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Petrópolis: European-Style Mountain Retreat

By Jayme Monsanto, Contributing Reporter

The Imperial Palace (now Imperial Museum) was the summer residence of King D. Pedro II. Photo by Alexandre Machado.
The Imperial Palace (now Imperial Museum) was the summer residence of King D. Pedro II, photo by Alexandre Machado.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Just one hour away from Rio (68Km), Petrópolis is a popular destination for Cariocas looking to escape the city. The distance offers the luxury of a weekend away with minimal effort, while many residents make the daily commute between Petrópolis and Rio to work or study.

With 312,000 inhabitants and temperatures between 13 and 23ºC, the city is an oasis of tranquility for high-stress lifestyles. It also has one of Brazil’s lowest crime rates. In 2005 Petrópolis was ranked the country’s 6th safest city by IPEA.

The city is well known for its history. Located in the hills of Rio de Janeiro state, Petrópolis was the summer residence of the Royal Family, and is known as “Cidade Imperial”.

Petrópolis was founded by King D. Pedro II (Petrópolis means “City of Peter”), who gave most of the city’s land to German settlers in the 19th century. Many streets have German names, the architecture in the center is clearly German, and most neighborhoods carry names of places in Germany, i.e. Castelânea (Kastelaum), Mosela (Mosel), Ingelheim and Simeria. Every year the city promotes Bauernfest – a festival celebrating German heritage – with folkloric music and dance, beer, parades and food.

For its history and ‘European’ weather and atmosphere, Petrópolis is a popular tourist destination. The city has many hotels and guesthouses, not to mention museums and a rich cultural life.

Rua Teresa is a famous destination in Petrópolis. The textile industry is one of the city’s main employers and this street is dedicated exclusively to clothing stores, making it Latin America’s largest open-air market.

The Crystal Palace, one of Petrópolis' most famous postcards. Photo by Bebel Monsanto.
The Crystal Palace, one of Petrópolis' most famous postcards, photo by Bebel Monsanto.

Petrópolis is a famous gourmet center, with award-winning restaurants. Most are located in Itaipava, the heart of the city’s nightlife. Popular venues include pubs Bar and Nucrepe and the Euro, Tamboatá and Zapata clubs.

In the historical center, the most sought-after area, you can buy a two bedroom apartment with R$180,000. In top locations, a three bedroom apartment costs about R$350,000. Houses on the streets Avenida Koeler or Rua Ipiranga (the city’s most valuable addresses) can go up to R$2,000,000, a price tag reserved for the most beautiful historic mansions.

There is a setback to buying a property in the center, however. 2.5% of the sale goes to the Royal family. The tax, “laudêmio”, was instituted in Petrópolis by D. Pedro II in the 19th century to ensure land was passed from European settlers to their heirs.

More affordable properties are the condos recently built close to the center, in Castelânea and Bingen. Prices range from R$150,000 to R$300,000, and most have top-end amenities.

Properties in Itaipava are also highly valuable. Largely regarded as holiday residences, as they are not centrally located, which might be just what someone tired of Rio’s fast living is looking for. They are big houses with nice gardens and a calm atmosphere.

Rentals in Petrópolis are much cheaper than their Rio counterparts. With as little as R$600 you can rent a two bedroom apartment in a great location. For R$1500 you can rent a big house with two or three bedrooms.

For those tired of the wild Carioca lifestyle, Petrópolis offers tranquility, culture and high-style at just an hour’s drive from Rio.

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