Sitting just across Guanabara Bay from Rio de
Janeiro is her sister-city Niterói, sharing a unique and deep connection
dating back to the very beginning of the two. Meaningful today as it was
in the past, Niterói adds a whole new dimension to the discovery of Rio
de Janeiro city and State.
As part of I LOVE RIO's philosophy to broaden
cultural horizons in the state of Rio, the portal covers in detail
various aspects of Niterói's cultural and touristic catalog. Secluded
beaches, architecture, museums, cinemas, parks, tours, sensational
views, restaurants, theatres, sporting competitions and recreations, as
well as flashbacks to important epochs in the region's history, easily
position Niterói at the heart of the state's scenic, cultural and
THE ONLY BRAZILIAN CITY FOUNDED BY INDIGENOUS INDIOS
Niterói sits in Guanabara Bay just across from Rio de
Janeiro, with a distance of about 7 miles between the two, with a bridge
connecting the cities. Niterói, or rather, the land which Niterói now
occupies, was originally called São Lourenço dos Índios when it was
first settled in 1573 by Araribóia, a Tupi-Guarani chief - it is the
only Brazilian city to have been established by an indigenous leader.
Niterói is one of the most important regions in Rio
de Janeiro state's history, with a profusely rich and significant past.
Today, it is the fifth largest city in the state, divided into 52
neighborhoods, with a population of around 500,000.
It is the city with one of the highest qualities of
life in Brazil, and has the highest income per capita and the highest
literacy rate in the state. It also teems with fascinating museums,
historical monuments and lush green expanses for exploration.
Deeply and inextricably connected to Rio de Janeiro
city historically, culturally, and geographically, Niterói should be
on everyone's itinerary while visiting the capital, as it offers new
perspectives on the overall region and is home to truly unique and
unforgettable landmarks many of which are easily accessible from Rio
Niterói's coat of arms has three dates engraved upon
it: 1573, 1819 and 1835. The fist of these dates refers to the official
year of the founding of the city by Araribóia, the chief temiminós Índio
who had been brought in to help in by the Portuguese in the war effort
against the French. The village, named São Lourenço dos Índios, was
installed atop a hill, making a surprise invasion almost impossible. It
was the first and only city in Brazil to have been founded by Índios.
During this first century, the region received other
settlers such as the Jesuits who installed a farm for the production of
food. Economic development was accentuated with the production of farms,
sugar mills, trade and transportation.
When King João VI and his court arrived in the
Brazilian colony in 1808, a number of parishes in the region received
significant developments, most notably São João de Icaraí (St. John of
Icaraí), São Domingos (Saint Sundays) and Praia Grande (Big Beach),
where he celebrated his birthday. In 1819, the second date on the city's
coat of arms, the region was established as the Vila Real da Praia
Grande (Royal Village of Big Beach), and from that point on its
political and social identity was made distinct from the then city of
São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro (Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro).
In 1835, second important date in the history of the
city, is when Vila Real da Praia Grande (Royal Village of the Big Beach)
was decreed the capital of the province with Rio de Janeiro, seat of the
It was therefore elevated to the status of city and
renamed Nictheroy, which is most commonly thought to mean “hidden water"
in Tamoios indigenous language. In 1841 the city gained the honorable
title of "Imperial City", visited by the young emperor Dom Pedro II for
ceremonies and theatre performances. It was gradually revitalized in
line with the Plano Taulois (Talouis Plan), developed by French engineer
Pedro Taulois. This effort effectively doubled the urban area of
Improvements in the capital were incrementally
implemented, such as the steam boat in 1835, whale oil public lighting
in 1837, gas lamps in 1847, water supply in 1861, the Niterói Railroad,
linking the city with the wider state in 1872, and electric streetcars
In 1894, due to a series of revolts and attacks on
the city, the capital was transferred to Petrópolis. However, Niterói
was reinstated as capital in 1903, which marked a period of important
In 1906 electric lighting and drains were installed
and electric trams began to replace donkey-pulled ones. The Cassino
Icaraí (Icaraí Casino) rivaled the Cassino da Urca (Urca Casino) in Rio
de Janeiro city, featuring a hotel, restaurant and gambling rooms, as
well as great names in Brazilian and Latin American music.
In the 1970s the Ponte Presidente Costa e Silva
(President Costa and Silva Bridge) was built, better known as the
Rio-Niterói Bridge, one of Brazil's most imporant engineering landmarks.
In 1974 a new law resulted in the states of Guanabara and Rio de Janeiro
to be merged, resulting in Niterói no longer being the capital. This led
to many changes and to much of the population of Niterói to migrate.
In the late 1980s, the city rediscovered its cultural
heritage and vocation. Important buildings and sites were constructed
and restored, such as the Teatro Municipal João Caetano (João Caetano
Municipal Theatre) and the Igreja de São Lourenço dos Índios (Saint
Laurence Church of the Indigenous).
Today, Niterói is one of the most important cities
in Brazil, and home to a variety of attractions and events that both
stands on their own and tell the story of the close relationship and
deep connection the city shares with nearby Rio de Janeiro.
