Botafogo and Urca may not have the glitz and glamour of Copacabana and Ipanema, but what they do have is a more subtle charm, with Urca’s subdued ambience and Botafogo’s hipster scene. The two next door neighbors each have their own unique attractions and taking the time to visit will make any trip to Rio a richer one.
Both Urca and Botafogo are rich in cultural attractions and provide a break from the body-conscious ambience on Rio’s famous shorelines. The most obvious attraction is Pão de Açúcar – Sugarloaf Mountain – one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Trips to the summit can be taken by cable car every day from 8AM, but the most rewarding time to go is early evening to catch the spectacular sunset. At the base of Sugarloaf Mountain is the cosy beach Praia Vermelha, a small strip of sand that opens out into a calm bay, flanked either side by rocky slants and lush vegetation. Sip a cold coconut while topping up your holiday tan, or try stand-up paddle surfing – the calm waters at Praia Vermelha are the perfect place to practice.
Check out the urban art at GaleRio in Botafogo. It displays incredible pieces such as paintings, sculptures, repurposed objects, and installations, showcasing the talents of some of Brazil’s most successful and interesting street artists. The Museu Do Índio (Museum of Indigenous People) offers an insightful glimpse into Brazil’s tribal communities by exploring both their past and current lives through a series of artifacts, photos and paintings. To learn more about Brazilian actors, filmmaking and directors, go to Estação Botafogo, a cinema that screens only local films, successfully capturing Brazilian culture through moving picture. For art enthusiasts or those looking for a quirky, creative space should head to Olho da Rua, a cultural center that mixes bar, restaurant and art gallery all under one roof. The venue has regular events such as workshops, live music and book launches, which you can keep up to date with on its Facebook page.
GaleRio | @ Alexandre Macieira | Riotur/Flickr
Eating and drinking
In recent years, Botafogo has become a fertile ground for the growth of a series of incredible bars and restaurants. Le Depanneur is a French-style delicatessen and has wonderful options for a fresh brunch with excellent coffee. Head there later in the evening for a selection of fine wines and delicious cheese board options. Another great bar for wine and cheese is the aptly named Winehouse, which serves a solid collection of Brazilian wines – the Brut Champenoise is one of the most popular on the menu – with tasty snacks, including a generously-sized cheese board. If beer is more your thing, head to recently-opened Hocus Pocus that serves only locally-made craft beer in a lively atmosphere. Bar Urca is one of the most popular drinking spots in the area thanks to its casual outdoor setting and wonderfully calm views across the Guanabara Bay.
For one of the best burgers in town, head to Comuna where homemade burgers are served wrapped in paper to the thriving crowd that heads there every night. The venue gets crowded quickly, leaving many visitors standing up to eat and drink. Fogo de Chão is one of Rio’s most authentic all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque restaurants. Meat is served at the table and the selection includes the Brazilian classic picanha (sirloin cap), chicken, pork, other cuts of beef and, a local delicacy, chicken hearts. For a dinner with a view go to Cota 200 at the top of Morro da Urca. The restaurant serves traditional Brazilian cuisine such as feijoada with an outstanding view of Guanabara Bay and the Sugarloaf Mountain.
Cota 200 in Urca | @ Alexandre Macieira | Riotur/Flickr
Urca may be subdued but that’s not to say it doesn’t have parties. Morro da Urca has occasional shows on its peak, which are sporadically scheduled throughout the year. For New Year’s Eve it hosts a large party with live music, open buffet and open bar. It’s one of the most extraordinary places in Rio to celebrate the arrival of the new year thanks to its jaw-dropping views.
Botafogo is a lively neighborhood with a prominent nightlife fueled by after-work happy hours. Rua Nelson Mandela is a street with a long row of bars that creates an electric atmosphere on the weekend as revelers spill out onto the streets in their groups and lively conversation fills the air. The two most popular night clubs in the area are Casa da Matriz which plays rock, indie and pop music, and Bar Bukowski which is renowned and loved by many locals for its commitment to playing only rock music, including live tribute acts and performances from local rock bands.