Although it's mere minutes from the busy streets of Centro and Lapa, the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Santa Teresa maintains the feel of a small town, with its hilltop location making it something of a world unto itself.
The bairro's small public squares and neighborhood boozers complete with bar-propping locals feel a world away from the chain bars and restaurants that are ubiquitous in the rest of the city, and the less-than-simple access give it an air of isolation that makes the neighborhood feel truly unique.
And while most visitors to Santa Teresa focus their attentions on lively Largo de Guimaraes and the strip of bars and restaurants that span out from this main square, those who venture a little farther along the tram tracks will be well rewarded for their efforts at Largo das Neves.
Largo das Neves attracts a mixed-age crowd of locals in Rio — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Following the curve of tram track from Largo do Guimaraes past the popular Bar do Gomez and continuing upwards, visitors will eventually come to a small square anchored by a picture-perfect whitewashed church and surrounded by small and independent bar-restaurants.
Quiet, almost sleepy by day, on weekend evenings this public space is transformed into a family-friendly nocturnal hangout, as vendors sell potent fruit cocktails and ice-cold beers to the parents, as children race and chase around the square itself.
Food stands selling wood-fired pizza, grilled meat, homemade soups and cakes make for a substantial – and very affordable – culinary offering that should keep all ages happy, while the surrounding bars and restaurants offer food and drink in a quieter setting for those who want to enjoy a meal with a roof over their heads.
It's the al fresco element that is really appealing, however, and sitting on the square's benches watching the locals catch up on gossip as their children play is a wonderfully laid-back way to spend an evening in Rio. See, it feels like another world from the tourist-packed bars along the beaches or the formal bar-restaurants of the Zona Sul.
It's not uncommon for DJs to set up their stall by the drink vendors, either, or for live music performances, capoeira displays or dance troupes to draw a large and lively crowd.
Just a short bus or cab ride from Lapa, Largo das Neves is a great place to grab a few cheap, chilled drinks before heading out for a night's partying.
Alternatively, parents with young children may be able to make like the locals and relax with a drink as the kids play in the square.