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A Weekend Break in Petrópolis, Summer Home of Brazil's Imperial Family

12/13/2013 - 09h23



At just 42 miles from the city of Rio de Janeiro, Petrópolis used to be Brazil's unofficial capital during the summer months.

When the heat in Rio -the then capital- became too overpowering, it was to Petrópolis that Emperor Dom Pedro II and his court would come to spend the summer.

How about taking a leaf out of the Emperor's book? Until the end of low season, in April, one may take advantage of more accessible prices in the city's hotels.

The following tips should help you make the most of a weekend break:

Saturday, 10am

Jugs, mugs, vases, plates and other ornaments are among the products made at the Cerâmica Luiz Salvador, originally founded in 1952. It can still be found on the União and Indústria highway, at number 10,588, in the district of Itaipava. The shop is decorated with utensils for the home, all of which are hand painted.

Mugs can be bought for R$17 (around USD $7), a sugar bowl can be had for R$51 (USD $22) and a fruit bowl for R$216 (USD $93).


Make time for a stop at the Hortomercado, also located on the União and Indústria highway, at number 9,500. There is a traditional bar, offering a range of cachaças (a Brazilian spirit made from sugarcane), while the beer and pastel (fried pastry) combo (R$3 [USD $1.30] for a cheese pastel, or R$4 [USD $1.70] for a meaty version) is a regional favorite. Make sure you have some cash on you, as cards are not accepted.

Many of the 36 stalls at the market sell organic products (Number 8, for example, sells homemade candies and cookies). It is open on Fridays 9am - 6pm, Saturdays 8am - 6pm and Sundays 8am - 1pm.


In the city center, stop for lunch at the Casa do Alemão ( on the Rua 16 de Março. It is only a small place, but it is worth braving the crowds to try the meat croquettes for R$4.80 (USD $2) and the sausage sandwich for R$9.10 (USD $3.90).


The Petrópolis wax museum is the first of its kind in the country, and has been open for just two years. It is located in a mansion house on the Rua Barão de Amazonas, 35, and contains life-size models of such luminaries as Dom Pedro II and the singer Gilberto Gil. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10am to 5pm, and tickets cost R$20 (USD $8.50).

Close by is the house of aviation pioneer Santos Dumont, at the Rua do Encanto, 22, which today is also a museum. Objects, books and the hot water shower he invented are on display there. The stairs were designed for a tiny space, cut into the side of a hill. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Entrance is R$5 (USD $2).


Also in the center, on the Rua Alfredo Pachá, is the Palácio de Cristal. Inaugurated in 1884, it was inspired by similar structures in London and Porto. Pre-cast in France, the palace was commissioned by the Count d'Eu, husband of Princess Isabel. Today it hosts concerts and cultural events.


Finish off the day with a tour sure to go down well with beer lovers. The Bohemia museum (Rua Alfredo Pachá, 166) has interactive exhibitions that teach about different types of beer. Tickets cost R$19.50 (USD $8.35) and two tasters are included in the price. You can also have dinner while you're there. The restaurant has dishes such as griddled squid with mushroom for R$23.90 (USD $10).

Sunday, 11am

Don't miss the Imperial Museum (rua da Imperatriz, 220), Dom Pedro II's old summer home. The collection contains items such as the Emperor's crown, and the plume with which Princess Isabel signed the Lei Áurea abolishing slavery in 1888.

When entering you are provided with slippers in order to preserve the floor, which dates from the 19th century. Entry is R$8 (USD $3.40) and the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 11am until 6pm.


Make time to have lunch at the restaurant Imperatriz Leopoldina, in the hotel Solar do Império on the Avenida Koeler, 376. It is an imposing mansion dating from 1875, which became a hotel just eight years ago. The bacalhau (salted cod) with potatoes is recommended, at R$65 (USD $28).

After lunch, visit the Palácio Rio Negro, located at number 255 on the same avenue. This was the summer home of Brazilian presidents until the government of Costa e Silva (1967-69). Entry is free.


Just less than a mile away is the Casa do Barão de Mauá, located at the Praça da Confluência, 3. Dating from 1857, the building was built in neoclassical style. Unfortunately, entry is not permitted and so it can only be appreciated from outside.


In Sesc Quitandinha (Avenida Joaquim Rolla, 2), take a guided tour of the palace for R$10 (USD $4.20). When it was opened in 1944 the building was the largest casino in Latin America.

The journalist travelled on the invitation of the Petrópolis city government.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

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