The Confeitaria Colombo was opened in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants and soon became a symbol of Rio’s Belle Epoque. Its art nouveau decoration is comparable to what existed in European salons of the era. In its grandiose spaces, Belgian mirrors shine and gorgeous rosewood furniture and Italian marble countertops reign.
It’s been said that prior to 1970, Colombo was such a respectful place that men couldn’t enter unless they had on a suit and tie. That being said, from the turn of the 20th century to sometime in the mid-1900s, prostitutes and their pimps were known to frequent the establishment after 5:30pm on any given day. In fact, when the clock struck 5pm, the usual clientele knew it was time to leave (I will touch upon this whole subject in a future post).
Integrated into the daily life of Rio de Janeiro, the Confectionery became a meeting point for intellectuals, where poets, writers and artists would meet, coming to be regarded as an extension of the Brazilian Academy of Letters. It was the favorite meeting point of people like Olavo Bilac, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocinio, Washington Luiz, Epitácio Pessoa, Getulio Vargas and many others, serving as a venue for numerous discussions and even historical and political decisions.
The stage of receptions to distinguished visitors as King Albert of Belgium in 1920, and Queen Elizabeth of England in 1968, the Confectionery often commanded the presence of important politicians, especially as the city was the capital of the Republic.