The Colorful Streets of Rio’s Santa Teresa

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is home to thriving cultural traditions like Samba, Bossa Nova and Carnival. However it also houses a rich collection of early 20th century architectural wonders. Of all the neighborhoods which contain some of this architectural past, it is the Santa Teresa neighborhood, covered on our Bohemian Rio walk, where these treasures are being preserved, renovated and passed-down from generation to generation most. The neighborhood is undergoing an artistic renaissance, with new art studios, cultural centers, bars and restaurants. These creative endeavors, combined with the architectural surprises waiting around each corner of the windy, colorful streets, are the ingredients to a unique adventure within this quaint, bohemian hill in the middle of bustling downtown Rio.

Slide 1
The neighborhood was home to important political leader and education advocate Benjamin Constant, who is credited with being the "Father of the Brazilian Republic." He was instrumental in authoring Brazil's first constitution of 1891 and was the Minister of Education, pushing many important reforms on curriculum and learning facilities into effect. His estate and garden- known as the First home of the Republic- is today a museum and open for public visits, where you can even take home a plant from the nursery. It's the starting point for our Bohemia Rio walk. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr
Slide 2
One of most alluring features of Santa Teresa's architecture is the detail. Walking the streets, you can appreciate the craftsmanship of a foregone era as you discover stoic statuettes, stately lions or boars, or delicate flower motifs ornamenting the windows, walls, or columns. Many of the buildings were built around 1910, when Art Nouveau was the dominant architectural influence in Europe. Rio de Janeiro at that time was a still a new Republic, just 21 years old, and eager to construct a city as beautiful and urban as Paris. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr
Slide 3
The dominant architectural styles in Santa Teresa are Portuguese Renaissance, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. However, as this neighborhood has always been a refuge for intellectuals with a Bohemian side, there are several examples of architectural fantasies made real, such as Swiss chalets, French tudors, or even medieval castles. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr
Slide 4
This beautiful mansion and garden is a stunning example of a labor of love. The current owner told our docent, architect Amber Daniela Nelson her story: "I grew up in this house, which belonged to my grandparents. My parents have been renovating it my entire life. In my childhood we didn't even have electricity or running water here. But finally, now that I am an adult and in charge of the renovations, it's just a few years from being finished. We love living here and would never leave."
Slide 5
Of course, with all architectural gems come beautiful gardens. Santa Teresa displays some of the finest private gardens in the city. It's precisely this unique city/nature balance that has made Rio the world's truly "Marvellous City." Photo credit: Amber Daniela Nelson
Slide 6
You can't go to Santa Teresa without visiting Parque das Ruínas, former home of intellectual socialite Laurinda Santos Lobo, the "Marshall of Elegance." She was the hostess to top creative minds during Rio's 1920's Belle Epoque era, sharing time with international figures such as French poet, journalist, and novelist Antonele France and American Modern dancer Isadora Duncan. Today what remains of Lobo's legendary artistic saloons and hospitality are only the ruins of the house. However in 1997, the house was saved from total destruction and converted into a cultural center, complete with a café, theater, outdoor stage, exhibition space and at the attic level, the best in-town view of Centro and surrounding areas. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr
Slide 7
Even before the establishment of a cultural center at Lobo's home, a pioneering renovation effort led by community members created the Centro Cultural Municipal Laurinda Santos Lobo in another beautiful mansion in Santa Teresa. Since its opening in 1979, it has featured exhibitions and shows of local artists and musicians, and is credited with being a major influence in the successful renewal of creative endeavors in the neighborhood. It currently houses the Museu do Bondinho, Santa Teresa's museum to their beloved tram. Photo credit: Amber Daniela Nelson
Slide 8
In 2011, Santa Teresa's famous tram, the Bondinho, then over 100 years old, was declared unsafe and shut down by the city. However, due to impassioned community efforts to save the "little tram," it is now being renovated and should reopen by the 2016 Olympic games, after many years of painstaking construction and political rallying. Once open, the tram would take locals and visitors alike from a stop in Centro near Largo da Carioca to all corners of Santa Teresa, including Largo dos Guimarães, Santa Teresa’s main plaza. Photo credit: Amber Daniela Nelson
Slide 9
As the country with the most World Cup wins, Brazilians are passionate about their football, and residents of Santa Teresa are no exception. Here, one artist has combined his love of street art (also very popular in this neighborhood) with his love for Santa Teresa and the Brazilian national team, who are fictitiously depicted as the 2014 World Cup Champions.
Slide 10
It's easy to get caught-up in the architectural eye candy in Santa Teresa, but you can't forget to peek between the buildings at the stunning panoramic views. Centro is to the north, Aterro do Flamengo to the east, and Parque da Tijuca with Cristo Redentor to the south and west. Photo credit: Juan Jose Gonzalez, Flickr