By Milli Legrain, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Jardim Botânico, most famous for its name giving Botanical Garden, is an upper middle class neighborhood in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) with misty hilltops and lush vegetation that provide a dramatic backdrop to this charming historical area, while not being far from Rio’s beaches.
Jardim Botânico lies comfortably on the northwest side of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, to the north of Leblon and Gávea. The charismatic historical neighborhood features cobbled streets and colonial style dwellings, some of which housed the workers of a local textile factory towards the end of the 19th century.
The area owes its name to the spectacular Botanical Gardens founded by Dom João VI in 1808. They span 350 acres and display over 6,000 species of plant life and trees. The Gardens also host numerous cultural events, including theatre and dance shows. Recently, they held an exhibit by iconic Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.
Over the years the area has attracted numerous celebrities from the world of entertainment including Bebel Gilberto, Vanessa da Mata and the legendary Tom Jobim but it still boasts a community feel. “This is like a small town and we are like a big family,” said Cleonice Alves, manager of Panificação do Século XX, a local snack bar.
The neighborhood is home to Globo TV Network offices, which gives the area an extra buzz. Well-known presenters are often spotted lunching at the nearby French eatery La Bicyclette and fans and demonstrators occasionally hoist placards outside the media giant’s headquarters.
Just down the road is the magnificent Parque Lage, an extension of the Tijuca national forest. There are a number of interesting walking trails to choose from. Visitors can also have brunch on the terrace of the breathtaking Lage mansion, once owned by a wealthy industrialist and open to the public since 1960.
Unsurprisingly, the area is increasingly attracting foreigners. “I moved here a year ago with my three children and wouldn’t live anywhere else in Rio,” said Sandra Genoyer, a French expatriate.
The Rua Pacheco Leão boasts a number of pricey but tasty restaurants. Madonna is said to have dined at Yumê. Close by Jojö Café Bistro is a popular haunt with the Zona Sul crowd and Bar do Horto serves a delicious seafood moqueca (fish stew). Alternatively, Paxeco Bar has a trendy rooftop terrace for dinner and cocktails.
With so much to offer, it is no wonder prices in this area have sky rocketed over the past year. Renters are unlikely to find anything below R$3,000 per month. A three-bedroom apartment is currently in the range of R$4,500–7,500.
According to Agente Imóvel the purchase cost per square meter in Jardim Botânico was valued at R$12,000 in August 2012. It is currently in the range of R$14,500 and keeps rising. Those looking to buy can expect to pay in the range of R$2 million for a three-bedroom apartment. Hilltop mansions with pools are also available at a premium.
Something to bear in mind is that there are few shops and amenities. “There used to be nightlife, a cinema and three bakeries. Government regulation has made it hard for small businesses to survive,” lamented Ms. Alves. In addition, local supermarkets are pricey but the local fresh fruit and vegetable market is held every Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The neighborhood is currently not served by the metro (subway) but there are plans for a stop in time for the 2016 Olympics. Another controversial development is a dispute with the long-standing ‘irregular’ community of Horto, in an area which the Jardim Botânico authorities claim is theirs.