An imperial city

by a princess herself


Paola de Orleans e Bragança, a descendant of the Brazilian royal family, unveils Petrópolis, a city located some 45 miles [72 km] from Rio de Janeiro. Above, see a video inspired by de Orleans e Bragança’s tips

The high temperatures in Rio de Janeiro made Brazil’s second emperor, Dom Pedro II, dream about a place with a mild climate. He went to the mountains in search of new airs, settled on the old farm Fazenda do Córrego Seco (bought by his father, Dom Pedro I, in 1822) and ordered the construction of palaces to be the home of the royalty during the warmer months. This is how my city was born.

I have beautiful memories of exploring the area around the Museu Imperial, which has a large archive on the Brazilian monarchy. I cut school so many times to visit those gardens! The museum is the city’s main attraction and key to understanding the local history, which merges with the memory of the country. One of my favorite pieces is the cloak of Dom Pedro II: the collar is decorated with toucan feathers and shows how tropical our Emperor was.


Don’t miss the chance to walk along Avenida Koeller and admire the well-preserved architecture. The banks of the Quitandinha are lined with beautiful 19th-century mansions, like the Palácio Rio Negro, which has been the official summer residence of the country’s presidents since 1903. Another magical place is Palácio Quitandinha. Once the largest hotel-casino in Latin America, it welcomed Hollywood stars, like Greta Garbo and Orson Welles. There are glorious ballrooms and a bowling alley where you can still have a game.

If you’re hungry, I recommend the Churrascaria Majórica or Pizzaria Di Farina, which is in a beautiful mansion on Rua Ipiranga. And definitely eat at Casa do Alemão! Outside the city, on the road to Secretário, the restaurant called “…Lá” has tables in the garden next to a babbling brook.


There are several charming lodging options, but Pousada Alcobaça serves some of the best food. My grandmother loved the cooking of the owner Laura Góes, who often serves meals in the kitchen at a communal table next to the wood-burning stove. The inn is 15 minutes from downtown, in the district of Correias, at the foot of the Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos. The national park’s many trails and waterfalls include the famous trek to Teresópolis. That’s Petrópolis: full of gems.


Paola de Orleans e Bragança

A descendant of Dom Pedro II, the last emperor of Brazil, this modern princess was born in England in 1983 but moved to Petrópolis, where she lived until she was 16. She currently resides in São Paulo, where she is an entrepreneur, beauty consultant, and designer. She has hosted television shows and written articles for magazines like Vogue.

Photos Roberto Seba