By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Botafogo, a network of streets that spans from the Lagoa to its beach that looks onto Sugar Loaf, has been tentatively referred to as Bota-Soho in the press recently. Though the name is a bit wide of the mark, comparing this neighborhood with one in New York is not. Botafogo, which is a little rough around the edges, is just a little more Brooklyn than Soho.
Hipsters more interested in artisanal burgers than the beach have moved into the area and a number of cool new openings have begun to define the neighborhood. Comuna, a bare-walled bar-cum-art-space that serves cocktails and the best hamburgers in town, paved the way. Now there is Ovelha Negra, a hip champagne bar, Crazy Cats, with antique furniture and classy drinks, and Caverna, a rock bar with plenty of craft beer inspired by the bars of New York.
On one small street, Conde de Irajá, hides a handful of Rio’s best restaurants. Lasai was opened last year by local Rafael Costa e Silva who returned from Michelin-starred restaurant Mugaritz in Spain. Run by him and his wife, his restaurant serves only two tasting menus made up of local ingredients in serene surroundings. Its neighbors include Irajá Gastrô, Entretapas Botafogo and Oui Oui, which is the sister restaurant to nearby Miam Miam.
“When me and my partners opened Miam Miam we were apprehensive because ten years ago the district had very few attractions – we did not know if people would move here,” chef Roberta Ciasca told O Globo newspaper. “I could open three more restaurants here, in every corner of the neighborhood… and although they have risen recently, prices are still viable.”
Ciasca also runs the Mira restaurants in the basement of Casa Daros, a relatively new museum of Latin American art. Sadly, the space is due to close at the end of the year due to a lack of funds, but it is an indication of the culture offerings in the area. With a number of good quality bookshops, like Livraria da Travessa, galleries, its own arthouse cinema (Estação Espaço) and regular pop-up events like the O Cluster fashion and food fair, Botafogo is thriving.
It is a popular choice for families and professionals, as well as hipsters. Running along the beachfront, Praia de Botafogo is home to a number of multinational businesses, such as Coca-Cola, and the think-tank Fundação Getulio Vargas, making many residents’ commute a short walk down the road. For those travelling to Centro everyday, there is a metro stop and a number of bus routes. And, recently, an existing and very popular co-working space, Templo, has opened a house in the area as well as Olabi, a center for robotics, software, hardware and creativity.
Though real estate in Rio de Janeiro remains the most expensive in the country, with the average price of a square meter to let costing R$39.61, ahead of R$37.01 in São Paulo, Botafogo is something of a bargain in Zone Sul (South Zone). According to figures collected by FipeZap, the average price of a square meter to rent in the area is R$47, compared to, say, Jardim Botânico (R$53) or the notoriously expensive Leblon where the average price is R$64.
The cost of buying, however, has risen about twenty percent in the last twelve months. A one-bedroom now costs close to R$500,000. But, in its favor, Botafogo offers a good variety of housing. High-rise apartments blocks sit side-by-side with colonial mansions and townhouses. And there are a number of new-builds going up in the area which promise sophisticated urban living with amenities such as gyms and pools within the building.
For those looking for a short-term let or somewhere to stay for a holiday or over the Olympics, AirBnB has a wide variety of options, with costs ranging from R$80 to R$500 a day. Oasis Collections, Rio Exclusive and other companies offer high-end apartments in the area, usually with a concierge service too.