It would be a shame to come to Rio de Janeiro  and not visit the utterly charming, bucolic hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, one of the city’s oldest residential bairros. In the 19th century, wealthy Cariocas built gracious villas along its narrow winding streets, with terraces and balconies overlooking the lush green mountains and blue waters of the Baía de Guanabara.
The views are still alluring, as is the neighborhood, which is why after a long period of decline, many artists began to move in, snatching up the dilapidated villas for a song and transforming them into ateliers and galleries.
After an initial revival in the ’60s and ’70s, a second revitalization has recently begun to take place, resulting in the trickling in of boutique hotels  and fashionable bistros  as well as improved security (surrounded by favelas , Santa Teresa has traditionally had a somewhat dodgy reputation, particularly at night).
Spearheaded by the neighborhood artists’ efforts, Santa Teresa has gradually evolved into a vibrant community. On a regular basis, many small-scale artistic and musical events take place in “Santa.” Among the most popular is an event known as Portas Abertas (www.vivasanta.com.br ). Held twice a year, on weekends in May and November, Santa Teresa’s “Open Doors” event involves over 100 resident artists, who literally open the doors to their homes and studios so you can view their work (and their often fantastic living spaces).
The easiest and, by far, most diverting way to get to Santa Teresa is to hop aboard the old-fashioned bonde (trolley) that clangs its way up the hills from Centro . Bondes leave from the Estação Carioca (Rua Professor Lélio Gama, Centro, tel. 21/2240-5709, departures every 20 minutes 6 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, R$1), located near the Carioca Metrô station.
The ride itself is wonderfully scenic since the bonde tracks pass over the Arcos da Lapa  before climbing up the steep hills of Santa Teresa, until the bonde finally clatters to a halt at the charming Largo das Guimarães. Although security on the open-sided bondes has been beefed up due to numerous thefts, you’ll want to keep visible valuables to a minimum.