Burle Marx's Secret Gardens in Rio

A nature lover's secret hidden gem in Brazil most visited city

Since Rio de Janeiro has been the subject of some the posts here in the blog like the Casa does Pontal Museum and also the post about the Feira de Sao Cristovao, we decided to show you a bit more of the out of the beaten path of the city. This time we’ll talk about Burle Marx and his incredible house. For plant lovers and garden aficionados, this post is for you!

We visit Sitio Burle Marx (this is the Brazilian name of the place) in the hot summer, and I have to say that it is a relief to be so close to nature in such high temperatures. If what you’re looking for in Rio de Janeiro is to get away from tourists and enjoy a very laid back museum/residence that is filled with this famous landscape architect’s work, Sitio Burle Marx is for you!

But first, do you know who Burle Marx was?

Roberto Burle Marx, who was born in São Paulo but came to Rio at the age of 4, was a mega-famous Brazilian landscape artist and plastic artist. His name is everywhere from Avenue Names to parks all over Brazil. He was recognized worldwide for his numerous projects that today concentrate more than two thousand squares and elaborated gardens around the world! For every plant enthusiast, getting to know the work of this man is a must!

Just in Rio de Janeiro alone, you can find his art in the gardens of Cidade Universitária (University city), inside Globo’s former owner Roberto Marinho, in luxurious hotels, and much more! Even on the MAM (Museum of modern arts), you can see his legacy.

He is known for having introduced modernist landscape architecture to Brazil and didn’t stop there. He made music, prints, paints, and other forms of art. His parks and gardens and parks can be seen everywhere from Malaysia to the USA. He even received the title of Knight of the Order of the Crown from Belgium.

The history of this place

Roberto Burle Marx acquired the property that we currently called Sitio Burle Marx back in 1949. It was a farm back then. Sitio Burle Marx technically doesn’t belong to Rio de Janeiro anymore, and it is on the perimeter of the neighbor city Guaratiba, near the Barra de Guaratiba.

He bought the property with the idea of grouping his extensive collection of plants. And when we say extensive, we mean it. It was more than 3500 plants between exotics, rares, plants from the region, and personal creations.
After some time, this place became a sort of a laboratory because there he had the opportunity to combine on the ground plants from various areas. It is important to emphasize that the combination was aesthetic.

​In 1985 Burle Marx donated the whole garden and its site to the IPHAN (Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage) making only two simple requests. The first one was that his staff were kept and the second was that he could continue living on the premises, and both requests were respected. Burle Marx lived there until 1994 when he died.

How to get to Sitio Burle Marx?

The best access is for those who come by car, but for those who come by public transport you can get there by subway to Jardim Oceânico station to make a connection to the BRT in the same place going to the station of Guaratiba Island and from there just follow with the bus number 874 or 867 to the door of the site. It is somewhat close to the Museum Casa do Pontal. If you’re visiting Rio de Janeiro, you can do both in one day.

Again, I strongly recommend getting a taxi (never hail from the streets!) or an uber from Jardim Oceanico to avoid unnecessary stress due to exploring a remote region with public transport that is not the most reliable.

​How is the Burle Marx Site Visit?

The visit to the site must be previously scheduled. It is crucial that you remember to reserve your spot in advanced. This is mandatory, and I’ll give you more info at the end of this post. The whole experience is a guided tour, and it takes around 1h30 to 2h. You’ll learn about his life, work, death, and a bit of how he was as a person. Besides that, the staff on Sitio Burle Marx has loads of information about the plants, flowers, and trees you can see there. It is such a rich experience that 2 hours will pass in a blink of an eye. At the end of your walk, you’ll feel like you’re ready for the next one. At least this is how we felt, and it was almost 40o.C on that day!

Also, even though Brazil and being on time don’t usually do together, the tour starts punctually in the house that is the administrative headquarters of the site. So be there on time, or you’ll miss it! We followed the tour passing through the beautiful garden in shades of a green gradient, and that was all modified and created by Roberto Burle Marx. We saw some points of interest such as the Santo Antônio da Bica Chapel dating from the XVII century! Remember that Brazil is quite young for a country and something from centuries ago is scarce.

From there, I was taken to Burle Marx’s workplace. There the landscaper used to make his paintings and sculptures. The chandeliers made of fruits and dried flowers are noteworthy in space. Besides, the picture on the walls was drawn in a postcard by Burle Marx and executed by ​an artist that was his friend.​

Sítio Roberto Burle Marx

Info about how to visit Burle Marx’s home and garden

Visits on the site occur only with prior scheduling​ as we mentioned before. Tours are, usually, from Tuesday to Saturday in two ​different times: the first time at 9:30 am and the second time at 1:30 p.m.

​The whole experience costs around 2,5 euros (R$ 10.00​)​ per person. Children up to 5 years old are exempt, and the elderly and students pay half price. To make your reservation, please contact us at (21) 2410-1412 or ​write them an email​ [email protected] Can be in English.​

The place counts on parking (including in the value of the ticket), as well as toilets, water fountains, and a small shop that is in the administrative headquarters just at the entrance of the park.

Address: Estrada Roberto Burle Marx, 2019 – Barra de Guaratiba.

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