Mama Ruisa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Escape the Brazilian tourist clichés at Mama Ruisa, a colonial building turned boutique hotel at the heart of the trendy Santa Teresa neighbourhood.

Rio's hilly neighbourhood of Santa Teresa is the perfect setting for this bohemian jewel of a hotel. Set in an old colonial building turned private hospital turned hotel, the perfectly curated interior of this home away from home will make you feel like you're part of the Easy Rider movie set. With its high ceilings, squeaky wooden floors and hand-picked antiques, it is the place to be for anyone looking to explore Rio away from tourist clichés.


Whether a Deluxe Room or Junior Suite, each accommodation is uniquely decorated with pieces picked up from Rio's numerous flea markets and lovingly restored by the owner. If you're feeling inspired to redecorate your home in the same style, note that most of the furniture is available to buy. Take some time to chill out in the enormous sitting room with views of the abundant tropical vegetation just outside.

What's for breakfast?

A testament to its French owner, Mama Ruisa serves continental breakfast with fresh pastries, baguettes, butter and jam. Opt for a suite with a private terrace to start your day in peace, accompanied by fresh tropical fruits and exquisite South American coffee while admiring the distant Sugarloaf Mountain.

How about lunch and dinner?

If you're looking for an authentic Brazilian experience, you're in luck. A five-minute walk will take you to Bar Do Mineiro, a no-frills eatery full of character, where locals have been washing down feijoadas (a traditional Brazilian stew of meat and beans) with ice cold caipirinhas since 1992. Alternatively, head to Espirito Santa for some indegenous dishes or Simplesmente for a Carioca take on pizza.

Is there a bar?

There is no bar at the hotel but fear not, the Santa Teresa neighbourhood is home to the coolest public houses in Rio. Throw your best samba moves with a crowd of locals at Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno or enjoy the sunset with panoramas across the city at Aprazível.


There is a small pool on the top 18th floor, by which Mama Ruisa's attentive staff will fulfill your every wish before you can even express it.

Things you should know

Due to Santa Teresa's steep and plentiful hills, taxis and ubers can sometimes be reluctant to drive through its labyrinthine streets, especially when it's raining. Plan well ahead if you're looking to bar-hop or ask the hotel staff to call in a favour with a taxi driver they know. Alternatively, use the tram that connects different parts of the neighbourhood to the rest of the city at the foot of the hills.

Within a short walk you can find…

As you would expect from a bohemian neighbourhood, there's a plethora of cultural and intellectually stimulating experiences on your doorstep. At Parque das Ruínas the ruins of an old mansion are transformed into architecturally innovative art, theatre and music venue, where you can book to see a live performance. At the Museu da Chácara do Céu, you can admire a substantial (formerly private) collection of 20th-century masterpieces by the likes of Degas, Matisse and Picasso as well as works by prominent Brazilian modernists.

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City Guide: Rio de Janeiro