When you are wandering through Rio de Janeiro and you find yourself in a place with no high buildings, no favelas, almost no traffic and a beautiful view over the Guanabara Bay and the Christ Statue, chances are you are in Urca. Strolling the quiet and green streets a certain calmness will come over you. Urca in Rio makes you feel like you are in a small Mediterranean town. The perfect afternoon escape from busier areas like Copacabana.
Urca in Rio, the safest neighborhood with a rich history
The special feeling you can get while walking through Urca, might be due to the fact that it is one of the safest places in the city. It is the only neighborhood that doesn’t have a Favela and it is home to the Brazilian military. This military presence has been there from the start. In 1565 the Portuguese officer Estácio de Sá set foot on land here and started with the construction of the Forte São João. A fort to defend the bay of Guanabara and keep the French and others out. Till today this fort is a military base which you can visit on afternoons during weekdays.
A man made neighborhood
For a long time the area was only made up out of the Sugarloaf Mountain it’s little sister Morro da Urca. The majority of Urca is man made. At the end of the nineteenth century a development company called Urbanização Carioca was founded to fill up parts of the shallow bay around and between the hills and construct a new neighborhood. People say that the name Urca comes from the name of this company. Many of the houses are constructed in the art-deco style that was popular in the 1920s and this still contributes to the beauty of the area nowadays.
In the middle of the neighborhood you will find Praia da Urca, with some restaurants around it. This lovely little beach is popular amongst locals, but we wouldn’t recommend to go her for a swim. Unfortunately the water of the bay is quite polluted. It is still great to sit in the sand though with a coconut. Or visit one of the restaurants and bars along the road going around the beach.
Another beautiful beach where you can swim is located on the other side of the mountain. It is Praia Vermelha or the Red Beach and for us one of Rio’s most beautiful beaches. Located between The SugarLoaf Mountain and Morro do Leme on the other side the water here is almost always calm without big waves. This makes it a popular beach for families with small children and a great place to rent a kayak.
Sunset drinks at Mureta da Urca
Urca is not as full with bars and restaurants as some other parts of Rio, but it is home to one of the best places to have a beer on the street. That place is the Mureta da Urca: a low wall along the waterside. This wall covers the whole neighborhood and is around two kilometers long. At the end of the afternoon, especially from Thursday till Sunday people gather at the wall to have a drink with friends. Go here to enjoy the sunset, the awesome views of the bay and the Christ Statue. You will find yourself meeting new people and staying a lot longer then you expected.
You can buy drinks at a bar or from street vendors, who are walking around since there are hundreds of people enjoying the place – especially when the weather is nice. A local favorite is Bar Urca, at the end of the wall close to Forte São João map. It’s the oldest bar in the neighborhood Urca and they have great salgados here. Salgados are typical Brazilian fried snacks with for example cheese, chicken or shrimps inside. A must try!
A insider tip; the part of the wall at the beginning of the neighborhood is called Pobreta da Urca, because it is supposedly less fancy than the part with Bar Urca. But you will have the best views exactly from the Pobreta.