Visiting Rio de Janeiro - What to See and Do
(Rio de Janeiro Galeao - Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport GIG, Brazil)
Brazil's red hot beauty, Rio de Janeiro
is the Southern Hemisphere's most popular travel destination. You'll need more than ten fingers to count the reasons why. Its natural backdrop of jungle-clad mountains and sweeping beaches are punctuated by iconic sights like Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
The local Cariocas people spend an impossible amount of time playing on the beach, dancing the samba and living life like its Carnival all year round. Visitors get the full package of attractions in Rio de Janeiro, from the legendary beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to stunning views atop Corcovado.
Pop into the rainforest for a hike in Tijuca and then hit an al fresco café for dinner, before partying the night away in a local dance hall. This is a welcoming city with shockingly friendly people. Don't mind the shanty towns (favelas) - the real fun is found in bohemian neighbourhoods like Santa Catarina, Lapa and the Zona Sul.
Ten things you must do in Rio de Janeiro
- Take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, the iconic pinnacle of granite that pierces the heart of Rio de Janeiro. The views from the top are surreal, encompassing Ipanema, Copacabana, the Tijuca rainforest, the Christ the Redeemer and the favelas of Babylonia.
- Discover the funky little neighbourhood of Lapa, a wonderful local hideaway with charming colonial-era buildings and a buzzing nightlife scene. By day or night, Lapa is always lots of fun and a great area to hang out along with the Cariocas.
- The 4 km / 2.5 miles of sugary sand at Copacabana Beach are littered with impossibly small bikinis - the locally designed 'tanga' (complete with G-strings), fit volleyball players and other wonders of humanity. This is where the people of Rio de Janeiro come to see and be seen, exercise, swim and hang out. The Avenida Atlantica runs the entire length and is lined with hotels, restaurants and bars.
- Wander the cobblestone lanes of Santa Teresa or Centro, two charismatic old neigbourhoods filled with Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings, gilded churches and spacious colonial plazas. This is a veritable heaven for trendy shopping, boasting a marvellous atmosphere.
- Rio's other top vantage point is the Corcovado, home to the unmistakable Christ the Redeemer statue (a current 'New Seven Wonders of the World' attraction). Take the classic old narrow-gauge railway to the top and soak in the panorama of Rio de Janeiro's bays, beaches, slums and cityscape.
- The Paco Imperial is one of Rio's top historic buildings. This 18th-century colonial palace has been home to kings and headquarters to armies. Today, it stands in the heart of old Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by other interesting colonial architectural delights, and is well worth examining.
- Rio's National Museum is one of the best in Brazil for a look into this country's colourful past. The museum has an extensive collection of artefacts and religious art dating back centuries, housed in a lovely pink Baroque palace.
- The Rio de Janeiro Botanic Gardens were planted some 200 years ago, so you can be sure they are looking very established. This park of almost 350 acres / 142 hectares is a wonderland of 6,000 or so tropical plants and trees, with meandering paths, benches and plenty of space to escape the bustle of the city.
- Every weekend, the Feira de Sao Cristovao market bursts into life in a cocktail of samba music, local food, and fantastic arts and crafts attractions. More like a party than a market, this is the place to discover new Brazilian snacks, find that perfect keepsake to bring home and listen to superb live music.
- Catch some live Samba right at the source at a hot club like Carioca da Gema or Rio Scenarium. Most bars and clubs in Rio de Janeiro don't even open until 23:00 and rarely get grooving until 01:00 and onwards. Lapa is the buzzing spot for nightlife these days, but there are superb dance halls and live music bars in Gamboa and other trendy neighbourhoods.