It spoke volumes that when the late, great Amy Winehouse played a series of dates in Brazil in early 2011, she chose to make her base in the historic hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
While visiting celebrities had previously tended to make a beeline for glamorous beachfront accommodations such as the glitzy Copacabana Palace and the designer-chic Fasano Rio hotel in Ipanema, Ms Winehouse opted to stay in what is fast becoming known as the hippest hangout in Rio de Janeiro.
What it lacks in easy access to the beachfront Santa Teresa makes up for in beautiful colonial mansions, characterful cobbled streets, lively bars and an excellent selection of restaurants. It also boasts more artists studios and craft stores than you could shake a stick at, and is home to any number of cosy-yet-chic boutique hotels set in lush tropical gardens, often at a fraction of the price of a boxy backstreet hotel room in Copacabana or Ipanema.
The neighborhood is currently enjoying a tourist boom like never before, thanks to interesting annual events such as Artes de Portas Abertas, which sees the hundreds of artists in the neighborhood throw open the doors to their homes and studios for one weekend each July.
Santa Teresa is packed with characterful historic buildings — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Should all this sound a little too worthy, fear not. Music is at the heart and soul of everything in this most bohemian of neighborhoods, and events such as Artes de Portas Abertas are generally seen as a great excuse for street samba and free-flowing caipirinhas.
Santa Teresa is the offbeat, artistic heart of Rio — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Simply strolling along the steep cobbled streets, stopping to browse the stores or enjoy a drink and bite to eat in one of the many bars, is a pleasure in itself, but visitors would also be well advised to check out attractions such as Parque das Ruinas - pleasant grounds whose focal point is former mansion home that has been partially restored, and now offers art exhibitions and terrific views from the top floor.