Rua do Ouvidor: The Historical Street That Fascinated Machado de Assis

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“A Rua do Ouvidor, a mais passeada e concorrida, e mais leviana, indiscreta, bisbilhoteira, esbanjadora, fútil, noveleira, poliglota e enciclopédica de todas as ruas da cidade do Rio de Janeiro” – Machado de Assis

One of Brazil’s greatest writers, Machado de Assis said this about Rua do Ouvidor, a historical street in Rio: “Rua do Ouvidor, the most visited and sought-after, the most frivolous, indiscreet, noisy, wasteful, futile, multilingual and encyclopaedic of all the streets in the city of Rio de Janeiro.”

Rua do Ouvidor – A street full of history

With the arrival of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil in 1808, Rua do Ouvidor began to gain importance because of its proximity to the main entrance of the city: Praça XV. Soon after, traders of all types from Europe and French designers started congregating here. The street became a hub for many innovations in Rio: it was the first street in the city of Rio de Janeiro to get gas lighting in 1860 and electric lighting thirty years later. Rua do Ouvidor soon boasted the offices of the city’s major newspapers, the most expensive shops, major bookstores, cafés and pastry shops and it was also the stronghold of the great personalities of the country – predominantly intellectuals who gave life to the many literary and political movements of Brazil.

Rua do Ouvidor’s was named for the Ouvidor (Ombudsman), Dr. Manuel Pena Mesquita Pinto, who lived on the street, on the corner of Quitanda Street. The current charm of the street is its nostalgia back to historic Rio, and its situation close to Praça XV.

Restaurant tables on the street of Ouvidor

There are many eating options on Rua do Ouvidor / Credit: Henrique Santos

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What to do on Rua do Ouvidor

We’ve selected the main things to do and see on this historic street from Monday to Saturday, when you can find most of the attractions open:

  • The charm of old Rio and the church of Nossa Senhora Da Lapa dos Mercadores: take a stroll through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and stop at a church that was once a great symbol of religious faith.
  • Santa Cruz dos Militares Church: A vivid example of Portuguese architecture of the late eighteenth century, Mestre Valentim, one of the leading artists of colonial Brazil, was involved in decorating the church in Rococo (late Baroque) style.
  • Livraria Folha Seca: This bookstore is worth a visit to check out photography books depicting the old days of Rio de Janeiro, and vintage images from the history of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro.
  • Samba and Feijoada on Ouvidor: Every Saturday, from 1pm, several bars and restaurants in Rio serve the traditional Feijoada Carioca. Samba de Roda also opens at 1pm, and it is followed by the traditional Ouvidor Samba at 5pm on the corner of Ouvidor and Rua do Mercado, accompanied by microbrews.
  • Confeitaria Manon or Confeitaria Colombo: Visit the classic Manon Confectionery, established in 1942, or walk a few minutes from Ouvidor to the most famous pastry shop in the city, Confeitaria Colombo – a must visit for anyone passing through Rio’s downtown. It is on Rua Gonçalves Dias.

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  • Shop for clothing and jewellery: While the street no longer has as many chic boutiques as in the past, there are still plenty of great options in this street and those cutting across it, especially for womenswear.
  • Travessa do Ouvidor: A small alley connecting Rua 7 de Setembro to Rua do Ouvidor. Here you’ll find a statue of the late Pixinguinha, one of the most important names in Brazilian music, who was also a frequent visitor to this area. The alley is also where the first sessions of the Academia Brasileira de Letras (Brazilian Academy of Letters) were held.

Where to eat

  • Rio Minho Restaurant: Open from 11am to 4pm. Specialising in seafood, Rio Minho is thought to be the oldest restaurant in the city. It was founded in 1884 and has attracted illustrious clients such as the Baron of Rio Branco. Try the Leão Velloso soup.

How to get there

  • Subway: Get off at Carioca station and walk down Uruguaiana street. The second street on the right is Rua do Ouvidor.
  • Bus: From Ipanema or Copacabana, take the 125 (General Osório > Central), and get off at Praça XV. From other parts of Rio, any bus with a final stop in Castelo (downtown Rio), will leave you very close to Rua do Ouvidor.

By: Henrique Santos (Tourist Guide in collaboration with Daytours4u) / Adapted by Nicole Eberhard