Solar do Carmo

Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Nikki Tinto
A little gem - a beautiful private home in the old colonial town of Ouro Preto
Not too far from the bright lights of Rio in the state of Minas Gerais is Ouro Preto. Born from the discovery of gold in local hill streams back in the 17th century, this town boasts some of the finest Baroque architecture in Brazil. With its steep cobbled streets, fountains, churches and sweeping mountain backdrop, it is truly picturesque.

Of the many places to stay, Solar do Carmo was the one that captured our imagination. With just 3 bedrooms, this is more home than hotel, with scattered family photographs, fine antiques and an enchanting small garden that overlooks the terracotta rooftops and surrounding hillscape. Owner Marcia Litchfield, an Anglo-Brazilian patron of the arts and former editor of Vogue Portugal, has restored this 18th-century townhouse with exceptional taste and artistic flair. The contemporary paintings, polished hardwood floors, Persian rugs, and an elegant sitting room complete with candles, fresh flowers and piles of glossy books and magazines make it stylish yet comfortable.

Highs

  • Attention to detail and personal service - you feel like you're staying with a very stylish friend
  • Marcia - a fascinating and gracious host
  • Being pampered by the housekeeper Marcinha - hot-water bottles at night and homemade cakes at breakfast
  • A stone's throw from the main square and next to the opera house - Marcia organises a Baroque music festival in July and a 3-day Poetry and Music festival at the end of November
  • Ideal as a side trip from Rio and the perfect antidote to the beaches

Lows

  • Although the house is fully staffed and the housekeeper is on hand to assist, staying when Marcia is away may not be quite the same experience (see when to go)
  • Don't expect all the facilities of a hotel - no phones, restaurant etc. Solar do Carmo wins on charm, not chain-hotel convenience
  • We've had reports that breakfast is a little limited

Best time to go

Ouro Preto has a much cooler climate than the coast - it's pleasant during the day but cold at night. From November to February you should expect daily showers with warm temperatures. February is the warmest month, with average highs of 28C. April to October are typically drier and cooler. Temperatures in July can drop to 10C.

Come at Easter for the processions, in July for the mini Baroque music festival or at the end of November for the 3-day poetry and music festival. Marcia usually stays at the house from November until mid-February and then again from the end of March until the end of July (it's best to avoid March, August, September and October when she's in the UK). If you have a choice, it's better to be there for the weekend when Ouro Preto is at its most lively, or from Tuesday to Thursday. The majority of churches are closed on Mondays.

Our top tips

We'd recommend a stay of 2-3 nights to explore Ouro Preto's museums and churches - longer if you're here during one of the festivals.

Bring warm clothes for the evening and good walking shoes - there are lots of steep cobbled streets. The town's architecture is a photographer's delight, so make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 3
  • Breakfast and light supper only
  • Over 14s welcome
  • Closed: 24 Dec 2016 - 26 Dec 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

There are just 3 bedrooms: 2 doubles and a twin. Each is different but all are filled with Marcia's antiques and personal touches - writing desks, prints of exotic birds and potted orchids. They may not have the latest plasma screen TVs, but what they lack in modern gizmos, they make up for in charming details - a flask of water by the bed, Egyptian cotton sheets, hot-water bottles in winter and embroidered pure linen in summer.

Bathrooms are spacious with showers (no bathtubs) and exquisite trinkets - silver and crystal scent bottles, pretty embroidered towels, bathrobes and a limited selection toiletries.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is a treat: cereals, homemade cakes, bread, honey and jam, cheese, ham and smoked salmon are served at the long, elegant dining table amid silver candelabra and cut crystal. Do be sur. A good selection of teas, as well as coffee, hot chocolate and fresh watermelon or orange juice are also offered.

No formal evening meal is served; instead Marcia offers her guests hot soup at 8.30pm (included in the room price). She may also whip up a fresh pasta dish (her sister lives in Italy) - a welcome respite from the heavy Mineiro dishes. If you're looking for something more substantial, Ouro Preto has a good selection of restaurants and Marcia has plenty of recommendations.

During the day you can ask the staff to make you tea or coffee, and you can help yourself to drinks from the honesty bar - just jot down whatever you have, whether it's a glass of wine, a beer or a G&T - and it will be added to your bill at the end of your stay. There are also several charming bars and cafés within walking distance of the house.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Founded in the early 18th century, Ouro Preto is a masterpiece of colonial Brazilian architecture. Explore its steep, winding cobbled streets - make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes
  • Discover Ouro Preto's 13 elaborately decorated Baroque churches - São Francico de Assis (built 1766-96) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Brazil
  • Visit the impressive show of precious stones at the Museu de Mineralogia e das Pedras (closed Tuesdays) and the Museu do Oratorio's magnificent collection of oratories
  • Feeling energetic? You can hike for 3 hours or ride guided on horseback to the peak of Itacolomi in the nearby national park

  • Make a half-day excursion to Mariana (a 30-minute bus ride from Ouro Preto), another old mining city, on Friday or Sunday mornings to enjoy the organ concert at the cathedral and visit the Museu de Arte Sacra - one of Brazil's best collections of sacred art

  • Take a guided tour of the Minas de Passagem, a large gold mine just 5 minutes outside Ouro Preto on the way to Mariana. Discover its vast network of tunnels and the natural subterranean lake where you can swim (bring your bathing suit)

  • Classical music concerts are often held in the old opera house opposite Solar de Carmo - ask Marcia for details

  • In the evening check out the Bar do Beco for its huge range of Cachacas. For live music on Friday and Saturday nights head to the Booze Café and Café Geraes

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Please note there are few facilities or activities for children - this a private hotel without a restaurant, and therefore guests over 14 only are preferred.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

6/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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