Botafogo is my original home neighborhood in Rio & I’ll always have fond feelings for this little neighborhood. It’s inland/ behind the big beaches of Copa & Ipanema. South of Flamengo & Centro. For some reason there are quite a few hostels located there, all pretty well reviewed. However, I’m not sure I would recommend staying there. Each bus trip is R$2.75 and if you are partially going to Rio for the beaches (how could you not?), none are in walking distance.
[The beach right there behind Botafogo shopping isn’t really swimmable & not popular either]
We started the day out at the Museu do Indio, at R$3 it’s worth a stop. Even if you don’t want to pay the small entrance fee you can wander around the exhibits downstairs, which include audiovisual displays. Right now the free display is on indigenous children’s play things & it’s beautiful & fascinating! To be honest we weren’t even in the mood for museums so we didn’t end up going upstairs but now I regret it, I’ll go back in Feb for sure. [TA]
Then you can easily walk 2 blocks to the Morro Santa Marta. I didnt realize this but this favela is very touristy (in some ways). They have a map, and guides and the trolley that goes up and down the mountain is packed with tourists. We were going because I want to take pictures of the new paint that they put up. I never got around to it though because we followed a group of American high schoolers up to “Michael Jackson Square” (he filmed part of his music video there) where they had a percussion lesson.
This community is interesting, it doesn’t seem as “fancy” as Vidigal, it doesn’t seem as “busy” as maybe Rocinha, some houses are still wood with corrugated tin roof. And the houses at the very top have signs that lead one to believe that maybe they aren’t as tickled by the tourist attention..
So when you go to Santa Marta, or any favela for that matter, try to keep in mind that this is where people live. If you want to take a picture of someone, ask them first & find out their name, they aren’t just part of the scenery, they have a life & a story too. Be respectful, learn some words in Portuguese.
I would recommend coming at “off hours” before lunch or before 5, people will be commuting back home, schlepping groceries, kids & work supplies, let them go first on the trolley up to their houses. When we came down around that time there was a HUGE line forming. The trolley is small, slow & has to move lots of people, be considerate.
I hate to lecture, and I don’t have all the answers. But I do hope that when you visit Rio you’ll see “the 2 Rios” & think about it for more than just a second.