Located high on a hillside above the sweltering streets of Rio's downtown, Santa Teresa feels like a world removed from the rest of the city. Gentle mountain breezes take the edge of the stifling heat that Rio bakes in almost all year round; the cobbled streets are lined with colorfully-painted colonial mansion houses; and there's a close-knit community of artists, writers, musicians and assorted eccentrics who lend the place a friendly and colorful vibe.
Street musicians give Arte de Portas Abertas a party vibe. — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Once home to Rio's wealthiest citizens, Santa Teresa's grand homes were virtually abandoned by the elitewhen slums began to spring up on the sides of the surrounding hills. Then, in the 1960s, artists and other bohemian types began to move into the crumbling buildings.
Today, it remains the neighborhood of choice for Rio's artistic community, and once a year close to 60 artists open the doors to their homes and studios to allow a curious public the opportunity to admire - and buy, should they wish - their works.
Even for those with only a passing interest in the visual arts, Arte de Portas Abertas ("Art with Open Doors") is well worth a visit, if only for the opportunity to take a peek inside some of Rio de Janeiro's grandest buildings. Dates change each year, but generally the event takes place during a weekend in July or August.
Arte de Porte Abertas celebrates the kooky as well as the serious side of the visual arts. — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
As one might expect from Rio, the event is far from stuffy, and there are opportunities to catch live samba bands, capoeira displays and dance performances. Meanwhile, pop-up bars, vintage clothing stalls and street vendors add to the wealth of excellent permanent drinking and dining options in the neighborhood.
The studios are scattered across the picturesque neighborhood, so come in sensible footwear that will stand up to climbing some seriously steep hills. Maps can be picked up at virtually every bar, restaurant or shop in the neighborhood, and these invaluable little guides mark each of the participating artists' studios as well as bars, shops and restaurants of note.
You'll never be far from a bar or street seller able to refresh you with an ice-cold beer or potent caipirinha cocktail, and there's a fun festival vibe to proceedings.
While Arte de Portas Abertas officially takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the party continues well past midnight, with locals and visitors mingling in the many local watering holes. Some of the best to look out for include the ever-popular Bar do Gomez, which sees hordes of drinkers gather on the street outside until it closes around midnight, and the later-opening Simplesmente.