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By Mariana Sales, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Nestled high up in the center of Rio de Janeiro is Santa Teresa, one of the most bohemian areas in town. With its green streets, cultural atmosphere and breath-taking art deco and colonial style houses overlooking the Guanabara Bay, Santa – as Cariocas say – has a life of its own.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Santa Teresa’s bonde tram is a symbol of the neighborhood, photo by Férias na Mochila/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Photographer Anna Kahn used to live in an apartment in Leblon but decided for a change and moved to a big art deco style house in the neighborhood. “I love living here. It is much more central than Zona Sul (South Zone) and there is a variety of museums, flea markets, etc.”

Santa Teresa’s streets are marked by the rails of the bonde tram, a symbol of the region. After an accident in 2011, the popularly known bondinho stopped running for four years. Nowadays, the system operates with two shorter routes. Tickets cost R$20 for those who do not live in the area.

Over time, the neighborhood lost the so-called wealthy status that it held back in the 1800s, like other historical parts of centro (center). However, it has become a district of major cultural activity, as many artists and intellectuals still live there, and tourism.

Good food and cheap beers are trademarks of the area. One of the best feijoadas around can be found at Bar do Mineiro. For a nice coffee, Cafecito Café is the perfect spot. The streets of Santa Teresa get filled with people on weekends, especially during Carnival festivities. Every year, thousands of Cariocas party at blocos such as Céu na Terra e Bloco das Carmelitas.

Another well-known event that takes place in Santa Teresa every year is Festa Literária de Santa Teresa (Literary Festival of Santa Teresa), that recently had its ninth edition. During a weekend, Parque das Ruínas hosts musical and artistic presentations, debate sessions and book launches.

The neighborhood is also filled with accommodation options that go from low-cost youth hostels and pousadas, to five stars to many hotels. A night at a shared bedroom in a hostel costs an average of R$40. Hotel rooms start at R$150.

Thousands of Cariocas gather in Santa Teresa during Carnival in February, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

On the downside, Kahn admits that public transportation has still a long way to go in the region. “The transportation here is not very good, you can’t rely on it. But if you have a car is okay,” she says.

Violence has also increased in the area through recent years, which has concerned many of those who live in Santa Teresa. Compared to April 2016, there was an increase of twelve percent in the number of robberies in the same month a year later.

As a response, locals came together in May 2017 to protest and call for more security, especially because of the increasing gang wars at the favelas. Also, it is advised to know your way around to avoid getting lost as the neighborhood sits right in between major favelas.

Compared to many areas in Zona Sul, real estate in Santa Teresa is a bargain. There you can find plenty of options costing less than R$1 million. It is possible to buy, for example, a four-bedroom apartment in Santa Teresa for the same price as a one-bedroom in Leblon.

Prices for a small one-bedroom on Rua Monte Alegre start at R$370,000 and an 80 square-meter apartment on Rua Cardeal Dom Sebastião Leme stands at R$700,000. Larger three-bedroom apartments with a view on Rua Almirante Alexandrino can be found for R$850,000 and a house with pool, garden and four bedrooms usually costs about R$2.5 million.

The rental for a nice 65 square-meter apartment starts at R$1,500, not including condo fees and taxes. For short-term stays, AirBnB has options that cost from R$76 (room in a shared apartment) to R$3,300 (penthouse with pool) per night.

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