By Sanhita Reddy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Visions of university students playing football (soccer) along Praia Vermelha, and old men fishing along the rocks leading to the Atlantic Ocean are common in Urca. With sweeping views of Guanabara Bay and set along the backdrop of the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf), it’s hard not to fall in love with this small neighborhood nestled on the peninsula between Leme and Botafogo.
Arguably the safest neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro (due to the presence of a military base and lack of favelas in the bairro), Urca has plenty to offer its residents.
The neighborhood has three beaches (Praia da Fora, Praia Vermelha, and Praia de Urca), hundreds of rock climbing routes, and plenty of hiking trails—including one leading to Morro da Urca and one to Leme.
In the morning and during the day, residents can rent canoes and kayaks to row along the bay, take bike rides along the path to Aterro do Flamengo, or walk with their kids to the local park. In the afternoon and at night, families gather at restaurants and chopperias, rock-climbers grab a ride down on the cable car from Morro da Urca (free one-way after 7 PM), and military students play football in the courts near the Circulo Militar.
There is always a steady flux of tourists and residents from other parts of Rio de Janeiro, making their way to the Zozô bar to listen to bossa nova, going sailing to see the views of Zona Sul (South zone), or visiting the Museum of Earth Sciences (Museu de Ciência da Terra) and Museum of the Military Fort (Museu do Forte).
During the school year, it’s common to see university students out on the streets, or walking to Rio Sul Shopping Center, a quick walk from nearly anywhere in Urca. The campuses of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the Engineering Military Institute (IME), the General Staff Army Command School (ECEME) and the War Navy School (EGN) are located in the area. Urca is also home to the Benjamim Constant Institute for the visually impaired.
The neighborhood today is mostly residential, with Art-Deco inspired houses, row homes, and some military accommodations. Many of the residents live in the homes their families bought when the area was initially developed. Urca has been home to some famous residents, most notably singer Roberto Carlos and in the 1930’s, Carmen Miranda. A plaque now exists next to the home where she lived.
Real estate in the area is somewhat insulated from the boom in other areas of Zona Sul, namely Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, although this may be due to a generally lower turnover rate. Even slightly removed from the action, there has been an increase since 2009, when a one bedroom apartment started from around R$350,000.
A recent search to buy a home in Urca found that a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment now averages around R$400,000 to 450,000. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment starts from R$600,000, with prices shooting up to R$1,500,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom. Options are fewer for those looking to rent in Urca. A one-bedroom, one-bathroom starts from R$2,000 (excluding condominium fees, if applicable), while a two-bedroom, one-bathroom runs around R$4,000 per month.