Bananal: São Paulo’s most influential 19th Century City

entrance gate Bnanal - São Paulo - Brazil

Bem vindo em Bananal – Welcome to Bananal

Bananal started In 1783, when a small chapel was erected in the rough lands along the Bananal River in the old Captaincy of São Paulo. It became one of the richest and most influential cities of the region during the 19th century “coffee cycle”.

Continue reading

Brazil’s hidden gems – Vassouras, the city of the Coffee Barons

Vassouras - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Vassouras was one of the most important cities of Brazil during the Coffee era

Coffee used to be one of the biggest economical drivers of 19th century Brazil, and Vassouras was the financial and commercial heart of the coffee trade during Brazil’s imperial period.

Continue reading

Discover Brazil’s less known cities: Volta Redonda – RJ

Volta redonda: shield

The weapon of Volta Redonda

It doesn’t always have to be Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. I think somebody should also put the spotlight on the lesser known places, and I thought I would start with the easiest one: Volta Redonda. Why it is the easiest one? Well, I live there.


Volta Redonda is about to celebrate its 58th birthday, so it is a fairly “new” city. Until 1954 it was one of the districts of Barra Mansa, which today it has outgrown by almost 100.000 inhabitants.

The city has a population of about 260.000, comparable with Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, but according to Brazilian standards, it is a medium-sized city.

The City of Steel (Cidade do Aço) 

The reason why the city was able to grow so explosively in a relatively short period of time, is that in 1941, it was selected as the place to install South America’s biggest steel plant, (Companhia siderúrgica Nacional – CSN) which marked the start of Brazil’s industrialization.

The construction of the huge plant lured thousands of people from all over the country to Volta Redonda, and once it was completed, the plant needed thousands of workers. CSN also gave Volta Redonda its nickname: “Cidade do Aço”.

For many years, foreign (mostly US) engineers and other workers lived and worked in Volta Redonda, giving some neighborhoods a unique, non-Brazilian look. Today, CSN is the biggest employer of the wide area. On the downside, it is also the biggest source of pollution.

Volta Redonda: Flag

The flag of Volta Redonda

The name “Volta Redonda”, which literally means “Round turn” comes from the big curve in the Paraíba do Sul river that divides the city. It is by no means a touristic place, but it has low crime statistics, and it’s location in the region known as the “Vale do Café” (coffee valley), surrounded by several national parks, mountain ranges and places of stunning natural beauty, make it a great place to start exploring the state of Rio de Janeiro, and at the same time staying close to civilization and yet far from more “risky” – and hugely more expensive – cities like Rio or São Paulo.

There are a few nice hotels and pousadas, but don’t expect a Hilton. Most foreign visitors coming to Volta Redonda are business people who are related or connected to the Steel plant. There are several nice restaurants in and around the city centre, as well as three malls, where you can find all you need, but it’s not like in São Paulo.

Some interesting places and activities in and around Volta Redonda:

I’m not going to get into a lot more details about history or economics, there’s enough info on that on other sites like Wikipedia, I just want give an idea of what the city looks like.

The following pictures are all taken on a sunny winter’s day around 9.30 am, in and around the commercial center, the neighborhood known as “Vila”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you know Volta Redonda? How? Leave a comment and let me know… Thanks.