With six million people occupying an area of 1256 square kilometers (485 square miles), Rio is the second largest city in Brazil. The many districts of the city lie in three major areas: Center, South, and North (which includes the suburbs). The more affluent South comprises the area between the hills and the sea from the Center to the western limits of the city, while the North and the suburbs spread from the Center to the northern and eastern limits. The great majority of tourist attractions and trendy shopping districts are concentrated in the Center and the South. People from Rio de Janeiro are commonly called cariocas.
The city center is the financial and business district of Rio, where most historic buildings are located. Crowded and packed with skyscrapers, the Centre is the home of the
Santa Teresa & Glória
A quiet district set on a hillside,
Flamengo & Catete
Highly populated areas, and not too expensive to live in. The
Laranjeiras & Cosme Velho
Mostly residential, with lots of trees and green areas. These two districts are located between Flamengo, the
Both a residential and business district, Botafogo is the passage between the
Strictly residential, quiet and secluded, Urca is one of the most pleasant districts in Rio, set between
Copacabana & Leme
With a large population, high-rises and a world-famous beach,
The definitive trend-setter in Rio, with elegant shops, restaurants and bars; home of the famous Girl from Ipanema. Devil Beach and
One of the most beautiful views in Rio, with good restaurants and bars, and a few food stalls. The lake shore is also a large public sports complex with a bicycle and jogging track, tennis courts and football fields and a skateboard and roller-skate bowl. There are also some private clubs and public parks where free open-air shows and concerts are frequently staged.
The most sophisticated and expensive district in Rio, with large mansions, elegant flats, and a few late-night restaurants, bookshops and supermarkets.
Gávea and Jardim Botânico
Very sought-after residential districts, with quiet streets and lots of greenery. Gávea is the home of the
Ensconced between the mountain and a beautiful beach,
Barra da Tijuca & Recreio dos Bandeirantes
The Brazilian California, with wide avenues and large condos.
Floresta da Tijuca
A tropical forest in the middle of Rio. With winding roads that go through the trees and overhang more than a thousand feet, this is where the most spectacular views of the city and the sea can be seen. Besides the awesome landscape, there are some places worth visiting, like the Emperor Table, the
North & Suburbs
A series of industrial and residential districts, much less expensive than the South, where the Maracanã Stadium, the
Rio's cuisine is a reflection of the people who made this city. First Native Americans, Africans, and Portuguese and later the French and Italians contributed their spices and flairs to this gastronomic melting pot. There are also many influences from around Brazil: exotic fish from the Amazon, spicy dishes from the Northeast, country cooking from Minas, barbecues from the South. The feijoada, served on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is the only legitimate dish created by the cariocas (people from Rio). Go to the botecos and restaurants, from the simple to the upscale, and surrender to the flavors, aromas and colors of Rio's cuisine. To make your adventures in gastronomy easier, this guide has divided the city and its many dining options into regions. Bom apetite!
The city began here, so let's do the same. During the week, the restaurants in the center are packed at lunch hour. The most crowded are the ones which combine numerous options of tasty food, reasonable prices and a charming atmosphere, such as Mr. Ôpi, O Navegador, and Esch Cafe For a more relaxed lunch, perhaps accompanied by wine, try Café Laguiolle or its neighbour Giuseppe. If you would prefer a taste of Rio from the past, go up the elevator at Albamar or have some tea in the traditional Confeitaria Colombo.
Glória, Catete & Flamengo
Moving out from the center, the Casa da Suíça is a favorite spot for fondue lovers. Café Lamas is one of the bohemian places from another era. More recent restaurants also offer good food, like Alho e Óleo.
Copacabana & Leme
From the sophisticated Le Saint Honoré and Cipriani to the exquisite Le Pré Catelan, this slice of Rio's shore is also home to excellent Brazilian cuisine, like Siri Mole, popular barbecue houses like Marius, and bars that satisfy hungry night owls such as Cervantes.
