Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas: An Upscale Lakefront District In Rio de Janeiro

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas: An Upscale Lakefront District In Rio de Janeiro

Published February 3, 2021

Do you enjoy exploring cities beyond their tourist hotspots? If you do and you’re headed to Rio de Janeiro, you’ll want to make sure you spend some time on the shores of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas! This saltwater lagoon directly north of Ipanema is a safe, upscale part of the city that has lots to offer.

Panoramic view of Lagoa in the foreground as seen from Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) on Corcovado Mountain. The strip of land behind Lagoa is Ipanema, and behind that is the Atlantic Ocean.

This post will feature the pedestrian path that goes all the way around Lagoa, a massive botanical garden on its northwest side, another nearby park that’s great for pictures, and some additional attractions (including restaurants). Let’s dive right in!

Walk Around the Lake

The easiest way to get a sense of Lagoa is to walk around it, and it’s a great way to spend a sunny afternoon in Rio de Janeiro.

Basic Info

A paved pedestrian and bike path goes all the way around the lake, and it’s pretty busy throughout the day. The total circumference is about nine kilometers. If you only want to walk a portion of it, I suggest the southeast quadrant. This part offers the best views of the city and the mountains.

One of my favorite things about walking around Lagoa is feeling like you’ve left the city. There is so much greenery surrounding the path, and there are lots of views of rugged, rocky cliffs and green mountain forests.

Birdwatching

Since Lagoa doesn’t attract the dense crowds that Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches do, birds tend to gather in this part of Rio. They aren’t very shy and you can often observe them up close!

Keep an eye out for the “common gallinule,” which might also be referred to as a moorhen or a “frango-d’água” in Portuguese. Although they can be found throughout wet climates in North and South America, Lagoa is full of them. They have these beautiful, distinctive red frontal shields that make them easy to identify.

I Spy... Cristo Redentor

Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) can be seen from various parts of Rio de Janeiro, but Lagoa is one of the best neighborhoods to get a pretty clear view of the iconic statue.

Dusk and Night

I’ve gone on little strolls in Lagoa during dusk and in the early evening a few of times. It’s a pretty place to watch the sunset with the light reflected on the water. Lagoa is generally a safe area, and the pedestrian and bike path is still pretty busy after dark. With that said, exercise caution and stay alert if you choose to go for a walk here at night. (The same can be said for basically all parts of Rio de Janeiro.)

Jardim Botânico

This massive botanical garden (location | website) is one of Rio’s top attractions beyond its beaches. Nature lovers won’t want to miss this impressive collection of tropical plants!

The row of super-tall palm trees along the garden’s front side is a great place to take pictures, although there are lots of interesting photo-ops throughout Jardim Botânico.

Be sure to keep your eye out for animals in the park as well! Based on a quick internet search, the creatures pictured below are black capuchins (but don’t quote me on that). When I photographed them, there was a huge group running around and exploring.

Parque Lage

This is another park on Lagoa’s northern side (location | website) not too far from Jardim Botânico. It’s much smaller, but there’s no entrance fee.

The most interesting landmark here is the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage (Parque Lage Visual Art School), a building with Roman elements set in front of the rocky façade of Corcovado Mountain.

Inside is a cafe with a reflecting pool and an open-air courtyard. It’s one of the city’s most popular Instagram spots. If you go, it’s free, but you will almost certainly have to wait in line to take a picture.

If you don’t have time to wait for a photo like the one above, you can also get a good picture in front of the school itself. If the side room is open, that’s another interesting spot.

There is a trail that goes from Parque Lage to Cristo Redentor, but I never attempted it. Lots of travelers actually recommend against it. That’s because it doesn’t seem to be adequately guarded and robberies are common along it. As such, I would suggest staying in the lower part of the park where the Visual Art School is.

Other Attractions in Lagoa

Mural Area

A beautiful collection of street art can be found on Rua Oliveira Rocha and on Rua Jardim Botânico between the entrance to Parque Lage and the Hospital Federal da Lagoa. There are lots of different styles represented, and it’s quite a cool find.

