The city of Rio de Janeiro and the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain illuminated at night.

Rio de Janeiro Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts
The city of Rio de Janeiro and the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain illuminated at night.

Rio de Janeiro Guide

Tailor-made Itineraries by Local Experts

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Overview

Locals call it the “Marvelous City” and once you visit Rio de Janeiro, you’ll understand why. Nestled on the tropical cliffs of the southeastern coast of Brazil, this cosmopolitan ex-capital is the second largest city in Brazil and is well-known for its annual Carnival celebrations, sexy samba music, and hotel-lined beaches such as the gorgeous Copacabana stretch.

The capital of the Portuguese Empire during the 1800s, today, this vivid and extremely dense city never sleeps, with restaurants, discotheques, and bars open at all hours to keep up with the lively nightlife. Day time in Rio is just as varied, with excellent art galleries and museums showcasing contemporary and ancient Brazilian and international art in this city that considers itself the cultural center of the country.

The city of Rio de Janeiro and the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain illuminated at night

Standing atop the Corcovado hill that overlooks the entire city of Rio is the iconic Christ of Corcovado: an immense concrete statue of Christ whose arms are spread in figurative embrace of this deeply-Catholic country. From here, tourists can see all the natural beauty (Tijuca National Park), the luxury and modernity (first-rate hotels on Ipanema beach), and the gritty reality (the shantytowns or “favelas”) of this thriving metropolis that represents a historically-rich and culturally-diverse society in the process of gaining ground as a leader in a rapidly globalizing world.

Geography and Climate

Rio de Janeiro faces southward and lies in an east-west direction on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The city was founded on Guanabara Bay and the center of Rio lies on its plains. The larger part of the city, known as the Zona Norte, extends north across hills and mountains, while the Zona Sul is the beach area that stretches along the coast. The Zona Oeste to the west is separated by a barrier of mountains of the Serra do Mar, but is accessible by roads and tunnels.

“The Marvelous City” boasts a pleasant, tropical climate year-round thanks to its location on the Tropic of Capricorn. Average temperatures range from 20°C (68°F) to 26°C (79°F). The tropical monsoon climate of Rio de Janeiro occasionally experiences extremely warm temperatures of 40°C (104°F) during the summer season (December to March), while the lowest temperature ever recorded was 10°C (50°F) and has never dropped below that.

rio de janeiro weather guide

Summers in this city also feature rain showers that may last an afternoon or a week, but that is to be expected of a rainforest city. Winter months are still warm, but possibly a bit too chilly to head to Rio de Janeiro’s famous beaches. Ironically, winter in Rio de Janeiro receives the least amount of rainfall, with a typical winter day usually being sunny and enjoyable. Still, whether it is winter or summer, temperatures near the main beachside tourist regions are moderated by the chilly sea-breezes coming in from the Atlantic Ocean and therefore always remain a bit cooler and comfortable no matter the season. The best time of year to travel to Rio de Janeiro is from February to June or September to December, as the sun is nowhere near as harsh as it is during the summer peak.

Geography & Map

Rio de Janeiro, city and port, capital of the estado (state) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean, in the southeastern part of the tropical zone of South America, and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting urban centres.


Elevation
2 m (7 ft)


City Population
12,387,000

rio de janeiro map, brazil

Transportation

Getting to Rio de Janeiro

The second biggest transportation center in all of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro can be reached by plane, car, or bus.
National and international flights take off from the always busy Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (more commonly known as Galeão International Airport) that is located about 20km away from the main city center. If you’re flying in domestically, you might also be coming through Santos Dumont Airport which serves São Paulo as well as a few other domestic airport.

From the U.S., non-stop flights to Rio depart from Washington D.C., Houston, Miami, and Atlanta airports. Tickets to Rio that feature a stop-over in Sao Paolo usually depart from New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities in the U.S. From Europe, flights to Rio depart twice daily from Paris and Lisbon, once daily from Madrid and Barcelona, and three times a week from London.

Those traveling by bus will arrive at the bustling Rodoviária Novo Rio long-distance bus terminal situated in the North Zone’s Santo Cristo neighborhood. From there, you can take a taxi or coach bus to get to the South Zone – the main tourist area – in about fifteen minutes; local buses take a bit longer. Air-conditioned coach Frescão buses are privately-owned and therefore a bit more expensive than local bus fares.

