When most tourists visit Rio de Janeiro they generally stick to the Ipanema and Copacabana neighborhoods, where the touristic beaches are lined with tanga-wearing, caipirinha-drinking locals. While these areas are certainly a must-see, an arguably better and more authentic option is the Santa Teresa neighborhood.

Santa Teresa an enchanting, bohemian district with a contemporary artistic vibe that still celebrates its traditional Brazilian roots. While it’s not entirely off-the-beaten-path, since it contains so many cultural gems that its popularity increases by the year, it is still incredibly tranquil and safe, making it the perfect base for any traveler. Major nearby attractions include the Sugar Loaf mountain, Marina da Gloria, the Republic Museum, Flamengo Beach, and the colorful Selaron’s staircase.

santa teresa rio de janeiro

It is situated on a hillside with stunning views of Rio, so be prepared for some legwork while exploring its cobblestone streets. The exercise is a perk considering that the neighborhood is full of irresistible culinary hotspots!

A perfect day in Santa Teresa:

Early Morning: Wake up to watch the sunrise over Rio from any of the hilly streets. Soak up the serenity of the neighborhood while watching the mesmerizing chaos of Rio slowly come to life.

Mid-Morning: For a traditional breakfast, it’s easy to find a cafe that serves bowls of sweetened acai with sliced bananas and granola sprinkled on top.

Late Morning: Get lost in the winding streets while admiring the Portuguese and French architecture, as well as the stunning street art and murals. Check out the many handicraft shops and art galleries for some authentic souvenirs.

santa teresa rio de janeiro

Early Afternoon: By now the hills should have helped you to work up an appetite, so head to a churrascaria, which is a Brazilian buffet-style barbecue restaurant where the waiters wander from table to table with various cuts of slow-cooked meats. Remember that lunch is the largest meal in Brazil, and is eaten very leisurely.

Mid Afternoon: Grab a taxi and head the gorgeous Flamengo beach, or if you’re looking for something more cultural, take a local Rio Street Art tour.

Early Evening: Head back to your hotel to freshen up for the evening activities!

Late Evening: Stop by any local restaurant to line your stomach with the Brazilian staple, feijoada, which is a thick black bean soup made with roasted pork.

Nighttime: Walk or take a taxi to the Arcos de Lapa, where you’ll find the beating heart of Rio’s nightlife. Indulge in a caipirinha or two, listen to live samba, or people-watch from the infamous Selaron’s staircase.

3 Places to Stay in Santa Teresa:

If you’re looking for a romantic, 5-star experience the Relais & Châteaux Santa Teresa Hotel is a perfect option.

For a comfortable, yet more affordable stay check out Casa com Varanda, rent a room in a highly rated apartment on Airbnb, or check out hundreds of other hotels in Rio de Janeiro.

Listen to the Locals

If you’re ever in need of directions, recommendations, or cultural insight, Brazilians will do their best to help, so don’t be shy! Brazilians’ warm hospitality is alive and well, so for enriching and unforgettable cultural experience try your best to converse with the locals – you won’t regret it.

Photos via Flickr/Rogerio Zgiet


Christina Gmyr is a writer for Hipmunk and is currently working on the #HipmunkCityLove project.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I stayed in Lapa when I was in Rio, like right next to Santa Teresa! It only took us like 3 minutes to walk to the stairs from my hostel. I agree, it’s much more artsy and “brazilian” than Copacabana and Ipanema. If you’re looking for a fun hostel, I highly recommend “Books Hostel”, I loved it there!

  2. Thanks for the great recommendation Christina! I will be in Rio in January, so this comes in quite handy and I will definitely make sure to check out Santa Teresa and some of the street art… 🙂

  3. Wow this is great.
    I came to your site from twitter because I saw you had some posts on Rio. I am heading there in February and these posts have given me a great starting point. I’m heading there for Carnival, which I know will be hard on a budget, but I just couldn’t help myself. Thought I definitely should do it once in my life! I’ve already got some accommodation booked, but might have a look at places in this neighborhood for after Carnival finishes.
    Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to get out and explore this area now.

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