South Zone - Part I Information
The South Zone or "Zona Sul" is the "familiar" tourist section of Rio and includes the part of town that most visitors associate with Rio – namely Copacabana and Ipanema. However, Rio and the South Zone are much more than these two neighborhoods. In fact, to do it justice, we broke it into two sections. South Zone – Part I includes the traditional residential areas of the district and might be a better place to find a moderately priced hotel if you don’t require accommodations on the famous Av Atlântica or Av Viera Souto beach front. (However, if you have your heart set on being footsteps from mixing with the "beautiful people", we’ve got all the details laid out in "South Zone – Part II" which follows immediately on the next page).
Filled with moderately priced restaurants, bars and boutiques, this cultural neighborhood is mostly middleclass and due to its colonial origins is home to a significant number of historic buildings. One of the area’s main drawing cards is the Republic Museum (formerly known as Catete Palace), a grand building which was once the seat of power in Brazil, housing the country’s government from 1897 to 1960 before the capital relocated to Brasilia. The museum charts major landmarks in the country’s history, with particular focus on President Vargas who committed suicide here in 1954, and plays host to cultural events using a mixture of exhibitions, concerts, plays and movies.
The surrounding gardens are beautifully kept and make for a lovely stroll - there is also a playground for young children. Another major museum close by is the Centro Cultural Oi Futoro, a brilliantly interactive space which traces the history of human interaction. If you’re seeking a balance between hotel costs, culture and leisure, this is an excellent place to base yourself, as the world-famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema are just a ten minute subway ride away.
Covering the area between Botafogo and Downtown Centro, Flamengo is a vibrant place which is mainly comprised of upper-middleclass residential streets. It has prime position around Guanabara Bay, meaning stunning views of Sugar Loaf Mountain just off the bay. Apart from its abundance of gourmet restaurants and authentic bars, and its friendly and relaxed atmosphere, the main highlight of this district is Flamengo Park, which covers an area of 1.2 million2 metres and boasts the impressive title of being the largest urban park in Brazil.
The park was the brainchild of Lota Macedo Soares, a student of the great Brazilian painter Candidio Portinari. The park’s creation was a feat of ingenuity: to fill the area with the necessary dirt, the Santo Antonio Hill, which once stood in the centre of Rio, was literally hosed to the ground with powerful water jets. The messy origins of the park are scarcely imaginable now; it is a meticulously manicured green haven, filled with shrubbery and over 11,600 trees. The area is otherwise famed for housing the Carmen Miranda Museum and its plethora of grandiose architecture; a heady mix of art-deco, art-nouveau, eclectic, neo-classical and modern.
Botafogo (and nearby Laranjeiras)
Nestled between the Mundo Novo hills, Botafogo is a traditional and largely middleclass neighborhood which is becoming increasingly trendy due to an influx of new ‘botecos’ (bars) and restaurants. Worthwhile attractions in the area include Museu do Indio, which is dedicated to indigenous Brazilian history and culture, Villa-Lobos Museum, which pays homage to the classical Brazilian composer of the same name, Rui Barbosa Museum and Cobal Botafogo, a bustling farmers’ market where fresh local produce can be found by day and music by night. As well as being home to two of Rio’s largest shopping centres (Botafogo Praia Shopping and Rio Sul) the neighborhood is celebrated for its views: Christ the Redeemer is clearly visible from almost everywhere and the Pasmado Overlook (found on Bartolomeu Portela Street) presents a spectacular vista of Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain. This particular view has been immortalised into a postcard classic and an iconic image of Rio. Tucked away behind Botafogo, is the unassuming neighborhood of Laranjeiras, which is steadily establishing itself as the "in" spot for late night eating, drinking, and socializing. Make sure to visit Casa Rosa, where you can dance to samba and funk until the early hours.
Urca is a traditional and wealthy residential neighborhood and has the distinction of having the oldest street in Rio, named Rua São Sebastião. What is now called the Forte São João, a military base, is where the first Portuguese settlement in Rio was founded by Estácio de Sá on March 1, 1567. Urca's principal claim to fame is its operation of the famous Bondinhos (cable cars) which take visitors up majestic Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).
A neighborhood enjoying prime position on the beach strip is Leme (‘helm’), named after a nearby hill that’s shaped like the helm of a ship. Leme beach is a less chaotic affair than Copacabana, meaning it is very popular with families, older people and locals. Be careful if swimming though; the swell here has been known to reach a staggering 10 feet. Like most parts of the South Zone, Leme is overflowing with hotels, restaurants and bars along its beach front – many high-end – but apart from that, there’s not a huge amount going on, which is a mighty attractive concept to many people.
A mildly interesting historical site can be found at the 17th Century Fort do Vigia ("a True Fort"), and while there’s not much left of the fort, the enchanting view (try to time it with sunset) out over Copacabana Beach and the Corvacado Mountains isn’t one you’ll easily forget. In a practical sense, Leme is a great place to base yourself, with top neighborhoods, including Copacabana, Ipanema and the historic Downtown, being just minutes away.
Check out the Virtual tour
The South Zone I Neighborhoods featuring Botafogo and Guanabara Bay
Visit the traditional Rio neighborhood of Botafogo as you gaze down with a heavenly view of Guanabara Bay. Tour the small sailing and motor boats moored in the marina. From high above Botafogo, one can also look out to Sugar Loaf Mountain and behind in the distance, the Christ Statue can be found in the clouds. Source: AirPano.com
When you launch this virtual tour, you will be presented with a map with multiple Virtual Tour viewing points. To find the tours associated with the Botafogo and the Guanabara Bay, choose the points encircled in red as demonstrated in the picture on the left side of this page. You can scroll over the map points to find the tour of your choice.
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