Ipanema & Leblon
In these districts, you find some of the most creative establishments, such as Le Panetier, which looks like, tastes like and smells like New York, Garcia e Rodrigues, with its more French atmosphere and Celeiro, a tasty health-food eatery, whose owners are quite personable. Here, you'll also find typical Portuguese cooking at Antiquarius, Indian spices at Natraj and one of the best Japanese restaurants, Madame Butterfly. On your way back from the beach, be sure to stop at Bracarense, a typical Brazilian boteco that's famous for its draft beer and appetizers.
Botafogo, Lagoa & Jardim Botânico
These districts have recently gained many new good restaurants, including the traditional Portuguese spot, Aurora. If it's brilliant French cuisine you're looking for, some can be found beneath the outstretched arms of Rio's Christ statue at Carême or Troigros. The younger set prefers the busy places on J.J. Seabra Street like Caroline Café. Across the street, you'll find Quadrifoglio and its sophisticated Italian cuisine, and the exotic fruits-come-ice cream at Mil Frutas.
Gávea & São Conrado
These are essentially residential areas with wonderful gastronomic options. Guimas draws a beautiful, sophisticated crowd that appreciates equally sophisticated cuisine. Teenagers and the young at heart (and stomach) adore the burgers at Joe & Leo's.
Barra, Vargem Grande & Guaratiba
Getting away from the city does not mean getting away from good food. At Barra, you find the only Creole restaurant in Rio, La Louisiane. Some kilometers away, Vargem Grande has several restaurants that are worth the visit, like Quinta. Much further on, amongst the mangrove shores of Guaratiba are hidden such rustic delights as César.
Of course, there are many more regions and exceptional dining places to explore in and around this city. The trip could go on and on, stopping at the botecos and restaurants of the northern part of Rio, going up the mountains and across the bay.
This city brings together a deep blue ocean, a lush forest right in the heart of town, a 24-hour life, and an enviable climate in which to enjoy these aspects.
In this cidade maravilhosa, the fun begins in the morning. On Copacabana or Ipanema, one can experience the true carioca spirit, sipping a cold draft beer in one of the many bars on the beach and watching beautiful people stroll by. When the sun starts going down, it is time to look for a good spot to watch the glorious summer sunsets.
For some live music, go to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, where the many food stalls form a veritable gastronomic park, and live music is often heard. Rio is the country's musical capital and the shows are abundant. The biggest and most famous venues are Canecão and ATL Hall, formerly named Metropolitan, where the big names of Brazilian and international music usually perform. However, for superstars, the choice is Maracanã or Praça da Apoteose, where Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones have played.
Every year in September, the MAM (Museum of Modern Art) hosts one of the most important musical events in Rio, the Free Jazz festival, a gathering of local and foreign artists in settings that vary according to the musical style. There are also more intimate locations to listen to good pop and jazz, like the Teatro Rival, Mistura Fina and Casa de Cultura da Universidade Estácio de Sá, or in a typically Brazilian chorinho like the Café das Artes.
For more tourist-oriented shows, try the Plataforma I and its mulattas.
High-brow musical entertainment has its venues too: the grand Teatro Municipal, for bigger orchestras, and the charming Sala Cecília Meirelles, for chamber music and soloists.
Brazil is one of the major movie markets of the world. Although Rio has recently been losing some of its quainter, more traditional theaters, it has been gaining more efficient modern facilities like the Cinemark and UCI complexes, which account for some 30 new screens. Art movies play on the Estação network and cultural centers such as CCBB.
Dance is another popular art in Rio. The most famous international and Brazilian ballets usually perform at the Teatro Municipal, while other dance companies can be seen at the Teatro Villa-Lobos and Teatro João Caetano.
If you would rather partake than observe, there are many discotheques, gafieiras and ballrooms. Yuppies go to Provisório, El Turf or Dado Bier, while the new wave crowd attends occasional functions like the parties at Cine Íris or Fundição Progresso. If you want to try Brazilian dancing, go to one of Rio's traditional gafieiras, Elite and Estudantina. In a romantic mood? Try dancing cheek-to-cheek at Antonino.
