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Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

4.0 stars



Settling in to Santa Teresa

After having lived in the mock-Miami neighbourhood of Barra for well over a month, it was a joy to find ourselves surrounded by ageing hippies, arty types, bohemians and general assorted oddballs - it was clear we were going to feel quite at home here! Santa Teresa has lovely shops selling artisan knick-knacks, some great restaurants and bars, and is handy for lively nightlife in Lapa. The only problem is safety - after just a couple of weeks I was relieved of my bag while walking the 10 minutes between the bars and my flat after dark, so it's advisable to take a taxi even for short distances. Don't attempt to walk down to Lapa at night - hop on a bus or a combi instead. [more ]

Santa Teresa

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the beach scene of the Zona Sul is the arty neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, where musicians, artists, students and other creative types gather to shop, eat and drink among beautiful colonial mansions.

Built high on a hill, Santa Teresa was once the neighbourhood of choice for Rio's affluent and glamorous - Mick Jagger is said to have met a Brazilian girlfriend here in the 1960s.

But when the favelas began to crawl up the hillsides nearby, the wealthy residents of these beautiful homes began to desert the neighbourhood in favour of areas such as Ipanema.

Hippy types began to move into the empty homes, and it has remained boho Cariocas' spiritual home ever since. Best reached by travelling on the clattering 'bonde' - the oldfashioned street car that takes you up the hill from Centro - Santa Teresa is a good place to come to pick up some arty gifts (for others or possibly for yourself!), and offers great views across the city. There is a lively eating and drinking scene, and by night you will often hear live music in the bars and restaurants.

The proximity of Santa Teresa to the favelas means you should be sensible about what you bring up here - unless you are on an organised tour you should probably leave your camera and other valuables at home. [more ]

All aboard the bonde

No visit to Rio is complete without taking the toy train-like journey aboard the rattly tram from Centro to Santa Teresa, but time is of the essence for those who want to experience this quintessential Rio experience in all its creaking, clattering glory. Much to the chagrin of local residents, Brazil's government is attempting to replace the lovable old yellow trams, very much a symbol of Santa Teresa, with a newer, more efficient version, which would no doubt lack the antique charm of the originals. Not only that, but there is also pressure from City Hall to look at privatising the currently state-run tram system, a move that would surely lead to a bumping up of prices. Currently, at just 60 centavos for the journey, the bonde ride has to be the best-value transport system - not to mention tourist attraction - in the city. If the plans go ahead (and locals are battling like crazy to try and stop them going through) tourists who miss the chance now to ride aboard the historic tram may never again have the opportunity. [more ]

Museums in Santa

Santa Teresa is known for its cultural, intellectual and artistic leanings, so it should come as no surprise that the neighbourhood boasts quite a lot by the way of museums and cultural centres. Begin a cultural tour here by taking in the amazing (and free!) view from the top of the ruined mansion at Parque das Ruinas, and then pop next door to Museu Chacara do Ceu, to stroll the leafy grounds before taking in artworks by Brazilian and international artists (there are even some works by Picasso here). Next, head down to the Museu Casa da Benjamin Constant, to see the perfectly-preserved living quarters of the revolutionary leader. The neighbourhood's library features regular art exhibitions, and is well worth a visit. Next, pop into any one of the myriad art stores, to see fantastic locally produced paintings and ceramics, all of which are available to buy. [more ]

Al-fresco Sunday drinking

Sunday evenings in Santa Teresa are generally a lively affair, with live music and dancing down by the Curvelo bonde (tram) stop or in the grounds of Parque das Ruinas. Not being a fan of beer, which is sold from ice buckets wherever there's a social gathering, I like to bring along a bottle of well-chilled wine, a corkscrew and plastic cups, and then just take a seat on the square and enjoy a perfectly relaxed evening of al-fresco drinking beneath the stars, listening to great live music, for which there is no charge. Can there be a better way to spend a Sunday evening? [more ]

Santa Teresa boutique hotels

With its old colonial mansions, steep cobblestone streets, artists studios and rattling trams, Santa Teresa is a neighbourhood like no other in Brazil. With its artistic tendencies, it's not surprising that the picturesque suburb is home to the finest of Rio's boutique hotels. Four in particular catch the eye - Mama Ruisa, a Solar de Santa, a Castelinho 38 and newcomer Rio 180. All offer charming accomodation in beautifully restored colonial homes, with artesan pieces dotted around the properties. These are the places to stay if you want a personal touch and to avoid the 'chain hotel' mentaility that is so prevalent in Copacabana and Ipanema. [more ]

Saturdays in Santa

If you want to see Santa Teresa nightlife at its best, you should make the effort to visit the neighbourhood on a Saturday evening. The many bars get busy early on, and as night falls the street scene takes on a party atmosphere as drinkers spill out of the bars and onto the pavements. It's worth taking the time to walk down to Largo das Neves, where you'll find a small cluster of bars and, very often, street vendors selling tasty cocktails and BBQ. There are less tourists down here, and it's fun to sit on the benches of this little square, watching the children playing and simply soaking up the small-town ambience. Later, head for Bar do Gomes before it closes at midnight, then visit Bar do Mineiro for a gengibre (cachaca and ginger infusion) before heading down to Lapa to continue the party into the wee small hours. [more ]

Shopping for art in Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa has long been a haven for arty types, and is without doubt the best place in Rio to come if you want to pick up some local artworks. As you walk up the hill towards Laga do Guimaraes, one of the main squares in the neighbourhood, you´ll find a concentration of art stores - selling everything fom local oil on canvas works, to cushions in the shape of the famous bonde (tram), and even intricately put together miniature replicas of favela houses. These are great places to browse around, so give yourself plenty of time - the shop owners are happy for you to stay a while, and several even have cafes attached. [more ]

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1. Hotel Muao Bela Vista 1.02 mi
2. Casa da Gi 1.34 mi
3. Relais & Chateaux Santa Teresa 1.77 mi
4. Mama Ruisa 2.35 mi
5. The Maze Inn 2.48 mi
See all Hotels in Rio de Janeiro


1. Curvelo 0.29 mi
2. Museu de Arte Naif do Brasil 2.33 mi
3. Parque das Ruinas 2.87 mi
See all Attractions in Rio de Janeiro


1. Aprazivel 1.85 mi
2. Restaurante Santa Arte 1.93 mi
3. Sobrenatural 2.11 mi
See all Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro
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