We stayed at...
Hotel Santa Teresa (santateresahotel.com), a 44-room boutique hotel in the hills of Santa Teresa. With its gorgeous views, arty scene and colonial architecture, this is one of the best neighbourhoods to stay in. The hotel has a pool, spa and tranquil gardens, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance. Double rooms cost from £212.
While you're there...
1. Hit the beach. Ipanema is where the beautiful people hang out, while Leblon is more family friendly.
2. Take samba lessons or watch the schools rehearsing on Saturdays - ask the hotel to help arrange it.
3. Get shopping. Ipanema's hip arts and crafts market, Babilônia Feira Hype, is a great place to pick up cheap Havaianas.
4. If the skies are clear, take the cable car up Corcovado mountain. If not, head for the Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Niterói.
5. Eat amazing sushi with the fashionable crowd at Sushi Leblon and party at 00.
We flew to...
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's most exciting city. This is a great time to visit, with Christmas decorations on the beach and the samba schools building up to Carnival (13-16 February 2010). In December return flights with British Airways cost from £500. Check out Mario Testino's Rio de Janeiro (£27.99, Taschen) or the new edition of Rio de Janeiro (£12.99, Rough Guides), out now.