Tucked into the charming Cosme Velho neighborhood lies Largo do Boticário, a square riddled with a complex history that has cracked through the façade of the neocolonial architecture surrounding it. The area remains practically abandoned nowadays, yet the unique colors and striking designs of the houses make it a fascinating yet lesser-known tourist attraction.
The first thing that catches your attention in Largo do Boticário is the large, neoclassical houses painted in vibrant blues, greens and reds, starkly contrasting with the determined rainforest vegetation that is slowly yet surely creeping in and taking over the square. The houses remain mostly abandoned; the humidity seeps into their walls and provides a fertile base for plants to spawn. However, the obvious lack of maintenance in the area only serves to make it more exotic and exciting.
The history of the square dates back to 1831 when Joaquim Luís da Silva Souto, a hugely successful apothecary who could boast royal family members as clients, bought the land and invested in the houses there. The area became known as Largo do Boticário in honor of Souto (Boticario means apothecary in Portuguese) and was a frequent hangout of famous artists and the political elite.
It wasn’t until the 1920s when Edmundo Bittencourt, the founder of the Correio da Manhã newspaper, brought the property its defining features. Bittencourt invested heavily into the properties and built six neoclassical houses that included material from the colonial era that he was able to rescue from demolition projects around the city. This was the square’s golden age; it became filled with huge houses owned by well-known figures in the Brazilian elite and drew in foreigners attracted by the parties and social events held there. It even starred in a scene of the James Bond movie, Moonraker and was listed as a cultural heritage in 1990.
Nowadays, the square is not residential, but remains open for visitors. It is stunningly charming and fascinating to visit while trying to unravel the web of history between the six beautifully constructed properties. Whilst its future remains uncertain, there is hope that someone will reinvest in the area and maintain the neoclassical design. One of the houses, number 32, is still in excellent condition and has a permanent art gallery and space for activities, offering a breathtaking venue for a number of tailor-made events.
By Sarah Brown
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.