Botafogo: the New Soul of Zona Sul

By Leo Cutting, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Nestling between the slopes of Morro Santa Marta and Morro São João sits the Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhood of Botafogo. While perhaps not as well known as nearby Copacabana, Botafogo is quintessentially Carioca, boasting many of the most famous characteristics of Rio de Janeiro.

Botafogo beach’s cycle path, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Botafogo beach’s cycle path, photo by Ana Maria.

Botafogo became a political center when Dom João VI built a residence there in the early 1800s. The presence of the Portuguese royal court caused the area to become popular with nobles and merchants seeking to construct homes of their own.

This political past has left its mark. To this day the area hosts numerous splendid examples of colonial architecture as well as a considerable number of diplomatic consulates. Botafogo’s royal history has also helped to secure the neighborhood’s reputation as one of Rio’s most well to do areas.

Botafogo’s relatively small beach offers some of the best views of the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) to be found in the city. Thanks to the arts project “Other Ideas for Rio”, these views have recently been supplemented by the addition of an enormous floating head just off the beach’s shore, a sculpture by Jaume Plensa.

Unfortunately Botafogo beach itself continues to suffer from significant pollution problems and a 2012 study by the Instituto Estadual do Ambiente (State Environmental Institute) advises against swimming in its waters. On a more positive note, the beach does offer an adjacent cycle path enabling the more exercise conscious to take in the best of Botafogo’s sights while biking, running or simply strolling.

In terms of nightlife, Botafogo has plenty to offer. Boteco do Colarinho is a bar located in the newly developed part of Rua Nelson Mandela and offers a wide selection of beers from Brazil and abroad, along with an array of appetizers.

Irajá Gastrô in a converted 1920’s era Botafogo space, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Irajá Gastrô in a converted 1920’s era Botafogo space, photo by Yoko Kumano.

Restaurant Irajá Gastrô, on Rua Conde de Irajá’s, is perfect example of what has happened in the neighborhood’s new culinary corner. Another excellent option is recently opened restaurant, Ambre, housed in a building from the early 1900s but with a contemporary interior.

Botafogo will play an important role in the staging of the Rio 2016 Olympics. The organizers of the event have recently announced the locations for the games’ key venues.

Somewhat confusingly, Botafogo finds itself at the heart of what is being referred to as the “Copacabana Zone.” The upshot of this is that Botafogo residents will find themselves within a stone’s throw of events such as rowing, beach volleyball, sailing and road cycling to name but a few.

As with the rest of Rio, the rapid rise in real estate prices has begun to slow in Botafogo. yet despite this, prices remain high. Botafogo is listed by Agente Imóvel as the tenth most expensive neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro with an average price of R$10,066 per square meter (in comparison with a Rio-wide average of (R$6,975).

For those wishing to buy property in Botafogo, a one bedroom apartment will cost around R$200,000 and prices for a decent two-bedroom begin at R$370,000. However, if you hope to find a place on Botafogo’s most exclusive street you’ll need significantly deeper pockets as the average price of property on Rua Assunção is R$2,059,247.

Renting accommodation in Botafogo is also increasingly expensive. Finding a one bedroom apartment for less than R$1,700 a month will be a challenge and those with two bedrooms start at around the R$3,000 mark. The neighborhood is served by a metro station and has bus routes in most directions, making transportation relatively straightforward, despite seeming cut off from the rest of the city by its surrounding hills.