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The popular bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa

If you picture Rio de Janeiro as a person, the beach of Ipanema would be the body’s strong tanned legs. Vibrant Lapa would be the swaying hips and above that would be the vital organs. Santa Teresa is the artistic heart of the city, packed with galleries and street art. This is the place to immerse yourself in Rio’s art scene.

In the 18th century, Rio de Janeiro’s wealthy population sought refuge on the beautiful green hillside of Santa Teresa. Even today, the neighbourhood features many stately colonial villas and mansions. Santa Teresa offers two major tourist attractions: the Escadaria Selarón, a long stone stairway that has been covered in colourful glazed tiles by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón and the elegant Convento de Santa Teresa. But that is not why Rio locals flock to this hill on weekends. Cariocas come here primarily to have a good time.

Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa

Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa: a city neighbourhood in the rainforest

On Saturday, Cariocas flock here from all corners of the city to feast on feijoada, a delicious stew of tender pork and black beans. Others sip a refreshing caipirinha, Brazil’s signature cocktail that mixes cachaça, lime, ice and sugar. Restaurant Sobrenatural is famous for its fresh seafood and fish dishes. The punheta de bacalhau may not have the most appealing name (it freely translates as the ‘masturbating cod fish’), but the grilled fish with coconut milk, banana, potatoes and Brazil nuts is truly outstanding.
That Rio de Janeiro is a city in the middle of a rainforest becomes particularly apparent in Santa Teresa, where elegant mansions fight against the advancing jungle. Green parrots shriek from the tree tops, ferns poke through the cracks in the walls and the wires of the tram are overgrown with the roots of bromeliads. In the garden of the charming café Cafecito you can almost hear the plants grow. It feels as if the rainforest is anxious to reclaim the cobblestoned streets of the hillside neighbourhood. Rio de Janeiro is the only city in the world that can boast having a tropical rainforest inside its municipal borders. The term ‘urban jungle’ takes on a whole new meaning here.
Santa Teresa: a city neighbourhood in the rainforest

Photo credits

  • Santa Teresa: a city neighbourhood in the rainforest: Mathieu Struck, Flickr