Getting around Rio de Janeiro

With nearly 440 municipal bus lines serving Rio de Janeiro, buses are the main source of transportation for more than four million passengers who frequently use this inexpensive form of transport to commute on a daily basis. However, due to heavy traffic now reaching new heights in this very populated city, the city is trying to push forward a train and subway transportation policy to reduce severe traffic congestion. This is despite a number of expressways serving commuters.

Two subway (metro) lines under the Metro Rio systems serve this tropical city, which stretches out 42 km (26 mi), and features 32 stations, as well as several commuter rail lines. The system, which closes after midnight (it stays open 24/7 during carnival) is extremely useful for reaching areas from Copacabana to Downtown Rio. Considered the only safe form of transport in the city, subway cars are comfortable and clean; with bilingual signage in Portuguese and English, it is also easy to navigate for locals and tourists alike. Line 1 (orange) has service to Copacabana, the Saara district, and much of downtown, while Line 2 (green) makes stops at the city’s zoo, Maracanã stadium, and Rio State University. Estácio station is where the two lines intersect. The standard fare for a metro ticket is US $0.65, however multi-tickets and integrated metro/bus tickets are available.

Future plans for Metro Rio include a third subway line from Niterói and São Gonçalo and subterranean tunnel beneath Guanabara Bay to complement the ferry service currently in place there.


History

The future site of Rio de Janeiro was surveyed by Portuguese explorer Gaspar de Lemos on January 1, 1502, at Guanabara Bay which was originally thought to have been a river, thus giving the city its name, Rio de Janeiro, or “January River.” The city was eventually founded on March 1, 1565, as fortification against French privateers who trafficked wood and goods from the Brazilian interior. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, the region of Rio de Janeiro had been inhabited by the Tupi, Puri, Botocudo, and Maxakalí indigenous peoples.

The colourful Selaron Steps, a famous work of art and one of Rio's most popular tourist attractions

Starting at the bay and expanding along the mountains, the city then continued to enlarge its territory by stretching southwards and westwards. Its first main industry was sugar-cane production. African slaves and natives were the principal laborers in this industry, which eventually faded after higher quality sugar cane was found in Northern Brazil. By the late 17th century, Rio de Janeiro’s economy became reliant on the wealth brought by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the neighboring town of Minas Gerais.

In 1808, upon Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal, Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the Portuguese Empire when royalty and nobility fled Lisbon. This made Rio de Janeiro the first and only European capital city to ever be located outside of Europe. It was also during this time that an immense influx of African slaves arrived in Rio de Janeiro with 145,000 slaves being counted in 1819, a population which rose to 220,000 by 1840.

When Brazil was declared independent in 1822, Prince Pedro I decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of the new country, even after the monarchy was replaced by a republic in 1889. A year before the change to republic, Princess Isabel emancipated the large slave population, which caused a vast migration from the country to the city. This relocation resulted in the formation of the first shantytowns (favelas) in the city.

A military coup brought the country under the republic of first President Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca. Eventually, landlocked Brasilia, which was under construction for a period of 5 years under President Juscelino Kubitschek, replaced Rio as the capital in 1960. Until 1975, Rio was a city-state with the name “State of Guanabara.” It was then that a presidential decree known as “The Fusion” removed Rio’s federative powers and merged it with the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, the downtown business district of Rio, on the mouth of Guanabara Bay, acted as the border of the city. Afterwards, the city expanded to the south and west, creating the Zona Sul (South Zone), providing access to the touristy neighborhood Copacabana, and building its reputation as a beach party town during the 1930s. Today, Rio de Janeiro ranks second in the nation in industrial production and serves as a major financial, service, and media center to all of Brazil.



Attractions and Activities

This thriving metropolis, set against the tropical backdrop of Brazil’s beautiful and lush rainforest, hosts world-famous sight-seeing attractions that are sure to keep visitors fascinated. With vast and varied museums, gorgeous squares and parks, first-class beaches, and Brazilian icons such as the Christ Redeemer statue, travelers are advised to make their stay at Rio a long one so as to take in all of these marvelous attractions.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio's most famous landmark and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World

Recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the landmark Christ Redeemer statue stands 38 meters high and is located atop the Corcovado hill. It represents the Christian faith of the Cariocas (or residents of Rio) and Brazilians alike. In the past, people had to climb 220 steps to reach the immense religious figure, but in 2002, panoramic elevators and escalators were installed, providing easier access to this must-see attraction. Construction of the statue began in 1922 after the Catholic Circle of Rio petitioned for a large landmark statue on Corcovado Mountain. After nine years, the monument finally opened to the public in 1931. After the statue’s 75th anniversary, the Archbishop of Rio consecrated a chapel underneath the figure so that Catholics can hold baptisms and weddings there. The seemingly invincible statue survived a severe electrical storm in early 2008 because it is made of soapstone, a material that acts as an insulator.

