My fellow Cloud denizens were debating the physical beauty of cities around the world and I had to vote for Rio de Janeiro. Rio has everything; stunning beaches, lush verdant mountains, beautiful bays and gorgeous residents! I love Rio any time of the year, but during the Northern Hemisphere winter, it is especially inviting.
Rio maybe the most beautiful city in the world!
Rio de Janeiro takes its name from the day the river in Guanabara Bay was discovered by the Portuguese fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral on 1 January 1502 – less than a decade after Christopher Columbus first happened upon the “New World”. According to tradition, Amerigo Vespucci was on that trip and the Florentine explorer gave the name “America” to the newly discovered continents. Although the French tried to claim Guanabara Bay from 1555, the Portuguese founded the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro on 1 March 1565. Rio was the leading city of the region and then it was an imperial capital until it became the capital of a free Brazil before the federal district of Brasilia was opened in 1960. Today, Rio is once again a state capital and one of the coolest and most picturesque cities in the world! It is the second most populated city in Brazil behind Sao Paulo and the third in South America behind Buenos Aires with more than 13,000,000 inhabitants.
Here’s a Pro Tip: The currency used is the Brazilian Real. About seven Brazilian Real is equal to one British Pound but the rate fluctuates frequently.
Rio’s not for loafing, Sugar!
Personally, I prefer riding the bus which takes roughly 40-minutes and costs less than £5 one way. Bus numbers 2145 and 2016 depart from the airport every 30-minutes throughout the day, and there’s no need to pre-book a seat.
Here’s Another Pro Tip: I wouldn’t recommend drinking the tap water in Rio, even the locals avoid doing so and it has a definite odour! Always purchase bottled water, or better yet drink the local Brahma Beer. Hotels will supply drinking water for hygiene purposes.
When you’re not marvelling at Corcovado mountain or dancing your way through Pedra do Sal, you’ll likely be sunbathing on a gorgeous beach or enjoying a game at Maracanã Stadium. Here are my absolute must-see attractions in Rio:
- Christ the Redeemer – You’ll have seen Christ the Redeemer rising from the clouds above Rio on multiple occasions while exploring the city. To appreciate this Art Deco statue’s grandeur, you must visit its base on Corcovado Mountain.
Christ the Redeemer is the symbol of the city
- Pão de Açúcar – Sugarloaf Mountain – Ride the cableway to the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain. This iconic landmark sits at the mouth of Guanabara Bay and offers panoramic views over the city.
- Sambadrome – This purpose-built stadium, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, was the setting for Brazil’s 2016 Olympics. Since then the stadium has been home to Rio’s many carnivals, and it’s here that you can watch the local Samba schools “shimmy and shake like jelly on a plate”!
- Copacabana Beach – This beautiful stretch of soft white sand is busy throughout the summer season, but if you’re here for the holidays, you’ll have the place to yourself on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (residents spend time with family).
I’d take Escardaria Selaron one step at a time!
- Escadaria Selaron – The Selaron Steps are a world-famous attraction and are the work of renowned Chilean artist Jorge Selaron. The steps run from Joaquim Silva street to Pintos Martins Street close to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood.
- Arpoador – Pack your swimsuit, slip on your flip flops and head to Rio’s Arpoador region where you’ll find the beautiful beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Hang around till sunrise, and you’ll be treated with pink skies as the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean.
Looking at the beautifully sculpted bodies of the locals bathing on the beach, you wouldn’t think Rio de Janeiro was a city known for its devotion to food. The good news is that eating is a national pastime throughout Brazil! To help narrow down your options I’ve listed my three favourite restaurants in Rio:
- Lasai – Organic produce, seasonal ingredients and sensational dishes are all part of Lasai’s haute-cuisine ethos. Try the pork ribs served on a bed of broccoli and beans, and you won’t be disappointed!
- Aprazivel – Dine high up in the tree canopy at Aprazievel, a traditional Brazilian restaurant in the nearby Santa Teresa neighbourhood. Head chef Ana Castillo brings her French training to the table, and guests can dine on the delicious likes of roasted plantain and braised beef in port sauce.
- Sushi Leblon – Sushi Leblon is arguably the most popular sushi restaurant in the city, and the queue that runs from the front door down the street goes to show it. It is close to the eponymous beach and I love its vibe!
When the sun sets on Ipanema Beach and the sand has been washed from your toes, you’ll likely be wondering “Where’s the party?”. Rio is home to some of the liveliest bars in South America. I think the city gives Bogota a run for its money, and that’s saying something! Here are my favourites:
- Rio Scenarium – Enjoy an evening of samba dancing as locals and professionals alike take to Scenarium’s stage and showcase their talents. This buffet-come-bar might seem bursting, but its managed to maintain an authentic Brazilian charm.
- Febarj – This is home of hip hop in Rio and must be experienced to be believed! It is three floors of an old colonial house that literally shakes with the beat!
- Trapiche Gamboa – This live music venue is housed inside a century-old mansion and hosts some of the city’s best musicians night after night. Order a caipirinha or two, sit back and enjoy the sounds of samba.
This “little girl” packs a punch!
From funky art-deco hostels to luxury beachfront hideaways, Rio de Janeiro covers every accommodation option possible. See where I like to stay below:
- Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro – Enjoy spectacular views of Sugarloaf Mountain from this five-star hotel’s outdoor pool! Hotel Fasano is all about understated luxury, and you’ll find it just over the road from the iconic Ipanema Beach.
- Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort – I always recommend the Sheraton to friends travelling on a tight budget as this chic resort is as affordable as it is friendly. What’s the catch? The hotel is a 30-minute drive south of the city but the sea views from the outdoor pool are worth it!
- Selina Lapa Rio de Janeiro – If you’re looking for the ultimate budget-friendly accommodation, this hipster hostel in the central Lapa neighbourhood is ideal. Guests can make use of the onsite yoga deck, cocktail bar, movie room and South-American inspired restaurant!
Rio de Janeiro is one long party – especially during the Festive Season. I recommend that you samba down to Rio every chance you can!