Laranjeiras: Zona Sul Colonial Splendor

By Jaylan Boyle, Contributing Reporter

Palacio das Laranjeiras, the neighborhood's colonial landmark, photo by Secretaria Geral.

Palacio das Laranjeiras, the neighborhood's colonial landmark, photo by Secretaria Geral.

RIO DE JANEIRO – At the foot of mighty Mount Corcavado, Laranjeiras (Portuguese for orange trees) is a charming area known for its connection to Rio’s historical and cultural roots. Located between Santa Teresa, Flamengo and Cosme Velho, it is one of the oldest bairros (neighborhoods) in the city. You’ll find echoes of colonial splendor in spades here, such as the opulent Palacio das Laranjeiras, official residence of the Rio state governor.

Laranjeiras was founded in the seventeenth century when country houses first began to spring up amidst the uniquely formed mountains Rio is so famed for. Originally the area was named ‘Vale do Carioca’ (Carioca Valley), and was considered an exclusively aristocratic neighborhood.

Heavily influenced by the classical French styling of the Louis XV and XVI periods, Palacio das Laranjeiras was constructed in 1909 to serve as a residence for the family of Eduardo Guinle. Purchased by the state in 1947, the building has been the official home of the state governor ever since. Recognized as a key element of Rio’s architectural heritage, the Palacio recently underwent a thorough restoration, and is now open to public viewing.

The neoclassical Cultural Center of Casas Casadas, built in 1880 in Laranjeiras, photo by Sérgio Araújo Pereira.

The neoclassical Cultural Center of Casas Casadas, built in 1880 in Laranjeiras, photo by Sérgio Araújo Pereira.

Nowadays the area is still redolent of smaller town living, with its many narrow, winding cobblestone streets, small local businesses and tightly knit yet welcoming community feel. Wandering the streets of Laranjeiras offers a taste of Rio living as its colonial masters enjoyed it centuries ago – a sensation that is captured perfectly on Saturday mornings at the open-air market. Here you’ll see locals peddling fruit, vegetables, abundant quantities of fresh fish and authentically crafted arts and knickknacks.

The draw to Laranjeiras is not entirely a reflection of its proud past, however. More and more club hoppers are discovering plenty to keep them busy over the weekend in Laranjerias, such as the infamous Casa Rosa, a former brothel that now hosts regular samba nights, hearty Sunday feijoada and top DJs spinning tunes until the early hours.

Hardened football fans should already know that Laranjeiras is the home of Fluminense Football Club, so if purple and green is your favorite color combination then you will have already made many a pilgrimage to the historic Estadio das Laranjeiras, where the club set up shop in 1905. Originally built to hold 5,000 spectators, the Brazilian national team had it’s first outing at the grounds on Rua Pinheiro Machado in 1914, resulting in a 2-0 victory against Exeter City, of England.

Following the trend among Rio’s more affluent neighborhoods, real estate prices have risen in this region of late – with two-bedroom apartments renting for R$2,000 a month and three-bedroom apartments for R$2,500; and typically boasting amenities such as a pool and gym. If you’re looking to buy in the area, you’ll need decent finance behind you, as the area has begun to compete with the likes of Botafogo, Copacabana and Ipanema in price. A three bedroom apartment costs around R$1.2 Million.