The ride up to Sugarloaf Mountain in cable cars is also another iconic attraction in Rio de Janeiro. The peak is located on the mouth of Guanabana Bay and rises about 396 meters (1,299 ft) above sea-level. The cable car, system, invented by Brazilian engineer Augusto Ferreira Ramos and inaugurated in 1912, was the first installed in Brazil and third installed in the world. To date, some 31 million tourists from around the globe have taken a trip on one of its four cable cars that bypass three stations. International cable car standards believe it to be one of the safest cable car systems in the world, with daily trial runs occurring before the complex receives its first tourists. Travelers who make it to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain will be able to see a spectacular view of Rio, as well as the tropical vegetation that surrounds the hilltop, such as rare orchid species. This makes it not only an attractive site to tourists but also for ecologists.

A cable car, known as bondinho in Portugese, returning from Rio de janeiro's Sugarloaf Mountain

Immortalized in the 1960s bossa nova song, “The Girl from Ipanema,” the sophisticated neighborhood of Ipanema, also boasts a gorgeous beach of the same name. Travelers to Rio can take a dip in the crystalline shores of the coast and then stick around after dark in this neighborhood to experience the liveliest nightlife in all of Rio. Local joggers and athletes take advantage of the special lighting used in this area to take a quick run or pedal up or down the system of bicycle paths.

Another town and beach coast deserving of acclamation is the famed Copacabana stretch that actually encompasses two beaches: the famous Copacabana beach, as well as “Leme”, that is about two kilometers shorter. The Copacabana Fort, as it was called in 1914 and used to defend Guanabara Bay, today hosts many modernized kiosks offering Brazilian drinks and delicacies, as well as open-air restaurants, bars, and the world-renowned Copacabana Palace – a luxurious hotel, inaugurated in 1923, that put the city on the map as a tropical and posh party destination.

The National Tijuca Forest Park is the world’s largest urban forest replanted by man and covers an immense 32 kilometers. Easily accessible from downtown, as well as North and South Zone Rio, the park was reforested in the middle 19th century after decades of intense deforestation and plantation construction, especially made for the coffee industry. Today the protected natural wonder is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife, many of which are threatened by extinction and found only in the Atlantic Rainforest. Major Manuel Gomes Archers made the successful effort to replant the area as a way to protect Rio’s water supply. With a resting area, gorgeous bridges and fountains, and large lakes all within this tropical lush setting, the undertaking to transform this forest into the beautiful landscape and recreation center that it is today has ensured that Gomes Archer’s work will not be forgotten.


Museums

The Museu Histórico Nacional located in downtown Rio, with a graffiti artpiece on the side of the wall

Museu Histórico Nacional

With over 287,000 items that range from the colonial conquest to the imperial era of Brazil, this history museum situated in downtown Rio boasts an excellent collection of paintings and an impressive museum library that holds over 57,000 titles, some dating as far back as the 15th century.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

Situated in downtown Rio, this national art museum began when Portugal’s King John VI fled to Rio from Europe with his art collection in tow. Established in 1937 as the National Museum of Fine Arts, today it holds around 16,000 items which include paintings, sculptures, drawings, folk art, and African art. Academicist and Neoclassical Brazilian artists are heavily represented in this extensive art collection.

Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM)

Considered the second most important contemporary art museum in Brazil, modern Brazilian and international pieces are held in this architecturally-stunning building. A devastating fire struck the museum in 1978 but has since then seen the renovation and recuperation of its collection thanks to generous international donations.

Museu da Imagem e do Som

This “Image and Sound” museum is particularly well suited for film, radio, and broadcasting buffs who wish to view Brazilian photographs or hear a bit of Brazilian classical as well as popular music that has been recorded. On the weekends, the museum plays host to non-commercial cinema for visitors who wish to see a different take on film-making in Brazil.

