Only an hour’s drive north from Rio , the summer getaway of the Brazilian emperor and his family still provides a welcome refuge, offering—aside from imperial trappings—cool respite, fine food , and mountain scenery.
Upon visiting this idyllic region, Dom Pedro I was so enchanted by the majestic landscapes and moderate temperatures that he drew up plans for a villa. However, it fell to his son, Pedro II—who founded Petrópolis (named after his imperialness) in 1843—to actually build his dream house, which (in keeping with the emperor’s lofty ambitions) ended up as a full-fledged royal palace.
Not wanting to be out of the loop, barons, counts, and marquis came flocking to construct elegant mansions. The town’s alpine climes also attracted numerous German immigrants, which explains the Bohemian influence present in the architecture as well as the hearty German food and pastries available at local bars and bistros.
If you’re seeking tranquility, you’ll find more of it during the week, since weekends (particularly in the summertime) fill up with Cariocas.
Exploring Petrópolis by foot is easy, but you can also hire a horse-drawn carriage, available in front of the Museu Imperial .
From Rio , Única (tel. 21/2263-8792) provides bus service to Petrópolis’s spanking new bus station (1.5-hours from Rio), the Rodoviária de Petrópolis (tel. 24/2249-9858). Buses leave approximately every 15 minutes.
By car from Rio, take the BR-040, which offers a splendid if hair-raising hour-long drive through the mountains (beware of rain and crowded weekend rush hours).