The settlement of Petrópolis was founded on March 16, 1843, being promoted to district in 1844 and finally city in 1857.
The town’s name (“city of Peter”) honors Emperor Pedro I, the nation’s first monarch. Dom Pedro I, on route to Minas Gerais, stopped at the Padre Correas farm. He found the region’s climate agreeable and offered to buy the property but faced with the owner’s refusal to sell he bought the Córrego Seco farm.
It was under Pedro II that Petrópolis flourished. In 1845 he ordered the Summer Palace built and a batch of European immigrants, mainly Germans dashed to work on the city’s construction under Engineer Julio Frederico Koeler lead. These immigrants ultimately settled in the district and helped create the charming European like city Petrópolis became.
The Emperor was followed by Aristocrats that built their beautiful summer residences which adorn the city to this day.
Imperial Museum — One of the most important museums in Brazil. This pink neoclassical palace offers a glimpse of what the imperial family everyday life was like. The museum used to be the imperial summer residence and is exquisitely decorated, from the white Carrara and black Belgian marble at the entrance to the dining hall’s mahogany furniture. The collection of artifacts on view contains jewelry, crowns (the imperial crown is here), paintings (check out the portrait of Princess Isabel by famous Brazilian painter Victor Meirelles) and personal effects. The gardens, designed by French landscape artist Jean Baptiste Binot, sport imposing imperial palms and over one hundred species of exotic plants and trees such as the Portuguese cypress.
Cathedral — The Cathedral was built in 1884 by D Pedro II, who dedicated the church to São Pedro de Alcântara, patron saint of the Brazilian Empire. Made of brick and granite, the church follows the French Gothic style of the 18th Century. On its altar, made of bronze and marble, there is a cross made of black granite from Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro. In the center of the altar, there is a marble piece, weighing three tons, on which are the statues of Dom Pedro II, the second and last Brazilian Emperor, and is wife Dona Teresa Cristina, donated to the church by the Baroness of São Joaquim. At the back of the chapel you can see the statues of Princess Isabel and her husband the Count D’Eu, under which are kept their mortal remains.
Palácio de Cristal — Crystal Palace. The metal and glass components of the Palace were manufactured in 1879 in Saint-Saveur-les-Arras, France and assembled on the site by Brazilian engineer Bonjean; it was built in the same period during which the Eifell Tower was being constructed, and it is one of the fine examples of the influence played by the Industrial Revolution over the architectural styles. On 1st, April 1888, four years after the Palace’s opening, Princess Isabel held a spectacular party; at that historical event, she granted freedom to the last 103 slaves of Petrópolis, in a prelude to her signing, a month later, on 13th, March the “Golden Law” which abolished slavery in Brazil.
Princess Isabel House — Princess Isabel, Dom Pedro II daughter, entered History when she signed the law which freed slaves in Brazil. This pink Neoclassical building was home to the Princess and her husband Count D´Eu until 1889. Now it’s headquarters for a real estate firm which belongs to descendants of the imperial family; the firm owns the original map of the sub-divisions that gave rise to the city.
Palácio Quitandinha — Constructed in 1944, the Quitandinha Palace is one of the most impressive architectonic monuments in Petrópolis, with its 50 thousand square meters and six floors, and 10 meter high rooms. There are 440 apartments plus 13 large rooms. In one of these rooms, the ceiling is an impressive achievement of engineering: a deep blue dome 30 meters high and with 50 meters in diameter, which produces an interesting echo effect — if you stand on the right “echo point”, your voice may be echoed up to 14 times! The project followed the Norman style, which presence in Petrópolis is very strong, due to its German colonization. Quitandinha Palace was formerly Quitandinha Cassino, Latin America’s largest cassino, during the period when gambling was permitted in Brazil, from 1930 to 1946.
Casa de Santos Dumont — Alberto Santos-Dumont was the most important early pioneer of aviation and considered the “Father of Aviation”. Born in Brazil on July 20, 1873 he spent most of his life in France where he designed, built, and flew the first practical dirigible balloons (i.e. airships), demonstrating that routine, controlled flight was possible. In addition to his pioneering work in airships, Santos-Dumont made the first public flight of an airplane in Europe, in Paris on October, 1906. That aircraft, designated 14 Bis or Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”), was the first airship ever to take off, fly, and land without the use of catapults, high winds, launch rails, or other external assistance. His summer retreat in Petrópolis was built in 1918 after he had made a bet with friends that he could built a house on a scanty piece of land on the steep hillside of Morro do Encanto. Needless to say that he won the box of whiskey prize. The 3 storey house was named “A Encantada” after the street where it is.
Santos Dumont projected the place himself – a very original and inventive construction pretty much like a Cottage from the French Alps but with many unusual features: The house was conceived as a Loft, without internal walls separating rooms with different function. Because the stairs were too steep, Santos Dumont invariably hit his ankles against the next step board. His solution was then to have alternate half steps which forced one to use either the left or right foot on each particular step. The bathroom sports a hot water shower made of an alcohol heating system and a bucket which includes a temperature regulating device. This was Santos Dumont last invention.
Lunch – Alcobaça ou Solar do Império, Quinta do Lago – Not included