From sun-drenched beaches to a backdrop of verdant, forested mountains brimming with wildlife, from exotic cuisine to warm, welcoming locals, Rio de Janeiro truly is the city that has it all, which is no doubt the reason why our Facebook fans voted it as one of their favourite cities. It might not be Brazil’s capital, but the Ciadade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) is without doubt the life and soul of the party. Flamboyant and charismatic, Rio exudes vibrance, and is a hub of lively excitement in one of the most dazzling cityscapes in the world.
Sights to see
Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic monument, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), is the world’s largest art deco statue and in 2007 was announced as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Perched atop Corcovado (meaning ‘hunchback’ in Portuguese), the majestic statue overlooks Rio and can be seen from all over the city. However, it’s worth venturing up the mountain to appreciate the delicately crafted face up close and take in the superb views of the city, rivalled only by Sugarloaf Mountain‘s sweeping vistas of Guanabara Bay. Sugarloaf can be reached by cable car or, for the more adventurous, by one of the many climbing routes that vary in difficulty.
Things to do
Rio is home to two of the world’s most famous beaches – Ipanema and Copacabana – although the lesser known Leblon is usually a little more peaceful, the perfect place to soak up the sun with a coconut in hand. The buzzing atmosphere of a football match at Rio’s Maracanã Stadium is absolutely unmissable – Brazilians take the beautiful game to a whole new level, in a 82,000 capacity stadium that’s likely to increase in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile, nature lovers can take a tour of the beautiful Parque Nacional da Tijuca to see waterfalls and wildlife in the world’s largest urban forest. For a humbling and educational experience, take a tour of Rio’s favelas to learn about the historical, political and social reasons that lead to the development of these communities and gain a fascinating insight into life in the neighbourhood.
Carnival, Brazil’s wildest party, is a sparkling, decadent celebration held annually just before Lent. Although celebrated in many countries, Rio’s Carnival (known as Carnaval in Portuguese) is without doubt the world’s biggest, best, and most spectacular version. If you can’t make it to Rio during Carnival season, you can still visit the Sambadrome, the venue where Carnival is held, which also has a small Carnival Museum. Alternatively, you can see a performance at a samba school; these shows, which generally begin in August, are actually rehearsals for the big event and involve dramatic costumes, lively music and dancers who move so fast their feet become a blur.
The sheer size of Brazil and its melting-pot community mean that a vast selection of regional and international dishes are on offer in Rio. With steak to rival neighbouring Argentina, intense coffee and mouth watering fresh tropical fruit (açaí berries with granola and yogurt are a delicious treat), there are plenty of must-try foods. Don’t miss out on feijoada, a traditional, flavoursome black bean stew typically served with rice, that can be sampled all over the city. One of Brazil’s most interesting dining experiences is its pay-per-kilo-restaurants – extensive buffets where everyone’s portions are weighed and priced individually. Pampa Grill is one of the best options in the city centre with the biggest selection on offer.
When night falls
Brazil’s national drink is undoubtedly the caipirinha, a zesty cocktail made with cachaça (Brazilian sugar cane spirit), limes, crushed ice and sugar. An endless amount of variations exist, replacing limes with mango or banana, or cachaça with vodka. They can be enjoyed anywhere, but Academia da Cachaça has 500 different versions! Dance the night away at the colourful Rio Scenarium; bursting with character, it’s famous for its vintage design and Brazilian beats.