By Karen Shishiptorova, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Snugly cloistered at the foot of Parque Nacional da Tijuca (Tijuca National Park) on a narrow stretch lined by Praia do Pepino, São Conrado is a lush, green village much like its neighbors Alto da Boa Vista, Gávea, Joá, Itanhangá and Barra da Tijuca. Just after the Zuzu Angel Tunnel, one is struck by the majestic image of Pedra da Gávea, a 3300-foot rock cliff watching the area like a sentinel, overlooking the sea.
In 1916, Commander Conrado Jacob Niemeyer, an engineer, build the charming São Conrado Church – hence the name – on his vast farmland, still thanks to good city planning the neighborhood’s oldest man made landmark. In the early Twenties, determined to improve access to his property, the engineer finished Avenida Niemeyer, an urban project largely abandoned at the time. People began to arrive, looking for a country lifestyle in the city. This bucolic, remote feeling persists, with added conveniences which don´t seem to bother the bird and animal residents in the slightest.
São Conrado is today an affluent upper class neighborhood with great beachfront views throughout, in spite of the contrasting low income Rocinha community. With few exceptions, the area is dotted with tasteful mansions – tucked into the forest – the majority private condos and luxurious apartments of the wealthy and discrete.
Commercial activity is focused on catering to a relaxed and exclusive lifestyle. Prime services for a select few, such as home delivery, internet access, VIP lounge, and a waiting room for private chauffeurs, the São Conrado Fashion Mall is a favorite of Rio´s prominent and fashionable. Landscaped and designed to make use of natural daylight, the earthy elegance of the Mall has attracted brands such as Armani, H.Stern, Fendi, and Calvin Klein. There are also two screening rooms, a theater, eateries and cafes.
What the neighborhood lacks for in restaurant choice it makes up for in quality. A particular favorite is The Intervinos Vinho e Bistrô, featuring a wine list of over 250 labels which one can drink in-house or take home. It does a lovely paella on Sundays.
For golf lovers, the Gávea Golf and Country Club is a genuine heaven set on a lush, green carpet. Members enjoy an eighteen hole golf course, children are allowed, and even Prince Edward put his stamp of approval while visiting with his brother George, Duke of Kent.
Adventure sports abound in São Conrado. A must for hang gliders and para gliders, the Estrada das Canoas road leads to the take off ramp, within minutes of the quiet Praia do Pepino beach where they land. For adrenaline junkies, a tandem flight can be organized on the spot. Pedra da Gávea is a delight for mountain climbers, hikers and trekkers. The three hour hike to the top can be mastered by beginners in reasonable shape. The view is priceless, and many spend the night to catch the breathtaking sunrise from its summit.
With Auto-Estrada Lagoa-Barra (Lagoa-Barra Highway) crossing the entire center stretch, São Conrado is mainly a transit neighborhood as the single access route from Zonal Sul to Barra da Tijuca and parts of Zona Oeste (West Zone). This of course leaves no shortage of bus line services.
Prices vary according to views and proximity to the Rocinha Community and one bedrooms are rare. Two bedrooms start at around R$290,000, while three and four range between R$300,000, and R$750,000. Beachfront properties start at around R$1 Million. Houses are usually large with garden and pool, and sells around R$500,000, going all the way up to the R$3 Million range.
Most apartments for rent have at least two bedrooms, and most have three and four, as the neighborhood consists mainly of family homes. The rare two-bedrooms that are available start at R$1,800 and go up to R$2,750, where three-bedrooms start at R$3,000. Four-bedroom apartments start at $4,800 and can go up to $12,000 if they are detached houses with pools and en-suite bathrooms throughout.