Written by François Correia
Jardim Botânico is a quintessential neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro set on the edge of the biggest urban park in the world, the enormous Floresta da Tijuca. Situated just below the most iconic symbol of Brazil, the Corcovado Mountain, from where the statue of Christ the Redeemer watches over the city, the area is full of charm, serenity and hidden gems.
Easy to reach and bordering other incredibly beautiful areas like Gávea, Lagoa, and Leblon, its tree-lined streets are full of action – little monkeys roam the canopies while locals roam around stopping at one of the many hidden bars, shops and restaurants. It is also an amazing stop on your way to great sites in town: Vista Chinese observation promenade, the Tijuca Rain Forest and a few pristine waterfalls!
We have explored the area to find those favorite local places so loved by the cariocas (rio natives). Jardim Botânico is a place to enjoy a slow pace, breathe the rainforest air and watch the locals go by wearing their beautiful smiles.
La Maison by Dussol
Jardim Botânico isn’t too much for a hotel destination but quaint boutique hotel La Maison by Sussol makes up for it. Plus, the views from their hillside area are well worth the stay.
From the French hoteliers behind La Suite, La Maison is a little gem on the fringes of Jardim Botânico. Located in the hills of Gávea, the hotel has endless views of the forest and is only 10 minutes drive from Leblon and Ipanema.
There are only 5 suites – all with the stamp bohemian look and design of the Dussol brand and inspired by the places around the world that the duo behind Dussol have visited. The rooms have private balconies with views of Christ the Redeemer.
Jojö is a simple local affair – no frills and full of personality. Indulge in cold prosseco, caipirinhas and oysters for lunch or dine on one of the outdoor tables. As the area is slightly ‘colder’ – the carioca standard is under 20°C – than the rest of the city, due to the proximity with the mountains, charming blankets are provided to keep you warm. The duck risotto is delicious and on Thursdays you have the popular ‘Happy Oyster’ when they receive the super fresh delivery from the port.
There are views of the forest right across the street and of course of the beautiful people. This is a great place to experience local culture in Rio.
Volta is a wonderful place to experience Brazilian cuisine with a modern touch. Drawing from the classic, rich and abundant elements, the twin brothers behind the menu, Fernando e Juliano Basile, showcase a wonderful selection of flavors.
They trained in Barcelona at Michelin star restaurants as well as at D.O.M – the renowned restaurant by Brazilian star-chef Alex Atala. The menu is a delight: hearts of palms with ‘pupunha’ – a typical ingredient from north-east Brazil, the indigenous inspired ‘tapioca’ – a cassava flour tortilla – with sealed tuna and mango or the charcoal smoked barbecues of fine Brazilian beef are only a few of the options on offer.
The ambient is casual and draws from a retro kind of look – from the beautiful vintage plates and cutlery to the décor of the space, everything brings that little cheeky smile to your face. It is a place with that young soulful energy – just like the chefs.
Lorenzo is an old favorite serving honest, simple, family-oriented food. It is a space to come to enjoy a long meal, accompanied by a happy chit-chat. The French-Italian menu thrives on old favorites: poulet roti, steak au poivre, crissinis, risottos and the house winner tarte tatin.
Find yourself a charming table by one of the huge windows and enjoy some European flair with views of this tropical neighborhood – charmingly decorated with old wine boxes and family pictures. The wine selection is also great. Santé Brésil!
Founded by King John VI of Portugal in 1808, the Botanical Garden is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. With over 6500 species, some endangered, the park lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain, curiously most of it under the right arm of the statute of Christ the Redeemer, and is a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Walk through the Imperial Palm trees avenue, there are 134 of them on the avenue itself, visit the orchids greenhouse and the Japanese garden and see the giant water lilies, spotting and hearing on the way the many of the tropical fauna that live within the confines of the park: monkeys and toucans included.
The park is comprised of 40% of cultivated area; the rest of its 140-hectare is composed of lush original rain forest. There are cultural and environmental events happening throughout the year. It is a wonderful place to take kids for a bit of adventure and fun.
The former residence of Brazilian industrialist Henrique Lage and his wife Gabriela Besanzoni, an Italian opera singer, the mansion was designed in the 1920s by Mario Vodret in a mix of eclectic architectural styles.
The mansion now hosts many cultural events, theatre and musical performances and is the headquarters of the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage – Rio’s most renowned visual arts school.
Within its 52-hectare you can find an European style garden – designed in 1854 by British gardener John Tyndale – which shares the space with a lush tropical forest – there are man-made ponds, islands and grottoes with fish tanks carved out onto the rocks.
From the park there are many trails from which to explore the forest all the way to the statue at the mountain top – always with an experienced guide. Parque Lage has a very romantic feel to it and is for sure a site worth spending a few hours enjoying the artistic vibe and the beautiful setting.
Dona Coisa is a charming multi-brand boutique in the quaintest corner of Jardim Botânico. The well-designed space is full of light and Brazil’s favorite brands – from beauty products to fashion with also a plethora of products from up and coming new Brazilian designers.
The store features a beautiful cafe, commanded by the team behind the best cakes in the city – Armazém do Café, Bendito, Chloé Bakery, and a flower shop – orchids and tropical flowers scenting the ambient. Dona Coisa has a vibe as soft as the beautiful tropical light that floods the space throughout the day. A total bliss to shop and find the perfect gift to take it back home.
Written by François Correia