Rio de Janeiro is known by the Brazilians as the Wonderful City – in Portuguese Cidade Maravilhosa – and deserves all the credit for it. Rio combines the tropical landscapes, captivating beaches and contagious rhythms, being a perfect city to visit at any time of the year. In truth, no matter what time you go, you are unlikely to look at Rio in the same way. It is in those precious moments that I realised I was already completely in love with this city. Come with me and fall in love too!
Christ, the Redeemer
‘Christ, the Redeemer’ – Corcovado – is the statue of the Christ standing on top of the hill since 1931. The meaning of the word ‘Corcovado‘ is not translatable. Basically, means that the Christ is bent over the city giving His blessing to all of their inhabitants and visitors. The statue is a remarkable work of Art and the combination with the breathtaking landscapes of the city makes this place a definite must-visit place in Rio. There are several ways to reach the top. You can get a cable car, the steep cog train through the rainforest, which provides a memorable ascent. If you are more adventurous, you can always hike from the Parque da Lage til the Christ.
The Sugarloaf Mountain – ‘Pão-de-Açúcar’ – is an amazing place to admire the sunset with absurd views of the mountain. From here the landscapes are undulating green hills, golden beaches lapped by the blue sea and rows of skyscrapers along the shore. To get to the top you can get the cable trams, that just whisk you up. But, get ready to wait in the queue. For the most adventurous, you can rock climb your way through the walking pathway. Close to the Sugarloaf Mountain, there is located the Red Beach – Praia Vermelha – which is a well-concealed beach that boasts a magnificent panorama. But don’t get very excited, the beach is not really red.
Copacabana is the perfect place to walk around close to the beach, run along the sand or whiling away the evening over cocktails and appetisers at a beach-front kiosk. Regardless of what you do around Copacabana, you will be seduced by the incredible views. Perfect rooftop bars and forts at either end of the beach make great settings for taking it all in. Visit the Forte Duque de Caxias, which stands on an old colonial fort, and enjoy the stunning views over the beach and the Sugarloaf Mountain.
Ipanema and Leblon
Ipanema is one of the most amazing beaches in Rio and it is definitely a spotlight to admire the sunset/sunrise. For me, watching the sunset from Pedra do Arpoador was one of the most fantastic experiences ever. Get yourself consumed with the vibrations and breathtaking energy. The connection with the environment around is just indescribable, I never felt it in another place of the world. People just sit on the rocks and wait for the sunset, watching the vibrant colours reflecting over the city. While waiting, sing with the Cariocas, play the guitar, talk to each other and enjoy the amazing energy. There is never a dull moment in Rio’s most famous beach.
Jardim Botânico - The Botanical Gardens
Rio has no shortage of green places and the Botanic Gardens are one of them. The Botanic Gardens – Jardim Botânico – is an amazing place to visit at any time of the year. Hosting the most beautiful and rare flora species from Brazil and around the globe. The garden was ordered by the Prince Regent João VI in 1808 and remains one of the most visit gardens around the world. The garden is quite on the weekdays and full of music and events on weekends. On-site there is the Environmental Museum – Museu do Meio Ambiente – which houses environmentally focused exhibits.
P.S.: Be sure to take insect repellent.
Parque da Lage
Parque da Lage is a beautiful park at the base of the Tijuca’s Forest (Floresta da Tijuca). From about 1 km from the Botanic Gardens, the park has English-style gardens and little lakes. Hosting the School of Visual Arts provides free art exhibitions and occasional performances around the year. As the native rainforest surrounds the park, there is possible to see the monkeys and toucans among the foliage. This is also the starting point for the challenging hikes up to the Corcovado.
Lapa and Santa Teresa
The arches in Lapa form the gateway to the most animated nightlife in Rio. Here you can find the most famous bar-lined streets, mixing the rhythms of Samba with the 19th-century facades. With drinks and music all around, venture inside an old-school dance hall to experience the most dynamic side of the city.
During the day at Lapa, walk around the most known street art project in Rio – the Selarón Steps. Created by the Chilean-born artist Selarón, the staircase boasts colourful mosaics covering 215 steps leading to Santa Teresa. Situated in the heart of Rio’s Samba district, the escadaria has become the symbol of Lapa’s creative and bohemian spirit. The mosaics started as a tribute to the Brazilians, but rapidly this project spread it all over the world. Soon the artist started receiving tiles donated for his collection, and now the steps have tiles from more than 60 countries. Nowadays is one of the most known city landmarks, making appearances in worldwide magazines and even on Snoop Dog and U2 music videos.
Parque Nacional da Tijuca
The National Tijuca Park – Parque Nacional da Tijuca – is well-known for the vast piece of the Atlantic rainforest. From the hiking trails, refreshing waterfalls and abundant greenery make other parks looking like playgrounds. As Rio is full of outdoor and adventures activities, you can also fly instead of walking. Take the hang gliding flight from Pedra Bonita inside the Tijuca boundaries for a breathtaking experience and privileged view over the city.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is a picturesque lake surrounded by the hills that characterise the city, the rainforest and the most desirable neighbourhoods in the city. The cariocas use this area mostly for outdoor activities, such as jogging and cycling. But is also a great place for relaxing and enjoying some cocktails and dining at night time. At summer time, there is also available water sports and activities.
The city centre hosts the most fascinating historical sites of the city, full of historical and Art museums and baroque churches. Take a break on one of the most famous cafes around the globe – the Colombo’s Cafe. Dated from the late 1800s, the Colombo’s Cafe serves good Portuguese and French pastries and amazing coffee, befitting the elegant and vintage decor. Perfect to enjoy theatre and art exhibitions, the city centre hosts the most interesting theatres and cultural centres in Rio.
Rio was definitely the most diverse city that I visited recently. Not only because of the diversion of the population but also of the different things to do in the city – from the forest, the beaches, the hills and the Metropolitan features around the city centre.