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
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 Canecãoand 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.
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.
The roots of Rio are in its center. In the heart of the city, office buildings and streets abuzz with workers and chaotic traffic conceal traces of the colonial era to be found in its churches, public buildings, sobrados (houses of two or more stories) and narrow alleys. The area referred to as Centro, or Cidade, is vast. Three full days would be necessary to get to know it completely, but a tentative first exploration could start at the very center of Centro, the Praça XV de Novembro, and proceed to Morro de São Bento. Located at Praça Quinze (XV), the Paço Imperial, built in 1743 to house the first provincial government, is presently a cultural center that features exhibitions, shops and restaurants. While you are in the square, admire the beautifully carved Chafariz do Mestre Valentim, a public fountain built in 1780 on the former footings of the old docks. Where you are standing used to be sea! Cross the square, passing under the Arco do Teles, and head to Travessa do Comércio, an example of old Rio, filled with colonial sobrados. Further on, you will find the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa dos Mercadores, a recently restored church and truly a jewel of baroque architecture. Still on the Travessa do Comércio, you will see on your right the Casa França-Brasil, the old customs house, and, on your left, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, the biggest bank in Latin America. Don't forget to visit the famed Arcos da Lapa in the bohemian district of Lapa. The Carioca River is where this aqueduct used to get its water and the name “Carioca” is a synonymous with the inhabitants of this “cidade maravilhosa” or marvelous city. Head towards the Carioca underground station, taking Rua Senador Dantas, and you will reach the departure point of the Bonde de Santa Tereza, a tram that will take you to an area considered by many to be Rio's Montmartre. Occasionally, an art festival takes place here called the "Santa Tereza de portas abertas," where many artists show their works and studios. The tram ride is a joy and is like taking a step back in time. Stroll along the streets, noticing the traditional houses of Santa Tereza, and think about the days of yore. There are also many interesting restaurants in Santa Tereza, such as Adega do Pimenta and Bar do Arnaudo. After lunch, don't miss Museu da Chácara do Céu and its neighbour, Parque das Ruínas, where there are art exhibits and shows. If the evening is coming on and you are still up there, stay and watch the sunset. It's an unforgettable experience to see the Guanabara Bay changing colors and the city lights coming out like stars when the night finally falls. If you are learning Portuguese or would like to find out more about the cities, the culture and daily Brazilian life, the Saraiva Megastore on Rua Ouvidor is a must see, with over 100,000 different products, you're bound to find something.
After leaving the cultural centre, on Avenida Presidente Vargas, the big church you see on the left is Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária, the biggest colonial church in Rio, founded in 1609 by Portuguese immigrants. Next stop: Mosteiro de São Bento. The walk is a little longer and you will have to climb a steep street since the monastery is on top of a hill of the same name. But the effort is worth it. A UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the austere, simple and mannerist façade belies the magnificent carvings of the interior in baroque and rococo styles. On Sundays, the ecstasy of devotion expressed in the wooden artwork is matched by the sound of Gregorian chants.
Leblon , Ipanema and Copacabana
Squeezed between the ocean and the mountains, the city spreads westward, and you will not be disappointed if you follow this route. To really enjoy the tour, rent a car. The neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema have two of the world's most recognized beaches and are excellent place to people watch. In Ipanema, you can stop by at the Garota de Ipanema and have some cachaça , a sugar cane liquor that is used in the drink “caipirinha”. This is where the famous song “The girl from Ipanema” was written. Ipanema Beach is one of the most exclusive areas of the city, but remains a bohemian area away from the hustle and bustle downtown. For some authentic Brazilian fare, go to the Casa da Feijoada and enjoy what could be called Brazil's national dish. Feijoada is a stew usually made with vegetables, a type of meat, (preferably lingüiça, Portuguese sausage) and beans. Don't forget to ask for a chope (pronounced show-pee), which is an unpasteurized beer served right from the tap and a local favorite. Copacabana is a neighborhood that explains what the “carioca” attitude is about. This area is a microcosm of the entirety of Brazil, there are residents from Bahia, Minas Gerais, Acre, Sergipe among other regions in Brazil and it is seen in the diversity of faces. You can see the postcard perfect Pão de Açúcar or “sugar loaf mountain” in Copacabana and take a tram up to the top to get a bird's-eye view of Botafogo beach and the bay of Guanabara. During Reveillon and Carnaval, this is where the majority of inhabitants congregate and another added benefit is that both of these festivals take place in the summer months of January and February. From Copacabana, you can also go and directly see one of the iconic images of Rio, at the top of Corcovado stands “Cristo Redentor” or Christ the Redeemer with his outstretched arms cradling the city. From the top of this hill, just behind Copacabana is the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a large now, artificial lake in the middle of the city. Take a paddleboat or grab some oars and enjoy some tranquility outside of the boisterous beaches and surrounding urbanity. Another area even more expensive than Ipanema is Leblon, named after a Frenchman called “Le Blond”, it generally is where the jet-set crowd hangs out. When the visitor is in this area, there is an admittedly more budget friendly plaza called Cobal do Leblon, here the drinks and food are cheaper. At the end of Leblon Beach, take Avenida Niemeyer and the seaside drive running alongside the Pedra da Gávea mountain, where the sea-breeze holds aloft a polka-dot pattern of hang gliders in the sky. During the drive, which takes about 40 minutes, you will pass the Favela da Roçinha, the largest shantytown in South America, this area contains more than 80,000 residents tucked upon a hill between the chic neighborhoods of São Conrado and Gávea. If you would like more insight into the daily life of these denizens, there are tours offered daily by knowledgeable guides and are generally safe. On your way, if you happen to fancy a round of golf, head north towards the Gávea Golf Country Club , rated as one of the top 50 places to golf in the world. Travelling along this route, pay attention to how the street changes from Avenida Niemeyer to Mendes de Moraes then to Elevada das Bandeiras and so forth. Finally, you will arrive inBarra da Tijuca.
