By Tim Anderson, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – São Conrado is an upmarket suburb in Zona Sul (South zone), just some five kilometers from the famous Ipanema and Leblon beaches. The status of this area is well established having been exclusively owned for hundreds of years, originally belonging to the Governor of the city who also later cultivated sugar cane in the area during the Seventeenth century.

São Conrado Beach, Rio de Janeiro
The quiet beach of São Conrado in Rio, photo by Eduardo P/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The name, however, originates from a later resident Colonel Conrado Jacob Niemeyer, who built the tiny São Conrado Church (which still stands today) at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Much later, in the 1970s, a highway was extended into the area and the growth of this wealthy and relatively isolated location has since been steady. Several luxury hotels and exclusive condominiums have since moved into the heavily forested mountain side, part of the Parque National da Tijuca.

Today, São Conrado also offer a high-end fashion mall and is the launching point for hang gliding and paragliding operators. The luxury Gavea Golf Club was given a royal British approval when visited by Prince Edward and is one of the most exclusive in the city.

Property here has some of the highest per square meter cost of anywhere in Rio. This is despite being shadowed by Rocinha, the the largest favela in Rio. A common juxtaposition in the city with poverty surrounding wealth, magnified by São Conrado’s elite position.

Overlooking all is the Pedra da Gávea, a 850 meter high rock towering over the area very popular with hikers and climbers. It takes about three hours for a relatively fit person to make the steep climb to the summit. Some of the brave (and experienced) even spend the night there to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over the city.

Hand-gliders float off Pedra da Gávea
Hang gliders float off Pedra da Gávea, photo by Marcin Wichary/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Alongside it is the Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock) and it is from this point that the hang gliding and paragliding takes place landing on the main Pepino beach. Every year nearly 23,000 people enjoy the high-flying views of views of the Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers Mountain) in Ipanema, São Conrado beach and the Tijuca National Forest.

Recent developments to the area around Rocinha include a sports and training facility for local residents with a mall and cinema attached alongside. It remains to be seen whether these developments will improve the safety and opportunities for Rocinha’s residents.

Prices vary according to views and proximity to the Rocinha favela, but compared to July 2009 prices, the area has seen the same staggering increased of 20-25 percent. Today two bedrooms start at around R$400,000, while three and four range between R$600,000, and R$3 million. All beachfront properties start at around R$1 million, and houses are usually large with garden and pool, and sell for around R$2 million, going all the way up to the R$10 million range.

For renting, most apartments 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$2,000 per month and go up to R$4,500, where three-bedrooms start at R$4,000 and go up to R$6,000 per month.


  1. Sao Conrado / Rocinha is always so striking… as the author points out, it’s a symbol of the massive socio-economic gap that exists in Rio…

  2. I just moved to sao conrado 8 months ago,my wife have been living here since she was born 26 years. when we got married again here in sao conrado , we decided to live here instead of my city los angeles.
    I live front of the beach and i pay with cond. charge almost 4000 reais per month. But let me tell you something, its far from luxury living it is dirty as hell you can not walk on the street witouth steping on the dog shit .smell of this open canals is unbearible specially when is hot. i bought a house in barra and it will be ready in november i can not wait to get out of here. when we want to go to beach i just get sick to my stomach this people throw everything they eat and drink on the sand and the water already contaminated with sewage waist from those high rises and rocinha.

    I dont know why is this shit hole is soo expensive.

  3. Hahaha… yeah, while the governo is trying so hard to ‘clean up the city’ for the Olympics… they totally overlook the obvious – i.e. issuing fines for littering on the streets and beaches. In addition to literally cleaning up the city (and hopefully teaching Cariocas some kind of notion of respect for their city)… it would bring extra revenue. For example, R$100 fine for each littering offence = lots of $$$…

  4. But moving to Barra..??? The beach there is incredible. However, the neighborhood itself is soulless and isolating… there is nowhere you can walk to… like a local bar or whatever to hang out and meet people. But depending on which part of LA you’re from, maybe you’re already used to that, haha…

  5. Rumors about placing UPP police units in giant Rocinha-Vidigal favelas next year will further increase real estate prices as long as the police operation goes on smoothly given the size of the favelas and the firing power of its drug-traffickers at stake. Socialites buying designerwear at Fashion Mall in Sao Conrado might not want to think about it but it’s still ruthless drug-trafficker Nem ruling the area (…and paying “arregos” i.e. kickpacks to select corrupt policemen), it’s not President Dilma. Sad but true.

  6. Nem is ‘ruthless’..? How so..? What ‘terror’ is he bringing to the people in Rocinha and Sao Conrado..? On the contrary, the entire area is safe because of him – and his prohibition of crime against favela residents… as well as crime in the surrounding bairros. Sure, it’s in his own interests… but whatever. He pays the police more than the government does, also.


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