Urca in Rio de Janeiro

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Peppered with colorful colonial villas, tiny hole-in-the-wall bars and picturesque beaches, Urca in Rio de Janeiro sits on Guanabara Bay in the center of city. Albeit nestled directly under the wildly popular Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar), this neighborhood is rarely on a visitor’s to-do list.

Tour Urca in Rio like a local

Tour Urca in Rio like a local

Urca in Rio de Janeiro is a tiny neighborhood with only 16 streets, but known among local Cariocas– a Rio resident- because of its former famous resident Carmen Miranda (remember the headdress of fruit and the ‘boom chick-a-boom?). It is considered one of Rio’s safest neighborhoods, because it shares a postal code with one of the city’s military bases & has only a single road in which to enter/exit.

History of Urca

Founded in 1565, Urca in Rio de Janeiro is the first town the Portuguese set up when they arrived in Brazil. The neighborhood possesses the oldest remaining street in Rio, Rua São Sebastião, that stretches from behind the fort in Urca to the former Casino. It is said that Urca is short for ‘Urbanização Carioca’ which translates to Carioca Urbanization. It was primarily a port, until after WWI when the area was landfilled, houses were built and the community began to form..

Urca is the oldest neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro

Urca is the oldest neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro

Rio Architecture

With its Tudor houses and Spanish colonial design, Urca has captured all of the cultural influences throughout Rio’s time. The majority of the houses were built during the late 1920s to 40s. Luckily the neighborhood has been able to preserve is architectural splendor and not fall into the the developmental trap of plastic, high-rise condominiums that the rest of the city has. Note: Some of the best kept art deco buildings are located right next to the Forte São João.


Although not open as a Casino any longer,  the Casino da Urca 1930s building was where Carmen Miranda was discovered by a Hollywood producer who took the little lounge singer to California and made her a Brazilian icon. In 1946, a national Brazil ban forced the Casino out of business. The former Brazilian television station, TV Tupi, eventually took over the building in which the used for filming a classic day-time tv show, Chacrinha. The station made architectural alternations, smoothing out its classically Deco rounded edges in exchange for a more modern right-angled facade. But popularity dwindles and the building shut down again in the 80s. Due to typical government neglect, it sat empty until 2008 when renovations made space for eduction. Today it is an Italian-Brazilian fashion design school.