With the Olympic Games well under way and the first medals snapped up, the world’s eyes are on Rio de Janeiro.
But despite the hustle and bustle around the venues and inside the athletes village, living in Rio follows its own pace – and it’s a fairly relaxed one.
The city is, by far, Brazil’s gay hub: apart from welcoming over one million visitors flocking to the city each year, Christ the Redeemer also casts a watchful eye over the city’s own, home-grown community.
After all, 14.3% of Rio’s citizens identify as part of the LGBTI community.
At a population of 12.3 million people in the metropolitan area, that accounts for about 1.7 million people – and those who aren’t LGBTI themselves are often described as open minded and extending a warm welcome to people from every walk of life.
Brazil’s second-biggest city may not have a clearly defined gay quarter, but ask around and people will generally point you in the same direction: towards the Rua Farme de Amoedo, in the affluent South Zone neighbourhood, or bairro, of Ipanema.
A glamorous district in the country’s most glamorous city, Ipanema is a highly coveted area, sought out by expats as much as the locals.
A direct neighbour to the Copacabana, with its world-famous white beach, and the bairro of Leblon, where the rich and famous pitched up their homes, it enjoys the best of both worlds, while the community spreads across the borders.
By day, cafés throw open their doors to invite city dwellers to sit down after they’ve exhausted the bairro’s shopping opportunities, presented in the form of small boutiques and specialty shops.
Once 9pm comes around, afternoon crowds mingle with, and make way for, the night owls flocking to the neighborhood’s gay or gay-friendly clubs and bars to turn night into day on the dance floor.
But the LGBTI community’s real focal point is, as you’d probably expect given Rio’s climate, the beach.
Whether you’re trans or cis, gay or bi or anything else, Farme Gay Beach is the place to go for a spot of tanning, a dip in the ocean and, of course, a good bit of people watching.
Rainbow flags flutter in the wind, and everyone is out to have a good time, making it the perfect opportunity to meet new friends or, if you’re so inclined, a date for the night.
Just don’t believe anyone declaring the cruising spots around Farme, including Arpoador Rock and Park, to be secret. If anything, they’re some of Ipanema’s worst kept secrets and usually well-known to the local police – and if they catch you, they will press charges for lewd behavior, which is a punishable offence.
In terms of price, Ipanema’s popularity adds to the bairro’s price tag.
The average rent for a square meter clocks in at R$52 (€14.79, £12.61, $16.40), so a studio apartment can easily set you back R$1,400 (€398.14, £339.42, $441.61).
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