Of all the hotels and pousadas in Santo Antônio—and in Salvador—the one that will (por favor, excuse the cliché) truly take your breath away is the Hotel Aram Yami (Rua Direita de Santo Antônio 132, tel. 71/3249-4912, www.hotelaramyami.com, R$400–500 d). Bahia meets Bali meets Barcelona in this boutique hotel, whose composite name—which is Tupi for “sun and night”—alludes to the trouble you’ll have not spending 24 hours a day on the premises.
The inspiration of a Brazilian-Spanish couple (both architects) who purchased this colonial mansion as a second home and then decided it was too large to keep to themselves, this seductive hotel offers five roomy apartments. Each suite is a private oasis in which the restored colonial features fuse harmoniously with contemporary furnishings. The decor is equally ingenious: traditional Bahian artifacts mingle with Chinese silk pillows and jewel-hued Japanese lanterns.
Two swimming pools (one of them reserved for the lucky guests of the two-bedroom master suite), a mesmerizingly atmospheric bar with a terrace, and lots of verandas with sea views are further conducive to the utter sense of well-being you’ll experience upon checking in. Owner Lola offers discounts depending on the season and number of days you plan to stay.
Although the elegant Hotel Villa Bahia (Largo de Cruzeiro São Francisco 16/18, tel. 71/3322-4271, www.lavillabahia.com/, R$340 d) opened in late 2006, the French-owned hotel is all about history. Housed in two 17th-century colonial mansions that look out onto the Largo de Cruzeiro São Francisco, the hotel pays heavy homage to both Brazil’s and Portugal’s past. Colonial Portuguese antiques abound, meaning lots of baroque details, jacaranda, and Portuguese ceramic tiles. The decor of each of the 17 luxurious rooms is inspired by former colonies ranging from Macau to Madagascar. Inner courtyards and a pool offer respite from the hustle and bustle outside in the Pelô. And be sure to visit the restaurant, where the chef takes fresh local produce and does marvelously French things to it.
When Salvador’s first five-star hotel, the
Convento do Carmo (Rua do Carmo 1, tel. 71/3327-8400, www.pestana.com, R$820 d) finally opened its enormous wooden doors at the end of 2005, it revolutionized tourism in a city whose idea of luxury accommodations were the sterile and mammoth 300-room beachfront chains located in the middle-class neighborhoods of Ondina and Rio Vermelho. Unsurprisingly, these exude as much charm as modern airport terminals.
Owned by Pousadas de Portugal, a hotel group specializing in marrying luxury with history, this magnificent hotel is located in a sprawling 16th-century convent that, aside from some discreet and very handsome trappings of luxury, is remarkably faithful to its religious roots. For solitary confinement (and utter tranquility), cells that once housed Carmelite nuns have been converted into 80 tastefully (if rather neutrally) outfitted rooms with WiFi, LCD TVs, and Egyptian cotton sheets. Arcaded cloisters shelter a bar and restaurant that face onto courtyards anointed with a profusion of tropical plants and a swimming pool. Other highlights include a library, spa, fitness center, home theater, and—of course—a chapel.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition