By Charlotte Markham, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Laranjeiras is a smaller neighborhood on the edge of Zona Sul (South Zone) that is often missed by vacationers to the Cidade Maravilhosa, as it is some distance from the popular beaches in Copacabana and Ipanema. Yet located on the foothills of Santa Teresa, it offers a view of the city that blends traditional charm and authentic Carioca culture.
Back in 1835, Guanabara Palace, a center piece of Laranjeiras, was constructed as the residence of the royal Princess Isabel, who would access her home riding through the palm lined road that led directly to the ships’ departure point in Guanabara Bay.
The palace is going through a nearly R$2.4 million restoration, however during the current financial crisis it no surprise, as the State of Rio de Janeiro Government’s headquarters, it finds itself another one of the stages for now daily demonstrations throughout the country.
Still, there is no doubt the neighborhood, whose name meaning “orange tree” given the area was once awash with the fruit trees, has more than a few places worth a visit. As a culinary destination, Laranjeiras offers both Japanese at Sushi Laranjeiras and Arabic cuisine at Rotisseria Sírio Libanesa in Largo do Machado.
Both types of food arguably became Brazilian traditions since a great number of immigrants arrived from both areas in the end of the 1800s, with the greatest Arabic influence from Syria and Lebanon. Mama Rosa Ristorante is a charming restaurant that serves Italian and Brazilian food, has a large balcony with views of the rainforest and the waitresses are extremely attentive, dressing traditionally in Italian style attires.
For nighttime endeavors one should not miss Praça São Salvador, where crowds of Brazilians gather every night of the week to enjoy a cerveja (beer) in the square. On Sundays there is a free Chorinho concert to add to the atmosphere, as well as the weekly market.
The diversity of this drinking hub is that people can opt to sit in the surrounding bars, especially if you fancy something to eat, purchase beverages from them or the street vendors and carry it to the square or even bring their if they are on a budget. “The São Salvador Square is Rio at its best: a democratic place outdoors where people get together for good music, good talk, arts, some beers and food” says Luiz Romanholli a resident of Laranjeiras.
Another nighttime treat is Bar do B a Jazz house on Rua das Laranjeiras, which holds biweekly jazz nights, a genre of music that is relatively hard to come by in Rio.
The Fluminense club, whose name is used to refer to a person born in the State of Rio, is located on the same street as the Guanabara Palace and it is possible to buy a membership for use of the gym and pool facilities that the football team use for their daily training and is great for children.
The neighborhood remains accessible given the Santa Barbára tunnel and its borders with Botafogo, Flamengo and Catete. The metro station, Largo do Machado, is only three metro stops from both Centro and Copacabana.
Real estate in all of Zona Sul is, by Brazilian standards, far from cheap, but Laranjeiras offers a chance for someone with a tighter budget to still stay in the heart, or as the saying goes in Portuguese, in the “a gema da cidade” (City’s Yolk). Since November 2015 the prices have increased slightly going from 11.7 to 12.1 per square meter for buying. This puts two bed apartments at R$800,000 upwards and studio apartments starting at approximately R$650,000.
For rented accommodation you can find great one bed options with 50m2 for R$,2200 and the additional condominium costing around R$400-600. Two bedrooms are priced around R$2800- R$3500, while short term stays can be R$200 a day for a two bedroom apartment with Airbnb.