Leblon and Ipanema share the same beach, like Leme and
Copacabana. The border is a shallow canal and park known as Jardim
de Ala (Allah's Gardens). Leblon is one of the best areas to stay
or live in Rio. Schools, movie
theaters and theaters, nightclubs, concert
halls, and some of Rio's best restaurants and bars are among the
Leblon has a romantic history. It was an area area of difficult
access, and it was once used as a hiding place for runaway slaves.
The land originally belonged to Frenchman Charles Le Blond, who
owned a fishing company named Aliança. He sold the land to
Portuguese José de Seixas Magalhães.
Leblon started to grow with Ipanema, when a streetcar line
connected them to the rest of the city. Leblon was at the end of
the line, and it grew at a somewhat slower pace. Even though it's
very cosmopolitan today, it still retains a small town charm with
neighborhood shops that have been around for generations.
Upper Leblon (Alto Leblon) is almost strictly
residential. This hilly area on the West side of Leblon is a
favorite spot for Rio's rich and famous. There are many houses,
mansions and posh apartments. It starts on the left lane of Av.
Visconde de Albuquerque and goes uphill. Some streets are still
cobblestone. There is a curious paper-thin building looming over
Alto Leblon than can be easily spotted from the beach. According
to a dweller you can actually feel the building sway when there is
a strong wind...
Leblon (Baixo Leblon) is the bohemian side of the neighborhood,
and it ruled nightlife in the 70's and 80's. A stop for a pizza or
beer was almost mandatory after a night of fun - some restaurants
and bars remain open until past 4 a.m. This area starts at Cazuza
Square and includes streets Dias Ferreira and the beginning of
Ataulfo de Paiva. Though landmark nightspots like Real Astoria and
Diagonal are no longer around, it is still a good bet for
after-hours. The area surrounding Clipper, a bar further along Av.
Ataulfo de Paiva, is also very popular. It has lately become a
sort of a meeting spot where the young celebrate major soccer
Leblon Beach went "under renovations" in the early
90's. The eroded sand strip became too narrow, and part of it was
reclaimed. Now it is as wide as Ipanema. The water is still not
suitable for swimming after it rains, though. There is a famous
baby-boomer spot across from Rua Venâncio Flores. This is where
young Leblon mothers and their babies get their daily dose of
tropical sun, early in the morning.
Main street Ataulfo de Paiva was recently refurbished with
project Rio Cidade. Like in Ipanema the street lights, signs and
even public phones are unique. Many corners gained charming wooden
seats. Stop and sit for a while to watch the pedestrians passing
by, and maybe you will understand why Cariocas have a permanent
love affair with Leblon.
One of Rio's most scenic drives, this road connects Leblon to São Conrado. The original project was building a railroad connecting Botafogo to the city of Angra dos Reis. It was built by Conrado Niemeyer, in an effort that took almost 30 years to be carried out. It was open to cars in 1916. Think twice before you pull over to take some panoramic photos, though, as traffic is quite intense throughout the day. Stop at the overlook near Leblon instead, and have a fresh coconut water as while you enjoy the view.
Jardim Pernambuco is probably Rio's most exclusive private condominium. There are many mansions in São Conrado, Barra, Joá and other neighborhoods. But owning one a mansion right in the heart of Leblon, steps away from all the attractions is a millionaire's dream come true. The most impressive of these mansions is impossible to miss. It was designed by Niemeyer, the gardens are signed by Burle Marx, and it occupies a full block! It's right at the corner of Auto-Estrada Lagoa Barra, the road leading to the tunnel under the Twin Hills (Dois Irmãos). Unfortunately the wall is so high you can only guess what it looks like inside - and it's really stunning!
The headquarters of soccer team Flamengo is across from Cobal and Plataforma. The club takes a whole block, and members can participate in a host of activities. The Olympic pool is one of the best in Rio. The gym, basketball and volleyball facilities are also excellent, and of course there is the soccer field... If you are lucky you may run into a famous player, and go back home with an autograph and a photo to show your friends!
Bracarense was recently elected the best botequim style café and restaurant in Rio. Braca (for the initiated) has a tradition of 50 years of good services and honest food. The atmosphere is casual and familiar, making it a favorite spot to hang out after the beach. Your best bet are the perfect appetizers, like the legendary croquettes (bolinhos) or small crusty pies (empadas). The jerked beef with onions (carne seca acebolada) is also something to write home about. Take a table on the sidewalk and act like you belong. We will not be surprised if you soon start making friends with locals.
A Rio tradition since 1956, Jobi is considered by many the quintessential botequim café. The friendly atmosphere and delicious food are Jobi staples. Try the shrimp and Catupiry cheese rissole (a Portuguese delicacy), or go on the weekend to enjoy the heavenly feijoada (bean stew). If you are lucky your table will be served by Mr. Paiva, recently elected the most popular waiter in Rio de Janeiro.
One of the most sophisticated and charming farmer's market in Rio. During the day this is the right spot for you to buy the freshest produce. There are also snack bars, cafés and small restaurants in the area. A stop at Arataca is almost mandatory. They serve delicious Northeastern delicacies like the caldinho de sururu and casquinha de siri (stuffed crab). At night the action goes on. Though the market is closed, restaurants Casanova do Mercado, Tabuk (Middle-Eastern) and Pizza Park attract a mixed crowd with jam sessions and honest food.
Right across from Cobal you will find Plataforma, another Rio tradition. On the ground floor there is a celebrated steakhouse, that was one of Tom Jobim's favorites. Portions are big enough for two. Start with the delicious pão de queijo (cheese rolls) and a Kiki salad. A caipirinha (cachaça, lemon and ice) is supposed to help with digestion if you need any excuses. On the second floor there is a samba show for tourists with mulata dancers. After Sargentelli's Oba Oba closed down this is the only mulata show in town happening on a regular basis.
This concert-hall / nightclub is home to some or Rio's hottest Carnival Balls - including the legendary Gala Gay on Carnival Tuesday. The two-story club has also been used as a bingo casino at times, and on weekends there's always something happening. It is right across from DEAT, the colorful tourist police precinct.
This block of skyscrapers across from Cobal, and clubs Flamengo and Paissandú is one of Rio's ugliest. It was built in a lot that was once taken by a favela. Selva de Pedra was the name of a then popular soap opera, and the name fit like a glove. To add insult to injury some botanist with a twisted sense of humor planted in one of the squares foul-smelling trees imported from Asia. Nevertheless apartments are comfortable and many have postcard views.
These are country clubs for members only. The first two take up a full block. Paissandu was founded by the British community and Monte Libano by the Lebanese. Caiçaras, located in an island, is a favorite with local socialites. Attractions include tennis courts, swimming pools, sauna and steam rooms, sports courts, martial arts, gym, aerobics, restaurants, playground for children, snack bars and other amenities.
This group of apartment buildings is Leblon's peculiar version of a popular community (favela). Apartments are compact but have all basic features, including bath and kitchenette. Most dwellers work in Ipanema and Leblon. Free education is provided by a number of public schools around. It is a good idea to know that Cruzada is there. We do not advise visiting the area, though, unless you go with someone from the community.