(Courtesy: Santa Teresa Hotel)
Set in the neighborhood of the same name, the 44-room Santa Teresa was a spark in the city’s surprisingly staid hotel scene when it opened several years ago. Housed in a former coffee plantation, the hotel sits on a hilltop overlooking the city. Art inside the rooms is by notable Brazilian artists, while the overall aesthetic is rough luxe (concrete tubs, wooden, four-poster beds). The surrounding area is one of Rio’s up-and-coming neighborhoods.
660 Rua Almirante Alexandrino, Santa Teresa
From $500 per night
On Ipanema Beach, the Fasano maintains the sleek, chic aesthetic of the original Sao Paulo branch. The rooms, with a strict color scheme of white linens and natural wood, are chockablock with design, from Philippe Starck mirrors to Sergio Rodrigues chairs and Oskar Metsavaht sandals that guests can take after their stay. The Baretto-Londra lounge is packed with dancers on most evenings.
80 Avenida Vieira Souto
From $740 per night
Old School Stay
(Courtesy: Copacabana Palace)
Old School Stay
Just finished with a $20 million refurb, the perennially popular Copacabana Palace is steeped in Rio’s history. You’ll get views of the beach or the city, Juliet-style balconies, period furnishing, and some great stories about the hotel’s past. Orson Welles threw his piano into the pool here, while Alice Cooper caused a manhunt for his pet boa constrictor (it was still at home).
Avenida Atlântica, 1702
From $521 per night
The Maria Santa Teresa is the newest addition to the recent wave of Rio’s design hotels. The hotel is in a mid-century villa that has sweeping views of Rio (rooms come with antique binoculars). The vibe is cheap and cheerful, with colorful walls, mid-century furniture, and a bustling lobby bar.
163 Rua Aprizel, Santa Teresa
From $280 per night
Casa da Feijoada
Have the feijoada at the Casa da Feijoada in Ipanema. The traditional black-bean stew is Brazil’s national dish customarily eaten on Saturdays but served every day at this establishment. Wash it down with a caipirinha, the national drink.
Rua Prudente de Moraes, 10B, Ipanema
Steak Your Claim
Unless you are vegetarian, what is a visit to Brazil without going to one of those all-you-can-eat steakhouses, the infamous rodízios? There is a branch of the Rio’s best known rodízio, Porcão, in Ipanema.
Rua Barão da Torre, 218, Ipanema
End up at the downtown belle époque gem, the Confeitaria Colombo, for lunch and a taste of Brazilian history. During the first half of the 20th century, when Rio was still Brazil’s capital, politicians and intellectuals could always be spotted at the Colombo.
Rua Gonçalves Dias, 32, Centro
Old School Bar
Bar do Gomez has been in Santa Teresa since 1919, proving that the recent “discovery” of the neighborhood by fashion types is only recent for them. It’s divey, and the cans of food available are of dubious provenance, but they serve over 60 types of caipirinhas. Don’t sample them all in one night.
26 Rua Áurea, Santa Teresa
Ipanema Hippie Fair. (Photo: keetr/Flickr)
Every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. since the 1960s, the Ipanema Hippie Fair (Feira Hipe) has held forth in the Praça General Osorio in Ipanema. This is an arts and crafts fair, not a flea market, and it is a good place to pick up souvenirs.
53B Praça General Osório, Ipanema
Convento de Santo Antônio. (Photo: Gilmar Matos/Flickr)
Wander the brick-lined streets of the Centro, taking in the frenetic scene and remnants from Brazil’s early colonial history. Worthwhile stops include the Convento de Santo Antônio, dating from 1726, with its hilltop views and baroque interior; and the 18th-century Paço Imperial, one-time home of the Portuguese royal family following their flight on the heels of Napoleon’s invasion. Now an exhibition space, the Paço also houses several restaurants and a cafe.
Convento de Santo Antônio: Largo da Carioca 5, Centro
Paço Imperial: Praça XV de Novembro, Centro
Cut a Rug
Take a taxi over to Lapa, the heart of Rio’s samba scene, and check out one of the excellent dance halls here. Democraticus, set in a 19th-century mansion, has a sprawling dance floor and a wide stage that hosts some of Lapa’s best samba bands.
91 Rua do Riachuelo
Take a Hike
(Photo: Alex Thomson/Flickr)
Take a stroll over to Parque das Ruinas, the burned-out shell of a mansion that once belonged to a Brazilian heiress. Climb the steps to the top, where you’ll have fantastic views over downtown and Guanabara Bay.
Rua Murtinho Nobre 169
5 Things to Know
1. No flashy jewelry, watches, cameras, or backpacks. Take nothing of value to the beach, or at least nothing you would be sad to lose.
2. Do not hail street cabs; use Radio-Taxi Coopertramo (phone 2209-9292).
3. There are plenty of refreshing options: agua de coco (coconut water); açaí (Amazonian berry smoothie); and, of course, the caipirinha (cachaça with crushed lime and sugar).
4. Tip 10 percent to waiters and bartenders; for cabbies, round up if you like, but it’s not customary. Also not necessary, but a worthy investment, is to tip the beach vendors who rent umbrellas.
5. Don’t rent a car. It’s not worth the hassle of traffic, parking is a nightmare, and the system of parking attendants who will “watch” your car for a fee is sketchy to say the least.