The words 'hotel' and 'Rio' tend to conjure up a certain Art Deco icon on Copacabana beach, but this sprawling, fun-loving Brazilian city offers plenty more options for travelers besides one (admittedly lush) postcard picture – from converted mansions in the arty hilltop enclave of Santa Teresa to hard-partying hostels in hipster Botofogo. Rooftop pools and beach views remain, unsurprisingly, the most sought-after elements of any Rio de Janeiro address.
The 2016 Olympics prompted a slew of restaurant and hotel openings – especially for stylish mid-range options, with various flashpacking or boutique brands filling Rio’s long-standing gap between high-end hotel chains (think Sofitel and JW Marriott) and basic B&Bs. Whether it’s a post Carnival crash pad you’re seeking, or a private cabana with celeb-worthy service, Brazil’s most popular tourist city now has all accommodation bases covered.
Best Rio de Janeiro hotels
What is it? Rub shoulders with celebs and tycoons at Brazil’s first Philippe Starck-designed hotel. The private rooftop infinity pool has magnetic appeal, and the 79 guest rooms and 10 suites are among the swankiest in the city.
Why go? If you’re pushing the boat out, it’s hard to beat this red-hot hotel. Try your skills on complimentary surf boards at the VIP beach club or unwind with the spa’s signature fusion of shiatsu and reflexogy. Come evening, discover why Barretto-Londra has been hailed the world’s best hotel bar.
What is it? French brand Mama Shelter has outposts in six cities, but cookie-cutter chain this ain’t. Opened in 2016, the exuberant interiors are by a former assistant of Philippe Starck. Fifty guest rooms are spread across a trio of historic buildings in boho Santa Teresa.
Why go? Mama Shelter’s creative, Insta-worthy design (look out for the bar’s canopy of straw hats, and the lobby’s wild murals) makes it hard to believe the budget room rates. There’s never a dull moment at this sociable, quirky hotspot – film nights and live music regularly unfold on the tree-covered deck.
What is it? With the strapline ‘same is lame’, this recent 143–room addition to beachfront Botafogo fits right in among the district’s hipster bars and nightclubs.
Why go? Views of Sugarloaf and Corcovado Mountains, a rooftop plunge pool and contemporary rooms, all at a price that leaves enough Brazilian reals to sample the bar’s extensive cachaça list. Murals by local street artist by Marcelo Ment and tropical décor accents (including a living wall of ferns) bring the city’s soul inside – a signature of the Yoo hotel group.
What is it? The granddaddy of Rio hotels, this palatial Art Deco landmark has reigned over the city’s most famous stretch of golden sand since 1923. Its 216 rooms ooze classical elegance, with antique furniture, original artworks and Juliette balconies.
Why go? Well, if it’s good enough for Marlene Dietrich, Albert Einstein and Orson Welles… Hollywood royalty has swum in the hotel’s sleek heated pool before you, slumbered in its king-size beds and dined in opulent Venetian-inspired Restaurant Cipriani.
What is it? A former coffee plantation mansion set in 4,000sqm of tropical gardens, this romantic, refined hilltop retreat is now in the capable hands of MGallery by Sofitel.
Why go? When Rio threatens to wear you down, Santa Teresa offers the perfect respite. Aesthetes will appreciate being surrounded by iconic Brazilian design and traditional Bahian handicrafts, while French gastronomy meets local ingredients in elegant Térèze Restaurant. The hotel’s spa is one of the best in town.
What is it? A striking, yellow mansion dating back to 1904, Casa Amarelo sums up the eclectic-chic vibe of Santa Teresa. The hotel’s French owners have decked out five ample bedrooms with Brazilian vintage furniture and zesty colors.
Why go? For the chilled residential vibe and lofty views over the city – whether you’re having fresh fruit for breakfast on the terrace or lounging beside the pool. Its tropical gardens are a particular delight, where you get serenaded by birdsong rather than pounding samba beats.
What is it? The 90-room, five-star Hotel Emiliano has become the place to stay and be seen in Rio since opening in 2016. Sister to an equally chic São Paulo property, its low-key facade on Copacabana beachfront conceals an infinity-pool rooftop, a sleek spa with two saunas and lavish marble bathrooms.
Why go? Unlike the many Miami-mimicking properties in town, Hotel Emiliano masters localization with lashings of Brazilian wood paneling, tropical foliage, samba soundtracks in the restaurants and a pair of Havaianas for each guest.
What is it? Welcome to a retro jungle retreat in the middle of the metropolis. Built in the 1970s by a protégée of Oscar Niemeyer, this boutique guesthouse offers simple yet spacious rooms, a spa and yoga classes within its curving white walls.
Why go? You couldn’t stay much closer to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, just up the hill from Les Jardins. The villa’s peaceful, laidback vibe makes you want to linger under the mango trees with a good book.
What is it? A design-driven hybrid of hostel and budget hotel, in the heart of lively Lapa. Take your pick between smart shared dorms (sleeping four, eight or 10) or private suites.
Why go? The hub of this airy industrial-chic is a huge communal atrium, a great oasis for relaxing, breakfasting or remote working. On your doorstep, there’s Rio’s modernist cathedral, the brightly-tiled Selarón stairs and a multitude of bars in which to Samba the night away.
What is it? Sofitel’s signature five-star service and state-of-the-art amenities, across 223 tasteful guest rooms. Panoramic views of Ipanema beach unfold everywhere from the well-equipped gym to 23 Ocean Lounge Bar.
Why go? With dedicated beach concierge, there’s no fighting for a sun lounger here. Inside, the sandy-hued décor subtly infuses Brazilian beach vibes, including surfing shots by local photographer Ju Martins. Don’t miss the chef’s freshly-baked pao de queijo at breakfast (cheese bread balls) at breakfast.
What is it? Part of Rio’s new ‘glampacker’ crew, Villa 25 occupies a lovingly-restored 19th-century house. You can book into a private ‘suite’ (sleeping up to four) or dorms with cabin-style curtained berths, providing a nice balance of privacy and sociability.
Why go? With its wide Art Deco boulevards, parks and state buildings, genteel Laranjeiras is a less touristy alternative to Rio’s beachside districts. Villa 25’s appealing hangout spaces include a courtyard with swimming pool, al fresco bar-restaurant and co-working room. The varied room setups are great for groups or solo travelers alike.