By Ruth Faulkner, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Located above the Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods of Gloria and Lapa in Centro, Santa Teresa is famous for its winding, narrow streets which are a favorite spot for artists and tourists. Santa Teresa is both a main tourist destination and a desirable location to live because of its small-old-town feel and its famous bohemian vibe.
The neighborhood originated from the Santa Teresa Convent, built in the 1750s on Desterro hill. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century Santa Teresa was an upper class borough, as shown today the magnificent mansions still standing.
Arnaud Bughon of Rio Exclusive, a Luxury Vacation Rentals and Real Estate company, considers Santa Teresa a special spot in Rio because of its seclusion, saying “Where else in Rio can you enjoy cobbled streets, crumbling colonial mansions and lively local bars all free from the noisy traffic and throngs of tourists that characterizes other neighborhoods of Rio.”
The journey up to Santa Teresa has historically been a key point of attraction, when the famous Santa Teresa Bonde (Tram) was still running until a fatal accident brought the tram to a stop in 2011. Now, works are underway to get the tram moving again ready for the Olympic Games, although timelines have changed considerably leaving many in doubt of when the tram will re-open.
Santa Teresa can currently be reached by taxi, buses or by using the kombi (van) for R$3. The more intrepid can walk up the hill, taking about thirty minutes, either via the main roads or the famous Selaron Steps that join Lapa and Santa Teresa. The Steps, 200 mosaic stairs produced by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón, are a regular tourist spot.
Once up the hill, the restaurants are one of the main attractions. One of the most famous restaurants, Espírito Santa features food from Amazonian roots such as savory açaí dips and cinnamon-infused cocktails.
Santa Teresa is also home to some of the best examples of the Carioca boteco boasting two of the city´s most inviting botecos Bar do Gomes and Bar do Mineiro. Another attraction is the Parque das Ruínas, the ruins of the residence of society lady Laurinda Santos Lobo, which give a privileged viewpoint of Rio de Janeiro.
Heloisa Gilbert, a Carioca, lived in New York for 28 years before moving back to Rio and settling in Santa Teresa. She explained the things she loves about the area. “I chose Santa Teresa because after New York I wanted to hear the birds, see a different view, see green and no big buildings but charming colonial architecture. I love the cobbled streets, you feel like you’re in a completely different city. [And] I love the restaurants in the area, Aprazível is my favorite.”
Security and personal safety is sometimes a consideration in the Santa Teresa area. The main plaza, Largo de Guimarães is a relatively safe area, but it is advised to take taxis after dark for the trip to and from Gloria or Lapa. The walking route up from the Lapa Selaron steps is a known area for pick-pocketing and mugging, with warning signs on display. Further, Santa Teresa is surrounded by many favelas so it is advised to know your way around to avoid getting lost.
For buyers, prices currently sit at R$7,693 per square meter. This price has seen a slight drop of -1.3 percent after reaching a peak in February 2015. It’s lowest point over the last twelve months was R$7,259 per square meter in June 2014, according to Fipe-Zap.
For those who rent, prices have seen a welcome drop of -2.5 percent since February 2015 to R$33 per square meter. This has gradually reduced from a twelve-month high in September 2014 of R$39 per square meter. The rent drop has been more marked in larger properties of four or more rooms, with a -18.8 per cent reduction to R$51.
A recent survey by Secovi-Rio, the city’s housing union, showed that ten out of eighteen neighborhoods in Rio saw a fall in rent in March 2015. However, vacation or short-term rentals, especially during key periods such as Carnival, and with the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games, can be expected to be high price rentals.