Museu Naval

Situated in downtown Rio, this Naval Museum brings Brazilian Naval history to life with three floors that showcase photographs, cannons, models, medals, and other wonderful historic items. Interestingly, this museum also houses a mine utilized during WWII and an 1894 B-57 torpedo, making it a must see for an history aficionado.

Museu do Carnaval

Rio de Janeiro is world famous for its annual Carnaval festivities, when the entire city comes together to celebrate for four days with music, food, and dance before the Catholic Lenten season of repentance begins. It is no surprise that Rio would establish a museum dedicated to representing the history of this one-of-a-kind party. With photos, artifacts, and historical information on display for visitors, this is the ideal location to learn about Rio’s legendary Carnaval.


Shopping

Visitors can find just about anything in Rio de Janeiro, from lovely vintage boutiques to bustling outdoor markets, and first-rate shopping malls.

Bargain is the key word when attempting to buy items from street vendors or at markets. Tourists can easily be overcharged by as much as 20% at very informal markets such as Saara (small shops located between the city center and Campo Santana) or on the gorgeous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana. Naturally, vendors won’t bargain unless you ask and especially if you are clearly a tourist. Haggling in malls and in stores, however, is considered very rude.

Some recommended markets include: the Sunday Market on Rua da Gloria where you can find an array of cheap fruit, vegetables, and beautiful, freshly-cut flowers; the early-morning food market on Rua Min Viveiros de Castro in Ipanema which sells about the same variety of foods; and outside the Metro stop at Uruguaiana is a cheap market that sells just about anything you would want, especially electronic merchandise.

Situated on the South and West Zones of the city, shopping malls (referred to as shopping centers, just as in English) feature more expensive merchandise than you would find on street shops. However, if safety and comfort are what you’re looking for, then these malls are worth the price tag. A few recommendations include: Rio Sul, the largest mall in the city’s South Zone area just between Copacabana and Sugar Loaf Mountain; Sao Conrado’s Fashion Mall houses international designer labels such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton, as well as recognized Brazilian names like Lenny, the Brazilian Bikini brand; finally, travelers are sure to find a variety of stores and services at Barra Shopping mall, the biggest mall in the city.


Cultural Calendar

Three Carnival dancers dressed in extravagant clothing smile while taking a selfie

January:

The Reveillon New Year’s Eve party held in Rio de Janeiro is known as one of the world’s most outlandish extravaganzas. Copacabana Beach sees more than two million spectators join together to crowd the pristine sands of this coast to catch the impressive fireworks display celebrating the start of the new year.

February:

Another famous party hosted by Rio is the world renowned Carnaval party, arguably the largest in the world with travelers from all over the globe coming to this Brazilian city to enjoy the spectacle of Samba dancers, amazing parade floats, and crazy costumes.

March:

Rio de Janeiro sees a variety of events during the month. Cycling fanatics will be happy to know there is the Rio Circuit, an exciting cycling tournament that begins in Niteroi and finishes in the “marvelous” city.

April:

Breeders from around the world arrive in Rio de Janeiro for the World Dog Show. This month also sees the Rio Boat Show, where the Brazilian nautical industry shines in promoting all types of sea-faring crafts.

June:

Centering around the feast days of various Catholic saints, Rio’s Bonfire Festival celebrates Brazilian folklore with schools, clubs, and churches performing a mock country wedding by bonfire. This month also sees the Rio de Janeiro Marathon where runners challenge the warm, humid tropical climate during a long route through the neighborhoods of the city.

July:

On July 2nd Rio citizens celebrate the anniversary of the Rio de Janeiro Military Fire Brigade. This month also features the Rio Sports show where academy owners, clubs, fitness entrepreneurs, etc., display their talents, equipment, and products for sports aficionados.

August:

Celebrated on August 22, Folklore Day in Rio de Janeiro honors the diverse set of myths, beliefs, and legends that comprise Brazilian folklore, while the 25th honors the country’s fighting countrymen on Soldier’s Day.

September:

Brazilians honor their Independence Day on September 9 with sporting, cultural, and civic events that occur throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. Tree Day on the 21st promotes florist conservation with Rio de Janeiro students planting seeds throughout the city.

October:

Children’s Day on October 12 features various entertainment attractions throughout the city, not only on this day, but throughout the month of October, while October 23rd honors Brazilian Alberto Santos Dumont who made the first flight in Paris in 1906.

November:

To commemorate the birth of Brazilian statesman Rui Barbosa, the country has Culture and Science Day on November 5 when cultural events are held throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro and around the country. This month also honors the Declaration of the Brazilian Republic on November 15.


Rio Carnival

February – March

Travelers to Rio would be shamed to miss the grand Carnival festivities, known as the “the greatest party on earth,” that take place for forty days before Easter and mark the beginning of the Lenten season. Known as Carnaval in Portuguese, this unabashedly outlandish and almost two-week-long celebration saw its origins in Rio de Janeiro in 1641 as a result of the bourgeoisie elite who began the tradition of holding balls and masquerade parties modeled after the fashion in Paris. Europe also has their own Carnival festivals, and the early Rio ones replicated those versions, but later integrated and creolized Amerindian and African elements as a result of Brazil’s changing demographic during that era.

Spectators looking on as dancers dressed in extravagant clothing and stood on a Bull Float perform for carnival in Brazil

The cordões (“strings” in Portuguese) pageant groups that today are known as the famous Blocos do Carnaval, were first introduced in Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century. Seen on almost every street corner of the city during this festive time, these celebratory “blocks” of people dress up in embellished, colorful costumes or special t-shirts that represent a theme, logo, or particular neighborhood. Within the groups are a music or percussion section that plays lively Samba music to liven up the crowds. The most famous blocos are: Cordão do Bola Preta bloco which is one of the most traditional groups that parades in the city center and last year saw 500,000 people in attendance; the parading in the city’s Botanical Garden, right below the Christ Redeemer statue’s arm is the Suvaco do Cristo bloco that when translated means “Christ’s armpit”; and finally the most traditional bloco in Ipanema, the Banda de Ipanema, sees a variety of spectators that range from Rio families to a large portion of the gay community.

The world-famous Rio Carnival parade began during the 1930s. It begins on Sunday evening and doesn’t stop until the early Monday morning hours. Up until 1984 it was held on Praca Onze, when it was finally moved to the immense Sambadrome exhibition center built specially for the Rio Carnival parade. During the off-seasons, the immense structure, which contains several buildings that create a circular open area in the middle, is used as classrooms for the local public schools.

Another way to spend these merry Rio Carnival days is to witness the famous Escolas de Samba (samba schools) during the parade or at the blocs. These samba groups practice year-round to provide a spectacular show that is sure to dazzle all your senses. Each school is actually competing against another for a grand prize at the end of the entire carnival festival. The schools attempt to construct the most colorful and outlandish floats and costumes, while performing samba musical numbers to rhythms set by the school’s bateria (band). Some famous schools include Mocidade Independente, Imperio Serrano, Academicos do Salgueiro, Unidos da Tijuca, and Beija-Flor de Nilopolis.

The manner in which these schools are arranged during the actual parade is very organized with the comissão de frente (first wing), a group of about 10 or 15 people who introduce the samba school and set the tone for the entire group. This first wing tells a short story through beautifully choreographed dance numbers and in spectacularly over-the-top costumes. They are followed by the abre-alas: the first float of the samba school. Destaques are the brave people who populate the float in very luxurious and expensive costumes that are extremely heavy more often than not. The star destaque sits atop each float and sings and dances during the parade’s entire duration on the runway. Other samba school roles include the porta-bandeira, the “queen” of the school who takes guard of samba school flag and has to be sure that it does not roll. She is accompanied by the mestre-sala, her “king”, whose main objective is to draw attention to his beautiful lady. Finally, there are the ala das baianas: a wing of the samba schools that are required to feature at least 100 female participants who march alongside their destaque counterparts.


Hotels

Accommodation in Rio de Janeiro ranges from luxurious, world-famous hotels to three-star comfortable but elegant establishments. Below are some Brazil for Less hotel recommendations.

Sunbeds overlooking a blue pool surrounded by palm trees at the JW Marriot in Rio

5 star

One of the premier Copacabana Hotels in Rio de Janeiro, the excellent JW Marriott Rio exquisitely captures the enrapturing spirit of Rio de Janeiro. Guests will truly feel on top of the world as they soak up Rio’s magic from the hotel’s rooftop terrace and enjoy breathtaking views of the Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado from the swimming pool.