One of the most celebrated attractions in Niterói is
the iconic "Museu de Arte Contemporânea MAC," the Museum of Contemporary
Art and symbol of the city. Designed by the famous architect Oscar
Neimeyer, the ufo-shaped establishment boasts superb views over the
Gunabara Bay and Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountains. Neimeyer envisaged
the museum to be “something loose in the landscape, a white bird flying
over the sky and the sea of Niterói", or "a flower born in a rock".
Inaugurated in 1996, it has become a world-renowned reference in art,
architecture and tourism.
Other important museums and galleries include the
Museu de Arte Sacra (Museum of Sacred Art), home to a rich collection of
historical and religious artifacts, and the Museu de Arqueologia de
Itaipú(Archaeological Museum of Itaipú) which relates neraly 8,000 years
of the region's history. Among the highlights of the collection are
deposits of shells, instruments, stones, human skeletons and other
materials that attest to everyday hunting, fishing and gathering
practices in the oceanic region prior to the discovery of Brazil. The
Solar da Jambeiro is a stunning mansion, built in 1872, with beautiful
tiles, nineteenth century facades, balconies and salons.
Important historical sites in the city include the
"Forte da Boa Viagem," a historic monument of the colonial period, which
poetically contemplates the Guanabara Bay. Another is the "Fortaleza de
Santa Cruz" (Santa Cruz Fortress), built in 1555, comprising a
collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century guns and a chapel from
The natural wonders in and around Niterói are both
numerous and awe-inspiring. The city has a range of spectacular
beaches, including Icarai, which is the best known in town, lined
with almond and coconut trees. Praia do Sossego (Relaxation Beach),
Itaipúand Itacoatiara are also jewels along the city's coast.
Niterói has both ocean-facing beaches with strong waves ideal for
surfing and sports, and bay-facing beaches with calm waters ideal
for family activities and relaxation.
On the wilder oceanfront, beaches such as Prainha de
Piratininga, Praia de Itaipú and the gorgeous Praia de Itacoatiara are
not to be missed. Itacoatiara beach, nested at the bottom of Pedra do
Elefante and surrounded by beautiful nature and mansions, is considered
one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire state. Near Praia de
Itaipú is also Lagoa de Itaipú, a placid lagoon where many go to fish,
swim and relax.
The region also boasts a range of delightful green
expanses. "Parque da Cidade," or City Park, offers beautiful views of
the sandy shores of Niterói, as well as a truly spectacular view of the
region, including Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf, and Christ the Redeemer. The
site is also a highly desirable spot for paragliding, because of its
impressive height, views, and favorable winds.
The Serra da Tiririca is a vast area of lush Atlantic
Forest, populated by orchids and natural wildlife, such as armadillos,
skunks and hedgehogs. "Pedra do Elefante," or Elephant Rock, is situated
on the highest point of the Serra da Tiririca, between the inviting
stretches of Itaipúaçu and Itacoatiara beaches and surrounded by lush
rainforest. The great rock, which bares an impressive resemblance to the
head of an elephant, offers wonderful panoramic views of Rio - the seas
that lap against the bays of Niterói, the Maricás islands, and the
Further, the cast expanse of Serra da Tiririca state
park contains hiking and climbing hotspots such as Alto Mourão and Morro
das Andorinhas, combining amazing views with rich vegetation and, aside
from offering trails with spectacular views, in 1992 the park was named
world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Annual events in Niterói, have reached a level of
organization and promotion in recent years that was unseen as
recently as a decade ago - contributing factors include the growth
of tourism and population in the Guanabara Bay area, and the
formation of organizations that put together new projects and helps
to divulge existing ones.
The months of December, January and February tend to
revolve around the traditional southern hemisphere summer events such as
Christmas, New Year (Réveillon) and Carnival. The official Réveillon
party takes place on Praia de Icaraí, one of the most famous beaches in
Niterói. On this beach, for three days people anticipate and get ready
to party for the big day, and over this pre-Réveillon atmosphere there
are several musical performances, from Rock to Samba, while fireworks
July brings with it the winter festival, which
includes a wealth of action sports events such as the skateboarding
championship, at the São Francisco Beach marina, and the paragliding
tournament, at parque da cidade, on top of morro da viração. The newest
addition to the festival is the Stand-Up Paddle Jurujuba-Icaraí
crossing, which is a nod to the growing popularity of this new twist on
In July, the city hosts 'Niterói em cena', or the
Niterói sketch festival, where dramatic pieces of 15 minutes or less in
length are exhibited for a panel of professors and directors from local
theater schools, as well as for the general public.
It is a competitive exhibition of short theater
pieces with paid prizes for the top three sketches among adults and
children in addition to best playwright. In August, the Niterói Jazz
Festival brings together local artists with others from around brazil
and the world to perform free outdoor concerts - only the opening event
is exclusive to ticket holders.
Throughout the year a plethora of artistic, sporting
and cultural events pepper the calendar ensuring the perfect balance in
Niterói's social, cultural, and recreational landscape.