Rio de Janeiro City Guide
Rising magnificently from the shores of Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world's most breathtaking and exciting cities. Its picturesque mountains and striking urbanscape – ranging from gleaming skyscrapers to the vibrantly colored favelas, all the way to the iconic Cristo Redentor – has enthralled visitors from across the globe, as well as its eternal flair for arts and culture.
Bursting from the coastline of southern Brazil, the city is the capital of Rio de Janeiro state. Since its beginnings in 1565 by the Portuguese, the city has since flourished from a colonial settlement into a massive economic leader and popular tourist destination. Revered for its carnivals and cultural allure, Rio de Janeiro is a major player on the international stage and is set to host the Olympics just two years after Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Its shores have attracted people from virtually every continent, giving the city a multicultural flair that is more distinct than anywhere else in the country. With this rich tapestry of diversity – from Portugal to Africa, and everywhere in between – comes some of the finest food, music, art, and dance in the world.
Landmarks worth exploring
If there is one landmark that renders Rio de Janeiro instantly recognizable, it's the spectacular Cristo Redentor statue, or ‘Christ the Redeemer’. The Art Deco monument, reaching 30 meters into the air at the Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, is one of the world's most visited landmarks. Its impressive soapstone carvings were built by engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and designed by Paul Landowski and Gheorghe Leonida. Keeping a watchful eye over the city, many visitors define it as one of their most memorable experiences when exploring Rio de Janeiro.
Another national monument regarded with great pride is the massive Maracanã Stadium. Built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, it has been the stage for several local and international tournaments, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and is home to Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama football teams. It will also be one of the featured venues in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Visitors can put some spring in their step and journey to the exuberantly colored Escadaria Selarón, located on Joaquim Silva Street and Pinto Martins Street. Built by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón from over 2,000 tiles from more than 60 countries, it is what Selarón called “my tribute to the Brazilian people”, which he believed would never be finished.
The Sambadrome is perhaps one of the city's liveliest attractions – as the stage for its flamboyant and energy-fueled Carnival, attracting thousands of tourists who come to watch the throngs of performers showcase their talents and artistry. New Year's and Carnival are Rio de Janeiro's busiest times of the year, and booking for these events can be a challenge, but it is not impossible. The city is alive with festivities, including parades, competitions, and other performances.
For the best view of the city, you can take a cable car ride across the skyline and witness Rio de Janeiro’s bustling, brilliant streets come to life as you journey into the mountains above the skyscrapers and beaches below, and understand why it is known as ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ or ‘The Marvelous City’.
This colorful coastal city, renowned for its golden shores, football culture and the Carnival, is a welcome delight for all your senses. Located on the South Atlantic coast, Rio de Janeiro offers stretches of sandy beaches, set against a majestic backdrop of high rises, mountains, and a cliff-top iconic landmark. Rio may no longer be the capital of Brazil, but with a host of attractions, music, entertainment and not to forget a thriving food scene, it remains the heart and soul of Brazil.
Things to Do
Fresh off a long-haul flight, the best thing to do in Rio is hit the beach. During summer months when temperatures soar to forty degrees, there’s not much else you would want to do. According to Barry Manilow, Copacabana is “the hottest spot north of Havana”. With 2.5 miles of white sand packed with sun worshippers, Carioca (local) girls in bikinis that leave little to the imagination, and boys playing football, he wasn’t wrong. This is the perfect spot to bathe in the sun, people watch, and take on a game of volleyball with locals on the beach. Be aware of strong currents when getting into the water as well as thieves when leaving your valuables unattended on the beach.
Ipanema is just as spectacular, with seafront sports and opportunities to bask in the sun and watch the world go by. As dusk approaches, join locals behind the Dois Irmaos peak to gaze at the sun as it sets. While your days are best spent lounging on the beach or shopping at nearby boutiques, spend your nights at cocktail bars and trendy clubs in the area.
Rio has more to offer beyond its beaches. Head downtown to Centro to explore some of Rio’s magnificent churches, museums and galleries including the National Museum of Fine Arts. If your feet can carry you, then climb the 220 steps to get to the Cristo Redentor statue. This iconic landmark and statue of Jesus sits on top of Hunchback Mountain. Reach the summit by taking the 20-minute cog railway and then begin the steep climb. There are lifts and escalators in place for those who need them. Once at the top of the mountain, behold the stunning view of the city below!
When in South America you’re never too far from the tropical nature the continent is famous for. Rio is home to the Tijuca National Park, where you can spot rare animals and plants in their natural habitat. Follow the trails and stumble upon waterfalls and cooling streams in this urban forest. It’s not however advised to walk alone in quiet areas in the city, including in this national park as there have been several reports of robbery, attacks and even rape on the trails.
