Often overshadowed by the glossy beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana, the previously royal neighborhoods of Largo do Machado, Laranjeiras and Catete offer history and a more “normal” day to day life. When the pale look was on trend, the Portuguese court would seal themselves off in the grand mansions in these districts.
Nowadays, the golden tanned look means beach neighborhoods skyrocket in prices, but these neighborhoods have budget drinking holes, palaces and cheap tennis courts.
Largo do Machado
Largo do Machado is a neighbourhood contained in a square. Though, it is one busy square.
A panoramic view will show you fruit vendors, gaggles of old men playing chess, exotic flower stalls and the country’s bargain-price supermarket, EXTRA. Trust me, you want to get your groceries here.
The supermarket Extra has a system of promotions that are announced over loud speaker. Whatever the product, clients then flock to the counter to pile high the discounted items.
Experience it, please.
Laranjeiras, which means “Orange Trees”, was a noble neighborhood where the Portuguese courts liked to hang out to protect their pale, pale skin from the blazing Brazilian sun.
You will find some of the old colonial palaces, like Guanabara Palace where the governor of Rio de Janeiro works his little socks off (most likely… on Mondays, maybe even Tuesdays).
Originally it was home to Princess Isabel the daughter of Dom Pedro II (and the badass lady who finally abolished slavery legally in Brazil).
Nowadays, Catete is a little downtrodden. However, when Rio was capital of Brazil, the presidential palace was located here.
It’s a busy neighbourhood, lined with street stalls. A great place to soak up a Brazilian atmosphe
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Laranjeiras, Largo Do Machado and Catete: Knockout Neighborhood Guides to Rio de Janeiro
1. Catete Palace
As previously mentioned, the ex-presidential palace is now open as a museum. To make the most of the visit you should read up beforehand, but the highlights are:
- The bedroom and pajamas where President Getúlio Vargas committed suicide. He shot himself in the heart to avoid a coup d’etat. At the top of the palace you can read the original suicide note and see the bloody bullet stain on his jam-jams.
- The painting “Pátria,” a symbol of the formation of Brazil as an independent republic. It shows women stitching the new flag. A surefire symbol of hope.
Furthermore, behind the palace there is an independent cinema and a park. The park is lined with imperial palms, that stretch high to the sky. From time to time there are book fairs, live music recitals and kids clubs/ shows hosted in the grounds.
2. Arabe in Galeria Condor
Brazil is almost completely built on immigrants and a huge flow came from Syria and Lebanon. Therefore, the Arabic cuisine has been absorbed into Brazilian culture.
In Galeria Condor, just off Praça Largo do Machado, you can find a bustling Arab restaurant called Rotisseria Sírio Libanesa. It is split into three sections: sitting, standing with a high table, delivery/ takeaway. Take your pick depending on your mood.
Top Tip: Kibe is a herby arabic meatball. Sample the three types: Kibe – “cru” (raw meat); “de forno” (oven baked); or “frito” (fried). Each one has a unique flavor.
Inside this mini shopping centre there are several quaint shops. My pick is the cute prints of Sugar Loaf on t-shirts. You will find these stores right by the entrance.
3. Instituto Pereira Passos (Study of Rio de Janeiro)
Those just passing through, however, can take advantage of the local book store. It stashes beautiful photography books on Rio and Brazil in general. As well as books exploring Brazilian public policies, sociology and political issues.
4. Mercado São José
In Rua das Laranjeiras the old the rustic Mercado São José homes a cluster of hipster eateries and bars. An unpretentious mixture of food choices and craft beers.
The great news is it is dress down and sheltered from the rain. Therefore, when the tropical rains bare down, this is a perfect option. Sometimes you’ll even catch live music.
5. Vila do Largo
Searching for a quite spot to just breath? Vila do Largo is an alleyway, I know sounds dodgy, but in a quaint kind of way. You will find this Vila in Largo do Machado.
The backstory goes that the 36 houses were put on the market, however, three weren’t sold. This impeded the demolition of the Vila to build a new commercial building.
Eventually an architect stepped in a revamped the deteriorating alleyway.
Currently it hosts various co-working spaces. These are the new 9-5, so here you can buddy up and connect with other digital nomads.
Also, “Casa 8” brews its own coffee ground coffee. No fuss service, where no tips are necessary and you pick up and drop off your coffee cups at the counter.
Finally, browse the ateliers and art galleries for local souvenirs.
6. Praça São Salvador
A drinking hole in all its might. This square brings together a whole bunch of botequins (the good and the ugly). Though the diversity of the square makes it stand out. Anyone fits in.
Brazilian law allows drinking on the street. This gives the choice to pack your own booze-picnic or just purchase from the local supermarket or stores. You’ll have to make buddy up with a bar/ restaurant or use of a toilet though …
Also, during Carnival in February/ March Praça São Salvador holds a “bloco.” Basically, a giant gathering of people, most likely in fancy dress, day-drinking in the street.
7. Fluminense Club
Although you need to be member or enter as a member’s guest, it is worth mentioning Fluminense Club.
An Olympic size swimming pool, 4 clay tennis courts, shooting, volleyball, a football pitch the list goes on and on. It is true Rio is scattered with class clubs, but usually they demand an exhaustive deposit on entrance. We are talking your house deposit folks.
Whereas Fluminense Football Club offers family members for pocketable prices.
Overall, my favorite part is you can often see monkeys springing across the fences whilst you play tennis. And a couple of times I even spotted toucans!
8. Guinle Park
Lastly, at the back corner of Laranjeiras the Parque Guinle offers a cosy hideaway. A fresh spot of tropical greenery overlooked by the Governor of Rio de Janeiro’s residence.
Originally, the park used to be the gardens of the Guinle Palace, where our Governor lives. Though thankfully everyone can appreciate the beauty nowadays.
9. Bar do Zeca Pagodinho
Bar do Zeca Pagodinho is a themed samba and pagode bar that has franchises in Barra, Catete, Jacarépaguá and Nova Iguaçu. Paying tribute to the pagode icon Zeca Pagodinho, they are great spots to enjoy live traditional Brazilian music.
The Flamengo/ Catete branch sits on the corner of the Catete Palace gardens, on the coastal avenue. Each month the teams upload the schedule of live music with names of the bands and singers featured. There is a cover charge to enter that pays the musicians, then you order drinks and Brazilian food to the table.
Below is an example of the typical music agenda at the Flamengo bar. They don’t accept reservations, so it’s best to arrive earlier or you’ll queue to get in.
More in our Rio Neighborhood Series