By Anita Kirpalani, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Famous for its lively bohemian and artistic vibe, Santa Teresa has recently become more and more popular amongst tourists both from Brazil and abroad. Here are a few tips on how to enjoy a three day weekend in the ‘Brazilian Montmartre’.
For starters, get to Santa on Friday morning by taking the antique yellow Bonde (tramway) from Largo da Carioca station which, after crossing the Lapa arches, will bring you up the hill and into another era. Go all the way to the last stop of Paula Mattos branch, Largo das Neves, and enjoy the picturesque square with its tiny church and views of the city below.
Then make your way by foot through the cobblestone streets and follow the Bonde trail. Stop at the local farmer’s market on Rua Almirante Alexandrino, in front of the house of the producers of the famous Magnifica cachaça, before heading down to the Largo do Guimarães, one of Santa’s (relatively) busy areas with its restaurants and artsy shops. Don’t miss the opportunity to try a shrimp moqueca (typical Bahia dish) at friendly Bar do Marcô (Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 412 A) and hang around until their Friday afternoon live jazz.
As the evening light changes, take a stroll towards the Santa Teresa convent, birthplace of the neighborhood and down to one of the bairro’s icons, the Selarón staircase, with its 215 steps featuring multicolor mosaics that are regularly changed by the artist himself. For dinner on your first night in “Santa”, try a high-end culinary experience at a table perched on a tree, at the fancy Aprazível (Rua Aprazível, 62) restaurant, or go for the more local and buoyant Simplesmente (Rua Pashcoal Carlos Magno 115) and mingle with a young and artsy crowd on the street until the late-night hours.
Recover on Saturday at El Cafecito (Rua Pashcoal Carlos Magno, 121) or, for late risers, start directly next door with one of Santa Teresa’s best feijoadas at the vivid Bar do Mineiro (Rua Pashcoal Carlos Magno, 99).
Then get a start to your second day by discovering the neighborhood’s cultural centers which often feature local exhibits or shows. Stop at the graceful mansion that hosts the Centro Cultural Laurinda Santos Lobos (Rua Monte Alegre, 306) or at the more artisanal Centro Cultural Casa do Barão, near the Anglican Church.
Go for an afternoon drink at the Largo das Letras further uphill, where a well furnished book-shop and Saturday afternoon traditional samba coexist in a great ambiance. If is the second Saturday of the month, enjoy a small crafts market on their grounds.
Finish Saturday with a few drinks at the cheerful Bar do Gomes (Rua Áurea, 26) where all the locals come for fiery talk and a beer or two – a must see. Grab a bite there – try their pasteis (filled pastry) or their bacalhau (salted cod) crockets – or at one of the street stalls just in front.
On Sunday morning, go for breakfast at the Padaria Cereal (Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 3283) which makes its own artisanal breads and sometimes has live music.
Then pick one of the museums of the neighborhood: the Museu do Bonde (Rua Carlos Brant, 14) dedicated to the rattling tram, the Constant Benjamin museum located at the residence of the founding father of the Brazilian Republic (Rua Monte Alegre, 255), or the very beautiful Chacara do Céu art museum (Rua Murtinho Nobre, 93).
Whether you chose the later or not, make sure to admire the outstanding 360 degree view of the city at the close-by and unmissable Parque das Ruínas.
After that, stroll back down to the Largo do Guimarães to catch an independent movie at the very good Cinema Santa Teresa – the courageous ones can test their Portuguese skills with a Brazilian movie and the others can go for one of their good foreign selection.
End your weekend by relaxing with live jazz at the chic Santa Teresa Hotel bar called the Bar dos Descasados (Divorcés’ Bar) and stay for a extravagant dinner or head to the more intimate Sobrenatural (Rua Almirante Alexandrino 432) for lively choro or samba music and delicious Brazilian food.