Spirit of Rio
The Carioca’s love to party! If you are unable to visit during the Carnival itself, then you can catch a samba show all year round at the Cidade do Samba. If you’re looking for live music, then mooch over to Lapa. There are many atmospheric clubs, bars and galleries in this part of town, which was once a slum turned Red Light District. Although a trip to Lapa is recommended, it’s not advised to visit during the day when there are more chances of getting robbed.
Health and Safety
Rio has gotten a lot of bad press over the years, with many reports of crime and violence against tourists. It may not be the safest city in the world, but don’t let this stop you from experiencing the city for yourself. Just be cautious and vigilant of your surroundings at all times. Tourists stand out like a sore thumb in this continent, so travel with other people when going on hikes or to quieter neighbourhoods. The Carnival is also a time to keep your wits about you, because as the party gets swinging, robbery, attacks and drugging of drinks become more frequent. Have fun, but just don’t let your hair all the way down.
Staying in Ipanema or Copacabana is perhaps your safest bet in Rio. Getting around on foot in these districts is easy, but when needed taxis are relatively cheap in comparison to other cities around the world. Hop on a city bus during off-peak hours to find yourself an empty seat. Buses are generally safe to use during the day and early evening, when you’re less likely to have your pockets emptied. The Metro is the safest and cheapest mode of transport in Rio.
When to Go
The Carnival is the perfect time to be in Rio. The weather is hot and the streets are packed with parades and parties. Just be sure to book your flights and accommodation a year in advance to avoid disappointment. To catch the best rays on the beach, head on over any time between December and March, but bare in mind this is also the most expensive times to travel.
Rio de Janeiro is surrounded by natural splendor, and there are many places to become immersed in the wonder of the blissful Brazilian wilds. Take a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain overlooking the bay, or enjoy the azure waters of the ocean in the midst of urban life by basking in the sun on Copacabana Beach; there is plenty to discover here.
Festive food, shopping central
Rio de Janeiro's most celebrated dishes are churrasco (meat with salad or rice), Sopa Leão Veloso (seafood with tomato and saffron), and Ambrosia de melão (Macedonia with assorted fruits, including coconut and melon). Caipirinha (cachaça, lemon, sugar, and ice) is a refreshing local drink. The city’s downtown districts and beachside restaurants offer a range of delectable cuisine, while its major shopping centers also offer great dining establishments. Prime shopping areas include BarraShopping, Shopping RioSul, and Shopping Leblon.
However adventurous you may be, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Ipanema and Copacabana are the safest areas to stay during your trip. Take a look at our selection of accommodation in Rio and start planning your trip now.
Enjoy your stay with a home away from home
Whether you are longing for a beachside apartment or downtown penthouse, Rio de Janeiro has everything to offer, and getting from place to place is easy. Get in touch with World Escape to book an accommodation for your vacation and let the wonder of one of South America's finest cities sweep you off your feet.
Rio de Janeiro Vacation Apartments
Comfort, privacy and convenience can make your vacation truly unforgettable and that is exactly what you get when you stay in your own home away from home. Our collection of Rio de Janeiro vacation rentals boasts some real gems throughout the city, suitable for any occasion, style or budget.
From spacious family-friendly apartments, to cozy lodgings for budget-savvy travellers and luxury digs for stylish holidaymakers – anyone can find a place to call one’s own for a few nights or weeks in Rio de Janeiro. You can live anywhere in Rio, on the beach, in leafy neighbourhoods or modern parts of the city.
For holidaymakers who want amusements and variety, Ipanema is the best bet. As the trendiest neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema has a lot more going for it than the dazzling beach. Shops, restaurants, nightclubs and an altogether friendly atmosphere make it an amazing area to spend your vacation.
Head to Copacabana if you plan on spending the whole day on the beach. Book a comfy, mod-conned apartment with full kitchen and bedrooms for all your friends or family members and relax in beautiful lodging. Stroll down to the beach, play volleyball, tan yourself all day long and share chilling beer and fresh juices at Copacabana’s breezy outdoor cafes.
Rio de Janeiro Luxury and Business Accommodation
Do you seek only the finest offers? Leblon is all about chic accommodation, top-notch service and elegant living. Stay in this area and you will enjoy a quieter beach, high-end dining and luxury shopping offers. Rent your own luxury apartment and you could become neighbours with celebrities and film stars.
The beach-shy will find plenty of culture and art in Centro. This area, where colonial buildings sit by side with modern skyscrapers, is dotted with museums, theatres and historic sites. It’s also the best bet for any business traveller who seeks convenient accommodation and good transport. The local airport is only a quick drive away.
Did you find what you were looking for? Come and take a look at all the beautiful homes and neighbourhoods where you can spend your Rio holiday!