Petropolis Brazil is a town in the state of Rio de Janeiro that is known for its fine summer weather and its imperial history. Founded in 1843 by then Emperor Dom Pedro II, the Imperial City of Brazil, as the town is often labeled, quickly became the preferred summer residence for emperors and aristocrats alike. Wealthy merchants and politicians also found Petropolis Brazil to be an ideal place to escape to during the summer months, and much like the emperors and aristocrats, they erected stately abodes that displayed their wealth and prestige. There is a very prestigious air to the town to this day, and taking in the mansions and the lovely Imperial Palace are main pursuits for tourists.
Petropolis Brazil is set in the Serra dos Orgaos hills about an hour north of Rio de Janeiro. The altitude of the town is approximately 2,500 feet above sea level, and this is a big reason why it's a popular summer destination. The weather is cooler there during the summer months than it is down in Rio de Janeiro, so many Rio natives come seeking relief in the warmer season. A favorable climate isn't the only reason to visit Petropolis Brazil, however. While the relatively hectic environs of Rio aren't far off, the town exhibits a much more relaxed atmosphere. Quaint tree-lined streets invite visitors to explore on foot, and a collection of lovely buildings add to the charming setting. Among the town's main buildings of interest are the Imperial Palace and the Petropolis Cathedral.
The Imperial Palace is easily among the best Petropolis attractions, thanks in part to the fact that it has been converted into an excellent museum. Built between the years of 1845 and 1862, the Museu Imperial, as the palace is now known, was originally the summer residence of Emperor Dom Pedro II. Self-guided tours offer the opportunity to explore numerous rooms, including the bedrooms, and as you might imagine, there are plenty of priceless pieces on display. Among the Museu Imperial's highlights are the jewel-encrusted crown of Pedro II, the elegant baby cribs that feature ivory and bronze accents, and the collection of fine paintings that are spread throughout. You can also see the gold quill that Princess Isabel used to sign the 1888 document that officially ended slavery in Brazil. The Museu Imperial is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and lines can get long on the weekends and during peak holiday times.
When Petropolis visitors aren't checking out the Museu Imperial, they might wander over to the corner of Tiradentes and Avenida Ipiranga to see the town's cathedral. The Petropolis Cathedral is among Brazil's most famous churches. Inside lie the remains of Emperor Dom Pedro II, his wife Teresa, Princess Isabel, and the Princess's husband. The outside of the Petropolis Cathedral is a dazzling example of the French neo-gothic architectural style. Work started on the attractive edifice in the late 1870s, though the first mass wasn't held there until 1925. Worth noting is the fact that just across the street from the cathedral is the Casa da Princesa Isabel. This mansion also deserves a look, as it served as the main summer home for Princess Isabel. Princess Isabel often found herself ruling the Brazilian empire when her father was abroad.
Other Petropolis attractions that visitors might look to include on the itinerary while in town include the Museu Casa de Santos Dumont and the Casa de Petropolis. The former is a museum that is dedicated to the famous Brazilian aviator and inventor Santos Dumont, while the latter is an opulent old home that has been very well preserved.
Petropolis isn't all about manmade attractions. This resort town is also known for its eco-tourism possibilities, with hiking being among the most popular activities. Guided hiking tours that take to the surrounding hills can be booked in both Petropolis and Rio de Janeiro, and should you want more options, you can also look to add some horseback riding, rock climbing, and rafting to the picture.
There are some wonderful options when it comes to things to do in Petropolis Brazil, and while you can opt to visit the city on a day trip from Rio, staying overnight might be the better option. The Petropolis attractions and the town's options for outdoor activities can easily satisfy a couple of days at least. Some good hotels can be found in town, and there are inviting resorts to choose from in the surrounding countryside. Among the best hotels in Petropolis is the Solar do Imperio. Built in 1875, this restored palace boasts sixteen enticing suites, and you might be interested to know that Princess Isabela called it home for a period.