By Shalina Chatlani, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Urca, a part of Rio de Janeiro that juts out in a picturesque peninsula into the Guanabara Bay, is a safe and peaceful neighborhood with tasteful houses that lies just beyond Leme and Botofogo. The area is riddled with stunning historical buildings and homes that showcase artistic styles reminiscent of the Portuguese colonial period and beyond.
Although Urca is well known for its architecture, the neighborhood is most famous for Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). The mountain piercing into the bay, faces the Christ Redeemer statue, and is the second most visited site in Rio. Visitors and residents can take a cable car or hike up the smaller mountain in front of Sugarloaf, Morro da Urca (Urca hill) which has an amazing view of the city. The cable car costs R$62 full-priced.
To get a full view of Guanabara Bay and enjoy ice-cold beer and petiscos one should visit the popular Bar Urca, which is usually packed with locals during the weekends. For some french cuisine with a Brazilian touch, visitors should go to Julius Brasserie, a little bistro that has a great view of Urca Beach. Flor da Urca is a budget friendly space, where one can buy tasty and hearty meals at a low price.
Although Urca is more of a tranquil and low key neighborhood, it still boasts some fun nightlife options. One of the more alternative spaces in Urca is called MOO, a venue for large parties that often feature local DJs. Morro da Urca also hosts large parties throughout the year, often accompanied by different bands on the open-air stage. At the end of the year, the venue throws a huge New Year’s bash. For a more peaceful night, Urca has a number of low-key bars like Garota da Urca.
While the beaches in Urca may not be as attractive as those in Copacabana and Ipanema, they are certainly very safe and great for families. Praia Vermelha, for instance has generally calm waters that are safe for swimming. This beach is one of the greatest spots to sunbathe in Rio; although, water quality may vary. Urca Beach, as well, is a family friendly spot, as it is often filled with children.
Among the historical attractions in the neighborhood is Forte São João, which is situated at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. Built in 1565, the military fort, as well as the street, Rua São Sebastião, are some of the oldest sites in Rio. Residents also enjoy taking walks along the scenic Cláudio Coutinho track that surround Urca hill.
Urca is one of the safest areas in Rio that offers daytime activities for families, affordable bars and restaurants for students, and a tranquil living setting for those wishing to settle down and one of the only areas in Zona Sul (South Zone) where one can live in a house instead of an apartment.
Price-wise Urca is a little above Copacabana and a little under Jardim Botanico. The average apartment purchase price per square meter has dropped since last December by about 2.8 percent, reaching R$12,901 in July 2015. Additionally, rents per month have dropped 10.7 percent in the last twelve months reaching an average R$51 per square meter in July, according to FipeZap.