4 star

The Excelsior Hotel, a member of the Windsor hotel chain, is located on the famous Copacabana strip on a wide corner of Rio that offers gorgeous ocean views, perfect for a wonderful Brazil vacation. Nicely furnished and immaculate rooms have either a side view or a full ocean view.

3 star

The Martinique Copa Hotel is the newest budget option of the Windsor chain, offering excellent services at great value. Located just around the corner from the Miramar, the hotel is only half a block off the Avenida Atlântica, within walking distance from Rio’s best shops, restaurants, and bars.


Food and Drink

A bowl of feijoada stew, one of Brazil's most iconic dishes, with some small bowls of toppings

Rio de Janeiro Food – Staples

Feijao: Beans, black or brown, are routinely served alongside white rice; black beans (feijao preto) are thought to be the national kind.

Coco: Coconut is a vital cooking ingredient used in a variety of Brazilian soups; chicken, fish, and shellfish recipes; and also in desserts. They come in a variety of colors and textures.

Azeite de dende: Rich tropical oil that is extracted from the African palm which grows in Northern Brazil and adds a delicious flavor and vivid orange color to foods.

Bacalhau: This dried, salted codfish was introduced by the Portuguese and is found in many appetizers, soups, and savory puddings.

Camarao seco: Dried shrimp that comes in a variety of sizes which are particularly utilized in dishes pertaining to the north.

Limón: Similar to a lime, this small fruit is green and very tart.

Arroz Brasileiro or Arroz simples: Rice cooked Brazilian style; first sautéed in garlic and oil before the addition of water. Some also add chopped onions, tomatoes, or black olives for flavor.


Restaurants

Rio de Janeiro offers an amazing array of the country’s culturally-diverse cuisine, but the culinary epicenters of this vivid city include Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, where tourists will find some of the best restaurants that the metropolis has to offer. Here are a few recommended establishments.

A Brazilian coxinha a popular street food snack

Casa da Feijoada, Prudente de Morais 10, Ipanema, Tel: +55 (21) 2247-2776, $23-$35

To sample the best feijoada (Brazil’s national dish of black beans with pork) in Rio, travelers have to look no further than Ipanema’s Casa da Feijoada. As expected, this “house of feijoada” specializes in the delicious dish, serving generous portions to happy customers all week long.

Bistrô Zazá, R Joana Angelica 40, Ipanema, Tel: +55 (21) 2247-9101, $12 and over; and Zuka, R Dias Ferreira 233, Leblon, Tel: +55 (21) 2249-7550, $12 and over

If you’re looking for more international flare in your dining experience, definitely visit Bistrô Zazá or Zuka. The former is a trendy locale, perfect for a romantic dinner, with Moroccan- and French-influenced dishes on the menu. The latter is also popular with Brazil’s contemporary crowd and serves up French and Japanese inspired meals, as well as American fast food favorites, and even a few Italian delicacies.

Porcão, Barao de Torre 219, Ipanema, Tel: +55 (21) 3389-8989, $12 and over

Considered one of the best churrascarias (steak houses) in all of Rio, Porcão, situated on the beautiful Ipanema strip, is the ideal dining location for any meat-lover. For a set price, guests can sample an unlimited amount of Rio’s most delicious steaks and more at this eatery.

Churrascaria Palace, R Rodolfo Dantas 16B, Copacabana, Tel: +55 (21) 2541-5898, $6-$11

Another well-known steak house is Copacabana’s Churrascaria Palace. With 20 different kinds of meat available to choose from served on a spit on your table, as well as an expansive salad buffet on hand, you will have a variety of options at this eatery.

Cervantes, Barate Ribeiro 07-B e Prado Junior 335B, Copacabana, Tel: +55 (21) 2275-6147, $6 and under

Boasting the best sandwiches in town, Cervantes in Copacabana is considered a local institution. The modest restaurant features a stand-up or sit-down bar and is open all night, perfect for a late-night, after hours snack.

Fellini, R General Urquiza 104, Leblon, Tel: +55 (21) 2511-3600, up to $6-$11; and Aipo and Aipim, Avenida Nossa Señora de Copacabana 391b, 599, and 920; Tel: +55 (21) 2267-8313, $6 and under

Many Rio eateries have the comida a kilo policy. These buffet-style restaurants let guests serve themselves an array of delicious meal options and they charge depending on how much your meal weighs, “food by the kilo.” A couple of the best comida a kilo restaurants include Fellini Restaurant, which has a range of Brazilian, as well as international dishes, including some vegetarian-friendly fare; and Aipo and Aipim in Copacabana, another locale where guests can obtain value for their money.


