Mama Ruisa

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil Book from Book from £96 per night

Elegant French-owned B&B in bohemian Santa Teresa, with a pool plus views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay
Up in the hills of Santa Teresa there's an alternative scene to Rio’s beach life. Here a more colourful village feel exists - one favoured by artists and musicians and quite a contrast to Copacabana’s 1960s tower blocks. You're also closer to the famous Lapa nightlife than if you stay down by the beaches. French owner Jean Michel Ruis picked a spot right in the heart of this boho district to turn what was once an aristocrat's colonial home into a one-off 8-bedroom boutique B&B.

From its elegant wrought-iron verandas you can breakfast with views of Sugarloaf Mountain, and the stained glass, tall wooden shutters, garden and pool all remain intact. Bedrooms now gain from crisp French fabrics and mod cons, but scattered memorabilia maintains a link with the past to when Flying Down to Rio was the film of the moment. With high ceilings, there's a bright and airy feel throughout. Perhaps loveliest of all is the living room - enormous, and decked out in an eclectic mix of contemporary and antique furniture that Jean Michel has picked out from galleries, auctions and markets around the world.


  • Comfortable, elegant and spacious interiors with a dash of French style; we loved the quirky décor
  • You're in the heart of colourful Santa Teresa with its cobbled streets and authentic Brazilian restaurants
  • Convenient for the nightlife of Lapa and trips to see Christ the Redeemer
  • Personal service from the charming owner (assisted by resident dog Lilli and cat Mademoiselle), who can advise on Rio's quirkier, less touristy haunts
  • With only 8 rooms and a walled garden, the feel is intimate and relaxed


  • You'll need to take a taxi to get into town and the beach, but you can reach Ipanema within about 15 minutes
  • During our 2017 visit, some of the paintwork was a little tired and the pool lounger area was a little messy, but this was balanced out with the beautiful furnishings
  • There's occasional traffic noise during the day, but it quietens down at night
  • Breakfast isn't included in the rates

Best time to go

Visit at any time of year, but stay over a weekend for the best of the nightlife. February and New Year are best if you want to be around for Carnaval and the biggest parties; if not, these times are best avoided as prices soar and Rio is packed. July to September are the coolest months but also the driest. If you're here at the end of July, make the most of Santa Teresa's annual 3-day Open Door Arts Festival, when about 75 artists open their studios to visitors.

Our top tips

If you are interested in Brazilian art, design and architecture you are in the right place. The hotel features some stunning design classics, original pieces of art and is itself a fine example of a colonial mansion house. The living room is dotted with interesting pieces and there are a whole wealth of books on local artists and artisans. Jean-Michel is friends with some of the best local artists and will help arrange a visit to some of the galleries, or even to meet some of the artists and designers - a real treat.

Great for...

City Style
  • Boutique B&B
  • 7 rooms
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Amazonia - Deluxe Room


The 7 bedrooms are light, fresh and uncluttered. Original polished wooden floors and shutters hint at the past, while French fabrics add a contemporary touch. Many are named after a fabulously high-profile French or Brazilian woman, and often themed accordingly.

Enter Mama Ruisa's first-floor hallway, with stained-glass ceiling, and lead to our 2 favourite Junior Suites: Jean Cocteau and Josephine Baker. Each has floor-to-ceiling shutters opening onto a wraparound veranda, where you can sit in rocking chairs and gaze over Guanabara Bay. Jean Cocteau’s real draw is the bathroom, decked out in fading marble with period taps, a bath (with jets), a separate shower and mirrored walls - you can tell it once belonged to the flamboyant lady of the house. Also on the first floor, Junior Suite Colette (after French novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette) lacks a terrace but has a great view of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Garden-level rooms are slightly darker but a good size. The Carmen Miranda Junior Suite is adorned with books, pictures and magazines featuring the Brazilian star. Deluxe Room Pop has the liveliest décor plus a private little veranda. The other Deluxe Rooms - Amazonia, Lapa and Mascaras - have a more Brazilian feel, with indigenous prints and earthy tones.

Beds are kingsize or twin; bathrooms have soft robes, slippers and O Boticario toiletries. All rooms have air-conditioning, minibars, satellite TV and internet access.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Satellite TV
  • Slippers
  • Toiletries


After some late nights, we chose to take breakfast at Mama Ruisa and were kindly woken by gentle tinkling as it was laid out on the veranda outside our shutters. Served on fine blue and white china, it was a great start to the day: natural teas, fruit salad, yoghurt, cereal, pastries, jam and coffee. If you have a room without a terrace, eat by the pool or around the living room table.

