There’s something deliciously remote and romantic about Rio’s hilltop neighborhood Santa Teresa, with its little yellow tram service reminiscent of Lisbon, and imperious mansions straight out of The Addams Family. Its USP is the lofty location – and from the best boutique hotels in Santa Teresa you’ll get heart-fluttering views over the cinematic contours of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Vila Santa Teresa’s isolated location is easy to forgive once you take sight of the views. Central restaurants and bars might be out of reach, and the beach is a 20-minute cab ride away, but you wake with Sugarloaf and Guanabara Bay visible from the end of your bed – and your poolside sunlounger. The white and cream rooms are fresh, with polished wood floors and large granite and marble ensuites. Make sure you’re aware of hidden extras – unlike in most Rio hotels, breakfast and water are not included.
Since this is a chain hotel, the hipster touches have a corporate feel – notice the street-art dedications to Rio as “the Marvelous City,” and the kitschy lamp shades. There’s a young-at-heart, hostel feel that’s reflected in the service – expect to carry your own bags to your room. Highlights include the DJ-driven bar, loungey restaurant space and mesmerizing views of Rio from the rooftop. Top tip: book rooms on the upper floor for air, light and views, as some on the ground floor have no windows.
If you want to blend Santa Teresa’s dreamy Sugarloaf views with the five-star facilities you’d find by the beach, check in here. The hotel sits on a hillside with the Rio skyline spread at its feet. It can lay claim to the neighborhood’s biggest pool, as well as a fine French-inspired restaurant and luxurious rooms decked-out in warm woods. Deluxe rooms have hammock-slung balconies, while designer furnishings are by the likes of Sergio Rodrigues, the “father of Brazilian furniture.”
Tick boxes for: Rio views from the communal garden and some rooms, breakfast included, restaurants and bars on the doorstep and edgy Lapa’s nightlife a five-minute cab ride away. Sant Martre has much to offer at an economical price. Rooms are simply fitted and furnished in wood-laminate and whitewash, with workstations and ensuites. Consider upgrading from one of the standards to a suite for much more space and a garden or city skyline view from your balcony.
Suites are lovingly decorated and individually themed at Mama Ruisa. There’s a pool in a tropical garden, surrounded by lush trees, and the views of Guanabara Bay and Sugarloaf will cure the worst writer’s block. This exquisitely converted hillside townhouse remains the Santa Teresa boutique to book for secluded, tranquil stays. The best rooms are the luxury apartments with 1950s Brazilian furniture and balconies with those Guanabara Bay views. Word of advice: expect a breakfast surcharge.
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With a string of restaurants and bars on the doorstep, and Lapa district’s clubs a five-minute taxi-hop away, Quinta Azul is in a top location. You can’t see Sugarloaf, but public areas and some room balconies have wonderful views of downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay, beyond the terracotta tiles and lush forest. The look is of a modern boutique, all creams and four-poster beds, Sevilla tiling, lacy drapes and hardwood furnishings. Upgrade to a Deluxe Double for balconies and whirlpool baths.
With excellent rates, Geranio is built for peaceful intimacy. There are only a handful of rooms, named after herbs and spices, all decked out in modern creams, neutral tones and polished woods. The setting is terrific – expect views over thick forest to downtown Rio’s serrated skyline from the plunge pool balconies in the plushest suites. Alternatively, gaze down over terracotta tiles from the shared pool and patio as you indulge in a lazy breakfast, included in the price.
A beautiful house in a great location, Georges was designed by Wladimir Alves de Souza – a well-known Rio architect during the 1950s Bossa Nova boom, when the city was a style capital. Suites and public areas impress with precious woods and period designer pieces – de Souza leather sofas, Ricardo Fasanello bucket chairs – and floor-to-ceiling glass. The pool sits prettily in its nest of rainforest trees, with views dropping over Santa Teresa to Sugarloaf and Guanabara Bay, and when you’re peckish, the neighborhood’s best restaurants are a few minutes’ walk away.