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The city of Rio de Janeiro is a well-known tourist destination in the world. Mostly known for its beautiful beaches, monuments, architecture, and culture, Rio also plays an important role in the preservation of nature. Not far from Ipanema, after the Lagoon Rodrigo de Freitas, you can find the neighborhood called Jardim Botânico, which has most of its territory covered by the Tijuca Forest, a well-preserved Atlantic Tropical Forest on the Brazilian coast. This neighborhood holds two big and vital parks: the Botanic Garden of Rio de Janeiro and the Park Lage, one of the prettiest places in the whole city. In this article, I will drive you through my favorite, the Park Lage.
The history of Park Lage begins in 1811, when Rodrigo de Freitas acquired a sugar farm priorly belonging to Sebastião Fagundes Varela, on the banks of the lagoon (that later would be named after him). In 1859, the place was bought by Antônio Martins Lage, and it received the name of "Parque dos Lage," which, later, in 1900, passed to his three children as an inheritance. In 1913, the farm was purchased by Dr. César de Sá Rabello, remaining as his property until the year 1920, when Enrique Lage, grandson of Antônio Martins Lage, managed to recover the family's old property.
In the 1920s, Henrique began the construction of the palace, inviting the Italian architect Mario Vodret as the designer of the palace that had been his father's. The new style mixed different trends of the time, framing his works into the period of art that was called 'eclectic.' The myth around the palace tells that Henrique built the palace to please the Italian lyric singer, Gabriella Besanzoni, whom he would get married to years after. Because of this, nowadays the place is famous for wedding celebrations and proposals.
You can enjoy your visit and do several outside activities - or you can just go there simply to stroll. That is because the park is an excellent place for leisure. Despite the amazing view of the Christ Statue, the park also travels you back in time and brings you directly to the beginning of the 20th Century. You will be surprised to see yourself inside a big forest in the middle of a large city like Rio de Janeiro.
Some people go to the park just for a quiet afternoon at the cafeteria, which I highly recommend, but some others also go there for a walk: for safety reasons, do that in a group or with the guided tour. It is very normal to see people taking pictures or using the location for professional photoshoots.
To get the maximum out of this experience, try to go there in the morning. As the cafeteria opens early, you can start with a tasty full colonial breakfast (it is a bit expensive, but worth all the cost). Inside the palace, you can book a table by the pool and have a good meal, while overlooking the Christ Statue - this is one of the best experiences you can have in Rio, in my opinion.
After the amazing breakfast, explore the park. There you will also find an aquarium house in the form of an artificial cave. They have fish of various species, both domestic and foreign, which can be seen on site. When walking inside the small building, you have the feeling of being inside a cave, with small glass windows that open to the countless aquarium displays. The aquarium is perfectly integrated with the gardens simulating natural forms, all surrounded by plants, trees, and winding paths, composing a scenery of rare beauty.
The park has several trails, but the most famous one leads you to Christ the Redeemer statue. Keep in mind that the difficulty is of moderate level, but the trail is well marked. However, my advice here is to hire a professional guide. You can find this service on the spot, but it is better to schedule it online before visiting.
Getting to the Park Lage is not difficult, mostly because it is located in the heart of the city. Depending on where you stay, you can even go walking to it. As the park is located in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood, there are plenty of public options to bring you there.
If you go by car (my advice here is to avoid going by car), remember that the Park does not offer a parking lot. So, you will have to leave the car around the streets of Jardim Botânico Street: keep in mind that some people calling themselves spot guards (no-official) will charge you just to stop your vehicle on the street.
In my opinion, the public bus is the cheapest, easiest, and best option to reach the park. If this is your option, just take any bus which passes through "Rua Jardim Botânico." The region has several circular buses. For example, if you are in Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon, there are the lines "Troncal 10" and "Circular" 1 and 2 passing through there. For those coming from "Barra da Tijuca," you can take the line 309, and from the city center, the best would be to take the subway. If you are located farther at the North Zone of the city, or downtown, the best option is to take the subway directed to Botafogo Station and from there take the bus to Gávea. The bus passes in front of Park Lage.
The park operates daily from 8 am to 5 pm, and in the summertime, it runs until 6 pm. However, the art galleries and the School of Visual Arts are open from Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 7 pm. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they only work until 5 pm. The cafeteria, which is also located in the Park Lage mansion, is open daily from 9 am to 11 pm. There is no fee for the entrance, only if you want a guided tour: the cost for the guide in English is around 40 reais per person (or so 8 euros), and typically the tour takes one hour.
I hope you enjoy nature in Park Lage, one of my favorite spots in the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro.
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