Jean Michel is pretty knowledgeable on what's hot and what's not in the local dining scene. You are a short stroll from Santa Teresa's restaurants and bars, including our favourite place: Bistro Boutique (trendy clothes shop by day, intimate restaurant by night). Renowned Bar do Mineiro is also close. It serves simple Minas Gerais fare along with cold beers and strong caipirinhas. The atmosphere is friendly and it’s usually packed at key feeding times. For something more refined, head to super-romantic Aprazivel for classic Brazilian cooking with a French twist (5-minute taxi ride).The best tables are on the veranda and pretty garden, looking out to Guanabara Bay.

If you want to dine at Mama Ruisa, you’ll need to ask in advance.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Rest and rejuvenate: there's a pretty garden with a good-sized swimming pool with a handful of loungers - ideal for a break from sightseeing. Or spread out in the enormous living room with some pre-dinner drinks. Massages, manicures and pedicures can be arranged with notice, too
  • The very sweet and knowledgeable team can arrange a whole variety of trips or excursions. All the usual Rio visits are possible (Christ the Redeemer, sugarloaf, favela tours, etc). They can also arrange sailing excursions in the bay, microlighting and jeep tours
  • Walk out of the door into the heart of Santa Teresa, Rio's boho hillside neighbourhood with its rickety old tram, cobbled streets, colourful colonial houses, handful of arty shops, and authentic bars and restaurants
  • Go down to Praça Quinze in historical Centro on a Saturday morning for the antique market: the largest selection of bric-a-brac in Rio, situated under a noisy fly-over. For better-quality antiques head to Lapa on the first Saturday of the month
  • 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 10-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 the Corcovado - you're well-located for taking the 30-minute cab ride up the twisty roads to Christ the Redeemer, from where the view of Rio on a clear day is unbeatable
  • Rio's famous beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon) are a 15-minute taxi ride away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being


Children of all ages are welcome, though we'd suggest it's better suited to well-behaved, older children due to the amount of breakables and the large verandas. Most of the rooms can accommodate extra beds and they are set up to cater for children. There is a decent sized pool in the garden, too.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Mascaras is ideal for families as it has 2 bedrooms, though both are doubles. Other Deluxe Rooms can fit a baby cot (free), and Junior Suites can accommodate a cot and an extra bed (additional charge).


An English-speaking nanny can be arranged for babysitting.

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...

Based on 5 independent reviews from i-escape guests


The hotel is beautiful with amazing views and the staff were really helpful in organising transport, especially since we had four surf boards! The only thing I would say against it is that breakfast was not included and since it was very small - coffee, small fruit plate, tiny bowl of cereal, yogourt & toast - £15 per head, for four of us seemed very steep. When it's this small it should be included in the room price.


Beautiful house with fantastic views over the city. We had the junior suite which was an very large and had a private balcony overlooking the city on which we had our breakfast each day. The staff were excellent - very welcoming and friendly - providing us with suggestions on what to visit and how to find our way around the city. They really couldn't do enough for us. We really liked the location of the house - in Saint Theresa, away from the beaches. It felt very real and less touristy than some areas we visited and the views were beautiful. There are lots of bars and a few restaurants in walking distance too which was useful.


We had a very pleasant one night stay in Rio at Mama Ruisa in the edgy Santa Teresa district. The house is beautiful and very peaceful. We had the very spacious family room overlooking the swimming pool which accommodates 4 people very comfortably. The children enjoyed the pool with the view, and Lydia was helpful in advising restaurants (we had a great dinner at Spirito Santa nearby). It was just one night but perfect for what we needed.


I have to say having stayed in Rio for many years this was by far my most enjoyable hotel experience. From the moment I arrived all the staff were extremely friendly, if always respectful of one's space as well. The decor is incredible, the mix of the contemporary art, with the gothic religious icons and the kitsch pieces makes for a truly unique display that I personally loved. The house and space are wonderful, and I only wished I had been there on holiday so as to fully appreciate the pool and the local bars. The staff were incredibly accommodating of my work meetings, putting on breakfast for them. Overall it was a wonderful place to stay. Of course there are the issues of accessibility in Santa Teresa, but if you persist with taxi drivers it is not that hard to find one who will take you, even if they do grumble a bit. Highly recommended


Lovely location to explore the local area on foot, with great views from the terraces and pools. Felt like we were staying at a distant cool relatives home - rarely heard or saw the other guests, left to our own devices by staff (in a good way), and interesting decor and art. Best suited to couples rather than families.


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Rates for Mama Ruisa