Anyone who spends time in hotels knows that there are lots of different types: There’s the time warp country house hotel, the boutique, the budget, the modern luxe, the corporate conference, the mid price box with a bed, the roadside chain…I think I’ve stayed in an exemplar of each, but my least favourite is the corporate conference, all soulless double height atriums, feature lighting and gold letter notice boards.
In Rio de Janiero last summer to speak at an event, we were put up at The Windsor Atlantica, a shiny conference hotel, full of cabin crew and conference attendees, with absolutely nothing to recommend it bar a comfortable, secure, clean environment.
That’s because Rio, for a city that will host the Olympics in three years, has a surprising dearth of good four and five star accommodation. There is a glossy Sofitel, the Faisano and, of course, the Copacabana Palace, but when I was there last July it was still undergoing a promising looking renovation. Beyond those choices? Well, Wallpaper recommend a few luxury boutique types in Leblon, the chic quarter just north of Ipanema, and there are several great sounding places that are more like maison d’hôtels.
And then there is the five star, forty-four room, Hotel Santa Teresa.
A Relais & Chateaux property, it is perched high up above the city on the hill of Santa Teresa, in an area Americans like to call Bohemian, filled with colonial buildings, interesting restaurants and shops to explore. (Rio is a sprawling city, like Los Angeles and, if you are a first time visitor to the city, I would suggest a few nights here, - it’s also convenient for Corcovado and for Sugar Loaf, and a few nights on Copacabana or Ipanema, as it’s really too far to travel to the beach and back each day from here.)
Formerly an old plantation house, it even has slave quarters, which now house a chic bar.
I had three days tacked onto my speaking commitments so that I could see a bit more of Rio than the inside of the Copacabana Palace, where the conference was being held. Reservations were hard to come by and I was starting to despair, until my friends (and, frankly, miracle workers) at luxury travel operator Cazenove & Loyd stepped in, securing me not only a sought after reservation but a press rate at the Hotel Santa Teresa.
Arriving there after the conference hotel was an absolute joy. I went from a sterile box with a bed, to a spacious room that felt like a guest room in a particularly chic friend’s home, with French windows, billowing curtains, and a huge king size bed.
There was a lovely balcony running the length of the house outside my room, from where I could sit and gaze over the city. (Everything seems a little overcast, as I was there during the Rio winter, in July.)
The bathroom, reached through sliding doors from the bedroom,
had an excellent strong shower, white Havianas for guests, and toiletries from Granado, Rio’s oldest pharmacy – think Brazil’s Kiehl’s.
Outside, there is a glorious swimming pool area, with views over the city, sun loungers, and a Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar
During the day the hotel was a wonderful haven to wind down from a conference as hectic as ours, and it felt like a real escape in a city that can be overwhelming at times.
It’s not however a hotel to stay in if you want total peace and quiet in the evenings as well as the day, as the bar becomes a thrumming hotspot from early evening onwards, with plenty of super chic locals rocking up to party, and the music from the bar is extremely audible in in some of the rooms and in Tereze, the open sided (& very expensive) destination restaurant. (I didn’t love the food there, but then again Rio is not a city in which to eat vegetarian.)
For me the only drawback of the hotel was its lack of quiet communal space in the evenings for reading, reflection and just relaxing. There is no hotel drawing room or lounge – just the pleasant open plan reception area.
During the day however the bar is very calm and lovely
but in the evening it is no place for a quiet drink, and I would highly recommend asking for a room as far as away from the bar as possible if you are a light sleeper. That being said: I guess most people would be out of their room, partying and eating elsewhere on a weekend evening, so this wouldn’t be as much as problem for others as it was for me, a solo traveller, who was staying in on a Saturday night and ordering room service in a room over the bar.
Waking up in the morning to the sight of open French windows, with the feel of the breeze on my skin was a delightful experience, and felt as far from the air-conditioned sterility of the Windsor Atlantica as London is from Rio.
Hotel Santa Teresa. Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 660, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Neighbourhood: Santa Teresa
The Hotel hosted me for one night, and I paid a press rate of 50% for the second night. I paid for my dinner at Tereze, room service and internet access. In total I paid Brazilian Reals BR 869.09/ £285.55
With huge thanks to Christopher Wilmott-Sitwell and his crack team at Cazenove & Lloyd. (Cazenove and Loyd are a luxury travel company offering luxury tailor-made holidays in South America, Central America, Africa, Indian Ocean, South & South East Asia.)