Museums & Galleries
It is worthwhile to visit the city's museums and art galleries. MAM, the Museum of Modern Art, is an interesting building that houses temporary exhibitions and a fantastic permanent collection. Also check out the exhibits at Paço Imperial, Casa França-Brasil, Museu de Belas-Artes or Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica.
The village of Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1565 by the Portuguese near Sugar Loaf Mountain as a stronghold to defend the territory against foreign invaders after the expulsion of French settlers. The full name of the city, São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, was a tribute to the Portuguese king (and, of course, the saint). In 1567, when the village was moved to Morro do Castelo, the population amounted to some 3000 people, most of them indigenous. The main industries at that time were fishing, especially whale fishing, and sugar production, with large sugar cane plantations and processing plants that extended from Gávea and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake to the suburbs.
At the end of the 17th Century, the gold rush in Minas Gerais, northwest of Rio, gave a boost to the city's development. There was a substantial increase in immigration from Portugal that turned the city into the main port of the colony. This, in turn, attracted a legion of French pirates and smugglers, who invaded the city in 1710 and 1711, until they were finally expelled. The city boomed and the increase in population forced the frantic development of infrastructure to keep up. The most famous aqueduct in Rio, the Lapa Arcs, was opened in 1793. The structure is so solid that it is used today as a tramway connecting the district of Santa Teresa to the city centre.
The arrival of the Portuguese royal family in 1808 turned Rio into the temporary capital of Portugal, and the population increased to 70,000 people. It was at this time that the city began to develop its characteristic division between rich and poor districts. The more affluent families established themselves in the areas between the sea and the hills, known today as the Zona Sul, and the poorer families went beyond the hills to the Zona Norte. It was around this time that the Botanical Garden, the Casa França-Brasil, the Royal Library and the Customs House were built.
In 1815 Rio de Janeiro was officially declared the capital of Brazil. In 1821 the royal family moved back to Portugal, leaving Prince Dom Pedro I to rule the colony. In 1822, after rebelling against orders to return to Portugal, Dom Pedro I declared Brazil independent from Portugal, and became the first Emperor of Brazil. The building known as Paço Imperial became his palace.
The first congressional assembly in Brazil was created in Rio in 1823 and met where the Tiradentes Palace now stands. In 1831, Dom Pedro I abdicated, but his son, Dom Pedro II, was not recognized as the ruling emperor until 1840 due to his young age. It was under Dom Pedro II that Rio de Janeiro underwent significant improvements. Between 1854 and 1862 the city received gas lighting, water and sewage services and transatlantic wire and telephone systems. Transport was also advancing, with the appearance of trams, trains and ferry boats. In 1884 the railway that runs up the Corcovado hill was inaugurated, and the opening, in 1892, of the tunnel between Botafogo and Copacabana initiated the migration of the more affluent families to the coast. The end of slavery in 1888 and the extinction of the monarchy in 1889 brought significant growth the manufacturing industry, with a matching decline in agriculture.
The early 20th Century brought many improvements to the city center, with the opening of Rio Branco and Beira-Mar Avenues and the construction of the Municipal Theater, the Arts School and the National Library. In the thirties and forties the population spread along the shore, occupying the areas of Ipanema and Leblon, and the skyscrapers started to fill the landscape of the residential districts as well as the city center.
In the 1960s the capital was transferred to Brasilia, though Rio remained the cultural capital of Brazil and the political capital of the Guanabara state. In the 1960s and 1970s there were big changes to the landscape of Rio, with the creation of the Aterro do Flamengo, the opening of tunnels connecting the South and the North, the Rio-Niterói bridge and the underground.
In 1975 Guanabara State was replaced by the state of Rio de Janeiro, of which Rio, not surprisingly, became the capital.