From the 16th to the 19th century, Brazil was a Portuguese colony, and the influence of Portugal on the culture is still quite visible today. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, although it was influenced by the indigenous people and Africans, both of which were commonly treated as slaves until the 19th century. The country has the largest Catholic population in the world, with 65% of its citizens identifying as Catholic. And the architecture is often done in the Portuguese Colonial style. Today Brazil is recognized as the largest producer of the world’s coffee and as home to the Amazon Rainforest. Here are some of the most storied hotels in Brazil to check-in to.
The famed Copacabana Palace has a well-documented history with many highs and lows. Before it even opened, it was causing trouble. In 1932, the palace finished construction and was ready to serve the public. The only problem? This Brazil hotel was opening a year too late.
Since the hotel had been given special consideration by the Brazilian government, they were not pleased when it wasn’t ready for business in 1931. It had been intended to house some of the many international attendees at the Centennial of the Independence of Brazil celebration. Businessman Octavio Guinle had been given tax breaks and a casino license to entice him to build the Brazil hotel. But challenges in importing the Carrara marble and Bohemian crystal that make up its facade, as well as difficulties in working with those materials by the local craftsmen, resulted in its belated opening. Because of the delay, the government attempted to revoke the hotel’s casino license, but after a decade-long court battle, the courts ruled that the license would remain valid.
The hotel hosted presidents and movie stars, as well as Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela. It was featured in the film Flying Down to Rio, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. For much of the 20th century, the hotel maintained popularity with the celebrity set and operated successfully. Eventually, it fell into disrepair but was reinvigorated in the early 90’s and quickly bounced back. Today the estate’s art deco design is still evident, and efforts are made to maintain the original concept. It also continues to serve the celebrities of the time, and in recent years has housed artists such as Madonna, The Rolling Stones, and Justin Bieber.
Read reviews, compare prices, and book this storied Brazil hotel at TripAdvisor
Formerly a monastery, the Pestana Convento do Carmo was erected in 1586 by the First Order of Carmelite Friars. It served the monks well for many years, but during the 17th century, it began operating as a convent. Today on the property rests the original chapel, a museum, and the hotel.
In the 16th century, Brazil became home to a significant number of Catholic monks, nuns, and priests. A stated goal of the church at the time was to ensure the spread of Christianity in South America, and in that spirit, Pestana Convento do Carmo was one of the first monasteries to be built in Brazil.
The buildings have retained much of their original design, including the high ceilings, wood beams, and tile murals. A wide variety of artifacts are showcased on the property – everything from cannonballs to a confessional. What was once a fountain is now a pool, surrounded by lush greenery, and the restaurant and bar are located in the original cloister.
Once a coffee plantation, the Hotel Santa Teresa is located in the estate’s original mansion. A man named Francisco de Melo Palheta is said to have planted the first Brazilian coffee bush in 1727 after he smuggled the seeds into the country from French Guiana. One version of Francisco’s story is that he beguiled the French governor’s wife, who then sent him a bouquet with coffee seeds hidden inside.
The Santa Teresa estate was established in 1851, and as was common practice at the time, the coffee plantation used slave labor to plant the crops and harvest the fields. The site of the properties’ Bar dos Descasados, was formerly the slave quarters, and later a boarding house.
The hotel’s decor is an eclectic mix of Brazil’s history, from 18th-century engravings to Amazonian folk sculptures, and Midcentury modern furniture to a Tupi-Guarani headdress. Outside, the 80-foot pool offers views of Guanabara Bay and more than 200 species of flora and fauna. Amongst the century-old mango and apricot trees, monkeys, parrots, and toucans can be seen taking their leisure.
The Kubitschek Plaza is named for its former owners, the Kubitschek family, and offers a glimpse into the life of one of Brazil’s most popular presidents. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira was the President of Brazil from 1956 – 1961, during which time the city of Brasilia was established. A plan for moving the capital of Brazil out of Rio de Janeiro had been discussed for over a century before it was enacted, due to the city’s location at the far southern edge of the country. But it was during Kubitschek’s presidency that the plan was finally carried out, earning him the nickname, “Father of Brasilia.”
His time in office was not without incident and allegations of corruption followed him. The claim which has the most credibility was that he ensured his friends and colleagues received preferential treatment in the construction of Brasilia, granting them the majority of the construction bids. Despite this, he won the hearts of the people, and when he died in 1976, 350,000 were there to mourn him.
Juscelino’s childhood home was in Diamantina, and as a nod to his working-class roots, the restaurant in Kubitschek Plaza took the town’s name. The restaurant serves a pudding which is from the Kubitschek family’s original secret recipe. The walls of the Brazil hotel showcase numerous photographs of his family, friends, and colleagues. His daughter Marcia, who also became a Brazilian politician, has provided family antiques for guests’ perusal, and they are scattered throughout the property.
A collection of ten small villas make up the estate of the Uxua Casa Hotel. Five of these casas were built in the 16th century when the neighborhood was first established by Jesuit Priests. The other five were constructed in the 1970’s when the town was “rediscovered” by artists and hippies, who formed a commune. Several of the homes face the Quadrado, or town square, which serves as a gathering place during celebrations, such as the Festival of Saint Sebastian. On the other side of the Quadrado are Coqueiros Beach’s white sands, crystal-clear water, and miniature blue crabs.
Each one of the villas has its own unique story, which is preserved by the Brazil hotel. Several of them served as homes for the village’s fishermen, and others were artists’ residences. One of the buildings started out as a fisherman’s home, was transformed into an Indian restaurant, and now serves as part of the hotel. Another oversees the tropical garden of Doña da Glória, who was a renowned midwife and healer.
The entire estate brings the natural environment of Porto Seguro into focus. Jasmine, ferns, and orchids are growing inside many of the villas, while outside palms, coconut, and almescar trees surround the property. The wildlife includes tame monkeys who can be seen in the treetops throughout the property.
6. Belmond Hotel das Cataratas – Foz do Iguaçu, Sul
Consisting of roughly 300 waterfalls, the Iguazu Falls are the largest waterfall system in the world, and they can be seen from the Hotel das Cataratas, which is located in the Iguazu National Park. When discussing waterfalls, North Americans tend to think of Niagara Falls first, but it’s reported that when Eleanor Roosevelt first saw the Iguazu Falls she declared, “Poor Niagara!”.
The hotel, which opened in 1958, was formerly a Portuguese Colonial-style mansion. As it is the only hotel in the park, special privileges are on offer for those who choose to stay there. Guests of the hotel are able to access the falls before the park opening to the public, as well as after it officially closes.
The ways to travel through the park are numerous and include helicopter flights, rafting, nature walks, kayaking, and Jeep safaris. The bird park is an attractive space within the national park, where you can get close enough to a toucan to strike up a conversation. On the hotel grounds there is no shortage of wildlife; butterflies, parrots, monkeys, pumas, and jaguars have all been spotted wandering the surrounding area. For those who want an authentic Amazonian experience, Hotel das Cataratas delivers.