Rio de Janeiro
Introduction to Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is truly one of the world’s great cities. It is known to its people, the Cariocas, as the Marvelous City and every visitor to Rio will understand why. Much of that is due to the city’s unbeatable location, nestled between the deep blues of the Atlantic Ocean and Guanabara Bay and the dark greens of the forested mountains, and fringed by stunning golden beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana.
The mountains give breathtaking views over the city, especially from two of its most famous treasures. The statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio is the iconic figure that can be seen from many locations, day and night, while Sugarloaf Mountain guards the entrance to Rio’s bay. Many more mountains overlook the numerous beaches, giving Rio an exotic allure unmatched by any other city. But a city is nothing without its people, and the Cariocas are as vibrant and exotic as their city. Whether it is watching their favorite football team at the enormous Maracanã Stadium, or holding the annual Carnaval festival, the joy of the people and the beats of the samba drums will find their way into the heart of every visitor.
There are activities for everybody in Rio, but it can be just as much fun to sit on the beach and relaxing as the locals play volleyball, beach soccer or go surfing. As you drink a caipirinha at the end of a day on the beach, with a gold and pink sky over the mountains, you may find yourself agreeing with your new Carioca friends when they say that Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city on earth.
What not to miss in Rio de Janeiro
Beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema
Beaches are to Rio what delis are to New York. While each beach in Rio has its own particular traits, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema are a must-see. Copacabana remains a firm favorite with travelers who enjoy strolling along the beautifully landscaped Avenida Atlântica.
Christ the Redeemer Statue
The views of Rio de Janeiro from the Christ the Redeemer Statue are stunning on a clear day. The iconic figure of the Christ Statue overlooks Rio de Janeiro from the summit of the 2,329 ft (710m) high Corcovado Mountain, one of the mountains around which the city is built.
The city of Rio de Janeiro was founded on the shores of Guanabara Bay. Guarding one side of the entrance to the bay is Sugarloaf Mountain, so named because of the steep sides leading to the rounded summit.
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens and the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas are more eye-catching places to keep you distracted from spending all your time on Rio’s beaches.
Visit Maracanã Stadium
Tours to the Maracanã Stadium are popular, especially to watch the passionate encounters between Rio’s four big football teams.
Centro, Lapa and Catete are the historical areas of the city, with museums, churches and the spectacular Cathedral to see.
Samba and Bossa Nova Shows
The beat of the Samba drums are the tropical rhythms that drive Rio de Janeiro. Samba is thought to originate across the Atlantic Ocean in Angola, and was brought to Rio from Bahia.
What you need to know
When to go
Carnaval time in Rio should signal the start of Lent, 40 days before Easter. While this is not strictly the case, the festival is held between mid-February and mid-March. New Year’s Eve is another peak time to visit Rio, and during the summer months of December to February, the city is alive with people, color, music and dancing. These months are also wetter and more humid. Rio has a fairly stable climate although temperatures on summer days can reach well over 86˚F (30˚C). There are many stunning days year-round for you to enjoy the views from the Christ the Redeemer Statue or Sugarloaf Mountain. You will also be able to spend some winter days on the beach.
The football season in Brazil also seems to be year-round for those who want to visit the Maracanã Stadium, and the beats of samba and bossa nova never stop!
How to get there
Rio de Janeiro has a major international airport with many international carriers bringing visitors from all over the world to marvel at the view of the city as they arrive at the airport. There are many direct schedule flights from major cities in Europe and North America, as well as from all the big cities in South America. The domestic airport in Rio has connections to all the major cities and tourist destinations in Brazil.
Where to stay
Rio de Janeiro has all the facilities you would expect from one of the world’s great cities, including 5-star hotels with beach views and restaurants serving Brazilian and international cuisine using the freshest ingredients from the land and the sea. Shopping is just as good as the food in Rio, whether you prefer to shop at markets on the beach or upmarket boutiques on the boulevards.
As well as the rides to the tourist sites, Rio has a good, cheap metro system, supplemented by a few local train lines. Buses are plentiful but can be packed, hot and slow on the busy roads. Taxis can always be found for every journey, and many friendly taxi drivers will be happy to act as your tour guide for a day or two around the city. Prices can be agreed in advance. It is possible to hire a car and drive around the city, but although it is easy to see sights such as the Christ the Redeemer Statue from many places in Rio, it might not be so easy to find them!