After three days in Rio, it was time to get out of the city and see a different side of Brazil. The day started sour and turned sweeter and sweeter little by little.
We were decided to explore Petropolis, the summer gateway of the Brazilian emperor and his family. Wait, wait, wait. Did you read that right? Yes, Brazil had its fair share of emperors while it was under Portuguese control. In the Americas, it seems ludicrous to talk about royal families. That is why I was so fascinated with the opportunity to visit a palace in the tropics. Petropolis is the place to admire all those nouns that don’t seem to go together.
But the excursion day turned into a nightmare. At least for a couple of hours. Here is a short summary of what went wrong.
- The day was gray, cold and rainy.
- The ride from Rio de Janeiro to Petropolis was way longer than what my guidebook said.
- I left the big city with a little amount of local currency (reales).
- Once at Petropolis, we tried to get out money from an ATM. Most of the banks were closed because it was Saturday. The available ATMs were connected to local networks so we were not able to take out money.
- We tried to change dollars into reales but we didn’t have our passports.
- We searched our pockets and bags and found enough money to get to Petropolis’s bus station and buy tickets to Rio using a credit card. My husband decided it was time to go.
- I cried (no more details on that).
What happened that day was totally stupid and I assume all the responsibility. I was the one who decided to exchange money later. In some way, I thought Brazil was reliable (if you know what I mean). To my surprise it wasn’t.
I told my husband: “You know, we are already here. Let’s go and take a look at the Palace even from the outside”. He wasn’t happy with my request but agreed. And that was when things started to turn sweet. While walking to the Palace, we found a bank connected to an international network (Bradesco) and were able to get money. We jumped with excitement and hugged after the machine dispensed the money. I am not exaggerating. I felt so relieved. You have no idea how many (fatalistic) thoughts went thru my head.
As you can imagine, I was giggling like a kid when I saw this baby.
That is the Museu Imperial (Imperial Museum). Emperor Pedro I used to find a refuge from the coastal heat in this area surrounded by mountains and vegetation. He was so enthralled by the area that he made plans to construct a villa in a designed spot. It was actually his son, Pedro II, who ended up constructing a residence in the area. But you know how royals are. Pedro II ended up constructing a big and lofty palace. He also found the city where the palace stands. He named it Petropolis or Pedro’s City. Wow, how modest.
So you can guess what happened next. The high class of that time wanted to be close to the emperors. The city ended up being the “in” place to be. Many elegant mansions saw the light of the day during those years (19th century). Later, German immigrants moved to the area and gave the city a Bavarian feel. The mix of cultures and styles can be admired today in a setting which continues to amaze visitors.
The Museu Imperial is an elegant neoclassical building. It is painted bright pink. See why I wanted to see this palace so much? Photos are not allowed inside and officials are serious about keeping the place in optimal condition. For example, you have to replace your shoes with soft-soled slippers.
The inside of the palace is really glamorous. Pedro definitely had good taste. You can admire the rooms and the royal crown. Outside you can take a look at the horse shed. Royal objects like carriages are on display.
Other sights in Petropolis
The city is small but there are other pretty places to visit.
- Catedral de Sao Pedro de Alcantara
This French neo-gothic cathedral holds the mortal remains of Emperor Dom Pedro II and his wife.
When we visited, the place was being prepared for a wedding. Lovely!
- Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace)
This unusual structure was made in France and assembled in Brazil for Princesa Isabel (the daughter of Don Pedro II). The princess used to host balls and parties in here.
- Casa de Petropolis
- Casa de Santos Dumont
- Bavarian influenced structures
- Elegant mansions
- Houses resembling the residence of fairy tale characters
- Peaceful parks and plazas
Others things to do in Petropolis
- Take a horse carriage ride
- Eat German or regional Brazilian food
- Do an excursion around the mountains (visit Parque Nacional da Sera dos Orgaos)
At the end, I was happy to visit Petropolis. Even though the day started rough, I tried to focus in the positive. This is a Brazil I was not expecting. The experience taught me how Brazil is much, much more than beaches.
Recommendations for your visit
- Always have enough reales with you.
- Carry your passport if you intend to exchange money.
- Dollars have worst reputation than the devil in Brazil. Don’t think dollars are going to take you out of trouble.
- Guidebooks state that a bus takes 1.5 hours to reach Petropolis. Take into consideration this is only the time it takes the bus to get from Rio’s bus station to Petropolis’ bus station. This does not include the time it takes to get from your hotel to Rio’s bus station, the time from Petropolis’ bus station to downtown Petropolis and the waiting time. Seriously, it takes about 3 hours to get to Petropolis and 3 hours to get back to Rio.
Did you know about Petropolis? Have you visited? Let me know in the comments section below.