Barra da Tijuca
In Barra, as it is commonly known, many say this is the Miami Beach of Brazil, and if you continue along Avenida Sernambetiba, you will see why. This avenue runs along the coastline and it seems as it never ends. There is plenty to do here, from shopping to dining. For the football enthusiast, go and watch a game in Laranjeiras stadium, home to the Fluminense Football Club, here people take their soccer seriously and if you happen to mention rival Botafogo, please do so in a derogatory way. And the same goes while you are in the Botafogo neighborhood. For shopaholics there is the Barra Shopping Square, one of the largest in South America with more than 500 shops. For nature lovers, visit the Parque Ecológico Municipal de Marapendi and observe some wildlife. From here another economic alternative is to go on a catamaran and sail on the Atlantic with the Catamarã pela Barra da Tijuca. “Velejando” as it is called in Brasil is a pastime in this area.
After departing from Barra and past Recreio de Bandeirantes, you will reach Estrada da Pedra da Guaratiba, where the Sítio Burle Marx is located. Previously named Sítio Santo Antônio da Bica, it was bought in 1949 by landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx, who transformed the site into an ecological sanctuary for more than 3,500 tropical and semitropical plant species. When you get here, head to the reception room where the 90-minute guided tour begins. As well as the gorgeous gardens, don't miss the Santo Antônio Chapel, built in the 17th century, and Burle Marx´s atelier-residence, which houses artworks by Burle Marx himself and a collection of glasses, baroque images, pre-Columbian pottery and ancient Brazilian ceramics. After the visit, cross the gate and the road to the restaurant César, owned by and named after Marx's former cook. Sit at one of the outside tables and, while waiting for your seafood, taste a genuine caipirinha. Not far from César is the Casa do Pontal, the largest museum of Brazilian folk art, exhibiting about 5,000 sculptures by more than 200 artists from every region of the country. By now, the afternoon is drawing to a close. If you want to see even more art, go to Prainha, sit down and watch the orange sunset, the blue ocean and the green hills.
Floresta da Tijuca and Jardim Botânico
When you picture yourself in Rio, you see the beach in the summer, the blue ocean, the sun. But nature in Rio is not just the ocean. The city has the biggest urban forest in the world, with a varied fauna and flora and, best of all, lots of shade and cool air. So, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and don't forget your camera. We are going to explore the woods! On top of Corcovado, enjoy the panoramic view of the city far below you and see if you can spot a place you recognize. Recovering your breath after so much beauty—and so many steps—continue the tour by heading to Paineiras, a road closed to cars on weekends, where you can walk, jog, or ride your bike peacefully. The road ends at Alto da Boa Vista, where you will find the main entrance to the Parque Nacional & Floresta da Tijuca. Stop at the parking lot near the waterfall and take a look at the map. There are many interesting places to visit and you can either walk or drive. The rain forest is the largest urban reserve in the world and is filled with waterfalls, creeks and natural beauty. Afterwards, for a bit of culture, take the exit that leads to the road for the Museu do Açude. This beautiful residence contains many interesting objects and tiles or “azulejos” reminiscent of the old country, Portugal. From there, follow the road to Vista Chinesa, and on the way, you will pass by Mesa do Imperador. Keep going down, until you reach Jardim Botânico, another urban oasis which contains more than 6,000 plant species and is a favorite among the Cariocas. Time for lunch yet? Two great nearby options are Couve-flor and Delírio Tropical. After the meal stroll leisurely down the tranquil paths of the botanical garden. Do visit the orchid greenhouse and don't forget to stop and smell the roses.
The day couldn't have been more refreshing, but you still have to taste the fruit ice-creams made by Mil Frutas, or maybe have an ice-cold beer at Caroline Café. Or have some coffee at Ponte de Tábuas bookstore, or just browse the quaint things for sale at the neighboring garage sale. After all, you're back to civilization!
Arts and Culture
Rio began to fall in love with art while it was still a colony. Theaters, museums and a national library were created and the tradition continued even after the republic replaced the monarchy. Today, the museums in Rio house incredible temporary exhibits and permanent collections from collections all over the world.
One of the most complete modern art collections is shown at the MAM, the Museum of Modern Art, which is located in Parque do Flamengo amidst recently-restored gardens designed by Burle Marx. From MAM, walk towards Cinelândia and you will find a beautiful collection of buildings with European-influenced architecture: the Teatro Municipal, the Museu Nacional de Belas-Artes and the Biblioteca Nacional.
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