Just across the bay from Rio de Janeiro is Niteroi. They may seem like the same city due to the close proximity, yet they are two very distinct metropolises. It is somewhat unfairly said that the best thing about Niteroi is the view over to Rio; it is indeed spectacular, yet the lesser-explored Niteroi has a lot to offer in its own right.
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum
The striking saucer-shaped art museum is the creation of the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and is one of the city’s most notable landmarks. The architectural design of the building is arguably even more iconic than the art inside, yet the exhibitions of modern art from both national and foreign artists are not to be sniffed at.
The protected park contains the forested terrains of the Atlantic forest and is a haven for tropical flora and exotic fauna. The spiky peaks make for wonderful hiking trails and rock climbing with panoramic ocean views from the summit.
One of the best viewpoints in Niteroi is from the top of Parque da Cidade. The trail up can be tackled one of three ways – by car, bike or on foot. However, be prepared physically for the latter two as the hilly terrain going up is steep. The view is breathtaking with a sweeping vista of Guanabara Bay and the spiky peaks of Rio de Janeiro. Head there for sunset.
Parque Prefeito Ferraz, often known as Campo de São Bento, is one of the most popular leisure areas in Niteroi. The park has several paths allowing a stroll between the trees and the fountains. At weekends there are often local events and fairs selling homemade food and organic products.
Caminho Niemeyer is an 11-kilometre stretch along the edge of Niteroi coast and has a series of interesting buildings. The cultural center is of enormous architectural value and was created in an attempt to revitalize the area between Centro and the south zone of Niteroi. It represents one of the largest showcases of Oscar Niemeyer’s work, second only to his architectural landmarks in Brasilia.
Praia de Itacoatiara
Praia de Itacoatiara is the main beach in Niteroi and attracts an exciting hustle and bustle of people on sunny days. The clean, blue waters are inviting to swim in, yet the strong waves make the sea here better for surfing or bodyboarding than swimming. That’s not to stop you from spending a lazy afternoon soaking up the tropical sun and enjoy the whirlwind of activity on the Itacoatiara’s shores.
Jutting out into the water at the entrance of Guanabara Bay, Fortaleza de Santa Cruz is a large fortress and a popular tourist spot in the city. During the colonial and imperial days in Brazil, this fortress acted as the defense of both Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro from any potential attacks. Nowadays, it is open to the public and offers unique views over to the Sugarloaf Mountain.
One of the famous hikes in Niteroi, the Costão de Itacoatiara provides an intriguing forest trail that climbs to over 700 feet above sea level before opening out to a panoramic view from the flat mountain top. The hike is relatively easy and takes a total of two hours to go up and back down.
Niteroi is somewhat lacking in nightlife as residents prefer to cross the bay and head to Rio to party ’til dawn in the nightclubs. Yet Niteroi still has several lively spots with great restaurants and bars to pass the balmy evenings sipping cold beer and caipirinhas. The best neighbourhood is São Francisco where visitors will be spoilt for choice with bar options.
For a revealing peek into the past, the Museum of Inga is worth checking out. The architecture alone is wonderful with its rich neoclassical style. Head inside to see some of the city’s most important collections of modern art, as well as documents and information about 43 of the former governors and a historical photograph displays.