Petropolis, the onetime summer home of Brazil's king, sits in the mountains about 40 miles north of Rio. Though the monarchy is long gone, this city of 300,000 remains a pop- ular getaway for smart Cariocas. For travelers, history is the main draw. The Imperial Museum (220 Rua da Imperatriz; 55-24/2237-8000) documents, among other things, the abolition of slavery and the installation of the country's first telephone, in the king's palace (he grew determined to get one after meeting Alexander Graham Bell in 1876). The former residence of Alberto Santos Dumont (22 Rua do Encanto; 55-24/2247-3158) displays the Brazilian inventor's airplane, which predated the Wright Brothers'. Dumont is also credited with inspiring the first men's wristwatch; he used a scarf to strap a pocket watch to his wrist, then showed the contraption to his friend Jacques Cartier in Paris. The rest, as they say, is jewelry.
The place to stay, open on weekends only, is Locanda della Mimosa ($185; 30 Alameda das Mimosas, Vale Florido; 55-24/2233-5405; locanda.com.br), tucked into a beautiful valley. Chef and sommelier Danio Braga and his wife, Lilian, renovated the colonial house a few years ago, carving out six guest rooms and a pool—and creating one of Brazil's chicest havens for serious gourmands. Braga uses local vegetables and game and his 3,000-bottle wine list includes such heavy hitters as a 1990 Château Haut-Brion.