This unlikely cobblestoned neighborhood close to the center of Rio de Janeiro has long been a tourist favorite among visitors to this Brazilian city. Santa Teresa (Barrio Santa Teresa) is located on the top of the hill of the same name, and takes its name from a convent built in the 1750s. It has a history as an upper class neighborhood, as some of its larger and more elaborately built mansions can attest. Santa Teresa has become an artist enclave in recent years, and is a great place to spend an afternoon, wandering among eateries, enjoying a cold beer, and checking out galleries and stands where you can buy artists renderings of the Cidade Maravilhosa (amazing city, as Rio is frequently called), or other souvenirs.
There are also a few museums worth visiting, such as the main art museum, the Museu da Chácara do Céu, housed in art collector Raimundo Otoni Castro Moya’s former mansion, that has works from Miró and Matisse, among other greats. Other architectural surprises include the Russian Orthodox Church. For the moment, the only way to experience the famous tramway that brought residents and visitors to the top of Santa Teresa is through the museum, Museu do Bonde, which tells the tram’s story, and shows it crossing the Carioca Aqueduct, at over 45 meters in height. The tram has been out of service since 2011, but plans are afoot to get it back up and running in 2015. For now, visitors take a taxi or the bus up the hill.
The view over the Guanabara bay at night are not to be missed, and if you can time your visit to June or July, you might overlap with a weekend arts festival called Arte de Portas Abertas, with live music (mostly jazz), art and food stands held in the open air.