, like all the food here, is inspired. A rainbow of fresh fruit - mango, papaya, strawberry - comes with a glass of yoghurt and granola flakes. Individual breadbaskets include the finest croissants we've found in Rio, plus delicious chocolate muffins and freshly baked rolls to go with the platter of cold meats and cheeses. The coffee and the giant wine glasses of orange and watermelon juice are all first-rate.

Should you want to venture out for a couple of meals, we recommend Restaurante Aprazivel, perhaps the most romantic eatery in Rio and only a 10-minute taxi drive away. Or try a traditional Saturday feijoada lunch at Bar do Mineiro, just down the road.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Térèze
Activity:

Activities

  • Luxuriate in Le Spa - use of the relaxation area and sauna is free for hotel guests. For full-on pampering, try the signature 'Tridemensional Anti-Stress Massage' or the 3-hour detoxifying, revitalising and relaxing treatments
  • Walk a mere 50m along the cobbled street to Largo dos Guimarães, the once-derelict heart of boho Santa Teresa, with its rickety old trams, colourful colonial houses, arty shops and authentic restaurants and bars
  • Visit the nearby Chácara do Céu, a small museum based in an old mansion house with an eclectic selection of contemporary art
  • Head down to Lapa (a 5-minute taxi ride) for the best nightlife in Rio. Try Rio Scenarium, Carioca da Gema and Estrela da Lapa for live samba and choro music and dancing until the early hours
  • Go up Corcovado - you're well-located for taking the 30-minute cab ride up the twisty roads to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, from where the view of Rio on a clear day is unbeatable
  • Visit Praça Quinze in historical Centro on a Saturday morning for the antiques market: the largest selection of bric-a-brac you'll find in Rio, set under a noisy flyover. For better-quality antiques head to Lapa on the first Saturday of the month
  • Rio's famous beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, etc) are all a 15-20 minute taxi ride away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, and extra beds can be provided free of charge for those under 12. Baby cots are also available, and babysitting can be arranged on request.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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