By Karen Shishiptorova, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is a salt-water lake in the heart of Zona Sul, lending its name to the unique upper-class neighborhood known as ‘Lagoa’ (Lagoon). Hugged by the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, it seems the entire Zona Sul of Rio grew around it, under the watch of the Christ statue.
Lagoa is neatly framed by the lively neighborhoods of Humaitá, Jardim Botânico, Gávea, Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. Although its boundaries are the one or two lake shore blocks, residents might be a single block away from any of the above neighborhoods, according to their position around the lake.
The land was bought in 1660 by the Portuguese immigrant, Rodrigo de Freitas Castro e Mello, who transferred the title to his son Rodrigo de Freitas. In spite of the many ground fills, in 1920 its waters still reached Marques de São Vicente and Humaitá.
In 1922 the Borges de Medeiros Avenue was built around the curves of the lake shores, and many houses were built by the Carioca elite. A few stand today as witnesses of that era, mostly as business, bars, restaurants, cultural institutes and schools.
Much like Central Park is to New Yorkers, the lake is prized by Cariocas for its beauty, wildlife, placid waters, unforgettable sunsets, sports facilities and amenities. On weekends the shores are a magnet for people of all ages who enjoy the tennis courts, soccer fields, rollerblade arena, skating banks and even a baseball court. The bicycle, jogging and walking paths cover over seven kilometers, and famous faces can be spotted exercising or arriving by the chopper landing-site.
The 2.4 million square meter lake is perfect for water-skiing, jet-skiing and rowing. Enthusiasts appear unbothered by the less-than-clean waters. However, thanks to the initiative of Eike Batista, a local businessman, this is changing. Along with authorities, the clean-up effort has begun and the waters are scheduled to be clean again by mid 2010. The lake fishermen association is among the grateful parties.
To explore the lake and its shores, there are paddle-boats, bicycle, tricycle and four-wheel rentals. Lagoa is also proud to host some of Rio’s most important country and sports clubs such as the worshiped Clube Regatas do Flamengo soccer club, Clube dos Caiçaras, Paissandu Atlético Clube and Clube Naval.
After all that activity, there are 25 kiosks and gazebos to serve your appetite. They offer regional Brazilian and international cuisine, complete with live music in the evenings.There are also bars and sit-down restaurants, including the legendary Bar Lagoa.
Once a year, a gigantic floating Christmas tree is installed in the center of the lake, bringing thousands of visitors to see the lights and hear the bells that echo all around the shore. On New Year’s Eve the lake also hosts a party attracting mostly families, as it’s quieter than the famous Copacabana bash.
Crowned by privileged neighborhoods and with so many activities, there is no shortage of public transport around the lake. Lagoa is fully connected to the city, including airports and subway stations. Exceptions are a few quiet and secluded residential streets in the surrounding hills.
Offers are restricted within all this quality and charm. One-bedroom apartments are a veritable rarity and two bedrooms start at R$430,000 to around R$1 Million according to views. Three-bedroom apartments range from R$500,000 and climb to R$2.4 Million for properties with amenities such as pools or saunas, and of course, lakefront views.
Rentals for two-bedrooms fall in the R$2,000 to R$3,700 range, with three-bedrooms from R$2,200 to R$7,000. Again, it varies considerably according to views, access, parking and amenities.