By Samuel Elliott Novacich, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Santa Teresa, the bohemian neighborhood nestling itself on a series of hills that span from Laranjeiras to Lapa, has always been a day-trip getaway for tourists and locals alike. Now, the vibrant community, going through dramatic rejuvenation as new restaurants and cafés pop-up, is enjoying perhaps unprecedented levels of popularity.
A ride on the bonde (trolley car) leaving Carioca Station will take one over the Arcs of Lapa, slowly meandering the winding Rua Joaquim Murtinho to Largo de Guimarães, the base from which all Santa Teresa adventures may be staged.
On every day of the week, there is something of interest in Santa Teresa. In Largo de Guimarães, Largo das Letras, the upstairs café and bookstore, offers outdoor seating and a pleasant view of the neighborhood. Another popular outdoor venue is Cafecito, offering free WiFi, fresh juices and coffee in addition to a full menu.
A number of art, jewelry, and vintage clothing stores dot Santa Teresa as well, the most famous of which, Eu Amo Vintage (Rua Monte Alegre, 374), organizes its wares not by size, style, or even sex, but by color.
Come to Santa Teresa on a Sunday and the streets are overwhelmed with visitors. Many come for a day, walking the popular route from Largo de Guimarães to Parque das Ruínas (the former mansion of heiress and socialite Laurinda Santos Lobo) to enjoy spectacular views.
Most visitors, however, can be found among the crowds that pour into the streets, out of the super popular Bar do Mineiro (Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, 99) or Armazém São Thiago, better known simply as Bar do Gomes (Rua Áurea, 26).
Entrepreneurs and food lovers are quick to capitalize on the growing popularity of the neighborhood, with several restaurants set to open in the next few months. One such restaurant is Portella, predicted to open in Largo de Guimarães sometime this fall.
Specializing in Bahian cuisine, Portella was founded over forty years ago in the São Paulo neighborhood of Bela Vista. At the Santa Teresa location, owner Nádia Cury is renovating a huge space and former bakery to contain both the new restaurant and a corner snack shop.
Another still nameless restaurant and outdoor space is being renovated across the street from Bar do Mineiro, already opening its outdoor patio on weekends to promote local artists and serve a traditional feijoada.
Outsiders are drawn to Santa Teresa for more permanent stays as well. In addition to a plethora of restaurants and cafés, the community also offers practicality, boasting its own movie theater, CineSanta (Largo de Guimarães) as well as a supermarket, police post, health center, and pharmacy.
Uruguayan transplant Camilla Rodriguez says she wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else, stating “The neighborhood is truly beautiful, full of life and you can always find something great to do.” Ms. Rodriguez can be often be found walking the streets of Santa Teresa with a basket of homemade empanadas, treats that are quickly becoming another community favorite.
Another popular attraction is the Centro Cultural Laurinda Santos Lobo, which, in addition to hosting events like plays, film festivals, and photography exhibits, also provides weekly dance classes in samba, salsa, ballroom, and forró, on Wednesdays at 6PM, free and open to the public.