South Zone - Part II Information
In this part of the South Zone ("Zona Sul"), we review the areas of Rio that you’ve probably already read and dreamed about – with much more! The South Zone – Part II, includes the neighborhoods that are the "must see" locations for visitors but also includes the places where many traditional Cariocas (Rio locals) call home. Many of the most famous sights and "things to do" are either located here or can be seen from its gorgeous vistas.
The world-famous Copacabana neighborhood is best known for the 4 km (2.5 mile) curve of sand that fronts it. Stretching from Post 6 (lifeguard stand) to Princesa Isabel Avenue, the beach is alive with activity throughout the year, but positively crammed with jubilant revellers during the legendary New Year celebrations (known as Réveillon), Carnival and with football fans during the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, which is usually held here. This has always been the traditonal tourist center of Rio and although parts of the neighborhood play to its reputation, it is still a must see.
Cosmopolitan Copacabana epitomises the attractive stereotypes that lure so many to Rio – beauty, glamour, partying, tolerance and, of course, sun, sea and sand – and these things don’t end at the beach. Delve into the streets, beyond the promenade and seafront hotels, and you’ll find a vibrant hub of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, all charged with a pulsating atmosphere. Let the good times roll!
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
Usually shortened to Lagoa (‘Lagoon’), this beautiful district, stared down upon by Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain, is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in Rio – by both locals and tourists. To those who know it, this will come as little surprise; the region has achieved top marks in various living surveys, coming up trumps in categories including cleanliness, safety, education and culture. Most of the action happens around the perimeter of the azure lagoon, with roller-bladers, cyclists and joggers making use of the promenade by day, and revellers making use of the buzzing waterfront bars, restaurants and clubs by night.
The lagoon itself has much to keep you occupied in the way of water sports, such as water skiing, sailing and rowing, or, for a more sedate option, peddle-boats. Various parks and gardens are scattered through the district, with one of the best being the Tom Jobim Park, which features playgrounds, snack bars, exercise equipment and picnic tables.
Named after the stunning botanical garden that forms its center piece, this lovely residential neighborhood, mainly inhabited by upper to upper-middle-class, is situated between Ipanema, Leblon and Lagoa. The area is refreshingly devoid of the high rise blocks that dominate most other parts of the South Zone, being largely made up of pretty, colonial-style houses interspersed with charming restaurants and cafes that line the web of streets around the garden.
Immortalised by the classic song "The Girl from Ipanema", this high-class, trend-setting neighborhood, situated on a strip of land between the beach and Lagoa, is known for its fabulous restaurants, ultra-stylish nightclubs and luxury shopping. But this is not all the district is known for - It is also a shining example of how different groups of people can live in harmony. While there is a fair amount of rich and famous residents, there is also a healthy dose of hippies, surfers and, of course, tourists. It is also home to a significant gay population. Not to be missed is the Hippie Fair, a market that opens every Sunday and is the ultimate place to discover that much-sought unique souvenir. For a slightly more expensive shopping excursion, check out Diamond Square with H Stern and Amsterdam Sauer, a seriously glamorous shopping block on Garcia d’Avila.
Because of their close proximity, Arpoador and Diabo Beach are often linked with the Ipanema neighborhood. However, Cariocas surely mark the distinction and you gain credibility by also recognizing the difference. These beaches are known for their surfing and amazing sunsets.
Occupying less than a mile of Rio’s famous beach strip, what the exclusive neighborhood of Leblon lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. The fact that this slither of land has the highest property prices in the whole of Brazil should give some indication to the types that live here, but don’t be deterred – there is still much to offer for people passing through. Sharing a boundary with Ipanema, Leblon is unsurprisingly home to a plethora of high-end restaurants and seriously trendy bars, and if you can’t afford to splash out in these, the beach is free and rather pleasant. There is great shopping here, with fashion heavyweights like Armani, Prada, Chanel and Hugo Boss lighting up the windows.
Squeezed between the Jardim Botanico, Lagoa, Leblon and Sao Conrado neighborhoods, Gávea is an affluent residential neighborhood best known for its surfeit of artists, intellectuals and students, which is no doubt partly due to one of Brazil’s most important universities – the PUC – being located here. The area has developed a reputation as one of the city’s garden neighborhoods, owing mainly to Parque da Cidade (Gávea City Park), a tranquil oasis made up of lawns and streams and some native wildlife, such as marmoset monkeys and sloths. Gávea is also home to one of Rio’s biggest malls – Shopping de Gávea– which houses over 220 stores, as well as three theatres where productions run year-round. Another highlight is the Planetarium, which uses cutting edge technology to illuminate its colossal dome into a starry sky. This venue is also home to a stylish bar, restaurant and lounge club called "Zero Zero", where many of Brazil’s top DJs have performed. Alternatively, the Hipodromo da Gávea can offer a different kind of entertainment. Constructed in 1926, the Jockey Club and Race Track is still as popular as ever, with races taking place Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings.
If you had to choose a single neighborhood to epitomise Rio as a whole, you could do far worse than São Conrado. Keen as we are to avoid dragging clichés into these pages, it has to be said that this neighborhood has it all (at least as far as Rio is concerned), in both a socio and topographical sense. Favelas (slums) stand face to face with mansions; mountains tower above beaches; high-class designer shops are as frequent as street-side stalls. The most memorable feature of this neighborhood is Pedra da Gavea (‘rock of the topsail’). It is the world’s largest coastal monolith, peaking at 850 metres (2,789 feet), and hugely popular with climbers and hikers. The views from the top are understandably spectacular. Alongside it sits its sister rock – Pedra Bonita (‘beautiful rock’) – and it’s from here that thousands of people launch themselves off each year for a spot of paragliding, landing on São Conrado beach. Other ways to pass the time can be found in the form of the impeccable Gávea Golf and Country Club or shopping at the luxurious São Conrado Fashion Mall.
Check out the Virtual Tour
Take a Birdseye view of the world’s most famous and popular stretch of sea and sand – Copacabana and Ipanema Beach. Zoom in (+) and marvel at the iconic black and white stone tiles that frame the beach and provide locals and visitors alike with endless hours of hiking, biking and people watching fun. Look for the Lagoa behind Ipanema Beach. Source: AirPano.com
When you launch this virtual tour, open to a full screen, you will then be presented with a map (top right) with multiple Virtual Tour viewing points. To find the tours associated with the Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, 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.
The map above (you can also re-size and move it around) will demonstrate where these neighborhoods are located and their proximity to the other parts of the south zone referenced in "South Zone - Part I". Take a look at the subway, taxi, bus and van transportation alternatives that make up a comprehensive and convenient way to get around the entire south zone. Walkers will love the opportunity to challenge themselves with a stroll from Leme to Leblon Beach. (Don’t try to do it one day – but discover the nuance of each beach during a multi-day trek). Don't forget to investigate the historic and lively Downtown district -- and you will want to compare the beaches here with the "wide open and wild" West Zone beaches. Football fans and those who love parks and animals will want to find out about the North Zone.
Maracanã stadium. Photo: P. Ki...
Recreational clubs on the Lago...
Body Surfing at Pontal Beach
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Christ the Redeemer on Corcova...
"If you look like your passport photo, you're too ill to travel " - Will Kommen