Glória – Walking in Rio’s First Zona Sul Neighborhood


Here in this picturesque spot, the clear, clean water of Rio Carioca emptied into Guanabara Bay. The bay and fresh water attracted European sailors and traders looking for Brazilwood (Pau-Brazil) trees which were coveted in Europe for the red dye derived from the wood (Brazil gets its name from these trees). French traders and Huguenot settlers established the France Antarctique colony on an island in Guanabara Bay in 1555 and for a few years the French controlled the coastline from Rio de Janeiro to Cabo Frio. The Portuguese were not happy and pointed to a treaty that gave them the right to control the area. In 1565 the Portuguese established their own bayside colony of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. The indigenous Tupinambá, fierce warriors and occasional cannibals, allied with the French against the Portuguese as they battled for territory and resources. In 1567 the Portuguese destroyed France Antarctique and seized control of the region.

For many years Rio Carioca was the city’s main source of drinking water, although now the river is mostly hidden. As the city grew, the river was channeled, running underground beneath streets and buildings before emptying into Guanabara Bay. A huge earthworks project completed in the 1960s used pulverized sections of Zona Sul mountains to fill in and claim land from the bay, reshaping the coastline and creating beautiful, green, park space. The bay water no longer laps against the wall in Glória, but the years of wear can still be seen on the lower section.

Wall in Gloria

Glória gets its name from the 17th century church, Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro (Our Lady of the Glory Hill) that crowns the hilltop. Built in 1739 on the spot of an earlier Church, this Nossa Senhora became a favorite with the Portuguese royal family in 1808 when Dom João VI moved the Portuguese monarchy to Brazil to safely wait out the Napoleonic Wars. When João VI returned to Portugal he left his son Dom Pedro I to rule as Brazil’s first Emperor, his son Dom Pedro II (second and last emperor of Brazil) was baptized at Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro and to this day the Brazilian descendants of the Portuguese royal family are baptized here.

We took the easy way up – the funicular built in 1942 and renovated in 2003.

Walking in Gloria

Stepping out of the funicular felt like stepping into Portugal.

Walking in Gloria

Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro

Walking in Gloria

Walking in Gloria

Walking in Gloria

Walking in Gloria

Walking in Gloria

Dom Pedro I regularly attended Sunday services at Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro with his family but, directly after church, he snuck down a hidden path to be with his married mistress the Baroness of Sorocaba (Maria Benedita de Canto e Melo) at her mansion in Glória. Pedro’s wife had long suffered the flaunting of his official mistress Domitila (Maria Benedita’s sister) but Domitila was so furious when she found out he was cheating on her with her sister that she tried to have the Baroness murdered.

Villa Aymore

Walking in Gloria

The row of mansions where the Baroness lived has been renovated and reconstructed as a place for art (Art Club Jacarandá), cultural programs, and coworking office space. Sadly, the Baroness of Sorocaba’s mansion was destroyed but excavation work is being done and archaeologists have found Pedro’s hidden path. It is being restored as a nature trail and is currently inaccessible, however, we did get a peek. Notice the corrugated metal door partially open in one of the pics below?

Walking in Gloria

Walking in Gloria

São Joaquim Palace


The palace was built in 1918 as the residence for the first cardinal archbishop of Rio. This is where Pope Francis stayed when he visited the city in 2013.

Back in its heyday, Glória was considered the Paris of Rio. There were mansions, gardens and parks, hotels and embassies, and the neighborhood attracted artists and musicians along with the rich and influential. Sadly, after the capital moved to Brasilia in the 1960s, the neighborhood declined.

Walking in Gloria

We went inside the terracotta colored Condomínio Edifício Lage – built by Henrique Lage in 1925 and visited the art photography school Ateliê Oriente.

Walking in Gloria

We got a peek at the backside of the building too.

Praca Luis de Camoes (Luis de Camões Square)

Walking in Gloria

The famous Hotel Glória is here at Praca Luis de Camoes (behind the white columns in the lower left pic above). The hotel, built in 1922, was once the social and cultural focal point for the neighborhood. The sculpture on the top left is St. Sebastian (Sao Sebastiao) the patron saint of Rio and the head on the top right is former Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas. Beneath the square is the subteranean Memorial Municipal Getúlio Vargas, a museum that examines his life, presidency, scandals, and suicide.

“I have given you my life. Now I offer you my death. I fear nothing. Serenely I take my first step towards eternity and leave life to enter history.” ― Getúlio Vargas.

The museum was interesting and the arctic blast from the AC was a very welcome relief after all of our walking around – great ending to our tour.



*I noticed a sign at the memorial for acoustic musical performances on Thursdays and a Facebook link to keep informed of other happening.

This was the second neighborhood walk I’ve been on that was organized by the InC of Rio and guided by journalist and author Rafael Bokor.


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