Rio’s 15 coolest places to stay (a few for under R$300):
The city’s most interesting hotel and hostel rooms and the coolest bed and breakfasts for those on a budget
If the warmth of innkeeper and raconteur Bob Nadkarni’s welcome to his guesthouse in the Tavares Bastos favela doesn’t snare you, the view from the upper terrace (itself conjuring up visions of a young Luke Skywalker’s Ator home in Star Wars) surely will. It’s worth knowing that the creative mind at work behind The Maze was once the props designer on the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey. His creative attentions have now turned to the building that began as an art workshop, became his home, and is now also an inn in the truest sense of the word, complete with Bob’s original artwork adorning the walls. Backpackers, artsy types and, indeed, world famous Hollywood stars are treated equally, for it is here that The Incredible Hulk was filmed and that Tim Roth proclaimed makes the ‘best cup of tea in Rio’. If all that doesn’t add up to ‘cool’ credentials, we need to buy a new yardstick. R$180 per night (deluxe suite).
Botafogo was once home to the slightly grotty but never dull traveller hostels and student bars and clubs, but with the arrival of bars Meza and doiZ and now the hostel Oztel (all from the same owners), things have taken a turn for the chic. That’s not to say this is exactly a glamorous spot, but cool and funky room designs, unusual exhibitions and events (monthly cocktail-making classes, anyone?) and some great bars and restaurants nearby make this a bit of a must for those keen to stay out of the usual tourist traps. Grab the tropical room and share it with a friendly couple of jungle birds. R$200 per night (double with en-suite).
Another of Santa Teresa’s unmarked wonders, the front door of Carmen and Fernando’s house leads into a world of piled up records, vaulted ceilings and the kind of terrace from which Sugarloaf mountain should always be seen, complete with plunge pool and bar. The living room is comfortably big enough for all-comers (the owner’s quarters are found just off it up a small staircase), though other nooks, like the mini-mezzanine above the reception, offer more privacy if needed. Just off the dining area, a steep spiral staircase leads up into the tiny loft-style room. The tight, low-ceilinged quarters are not for the big of stature or luggage, but a cosy spot complete with its own little terrace and the best view in the house. R$200 per night (loft room).
The Italian-run CasAlegre gives off the laidback air of its affable Italian owner, the central courtyard providing calming respite from the Santa Teresa cobbles. From here the small gallery space can also be seen, with a different artist invited each month to show off their wares. Attracting a creative bunch, the house has some imaginative touches including rows of plastic bottles collected in conjunction with children from the nearby Prazeres favela that are cut open, filled with plants, and hung along the outside wall. The slightly pricier Presidential Suite is the one to opt for, with a small balcony overlooking the street below, a large living space complete with kitchen essentials, and a separate bathroom and bedroom, but all have their own charms, and can be rented long-term. R$250 per night (Presidential Suite).
Cool in every way (possibly bar the name), the American-run guesthouse has an enviable location in the middle of the Santa Teresa action close to the time-honoured Bar do Gomez. The gardens of this beautiful bed and breakfast are the first thing to charm their way into your attentions, quickly followed by the stylish rooms courtesy of designers including Patricia Brasil and Gilson Martins, and upper-deck swimming pool and massage area. Also to be found up here, complete with private veranda overlooking the full glory of Santa Teresa below, is the best suite in the house designed by the artist Alemão, but with full wi-fi, a killer breakfast and the owners’ chilled-out Californian charm, for once it really doesn’t pay to be choosy. R$260-R$340 per night (suite no.7)
Friendly, laidback lodgings in boho Santa Teresa
Chilled out, impossibly helpful and exuding all the charm of their native California, Cool Beans’ American owners have set about creating a near-legendary experience in Santa Teresa, thanks as much to their outlook as their beautifully reworked property. Close to a few notable local hostelries like Bar do Gomez and a short walk from the heart of the ‘hood (this neighbourhood is exactly the sort of place you want to be strolling around in order to capture its true essence), the gardens and pool deck may grab the attention first, but the bedrooms also echo the original charm at the heart of the building. The private veranda of the top-floor suite takes the plaudits, but the simplicity and all-inclusive attitude of the staff mean that any room is worth the (very reasonable) price.