Janeiro is almost impossibly marvellous, with its curving white beaches and
city neighbourhoods studded with green-shrouded mountains, all facing the blue
depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The city is being transformed, as a booming
economy and decreasing crime rates attract those who like to work and play
hard. From the city streets during February’s Carnival to afternoons on
Copacabana Beach, life here is infused with the sounds of samba and the search
for the good life.
What is it known for?
The girl from Ipanema is still walking and the
views from Sugarloaf Mountain on the city’s Guanabara Bay are as
sweet as ever, but its Rio’s future that is the buzz right now. The city, like
the rest of Brazil, is booming, not only due to the recent discovery of
off-shore oil fields, but also because two huge global events are coming to Rio
over the next few years. The city will host the 2014 World Cup finals and the
2016 Summer Olympics, and Rio is experiencing massive construction projects,
including the rehabbing of neighbourhoods, transport and sporting venues. The
famous Maracana football stadium, one of the largest in the world,
is undergoing a total renovation expected to be completed in 2013 before it
hosts the World Cup kick off in June 2014 and the Olympic opening ceremony in
August 2016. The Metro is being expanded and new areas of the city are being
constructed. For example, the Porto Maravilha, an eight billion reais project
due to be completed by 2016, is stitching the revitalised Guanabara Bay harbourfront
to the downtown district. The project will see the demolition of an elevated
highway, the planting of 15,000 trees and construction of the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Santiago Calatrava and
set to open in 2014.
A number of
the city’s famous favelas (slums),
which have contained so much of Rio’s poverty and poetry, have been steadily becoming
safer since the state created a new police force in 2008 that quelled much of
the violence. Rents and property prices are rising so quickly in these hillside
neighbourhoods – which offer up stellar views – that poorer residents cannot
afford it and as such, are being forced out.
the changes taking place citywide, cariocas
(residents of Rio) still gather late into the night and sway to the samba music
that pours out of bars and cafes in rejuvenated neighbourhoods like Lapa in the
south of the city. “Most people are very friendly and open,” said Claudia
Solano, a lifelong resident. “In comparison to São Paulo, it is laid-back here, even in
Where do you want to live?
Traditionally the flat areas of the city, such as the wealthy Zona Sul (South
Zone), have been the most desirable places to live. “Rich Brazilians and
international buyers prefer the neighbourhoods of Leblon, Ipanema, Jardim
Botanico and Lagoa, while middle-income residents buy or rent in Copacabana,
Botafogo, Flamengo, Laranjeiras and Largo do Machado,” explained Robson Lemos,
associate broker at the Corcoran Group. In downtown Rio and the nearby Porto
Maravilha, many developments are in the pipeline. “Zoning changes allowed for
[building] heights to go from four floors to up to 50 floors on the waterfront,
attracting big international developers such as Donald Trump and others,” Lemos
Tijuca in the city’s western zone is a planned district with high-rises and
modern infrastructure that will be home to the Olympic Arena, where events like gymnastics will be held,
and the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. The district attracts families looking for
large apartments who are priced out of Zona Sul. “You’ll find larger places for
a better price,” Solano said. “The metro will get out there eventually, but
having a car is a must and traffic jams are routine.” Middle-class
neighbourhoods such as Tijuca and Meier in the Zona Norte (North Zone) are also
very popular. “Cariocas say that Zona Norte has more of the flavour of old
Rio,” Lemos said. Many people commute from Niteroi, a mid-sized
city connected to Rio by bridge across Guanabara Bay.
When you live in Brazil, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches.
Many residents head to towns in the Lake Region such as Buzios and Cabo Frio, both about 150km north of Rio.
Around 150km south of Rio, the municipality of Angra dos Reis attracts cariocas to its
hundreds of islands, including the spectacular rainforests and white sands of
Ilha Grande. Inland, the mountain town of Petropolis is just 70km from Rio, once
the summer residence of the royal family and now a popular weekend destination
for its restaurants and resorts.
Sao Paulo are less than an hour and most fly from Aeroporto Santos Dumont, along with other domestic service
to cities like Brasilia. The Aeroporto Internacional do Galeao has connections to 19 countries and
regional service to other South American capitals. The flight to Buenos Aires
is just more than two hours and Miami is around eight hours away.
a meteoric 165% rise in prices over three years, the real estate market slowed
slightly in 2012, but prices continue to go up. “Overall the entire market got
higher, including the low end,” Lempos said. “International buyers and wealthy
Brazilians are buying in Rio to add to their real estate portfolio.”
investment has also lead to the new construction of apartment blocks and
commercial buildings all over the city. “Many investors are buying old houses,
vacant lots and small buildings in order to build bigger and taller buildings,”
A 100sqm, two-bedroom
apartment in Leblon or Ipanema starts at around two
million reais, while renting something similar costs between 8,000 to 20,000
reais a month. Equivalent flats in less expensive Zona Sul neighbourhoods like
Santa Teresa, Flamengo and Botafogo are about half that.
- Andrew Downie’s Brazil Blog: news and commentary from an expat
- Eat Rio: English-language blog about Rio, its
restaurants, culture and more
- The Rio Times: English-language newspaper covering Rio de
Janeiro and the rest of Brazil