By Virgílio Arnaut, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Life in Niterói could be just the solution for those who feel Rio’s pace is sometimes just too fast. If you’re looking to slow down a little but still can’t stay away from town, then the city just across the bay is a great option. Smaller, calmer and still incredibly close to Rio, it may retain some of its big brother’s problems, but on a far smaller scale.
The benefits of life here are numerous. One can find good, inexpensive places to live, the beaches are every bit as gorgeous as Rio’s, nature abounds, and shopping, restaurants and nightlife are all well catered for – very similar to Rio’s structure in fact, but again in a smaller, easier scale – don’t expect to find as much variety as you can in the state capital.
The city of 500,000 is also home to some of the most remarkable projects by Oscar Niemeyer, the legendary Carioca architect who turned 100 last year. The most famous is the landmark Contemporary Art Museum, projecting itself over the Guanabara Bay like a space ship and ironically as much a landmark for Rio as it is for Niteroi.
The trip across the bay from downtown Rio takes around fifteen minutes using the efficient ferry system that runs from 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM. The second way to jump to the other side is over the Rio-Niterói Bridge. Spectacular certainly, both as a feat of engineering and as the source for stunning views of both cities, but it is fair to say that during rush hour crossing the country’s longest bridge can become incredibly stressful and jams for commuters are just part of the routine.
After the bridge was completed in 1974 Niterói went through a period of accelerated growth and its population jumped from around 300,000 inhabitants in 1970 to 400,000 in 1980. The new connection drove the town into a cycle of great prosperity, with more government funding directed towards the city, infrastructure improvements were made along with industry and commerce developments, and occupation of the ocean-region neighborhoods like Itacoatiara and Camboinhas began in earnest.
Especially interesting from the economic angle, however, are property prices. Very reasonable in the face of what the Rio has to offer, one can nevertheless find there the same life quality of some of its famous neighbour’s best regarded districts. In practice, Niteroi in fact works as an extension of Rio’s neighborhoods, with people frenetically circulating and commuting between both cities throughout the day.
Property options are also extremely varied, and there is a great amount to offer in both houses and apartments of all styles and prices. Most houses for example are located in the ocean-region outside of the Guanabara Bay, where a spacious four bedroom usually costs from R$500,000. To rent a similar property would cost about R$2000 per month.
Most of the apartments on offer are concentrated in Niterói’s main neighborhood, Icaraí. A two bedroom rental here usually starts at R$1500 – condominium and taxes included – while the average price of a three bedroom apartment rental is around R$2500, again inclusive of condominium and taxes. If you are considering buying here, the price of a two bedroom apartment starts at R$250,000, and a three bedroom from about R$350,000, but be prepared for much higher prices for top-end specifications and locations.
Niterói is a curious, lovely city, fully connected to Rio but preserving it’s lighter atmosphere and slower rhythm, and you needn’t really consider yourself separated from the bright lights across the bay at all.