Hotel Villa Bahia is a yellow-fronted boutique hotel made from two restored townhouses which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. A cosy, compact and homely place, it's made up of just 17 rooms, a restaurant, bar and a terrace with a small pool. Renovated to the high standards of its French owners, it retains a colonial feel with its antique furniture, well-worn floorboards and bright colours.
The bedrooms span three floors and are named after the old Portuguese colonies along the spice route – from Madagascar through to Sri Lanka. Each room is individually decorated, but a distinctive style runs throughout the hotel with its iron chandeliers, heavy wooden trunks, block-coloured curtains and locally made rugs. The bathrooms are especially charming, with large walk-in marble showers, brass sinks that give off a golden glow, and soap in little ceramic pots with cork stoppers.
The pick of the bunch are Goa and Timor. The former has an enormous 200-year-old bed made of dark wood with metal studding, wooden floors and turquoise curtains lining the huge bay windows. There’s a walk-through dressing area and the bathroom has blue tiles on the floor and (like in all the rooms) lovely copper sinks. Timor, meanwhile, is a lovely twin room on the second floor with double sash windows looking out over the cobbled streets and colonial buildings. In addition, the two rooms on the top floor, Ceilao and Sao Tome, have private terraces with views over Pelourinho.
The staff at Villa Bahia are friendly and attentive, and are dressed in colonial-inspired garb with white dresses for the women and fresh white shirts and waistcoats for the men. The food is typically Bahian, and the breakfast is a feast of coconut tapioca pancakes known as beiju, fried cinnamon bananas washed down with your choice of six different types of Brazilian coffee served in a big genie-style pot.
- The location in Pelourinho, the historic centre of Salvador
- Large, airy bedrooms with sash windows looking out over the cobbled streets
- Fast, free WiFi
- The cosy, family feel
- The Bahian breakfast
- Some of the showers are not quite tall enough if you're over six foot
Need to Know: Hotel Villa Bahia
Number of rooms: 17
Check-in/check-out times: 2pm and 12noon
Room service: Yes
Swimming pool: Yes. On the terrace
Dogs welcome: No
Eating and drinking: The bar and restaurant are on the ground floor, with outside and inside seating. The food is typically Bahian (Salvador is the capital of Bahia state) with lots of seafood and coconut. The bar excels in Brazil’s national cocktail, caipirinhas – and, if you have one too many, there’s a choice of six types of coffee bean at breakfast.
Near to? Hotel Villa Bahia is in the historic centre of Salvador, next to the Sao Francisco church which is elaborately decorated in an incredible amount of gold. It's lovely to simply wander the city’s hilly streets, perhaps visiting the Jorge Amado Museum, taking the escalator down to the lower part of the city or drinking a coffee in the Convento do Carmo.
Getting there: British Airways (Britishairways.com; 0844 4930787) operates a London Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro service three times weekly. Once on the ground, Salvador is a two-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro with TAM airlines (Tam.com.br).