Ipamena, Rio, Brazil

Living in Ipanema

Iyna Bort Caruso

In the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s cultural capital, is the exclusive neighborhood of Ipanema.

Ipanema is sandwiched between a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. At some points, only eight or so blocks separate the two bodies of water. Along the western edge of the beach are stunning views of the Doris Irmãos Mountains.

The first streetcar line in Ipanema, built just after the turn of the 20th century, brought with it growth and urbanization to what was a fishing village. But for its true transformation into an exclusive address, blame it on the bossa nova. In the early 1960s the song The Girl from Ipanema became a worldwide hit. The area’s profile skyrocketed and a cosmopolitan neighborhood imbued with tropical joie de vivre was born. Today about 40,000 people live a life of casual luxury here.

In Ipanema, the most notable landmark is ground level. The expressive black and white patterned stone sidewalk in the traditional Portuguese pavement style is a work of art. Paralleling the beachside walk is the avenue Vieira Souto, which is closed off to motor vehicle traffic on Sundays and filled, instead, with bicyclists, skaters and walkers.

This exclusive community boasts some of the city’s top restaurants and an impressive concentration of elegant boutiques, particularly on Rua Visconde de Piraja and Garcia d’Avila. Visitors and locals alike also frequent the long-running street market known as the Hippie Fair on Sundays, featuring dozens of stalls of furniture, crafts and clothes.

Not surprisingly, life in Ipanema is all about beach culture, where a perfect day revolves around a caipirinha cocktail and the drama of the setting sun.

Property is at a premium in Ipanema, particularly along the beachfront street Vieira Souto. Limited development keeps supply tight and prices stable. International buyers, many of whom have vacation apartments, enjoy the same property rights as Brazilians.