Right next to the entrance of Guanabara Bay, Urca is full of attractions like the Sugarloaf Mountain, Forte São João, Urca Beach, Vermelha Beach.
Considered the safest neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Urca is situated at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain and provides spectacular views of the Botafogo Bay, the 10 mile long Niteroi Bridge and Flamengo Park. This tranquil area was established as a residential location before the 1920’s and also marks the spot of the first Portuguese settlement at Rio in 1567. This area is also a favorite amongst expatriates working in Rio.
Sugarloaf or Pão deAçúcar, one of the most popular pictures seen on Rio postcards is a 1300 foot mountain rising out of the Atlantic and borders this neighborhood.
Take a cable car ride up to the top of the mountain to enjoy spectacular views of the city. The peak provides a bird’s eye view of Praia de Fora, one of the most secluded beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the São João fort, and what is considered by many to be the most picturesque football field in the world, with the fort and Sugarloaf providing the backdrop on either side of the two goal posts and the Guanabara bay bordering one of its sidelines.
If you walk up Rua Sao Sebastiao from the casino, on the left hand side of the road, you will come across No. 131, a tiny house displaying a plaque inscribed with the words “pequena notavel”, meaning ‘little wonder’. This used to be the residence of the famous Brazilian samba singer and Hollywood actress Carmen Miranda, who was discovered while performing at the now non existent Casino da Urca. In the 1930’s and till it was closed in 1946, the casino, located at the tiny Praia da Urca beach used to host popular shows featuring up and coming artists. Till today, the influence of Urca’s rich musical heritage can be seen in the fact that several artists live in this area, including Roberto Carlos, considered Brazil’s Elvis Presley.
While taking a cable car ride up to Sugarloaf Mountain, you may recognize scenes from the James Bond movie, Moonraker, which had the cable car sequences shot here.
This fort, which is a military base today, is a great example of Portuguese architecture of the early 17th century. Visitors are allowed to visit the fort’s museum every weekday in the afternoon.
All around Urca, you notice several monuments which shed light on the cultural and religious influences that have found a place in the history of Rio de Janeiro. Some examples include the statue of Chopin, donated to Rio by its Polish community and the floating St. Peter statue.
Zozo is an excellent barbeque restaurant, located at the foot of Sugarloaf and its glass ceiling allows to you view the cable cars as you dig into the all you can eat menu offering steaks, chorizo and salads. If you prefer seafood, Bar Urca, where some tables overlook the bay is a good option, while Garota da Urca, right next to the former Casino is very popular, with the recommended dish being picanha, rice and chips.