Like Parque Lage and Jardim Botânico, this little mural area is another great spot in Lagoa to take a picture or two.

The Best Places to Eat in Lagoa

Lagoa is home to some of Rio de Janeiro’s fanciest restaurants, including international options. While you can still find cheap and casual restaurants here, expect to pay more for meals here than in other parts of the city. Below are four of my favorite restaurants to consider in Lagoa.

Didier Restaurante

Address: Av. Alexandre Ferreira, 66 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22470-220, Brazil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/didierrestaurante/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/didier_restaurante/

This French restaurant is one of the best places in Rio to splurge on top-quality dining and drinks!

Didier Restaurante does an excellent job with appetizers, so be sure to try at least one! Even their house bread, served with tapenade, butter, and cheese, is amazing. I recommend trying their cheese sampler (tábua de queijos) or the escargot.

In terms of main dishes, their duck (magred de canard) is my favorite. And for dessert, you absolutely have to try their île flottante (floating island). This French specialty is an absolute delight, and Didier is the perfect place to try one if you’ve never had it before!

Mr. Lam

Address: R. Maria Angélica, 21 – Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22470-202, Brazil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrlamrio/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrlamrj/

For Chinese fine dining, head straight to Mr. Lam. This was the only place I’ve found in Rio that served dim sum. The crispy duck and Mr. Lam’s Noodles are both delicious and filling main dishes, and they serve a wide variety of fancy cocktails. Expect to splurge here too, but it’s worth it!

Taj Mahal Restaurante

Address: Rua José Joaquim Seabra, 19 – Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22470-130, Brazil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tajmahalrio/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tajmahalrio/

The food at this Indian restaurant is incredible, and I can’t recommend it enough! I loved every dish I ordered here. Don’t get me wrong: Brazilian food is full of flavor, but sometimes I crave the spice and fragrance of good Indian food. Taj Mahal’s naan, curry, rice dishes, and lassi are all amazing.

Guacamole Cocina Mexicana

Address: R. Jardim Botânico, 129 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22470-050, Brazil
Website: https://www.guacamolemex.com.br/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/guacamolemex/

This restaurant probably serves the best Mexican food I found in Rio (Mexican food is not all that common in Brazil). Although Guacamole is technically a chain with locations in multiple Brazilian states, they have a large menu of options and a fun vibe. I recommend their tacos, especially the “ribs Tex-Mex” and the “camarão com cogumelos.” When I first went, I assumed the tacos would be small like they are in Mexico, and ended up ordering way too much food!

Go Visit Lagoa!

The neighborhoods that encircle Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, especially those on its northern side, are a relaxing and green part of the city. If you’re in Rio and want to explore beyond the beaches, this is an excellent area to check out!

Have you been to Rio de Janeiro before? If you have, did you walk or bike along the shores of Lagoa? Leave a comment below and let me know! Thanks for reading!

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This post was published on Feb 3, 2021

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I like the idea of heading out of Rio and enjoying time on the shores of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. How fun to walk or bike on the path around the lake. And to say for a pretty sunset view. The botanical garden looks like the perfect spot to relax and get a little shade on a hot day! We definitely would not miss the mural area.

  2. Chantelle

    Id love to watch the sunset and see Cristo Redentor from Lagoa. I love that there seems to be a lot of green areas around.

  3. Ada

    You always find the best neighborhoods and things to do! While I certainly knew about Cristo Redentor, I guess I didn’t realize that Rio was so full of beautiful, dramatic cliffs!

  4. Josy A

    I really love neighborhoods like this that have a relaxed vibe, and that are so full of greenery. Lagoa is like an even better version of this, with access to the lake and views of the surrounding crazy-shaped hills.

    The views from inside Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage are soooo cool! I am not sure I’d wait for a posed photo, but I’d love to stand there and see that view.

    As always I love that you found so many cool murals, and that you’re tempting us all with the best food.

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