By Karen Shishiptorova, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Surrounded by the Atlantic on the south, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas to the north with two channels connecting the Lagoa waters to the ocean, Leblon is in fact an island whose paved waterways lead to Gávea, Vidigal and Ipanema.
This affluent beachfront neighborhood – cooled by the Mata Atlântica Forest – has lured the well-to-do since its inception. In 1919, the deserted sandy stretch was sectioned into blocks, public areas planned and the streets named and numbered.
Led by the real estate industry, a marketing campaign on the ocean´s health benefits attracted wealthy merchants, foreigners and tourists. Soon, houses and three story buildings in art deco and colonial styles began to rise. After a complete makeover in the Nineties, sidewalks gained wheelchair access, and a good part of its original charm remains, due to a controversial 2001 decree prohibiting the demolition of architectural, social and historical edifices.
Home to artists, politicians, socialites and CEOs, daytime Leblon is family oriented: retirees, nannies with strollers and, hosting great schools, kids and teens as well.
The beach is generally tranquil. Baixo Bebê – meaning baby hangout – is a spot on the sand with amenities for toddlers. Bikers enjoy a paved route, while joggers, dogs and their owners on the sidewalk bask in the sun and ocean breeze, and surfers ride the waves. Hikers enjoy trekking at Parque Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers’ Park).
Leblon features eight screening rooms, four theaters, a state of the art cultural center and several art galleries. At night, choices are numerous and eclectic: trendy nightclubs, elegant bars and lounges, or the simple local hang outs.
Here, one finds the very best restaurants, eateries and delis in Rio: sandwich/juice shops, steak, pasta and hamburger houses, sushi, gourmet pizza, seafood, and, of course, top international gastronomy with impeccable wine lists, ambiance and service.
Final do Leblon – meaning the end strip – features many hot spots, including the renowned Baixo Leblon and equally famous Pizzaria Guanabara, open till dawn.
Shoppers won´t be disappointed. With great Lagoa views, Shopping Leblon is Rio´s version of Rodeo Drive, featuring 200 stores, including Armani, Calvin Klein and H. Stern, while Rio Design Leblon focuses on furnishings.
Two busy main streets go up and down the stretch, while two short avenues cross to and from the beach. Bus lines and the subway shuttle connect Leblon to every corner of the city and airports.
Greener Alto Leblon (upper Leblon) has no public transportation service. There is a private shuttle for its exclusive residents, available for a monthly fee, which makes stops along Ataulfa de Paiva in Leblon and circulates to Rua Rainha Elizabeth in Ipanema.
Home of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Rio headquarters, Leblon stands as Brazil´s most expensive real estate, averaging between R$12,000 and R$25,000 per square meter. Prices have skyrocketed within the last decade.
According to Ademi – an association of real estate company managers – an apartment worth R$500,000 in 1997 is sold today for R$2.5 million. One bedrooms start at R$280,000, two bedrooms range from R$300,000, to R$680,000, and three bedrooms fall in the R$420,000, to R$1,500,000 range, with beachfront properties starting at R$2,000,000 and reaching up to R$14 million. At Jardim Pernambuco, a gated mansion oasis, houses follow beachfront price range.
Rentals average R$1,100, for one bedrooms and around R$2,500 to R$3,700 for two and three bedrooms.