By Gabriela Godoi, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – At first sight the small neighborhood of Grajaú, hidden away in Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio, looks like an isolated small city. Bordered by Vila Isabel, Andaraí and Lins, it was built in the early decades of the 20th Century and first became ‘residential’ between 1925-1930 when the social club Grajaú Tênis Club was created and the local Catholic Church Nossa Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro was erected.
Nowadays the area can be considered middle class, mostly comprised of residential houses and fewer high rise apartments that characterize Zona Sul. As with any neighborhood in Rio, the contrast between poor and rich is stark, but it doesn’t cloud any of the area’s charm, and the sense of community is strong.
Certainly this is not a destination for party goers, and life is at its busiest during daylight hours with kids playing in the main Edmundo Rego square, and nature fans hiking up the Pico do Papagaio (Parrot’s peak) inside the Parque Estadual do Grajaú (Grajaú State Park). Popular for picnics, walking and cycling, the park provides a social center for the neighborhood, and with the majority of locals said to be dog owners, you are guaranteed a few sights of man’s best friend.
The more popular local restaurants include Bar do Adão, famous even beyond Grajaú for its excellent pasteis (a salty dough with different fillings) and Enchendo Lingüiça which produces its own sausages and has been included in various food festivals in the city. Both come highly recommended.
If you are looking for something cultural to do such as a trip to the cinema, the best option is to head for Shopping Iguatemi in nearby Vila Isabel, but both the Grajaú Country Club and Grajaú Tennis Club have local theaters for plays, though these tend to cater mostly for children’s productions.
Sadly violence is still a serious issue in Grajaú, as it is in all of Rio de Janeiro and the majority of petty crimes occur either in the early morning or early afternoon, when the locals are leaving for, or arriving from, work or school. Being a middle class area, cars and houses tend to be the main target, but the police presence has been stepped up lately, in turn granting a greater feeling of safety for the residents.
Housing remains reasonably inexpensive in Grajaú, and along the main road Avenida Engenheiro Richard, you can expect to pay between R$100,000 and R$200,000 for a two bedroom apartment with parking space in a condominium. It has been some time since the last big housing projects were launched here, but recently a new development has begun along Rua Castro Barbosa, with 2 bedrooms units in an impressive block built by CHL.
If you are looking to rent accommodation here the prices vary greatly but will be between R$450 to R$1,000 depending on size and modernity. It is worth noting that it can be quite difficult to find furnished apartments since being far from the beaches, the neighborhood is not usually a target for foreigners. But, if you want to see something of everyday Rio and a different slant on Carioca life, Grajaú is a great place to start.