By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When the Portuguese Royal family set up residence in Botafogo in the late 1800s it was said that the glamorous Dona Carlota Joaquina, wife of Dom João VI would bath in the waters of Baía de Guanabara. Today, while not as famous as other Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhoods, the area remains a bona fide center of culture in Rio.
A lot might have changed since the days of Rio’s Belle Époque, principally that high levels of pollution make it inadvisable to swim in the water at Praia de Botafogo. However, the middle class area established by the royals and their entourage is still one of the city’s most affluent and intellectually vibrant neighborhoods.
Many of Botafogo’s impressive mansions from this period now serve as schools, theaters and museums in which you can glimpse at what the city was like in years gone by and immerse oneself in history. Museu Casa da Rui Barbosa, on Rua São Clemente, is one particularly fine example of 19th Century architecture and landscape gardening.
One of the latest mansions to be restored is the imposing neoclassical Casa Daros, which houses the major Daros Latinamerica Collection of modern art and opened to the public in 2013. With works from the extensive permanent collection on display and frequent specialist exhibitions and events, including creative activities for children, the museum has been a welcome addition to Rio’s arts scene.
Botafogo is also home to small independent cinemas, including Estação Rio on Voluntários da Pátria, which specialises in independent and foreign language films. In addition the area offers a range of outdoor and sports related activities, from jogging and cycling around the bay to dance classes at Casa se Dança Carlinhos de Jesus as well as rock climbing in nearby Urca.
Known for its lively alfresco bars and restaurants, for those looking for something a little more exclusive than a large bottle of Antarctica, Champananharia Ovelha Negra offers forty varieties of champagne and prosecco.
Local realtor Martin Stockl from Rio Management sees a mix of people looking to move to Botafogo. “Our clients that rent in Botafogo are young professionals who usually work in the center of Rio or directly on the beach in Botafogo, which has many new business centers as well as financial hubs.”
“These clients enjoy the fast access to downtown, Lagoa and all parts of Zona Sul while having a Bohemian feel while they stroll through their neighborhood after their work day. Botafogo also also has great hospitals and schools making it popular for families with young children,” adds Stockl.
As a traditionally middle class neighborhood, property prices in Botafogo are above average for Rio. If you are looking to rent then the majority of properties are priced at between R$3,000 – R$5,000 per month for one to three bedrooms. If you are a buyer then be prepared to loosen your purse strings. Whereas two years ago you could pick up a one bedroom apartment for R$200,000, today studio apartments are going for as much as R$550,000.
A budget of R$650,000 will buy you a two- or three- bedroom apartment but for this price you need to be willing to do some work. With its friendly streets and good schools, many families choose to stay in Botafogo for years and properties are ‘well lived in,’ so the apartments are in need of renovations throughout.
If your budget is over R$800,000 and you would rather move into your new home without undertaking construction projects then look for new buildings in the area. The rooms are more generous in size with modern fixtures and a full range of leisure facilities including gyms, creches and even cinemas are included on site.