Villa Bahia

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil Book from

Reviewed by Will Hide
Beautiful colonial house tastefully converted into a boutique hotel in the centre of Salvador's historical Pelourinho district
This really charming, small hotel is set next to the Igreja de Sao Francisco, Salvador's most impressive church. Brimming with character, it's converted from 2 homes (one 17th-century, one 18th-century) that have been thoughtfully and very tastefully restored by the French owners.

Walking into the calm and cool lobby from the heat and bustle of Pelourinho outside, you'd think you'd stepped into a colonial Portuguese merchant's house circa 1700, a feeling accentuated by the staff's period-style uniforms. Beside the lobby there's a quiet restaurant that extends to the back of the house, and an outside courtyard and patio with a plunge pool and a few loungers. The lift, painted with an unusual Amazonian jungle frieze, takes you up to the 17 bedrooms and the lovely rooftop terrace - the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring. It's a wonderful place to soak up the days-gone-by atmosphere, and a great base from which to explore colourful Pelourinho.

Highs

  • You couldn't be any closer to the action: you're right in the heart of the Pelourinho district, a historic UNESCO World Heritage site of cobblestoned streets, brightly-painted manor houses, elaborate baroque churches and vibrant nightlife
  • Charming old building, renovated with sensitivity and style
  • Large well-equipped bedrooms are all individually decorated and themed after Portuguese colonies
  • Classy restaurant serving Bahian dishes with French-fusion influences, as well as large breakfasts, which are on offer until 11pm

Lows

  • The Pelourinho district is very full-on with people trying to entice you into their shops, flog a lucky ribbon or just begging, and there's lots of noise from the bars and restaurants that spill out into the street well into the night - but that's what you come here for
  • It may be chaotic outside but it's an oasis of calm inside. Some may find the hotel a touch quiet

Best time to go

If you really want to experience Salvador (particularly the Pelourinho district) at its loudest and most wild, go during Carnaval (February or March, depending on the year) which Brazilians say is more participatory than Rio's. It always begins on a Thursday night and ends the next Wednesday - in between 2 million party-goers hit the streets for an orgy of dancing and drinking. Throughout the year Tuesday nights in Pelourinho are like mini-festivals with live street music and dancing. The rainiest months in Salvador tend to be May-July.

Our top tips

If you're staying in Salvador for a few days and have the time it's worth taking a tour to experience a ceremony of Candomblé (the local religion that blends Catholicism with beliefs the slaves brought from Benin and Nigeria) or the ritualistic African-based dance and martial art of Capoeira.

Great for...

City Style
Eco
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 17
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • 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
Room:

Rooms

The 17 rooms are tastefully decorated with colourful fabrics, painted shutters, wooden floors, antiques and hand-crafted Brazilian pieces (writing desks, maps, lamps and so on) but come equipped with thoroughly modern touches such as double glazing, air con, a minibar, WiFi and a TV.

Each is subtly themed after a different former Portuguese colony, from Cape Verde to Macau, with some overlooking the square. Goa was my favourite simply because of its huge wooden canopied bed and rich, sumptuous colour scheme: a silk fuchsia pink bedspread contrasted by lime-green chairs. All rooms are the same price and most are large with double or kingsize beds (Mozambique and Timor have twin beds); the 3 top-floor rooms (Ceilao, Sao Tome e Principe and Nagasaki) are smaller but have the added bonus of a private terrace with views over Salvador's rooftops.

The Cochin room also has a separate terrace up its own flight of stairs - perfect for an evening drink listening to the music and sounds emanating from the streets down below.

Modern bathrooms feature walk-in showers; 4 also have a bath (Calicute, Ceuta, Madagascar and Gana), which is unusual in Brazil. Nice touches include bathrobes (available for purchase), hairdryers and toiletries made with exotic natural ingredients and essences from the Amazon rainforest.

Features include:

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

Eating

Breakfast is a large spread served between 7 and 10am, and is brought to your table (either in the restaurant or outside in the courtyard patio) rather than buffet style. The coffee is delicious - locally sourced and roasted in-house. As well as fresh fruit and juice, there's an array of freshly-baked breads and Bahian specialties such as plantain fritters and small doughnuts made from rice and coconut.

The restaurant is open daily to the public for lunch and dinner. Starters may include oysters or smoked shrimp, mains could be locally caught fish of the day, risotto, lobster medallions, or filet mignon with a cashew butter, while typical desserts are a clafoutis (a custard-like tart) or passion fruit drizzled with chocolate.

Outside in Pelourinho, there are lots of cafés and restaurants - try Uaua for a full meal and Cafelier for coffee and something snackier. Make sure you try the acarajés - small spicy fried bean treats - sold on every street corner by Bahian women in traditional flowing white dresses.

Features include:

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

Activities

  • Wander through Pelourinho's atmospheric cobblestone streets, sample the Bahian street food and visit magnificent baroque churches (the lavish Igreja de Sao Francisco is next door). Private tours of the neighbourhood can be arranged

  • The hotel has its own tour agency, Caravelle, which offers city tours and guides, tailored to your interests

  • Salvador is renowned for its Afro-Latin music. Its world famous Carnaval - a wild street party lasting up to a week - is held in February or March but you can enjoy live music and dancing throughout the year

  • Pelourinho is the hub of Salvador's nightlife and Tuesday night is its biggest party night. Just wander from bar to bar and follow the drummers playing along the streets. Stages are also set up on Largo do Pelourinho and the Terreiro de Jesus

  • Take a dance, Capoeira or percussion class, 10 minutes from the hotel (they'll point you in the right direction)

  • Head to one of the city's beaches, such as Barra or Itapua (15-30 minutes' drive). It's best to take a taxi, rather than the bus

  • Take a refreshing dip in the hotel's plunge pool or sit on the roof terrace listening to the sounds of Pelourinho below

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome but there are no special facilities for them and the loud frenetic pace of the Pelourinho neighbourhood may be too much for some youngsters. Extra beds, cots and babysitting can be arranged.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Villa Bahia