By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Located in the central-northern part of Rio’s State, Nova Friburgo makes one feel in Europe without leaving Brazil. Only two and a half hours away from Rio, the ‘Brazilian Switzerland’ is a great destination for those looking for some fresh air on the mountains, breathtaking natural attractions and typical Swiss-German culinary.
Nova Friburgo was the first non-Portuguese official settlement in Brazil, being founded by Swiss and German immigrants in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The city’s name is a tribute to Fribourg, a Swiss canton where most of the settlers came from.
Even though Nova Friburgo was predominantly developed by the Swiss and German settlers, the city hosted immigrants from all over, including Japanese, Hungarian, Spanish, Austrian and Lebanese people.
The Swiss-German legacy lies in every aspect of Nova Friburgo’s culture, especially in its culinary. Those willing to experience the tastes of Nova Friburgo should visit the district of Mury, known as the city’s culinary polo.
Among Mury’s restaurants, Braun Braun is definitely worth to try out. Working both as a German brewery and restaurant, the venue offers 300 different beer labels and a menu with typical Swiss-German dishes, like eisibein (pork’s knee) with sauerkraut (coleslaw), sausages, raclette, kassler (pork’s loin) and rosti potato.
Viva Rô is a great option for tourists looking for a romantic atmosphere and an eclectic menu, including dishes inspired by the German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Austrian culinary. In between the districts of Mury and Lumiar is Empório do Dengo, a bistro that combines German family recipes and Brazilian ingredients. There, one can also buy homemade bread, fruit jams and handicrafts.
Even though Nova Friburgo’s Swiss-German culinary is a favorite among tourists, one cannot leave the city without trying its fresh trouts. Situated at the district of Debossan is Truta Boa & Cia, restaurant whose great specialty is this type of fish.
If you feel like exploring Nova Friburgo’s cultural scene, make sure to check Jardim do Nêgo, an outdoor studio where visual artist Geraldo Simplício creates and exhibits his giant sculptures, which portray people and animals through a very original aesthetics. Located on the RJ-130 highway (kilometer 55), “Jardim do Nêgo” is a great family program that perfectly combines art and nature.
Also situated on the RJ-130 highway is the Casa Suíça, a cultural center where one can learn about the role of the Swiss settlers in Nova Friburgo’s history. What’s more, delicious artisanal chocolate and cheeses can be found at the venue.
A must-see attraction for the art lovers is the Pavilhão das Artes, a 1250 square-meter fair located at the Cônego district. Working on weekends and holidays, the fair offers the most diverse products, from chocolate to furniture, all made by the local artists.
Those looking for a more chilled program should go for a walk at the Praça do Suspiro, a lovely square that gathers the city’s municipal theater and the traditional Santo Antônio church. From Praça do Suspiro, it is possible to take a cable car to Morro da Cruz; there, one can appreciate a nice view of Nova Friburgo from the top.
What’s more, Nova Friburgo owes its fame of the “Brazilian capital of lingerie” to Ponte da Saudade, neighborhood situated between the city’s entrance and the city center. Attracting sellers from all over the country, Ponte da Saudade has lingerie shops for all tastes and budgets.
Situated in the middle of the Atlantic Forest, the city is also worth it for those looking for natural attractions, like the Serra dos Órgãos National Park and the Paraíso Ecologic Station. Among Serra dos Órgãos Park highlights are the Cabeça de Dragão rock, which can be reached by a moderate trail, and the Frades waterfall, situated on the kilometer 19 of the RJ-130 highway.
To get to Nova Friburgo from Rio de Janeiro, take the BR-101 road until Cachoeiras de Macacu and the RJ-116 afterwards. The bus company 1001 also operates from Rio to Nova Friburgo, departing many times a day, everyday.