Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- In 2016, Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host the Olympic Games.
- Hans Stern founded the H. Stern jewelry chain in Rio in 1949.
- The original design for “Christ the Redeemer” envisioned Christ holding a cross and a globe.
- Celebratory processions in 1641 are considered Rio’s first Carnival activity.
- The song, “The Girl From Ipanema,” was originally titled “The Girl Who Passes By.”
Where samba and soccer meet
An eclectic collection of images springs to mind at the suggestion of a visit to Rio de Janeiro, the city on the Atlantic that was Brazil’s capital for roughly 200 years (from 1763 until 1960).
A short list reads something like this: samba, Carnival, Copacabana, Ipanema, “Christ the Redeemer,” Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains, H. Stern jewelers, 2016 Olympics host, port city — and soccer.
The history buff may add these words — imperial capital — because in 1808, Portugal’s royal family fled Napoleon’s wars and made Rio the seat of the Portuguese empire. The king’s son Pedro stayed in Rio when Brazil gained its independence in 1822 and was crowned emperor. The country established a republic in 1889. The years of empire and further decades as the national capital contributed much — especially toward architectural and cultural institutions — to make Rio a world class city.
However, its appeal to prospective visitors is clinched by other things: a particular lifestyle and a stunning setting with mountains at the city’s back and 50 miles of beaches facing the Atlantic.
Rio’s pleasant climate translates into a nearly year-round beach life for Cariocas, as locals are called, and visitors alike.
Varied collections of hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops are part of the city’s waterside experience. Besides, Rio is the city most identified with the samba and it hosts the most exciting of Brazil’s annual carnivals.
Most visitors want some experience of the mountains that give Rio’s setting its drama, perhaps by taking a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain or a train up Corcovado to get closer to “Christ the Redeemer,” recently voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Both mountaintops promise bewitching views of the city.
There are caveats to a Rio vacation, dangers both natural and manmade. Some Brazilian beaches, including in Rio, have dangerous riptides. Tourists, as well as locals, are targeted for street crime. Criminals target tourists in areas around beaches and many other locations that attract visitors. This is a bigger problem during Carnival.
Things to do for Venturers
- Float above Rio’s renowned shoreline from a hang glider. Depart from Gavea Cliff.
- Welcome the new year at the city’s annual New Year’s Eve party on Copacabana beach, with musical entertainment and fireworks. Locals dress in white for this celebration.
- Come to Rio in time for its lively, madcap Carnival.
- Attend a soccer game at the Maracana stadium, which was built to host the World Cup in 1950.
- Surf at Arpoador or Prainha Beach. The Barra da Tijuca is another option, but not for the inexperienced.
- Compete in the Rio de Janeiro City Marathon in July, or choose the half-marathon about a month later.
Things to do for Centrics
- To combine exercise with sightseeing, cycle the 10-mile bike path along the Rio shoreline from Leblon to Gloria.
- Get thee to the top of Corcovado Mountain for an up-close look at the “Christ the Redeemer” statue — as close as one can get to something so tall.
- Go to the beach; choose the world-famous Copacabana or Ipanema. Time your visit well, and you may see the Beach Volley World Championship at Ipanema.
- Ride the Sta. Teresa Streetcar across a bridge with a unique history. Called Lapa’s Arches, the bridge was built in 1750 as part of the Carioca Aqueduct to supply Rio with water from the Carioca River.
- If you will be in the city too early to attend Carnival, plan to attend rehearsals for the parades, held on weekends at the Sambadrome and open to the public. At rehearsals, you can see samples of what each samba school will present during the Carnival parades. Samba school performances can be seen in other venues all year, as well.
- Spend an afternoon strolling the bohemian neighborhood called Lapa. A neighborhood on the rebound, it offers choices for good antiques stores, bars and restaurants.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take late-afternoon tea at Colombo Confectioners, founded in 1894 and a remnant of high-society living of more than 100 years ago.
- Take a free guided tour of Tijuca Forest inside the Tijuca National Park. The tours are offered two Sundays each month.
- Visit some of the city’s more impressive churches, such as the 18th century Nossa Senhora da Candelaria Church and the Sao Francisco das Penitencias Church, built between 1657 and 1772. Also, the Sao Bento Cloister, dating from the 17th century is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Shop for jewelry from H. Stern.
- Visit the National Museum for two reasons: the building and its contents. It was formerly the home of Brazil’s royal family. The exhibits cover a range of topics from archaeology to zoology.
- Then, select museums that will entertain you. Possibilities include the Edison Carneiro Folklore Museum and the Carmen Miranda Museum.
For more information, consult the Rio Official Guide at www.rioguiaoficial.com.br/en