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Rio de Janeiro has always had an aura of mystique and glamour.

Heralded as a place of precious beauty since the 18th Century, and considered by many to be the gateway to South America, Brazil’s second biggest city is home to the world’s largest carnival, outrageous nightlife all year long, and the internationally renowned beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Known locally as the Cidade Maravilhosa — Marvellous City — Rio is widely considered to be Brazil’s cultural and spiritual centre, though it relinquished its capital-city status to Brasilia in 1960.

Notwithstanding its notorious slum areas, one of the things that often surprises visitors about Rio is what a beautiful city it is. Carpeted in thick tropical forest, its fertile hills rise abruptly from the sandy coastline, providing a natural contrast to its bustling downtown metropolis. These lush green hills are home to several gorgeous parks and an incredible variety of wildlife, including birds, butterflies and monkeys. Don’t miss the vast Tijuca Park on Corcovado Hill, topped by the famous statue of Christ. Walking through the forest, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle — perhaps stopping to rest at one of the many waterfalls along the way — you’ll find it difficult to remember you are in the middle of a major city.

Rio is probably best known for its world-famous Carnival, held every year in February. A popular time to visit, the city positively explodes with music, excitement and energy. A must for first-time visitors is a visit to the Sambodromo, where the 16 best samba schools in Brazil come together and compete against each other in lavish parades featuring elaborate costumes, floats and literally hundreds of dancers. Elsewhere in the city, it is never hard to find a party. There are shows, bands and music everywhere, and huge numbers of people congregate at the beach. It’s best to simply go with the flow and see where the Carnival takes you.

Of course, you can’t go to Rio without visiting the breathtaking statue of Christ the Redeemer. Take the little railway up the side of the mountain, passing through the aforementioned Tijuca forest. At the top, some 2400 feet up, you will be greeted by an awe-inspiring 360-degree panoramic view over the city. Even the birds soar beneath you, and Rio is suddenly the most beautiful city in the world. Up close, the 100-foot statue is surprisingly striking and there is even a small chapel in its base.


Another great place for views is the picture-postcard Sugar Loaf Mountain. It’s possible to walk up to the top via a variety of routes — some people even rock-climb up it! — but by far the easiest and most fun is by cable car, as immortalised in the James Bond film, ‘Moonraker’.

Of the many beaches, the two that stand out are, of course, Copacabana and Ipanema. Both commemorated in popular songs, they more than live up to their reputations. A visit to the beach is a day’s sightseeing in itself. Once the novelty of girls in dental-floss bikinis has worn off (if it ever does), there is an endless parade of people to just sit and watch, plus excellent surfing all along the coastline, and even hang-gliders who throw themselves off the surrounding mountains to touch down on the golden sand (brave tourists can attempt this themselves, with an instructor).

For football fans, a trip to Maracanã is essential. The biggest stadium in the world, known to have held 200,000 fans in the past and regularly holding 90,000, it is also home to a football museum displaying memorabilia such as legendary Pelé’s number 10 shirt. Matches are held here regularly and tickets are both cheap and easy to get hold of.


Shopping opportunities abound in Rio, which has a number of interesting markets. And in Ipanema, home of some of the more expensive and exclusive shopping areas, you’ll find the popular ‘hippy market’ on Sundays, where you can purchase paintings, wooden sculptures, jewellery, exotic musical instruments and other souvenirs of your journey.


Eating out in Rio is always a pleasure, and there are many excellent little restaurants tucked away in all corners of the city. For dedicated carnivores, there are the plentiful churrascarias, where you pay a flat fee for as much food as you can eat. Equipped with self-service salad bars, and waiters carrying long skewers of various delicious meats that they carve straight onto your plate, these restaurants can easily provide you with a full day’s food in a single sitting! Be sure also to try feijoada, a scrumptious black bean and meat stew served with rice and salad.


And it would be positively rude to leave Brazil without sampling at least one caipirinha — a fearsome cocktail made of lime juice, sugar and cachaça (the local firewater). Beware, though.Caipirinhas are a lot stronger than they taste, fuelling the energetic nightlife the city is famed for!


I’m Matteo (Matt in English) But Italians naturally throw in an ‘0’ where ever possible, especially in the bedroom. When embarking on a new trip, I worry when opening my backpack, in case my mother has climbed in. Want to know more? Click Here

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