By Jaylan Boyle, Contributing Reporter

Ipanama Beach with a view to Two Brothers Mountain, photo by Isaias Fernandes.
Ipanama Beach with a view to Two Brothers Mountain, photo by Isaias Fernandes.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Many Gringos would have to admit, no doubt to the eternal chagrin of the average Brazilian, that they were familiar with Ipanema Beach long before they knew the country’s capital city. While your average Carioca may not agree that Ipanema is definitive Rio, it certainly helps to create a feel for the city in the minds of many, and continues to attract tourists in droves.

Ipanema has a distinctly ‘younger’ feel to it than it’s more middle-aged and affluent neighbor Leblon. Its two main streets of Visconde de Pirajá and Barão da Torre are packed full of quality shopping, fine restaurants and plenty of bars. Those in search of culture are very well catered to, with stylish bookshops and cafes, art galleries, and loads of places to enjoy the best of Carioca samba music.

At one end of the neighborhood is Praça General Osório, where homesick Gringos will find two classic Irish bars that show football from the old countries and admittedly expensive Guinness. Ipanema is rated among the safest neighborhoods in Rio, and certainly has a greater police presence than many other suburbs. And like most of Rio, certainly Zona Sul, the area is lush with greenery.

The history of the neighborhood begins in 1894 when the Baron of Ipanema, Jose Antonio Moreira Filho, founded Vila Ipanema on a former sugar plantation, comprising nineteen streets and two parks. The name comes from the native Tupi Guarani dialect and means ‘bad water’, due to the fact that the beach is not an ideal fishing spot, with waves breaking too close to the sand, driving fish away.

Up until the 50s, Ipanema lived firmly in the shadow of it’s illustrious neighbor Copacabana (at least in the eyes of the visiting international elite), and was known as a quiet and peaceful community. Then, in the early 60s, a noticeably bohemian feel began to permeate the neighborhood, with the birth of a significant arts scene.

The area’s new cache was brought to the world’s attention with the release of the film Black Orpheus, powered by a new kind of samba music that would come to be known as Bossa Nova (New Beat).

Bar Veloso, photo by Frederico Cintro.
Bar Veloso, photo by Frederico Cintro.

Ipanema became the byword for exotic glamour that it is today in 1962 when Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes gave Bossa Nova it’s signature anthem, the immortal ‘Girl from Ipanema’. At one point it ranked as the second most covered song of all time behind The Beatles tune ‘Yesterday’. The song and the woman who inspired it, Heloise Pinheiro, have become part of Carioca mythology.

You can still go and hang out in the bar where Heloise would come to buy her mother’s cigarettes (reportedly enduring a cacophony of wolf-whistles on her way out), where her beauty inspired the lyrics to this most iconic of songs. You’ll find said Garota de Ipanema, the birthplace of Bossa Nova, on 49 Rua Vinícius de Moraes.

Those looking to buy or rent property in the area will need to be in fairly good financial shape, as is to be expected of Rio’s second most affluent suburb.

As a general guide, studio or one-bedroom apartments start at around R$200,000, with the average at the R$350,000 mark, heading up to R$600,000 depending on location and utilities. To rent the same, count on paying at least R$1,000 per month for a studio (although this reporter noted that suspiciously there seem to be no available photos for apartments in this price range), and R$1500 to R$2000 per month for a one-bedroom.

Two-bedroom apartments seem to average out at around R$450,000 with bargains to be had in the R$250,000 range. It’s worth noting too that sundries like condo fees climb sharply with two or more bedrooms. To rent, be prepared to pay at least $R2,500, but more likely in the neighborhood of $R3,000 to R$8,000 per month.

Three-bedroom apartments start at around $650,000 (there seem to be quite a few bargains for less though), with an average nudging the seven figure mark depending on location. To rent, you’re looking at at least R$3,000 per month, with an average approaching R$5,000 to R$6,000.

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