Santa Teresa Tramway in Rio de Janeiro

Written by Peter Lauffer
February 3, 2022

Santa Teresa is known as Rio de Janeiro's Montmartre. The neighborhood's distinctive icon is the Bondinho, the historic electric tramline crossing the Arcos de Lapa viaduct and connecting the city center of Rio with the hilly residential area of Santa Teresa, southwest of downtown. Before the 1960s, Rio de Janeiro trams served the entire downtown area and nearby suburbs. Since 1967, however, only the Santa Teresa line has remained. 

The historic tramway was declared a national historic monument in 1985. Having run continuously since 1877 with only a short exception from 2011 - 2015 (see below), the Santa Teresa Tramway is considered one of the oldest street railway lines in the world and is one of the oldest electric railways in Latin America. 

Santa Teresa Tramway

The Santa Teresa Tramway suspended its services in August of 2011 due to an accident. Limited service resumed in July, 2015, with new tramcars that no longer allowed passengers to stand on the running boards. Following studies after the 2011 suspension, the authorities decided to purchase new trams, which were replicas of the previous vintage fleet. Reopening of the tramway was planned for 2015, in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics. In July, 2015, limited service resumed between Estação Carioca (Carioca Station) and Largo do Curvelo. Service was extended from Largo do Curvelo to Largo do Guimarães in December of 2015, making the route 2 km (1.2 miles) long. Work continued slowly on the additional sections of the main route leading to Dois Irmãos, and authorities finally restored the full 6-kilometer (4-mile) route between Largo da Carioca and Dois Irmãos in January, 2019.

The Route of the Tramway

The Santa Teresa tram route rises from downtown Rio de Janeiro and follows a circuit of Santa Teresa hill, offering a high-level view of the city. The route passes over the 45-meter (148-ft) high Arco de Lepa Viaduct (formerly the Carioca Aqueduct). The tramway line shares the road with motor vehicles except when crossing the viaduct.

Arco de Lapa Viaduct and old Aqueduc

Arco de Lapa Viaduct

The Carioca Aqueduct, known as Arcos de Lapa, was inaugurated in 1750 by the Portuguese colonial government to supply water to the city. It is a 270-meter long, 16.40-meter high aqueduct, consisting of 42 arches. Since 1896, the old aqueduct has served as a viaduct for the picturesque Bondinho, the Santa Teresa Tramway. The tramway crosses the Arco de Lepa viaduct just after leaving the Carioca Terminus Station in central Rio de Janeiro, before climbing the Morro (Hill) of Santa Teresa. 

Santa Teresa Tramway

Santa Teresa is the Soul of Rio de Janeiro

Few places represent as much the essence of Rio de Janeiro as does Santa Teresa. There is history, gastronomy, bohemia, culture, and nature to observe there—and all of this, with one of the most privileged views of the city. The Bondinho gives you easy access to this historic part of Rio de Janeiro. To get there, travel on Rio's metro to the Carioca Metro Station, from which you can then easily access on foot the terminal of the Santa Teresa Tramway. From Santa Teresa, you’ll have breathtaking views over portions of Rio de Janeiro, with many exciting restaurants in Santa Teresa where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. 

The Santa Teresa Tramway is part of our "Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."

View of Rio de Janeiro from Santa Teresa

Get inspired by some photos of this amazing trip:
Liked this post? Share this post with your friends on social media!