Cooled by gentle breezes, the scenic Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Santa Teresa is known as a haven for artists, musicians and other bohemian types.
It seems fitting, then, that one of the most compelling reasons to visit the neighborhood is a space that once hosted some of the most happening parties in the city.
At Parque das Ruinas (literally, "Park of the Ruins"), the former grand residence of renowned 20th-century socialite Laurinda Santos Lobo lay desolate for decades after her death in 1946. But in 1997, the building was restored in a fashion that leaves the walls and ceilings open to the elements and the floors joined by cast iron staircases.
Parque das Ruinas is popular with families — Photo courtesy of Katie Shrubb
The ascent to the top floor can be somewhat dizzying, but the panoramic views from the roof – which take in Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf mountain, Lapa's Arches and the Christ the Redeemer statue in one sweeping vista – make it worth the vertigo-inducing climb.
The lower floor now hosts visiting art and photography exhibits, taking the city of Rio as a common theme, and a pleasant open-air cafe in the grounds serves a range of pastries and light snacks as well as coffee, delicious cakes and some tempting caipirinhas.
On Sundays, the sound of live choro music fills the air and lends a festive air to the park, and many Rio locals head here for al fresco Sunday brunch.
The former mansion gardens are now home to a small children's playground and a circular stage, and there's a regular program of live theater and children's events, many of which are free to attend.
One of Rio's smallest but most appealing parks, Parque das Ruinas is free to visit (although there is an entry fee to attend some evening performances), and the space is safe and well maintained.
The superb views mean that photo opportunities abound, and this is a pleasant place to spend a Sunday afternoon, before taking a stroll around the neighborhood. Santa Teresa is at its bohemian best on Sundays, when locals and visitors gather at the museums and cultural spaces and browse the artsy shops before stopping for a few ice-cold beers at one of the many atmospheric bars here.
Parque das Ruinas is somewhat hidden away on a quiet residential street some 10 minutes' walk away from the main drinking and dining strip, but it's well worth seeking out. Any local will be able to point you in the right direction.