Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro

The Petrópolis Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Dell'Arte.

Overview of Petrópolis

Petrópolis, in the mountain range known as Serra Fluminense, in Rio de Janeiro State, is a favorite getaway for Rio de Janeiro residents.

With cooler weather, historic buildings, plenty of ecotourism and adventure opportunities, and charming hotels, Petrópolis is the closest mountain resort around Rio and often thought of as part of a trio of towns that also includes Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo.

Sightseeing in Petrópolis is convenient as many of the city's attractions are in the historic downtown area. Surrounding districts - mainly Itaipava and Araras - abound in natural beauty and charming inns.


Emperor Pedro I, who declared Brazil independent from Portugal on September 7, 1822, spent a night on a farm belonging to a priest, Padre Correia, when traveling to Minas Gerais earlier in 1822. The farm was located on the Royal Road (Estrada Real) which connected the coast to the gold mines (minas) of the southeast.

Pedro I was pleased with the weather and thought it would be good to have a summer residence where he could receive visitors from Europe away from the hot weather in Rio, then the seat of government. He also felt the local climate would be healthy for his daughter, a fragile child who died at 10.

The Royals purchased a farm next to Padre Correia's farm. When the emperor was forced to resign and return to Portugal in 1831, leaving his young son, Pedro II, as the ruler of Brazil, plans to build a palace on the Petrópolis farm were abandoned.

In 1843, newlywed, eighteen-year-old Pedro II created Petrópolis by decree. The city and the summer residence were built largely by European immigrants, mainly Germans.

The Imperial Museum

Built between 1845 and 1862, the summer residence of Emperor Pedro II is now Museum Imperial or the Imperial Museum.

When Brazil became a republic, Princess Izabel, Pedro II’s daughter, rented out the building to a school. A student of a subsequent school housed in the palace, Alcindo de Azevedo Sodré, idealized the museum, which was created by president Getúlio Vargas by decree in 1940 and opened to the public in 1943.

Some of the most important objects in Brazilian history are housed in Museu Imperial, including the gold quill used by Princess Izabel to sign Lei Áurea, the law which liberated slaves in Brazil in 1888.

Museu Casa de Santos Dumont

The Brazilian Father of Aviation and inventor of the wristwatch, Alberto Santos Dumont, lived in A Encantada (The Charmed One), a house perched on a hill in the downtown area of Petrópolis, later turned into Santos Dumont’s House Museum.

The intriguing house doesn’t have a kitchen – meals came from a nearby hotel – but it has a lookout point for astronomical observation and stairs shaped as rackets, which force the visitor to start the ascent either with the right foot (outside) or the left foot (indoor staircase).

The museum (phone: 24 2247-5222) is open Tue-Sun, 9:30a-5p.

Museu Casa de Santos Dumont photos

Other Petrópolis Attractions

  • Crystal Palace ​- Built as a present from Count D'Eu to his wife, Princess Izabel, the 1884 structure was built in France and inspired in London's Crystal Palace.
  • Quitandinha Palace - Once the largest hotel/casino in South America, Quitandinha is now a trade center.​
  • Praça 14-Bis - On a square dedicated to Alberto Santos Dumont, view a replica of the 14-Bis, his pioneer airplane, at 75% of the original size.
  • São Pedro de Alcântara Cathedral

Where to Stay

Local online guide Petrópolis has listings of hotels in the central area and in surrounding districts, such as Itaipava and Araras, where most country resorts are located.

Ecotourism & Adventure

Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgâos, in Teresópolis is the main natural attraction in the Fluminense Range.

For closer attractions, go to the​ Petrópolis Culture and Tourism Foundation website and look for Attractions, then Tourist Circuits, for more information.

There is a lot to do in the Tourist Circuits - Route 22, Range and Valley, and Taquaril.

Where to Eat

NetPetrópolis has a listing of local restaurants. For restaurants in the downtown area, look for places listed with the location Bairro: Centro

Petrópolis Altitude:

800 meters (about 2,600 feet)


Rio de Janeiro: 72 km (about 44 miles)

Teresópolis: 55 km (about 34 miles)

Nova Friburgo: 122 km (about 75 miles)

Buses to Petrópolis:

ÚNICA-FÁCIL has comfortable buses to Petrópolis leaving from Terminal Rodoviário Novo Rio, in Rio de Janeiro. View the Rio de Janeiro-Petrópolis bus schedule.

Correction: The Imperial Museum was opened in 1943, and not in 1843 as previously published. Thanks to reader J. for calling my attention to the typo. Also corrected now: the museum's creation year by presidential decree (1940) and opening year (1943).