By Mariana Sales, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Located between Copacabana, Flamengo and Jardim Botânico, the neighborhood of Botafogo has been considered Zona Sul’s (South Zone’s) bairro de passagem (transition neighborhood) for years. The past few decades however have brought big changes and gradually turning it into a lively, creative and cosmopolitan area.
Economist Doriane Calvet has lived in the neighborhood for 45 years and shares her experience as the area has changed. “When I moved here, there were still bondes (trams) in the streets. I consider Botafogo the heart of Zona Sul, not only because of the location but also due to its historical importance”, she says.
Botafogo played a major role in Rio’s history. Home of the then recently arrived Royal Family, in the 1800s, the neighborhood quickly left its rural aesthetic behind and became a residential area.
“Back then, the upper-middle class lived here and it is still possible to see some of their colonial-style houses around. As much as Copacabana and Leblon attract the bigger touristic crowd, you do not see those types of cultural patrimonies [historical homes] there”, adds Calvet. Apart from the Portuguese, the history of Brazil’s Indians is also represented at the Indian Museum (Rua das Palmeiras, 55).
In terms of shopping, Botafogo has it all. There are three major malls, Botafogo Praia Shopping, Casa e Gourmet Shopping and Rio Sul. On Rua Voluntários da Pátria, there is a traditional must-go spot: Cobal do Humaitá. During the day the center is a big market with tons of different fruits and vegetables, and at night (or even lunch time) bars and restaurants take over.
Recently it is common to see big old houses that have turned into stylish bars and cultural spaces. Some examples are Comuna, a hipster burger place that also has DJs and artists playing at night and alternative concert hall Audio Rebel.
In other area nightlife, Baixo Botafogo, at the end of Rua Voluntários da Pátria, fills the streets with people starting for happy hour. The trend is already expanding, mainly to Rua Nelson Mandela next to Botafogo metro station.
A more international vibe has also hit the region. Because of that, there is a big concentration of international schools, such as The British School Rio de Janeiro, Our Lady of Mercy School, Escola Libanesa (Lebanese School), Maple Bear Canadian School and Escola Alemã Corcovado (Corcovado German School).
Despite offering the best view of Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf) and Baía de Guanabara (Guanabara Bay), the waters of Botafogo Beach are not recommended for swimming due to pollution. On the other hand, a bike path encourages residents to practice sports such as cycling, skating and running.
Another down point is the crime. “Security is a big problem in Rio, not just in this or that neighborhood. The thing about Botafogo is that with the population boom, robberies and the number of homeless people increased,” claims Regina Chiaradia, President of AMAB (Association of Botafogo’s Residents and Friends).
Although real estate in the region is considerably expensive, it is still a bargain compared to other neighborhoods in Zona Sul – and it has a less touristy atmosphere. From apartment buildings with pretty much all the amenities one can imagine, to old mansions, buyers can find a variety of properties.
Prices for a small 24 square-meter apartment on Rua São Clemente start at R$370,000 and a two-bedroom overlooking Botafogo Beach stands at R$550,000. Larger 3-bedroom apartments in front of Rio Sul Mall are over R$ 1,1 million and a large colonial-style house is as expensive as R$7.3 million.
The rental for a nice 50 square-meter single room apartment on Rua Mena Barreto is about R$3,300, not including condo fees and taxes. For short-term stays, AirBnB has options that cost from R$50 (room in a shared apartment) to R$2,500 (penthouse) per night.