By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Hidden away at the eastern end of Copacabana’s 4 km beach, Leme cuts an unassuming figure. However, there’s an atmosphere to the neighborhood that makes it very clear once you’ve crossed over from Copacabana.
The streets become quieter, people can be seen lounging around, playing cards, chatting to one another. The hustle and bustle subsides, and then you know you are in Leme.
Little bigger than a few interconnected streets, the neighborhood of Leme shares its name with the nearby hill, which is topped by the historic fort Duque de Caxias (Duke of Caixas), built in the late eighteenth-century to ward off a possible Spanish invasion.
The beach under the hill, while a continuation of Copacabana beach, is known as Leme beach, and has a reputation of being much more family-friendly than Copacabana.
As a neighborhood, Leme is closer to the peaceful atmosphere of Urca, over the hill, than to either Copacabana or Botafogo. It is a collection of quiet, safe and well-maintained streets, with many families choosing to call it home for exactly these reasons.
Expat restaurant owner, Philippe Hersberger, has just recently moved to Leme, and already feels at home. “The neighborhood is very chilled and tranquil. Leme beach is calm and mainly frequented by Brazilians. It is always great for a swim or to relax.”
He also praised the availability of high quality food and restaurants, “There are great food markets around the corner as well as some good restaurants, for example, Gaia Art & Cafe.” Another plus for him is the location, “It’s just a few minutes from the more energetic Botafogo or Copacabana.”
Leme’s bars and restaurants present a slightly alternative, though no less welcoming, atmosphere to the more tourist-orientated Copacabana. When walking along the Avenida Atlantica, the first restaurant that really spells the beginning of Leme is the Salomé Bistrô.
Looking more like a Berlin bar than one just down the road from the Copacabana Palace, Salomé Bistrô offers a well-rounded food and drinks menu, specialising in seafood, salads and light snacks, as well as a range of artisanal beers and cocktails.
Another restaurant offering great-quality seafood is Marius Degustare, a little further down Avenida Atlantica.
The interior of the restaurant is without a doubt one of the most spectacular in the city, decorated like a cave that has been converted into an art-brut antique shop, and patrons pay a fixed price to eat as much as they can from a sumptuous buffet of organic meat and fish.
The aforementioned Gaia Art & Cafe is one of the city’s best vegan restaurants. And for a taste of traditional Leme, there’s Restaurante Shirley, which offers a famous Spanish paella at a reasonable price.
Nightlife in Leme is all about the simple things, for the neighborhood’s Caminho dos Pescadores (Fisherman’s Way) provides one of the best venues to watch the famous Rio sunset.
Purchase prices in Leme have risen slightly over the past two years, with an average purchase price of an apartment at R$12,150 per square meter.
For a two bedroom, spacious, ocean-view apartment on Avenida Atlantica, prices can reach as high as R$2.450,000. Something more modest, located on Rua General Ribeiro da Costa, yet still with two bedrooms and a parking space, can be found for R$670,000.
Rental prices are marginally lower than two years ago, now averaging at R$48.37 per square meter.
Again, there is a large discrepancy between prices for a two-bedroom, ocean-view apartment on Avenida Atlantica, at around R$6,500 a month; and what a two-bedroom apartment situated on Rua General Ribeiro da Costa can be rented for, which is closer to R$2,300 per month.