By Beatriz Miranda, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Apart from its spectacular beaches, mountains and waterfalls, Rio has a lot to offer when it comes to nice, tropical forrest areas. From São Cristóvão, in Zona Norte (North Zone), to Gávea, in Zona Sul (South Zone), there are a number of parks worth visiting, either for a picnic with friends or for exercising.
Little known among visitors, and even many Cariocas, Parque da Cidade is a great option for a pleasant walk in a chilled wooded area. Situated in Gávea, at the Santa Marinha Road, the 470,000 square meter area is part of an environmental protection zone, belonging to Floresta da Tijuca.
Originally the former residence of Marquess of São Vicente, during Brazil’s colonial period, Parque da Cidade makes one feel like in a royal outdoor garden, fully surrounded by tropical trees. The park includes a vast lawn, ideal for picnics, a children’s playground and trails. It opens everyday, from 7AM to 6PM.
Another nice area is Parque Lage, a favorite spot among Zona Sul’s residents. The area is famous for attracting groups of photographers, who enjoy capturing Parque Lage’s beautiful landscape, composed of nature, neoclassical architecture and the Corcovado in the background. During the weekends, Parque Lage usually gets full of visitors.
Besides its trails and nice cafés, Parque Lage eventually promotes cultural attractions, like shows, exhibitions, cinema festivals, among others. Situated at Rua Jardim Botânico, the park opens from Monday to Thursday, from 9AM to 10:30 PM; and from Friday to Sunday, from 9AM to 5:30 PM.
What’s more, the most beautiful encounter between the sea and the hills stands at Pista Cláudio Coutinho, the wooded lane that leads to the Morro da Urca trail. Situated right at the side of Praia Vermelha, Pista, part of the Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca Natural Monument, is one of the most pleasant places for jogging and running in Zona Sul.
Despite its short length – 1,25 kilometers -, Pista Cláudio Coutinho is a must visit park, above all, for its breath-taking natural scenario. Usually proper for swimming, Praia Vermelha, in front of Pista, is the perfect program to refresh after a nice running. Also known as Caminho do Bem-te-Vi and Estrada do Costão, Pista Claudio Coutinho is open everyday, from 6AM to 6PM.
In Zona Norte, the most traditional park one can visit is Quinta da Boa Vista, in São Cristóvão. Former residence of Brazil’s Royal Family, from 1808 to 1889, Quinta impresses for the harmony between its sumptuous building (which currently works as Rio’s Natural History Museum) and exuberant nature.
In its 155,000 square meters, visitors can practice sports, run, go for a walk, ride a bike or simply chill at Quinta’s lawn on a sunny day. The park also includes a lake, in which one can do kayaking or enjoy a pedal boat ride. During summertime, Quinta da Boa Vista opens from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10AM to 5PM; and on Monday, from 12AM to 5PM.
Additionally, in the heart of Rio’s Zona Oeste lies Sítio Burle Marx, a 807,000 square-meter garden designed by Burle Marx, renowned Brazilian landscape architect. The former residence of Burle Marx is, today, one of Rio’s great touristic attractions.
In the area, visitors have the opportunity to see 3,500 species of the Brazilian flora. Located at Barra de Guaratiba, Sítio Burle Marx opens from Tuesday to Saturday (except on holidays), from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM and from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM.