By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Prestigious in location, Gávea, which translates to “topsail” in Portuguese, sits within the golden circle of the Zona Sul (South Zone). The area has a much lower ratio of foreigners than the beach-front boroughs, or even Santa Teresa, adding to the charm for many. Flanked by Leblon, Lagoa, Jardim Botanico and São Conrado, this neighborhood has established itself a popular residential spot with lots to offer both its inhabitants and visitors.
Home to one of the larger malls in Rio, Shopping de Gávea boasts over 220 stores, selling everything from home furniture and books to antiques and fashion. It also has three theaters within its walls which feature some spectacular shows and plays that attract a wide audience throughout the year.
As winter draws near, an increasing number of people are paying a visit to one of the districts star attractions, the Planetarium. Opened in 1976, it is known as the first museum in South America to operate a 180 degree cinema screen, which uses state-of-the-art technologies to transform the huge dome in to a star-lit night sky.
The venue also attracts a lively crowd to its bar and eatery ‘00’ (Zero Zero). A stylish restaurant and lounge club which serves Brazilian cuisine inspired by Asian and Mediterranean flavors and also plays host to some incredible parties, regularly featuring many of Rio’s finest DJs.
Along with Jardim Botanico, Gávea is known as one of the city’s garden neighborhoods, thanks largely to the presence of “Parque da Cidade.” A beautifully kept oasis displaying tranquil gardens and streams which house a variety of typical Brazilian wildlife, including sloth’s and marmoset monkeys.
In the center of the park lies a large mansion which once served as a summer retreat for the Marques de São Vicento. Built in 1809, it has since been transformed in to the Museu Histórico da Cidade (Museum of City History) presenting images which narrate the city’s colorful past while preserving this classically constructed building.
The area is built on a slight slope and visitors will notice that the higher parts are dotted with bigger, more expensive residencies. Indeed, it is well known that house prices increase along with the incline. Even so, this end of Gávea remains popular with some of the city’s wealthier foreigners who enjoy its close proximity to the “American School.”
In contrast, the bohemian quarter, known as Baixo Gávea, is immensely popular among Rio’s younger generations. The area which begins around Praça Santos Dumont and ends at Rua José Roberto Soares is often described as a less intense version of Lapa and has a real down-to-earth, Carioca vibe.
The restaurants within these boundaries are relaxed and informal, attracting a large number of visitors, particularly on Sunday nights. Begin the evening with dinner at Braseiro da Gávea, which serves typical bar foods, and then top it off by joining the street party which runs from 10PM until midnight.
Entertainment of a different kind is available in the form of the “Hipódromo da Gávea” race track, also known as the Jockey Club. Built in 1926, races take place from Friday to Monday evenings and provide foreigners with something new and fun to do in the evening. The first Sunday of August is the international Grande Prêmio, a popular day out among the residents of Rio.
Gávea is also famous for its prestigious private university PUC (Pontifícia Universidade Católica). This fee-paying establishment holds an exceptionally high reputation that reaches beyond the confines of the city alone. Among its many courses it offers a number of Portuguese language programs designed to suit various standards that prove extremely popular among foreigners.
Not surprisingly, Gávea is a sought-after address in most respects, and prices in some cases have almost doubled in the last two years. A two-bedroom property will cost in the region of R$800,000 on average in areas such as Praça Santos Dumont and rise to R$1.7 million in others. Rentals are less available than expected, and one-bedrooms are rare but a two-bedroom apartment can range from an average of R$3,500 to as much as R$24,000 a month for a penthouse.