By Jaylan Boyle, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Beneath the palm-fringed beach stereotype that most visitors to Rio have, there is a bustling city that functions like any other major metropolis, and suburbs like Botafogo do more than their glamorous neighbors to reflect this reality.
This doesn’t mean you should expect a cookie-cutter utilitarian look: like nearly everywhere else in this city, the grandeur of Rio’s past is not hard to find or admire. If colonial architecture is your thing, then Botafogo delivers, along with a bustling commercial hub.
Its geography lends the neighborhood a degree of isolation from the rest of the inner city, although tell that to commuters crawling through traffic on Ruas São Clemente or Voluntários da Pátria. Sandwiched between several mountains separating it from Laranjeiras and Copacabana, the area looks like a tantalizingly brief stroll to the beach, unless you’ve got a topographical map in front of you.
Botafogo got off to an early lead in Rio’s history. Named after the Portuguese settler João Pereira ‘Botafogo’ de Souza, whose nickname means ‘to set on fire’, the future of the neighborhood was assured in the early 1800s with the arrival of the Portuguese royal court.
When Dom João VI’s wife Carlota Joaquina requested a country villa there, the area naturally became a focus for those seeking to ingratiate themselves, and mansions mushroomed. A legacy of this burst of affluence are the many museums and galleries that are now housed in these grandiose old buildings.
Botafogo comprises the area surrounding the one-way arteries Rua Voluntários da Pátria and Rua São Clemente, with Humaita and the lake at one end and Praia Botafogo at the other. You won’t find many beach-goers on this stretch of sand unfortunately, as the beach has a reputation for pollution and a degree of petty crime. Praia Botafogo is most known for the massive mall across the street, Praia Botafogo Shopping.
For entertainment, Botafogo caters to a broad spectrum. There’s no shortage of neighborhood bars where everybody knows your name, and music lovers are looked after at spots like Cinematheque at the beach end of Voluntários da Pátria, or Casa Matriz and Pista 3′s sweaty dance floors.
The sophisticated jet-setter looking to impress might consider a trip to Champagneria on Rua Bambina for a bottle of bubbly. This place wouldn’t seem out of place in London’s Soho, though prices are much more in line with the locale. Also, Joaquina’s restaurant is a great choice for sophisticated dining, one of Rio’s finest reasonable eateries with a very diverse menu.
Botafogo has a reputation for some of the finest schools in Rio, including arguably the city’s most prestigious, the British School of Rio de Janeiro. The many specialist medical clinics means high quality health care, and travel is not a problem thanks to a Metro station and buses in every direction.
While it’s considered one of Rio’s more affluent suburbs, in Botafogo, like much of Rio, the rich rub shoulders with the less advantaged. The Dona Marta favela has in the past attracted it’s fair share of negative headlines, but recent efforts to remove the drug cartels have helped to create a community that is frequently referenced as a demonstration of what is possible to achieve in the favelas.
As Sérgio Amaral of Ética real estate explains, “(With) the programs of pacification of the poorest areas and the support of federal and state government, these regions have changed and values of the properties located around these areas recovered by 20 percent”.
BOTOFOGO REAL ESTATE PRICE GUIDE: (figures courtesy of Ética)
Apartments for sale:
1 BR: R$100,000 – R$800,000, average R$200,000 – R$400,000
2 BR: R$150,000 – R$1 million, average R$300,000 – R$800,000
3 BR: R$300,000 – R$3 million, average R$400,000 – R$1 million
or R$5,000 – R$8,000/m2
Apartments to rent:
1 BR: R$500 -R$2,000/month, average R$1,000
2 BR: R$1,200 – R$5,000/month, average R$2000 – R$4,000
3 BR: R$2,000 – R$8,000/month, average R$3,000 – R$5,000