Nightlife

Rio de Janeiro has a lively and eclectic nightlife, ranging from rustic but hospitable grungy bars to mainstream, lavish night clubs that cater to Rio’s young elite. Here are a few places where you can sip a Caipirinha or Samba the night away.

A group of men doing a toast with their beers in a restaurant in Rio

Copacabana and Ipanema are home a variety of bars that fit anyone’s style, such as Bip Bip, a Botequim (very small but friendly) bar that welcomes jamming musicians during the week; Caroline Cafe, where Rio’s young and gorgeous middle-class enjoy a cocktail or beer after work; and Devassa, a two-floor pub and restaurant that brews its own unique beer.

Situated in a 3-story colonial house in Lapa, the nightlife district of Rio, Rio Scenarium is considered the best in town with beautiful Brazilians dancing until the early morning hours in this building that was once used as movie prop warehouse.

Come see up-and-coming musicians of Rio’s Samba-funk scene perform at Melt, a two-story club that houses a fully-equipped bar downstairs and a dance club upstairs.

Casa da Matriz in Botafogo is a two-floor grungy nightclub that is immensely popular with Rio students. With different nights dedicated to Brazilian, rock, and even indie music, as well as an Atari room and small cinema, this club has something for everyone.

Carioca da Gema in Rio’s city center features live Samba bands playing to a festive crowd on weekends. However, Monday nights are just as fun when Richah, a famous voice in the Samba world sings classic Carnaval songs


Sports

Rio de Janeiro has held a few notable sporting events, which include the MotoGP Brazilian Grand Prix and world beach volleyball finals. However, the main sporting event in Rio, and probably in all of Brazil, is football. This popular past-time is a symbol of Cariocan and Brazilian pride, as Rio is home to world’s largest football stadium, the famed Maracanã. Estádio Olímpico João Havelange, an immense stadium that holds 45,000 people, is also based in Rio and is used by beloved football club Botafogo.

A Brazilian man kicking a soccer ball into the air with his right foot on a sandy beach in Brazil

Other traditional football clubs from Rio include América Football Club, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama and Flamengo. The latter is considered to have the largest number of supporters around the globe. Tourists are recommended to attend a Rio football game as they are one-of-a-kind experiences with crowds jeering and cheering with song and dance, displaying the passion that Rio and Brazil have for this game. In a city that bred football giants such as Pele and Ronaldinho, immersing yourself in this national past-time should be a necessary part of your Brazil vacation experience.


Portuguese Language Phrases

It is always helpful to be familiar with basic phrases in a foreign country you may visit and Brazil is no exception. Cariocas are known to be helpful but also appreciate the effort in communication by tourists. Here are a few key phrases you should familiarize yourself with when planning a Brazilian vacation to Rio de Janeiro.

Yes/No: Sim/Não
Maybe: Talvez
Please: Se faz favour/Por favor
Thank you: Obrigado/a
You're welcome: De nada
Excuse me: Desculpe
Hello: Bom dia
Good evening: Boa tarde
Goodbye: Adeus
What time does __ leave/arrive?: A que horas parte/chega.?
-the boat: o barco
-the bus (intercity): a camioneta
-the metro: o metro
-the train: o combóio-
-the tram: o eléctrico
Where is the .?: Onde é.?
-Bank: o banco
-City centre: o centro de cidade
-Hospital: o hospital
-Hotel: um hotel
-Market: o mercado
-Police station: o posto da polícia
-Post office: os correios
-Public toilet: os sanitários
-Tourist office: o turismo


Health and Safety

It is important to note that this energetic and culturally-rich tropical city can also be a dangerous place if a traveler is not careful. After dark, Downtown Rio can be particularly unsafe for tourists as muggings there are common. And the Zona Sur area of the city, where tourists mainly reside, is also in close quarters with a few favelas, “shanty towns,” where poverty and crime are a part of life. Travelers are advised to take precaution during night-time hours in any area of the city as any tourist and even local is susceptible to pick-pockets. Taxis are also recommended if traveling from one district to another after nightfall. As with many South American capitals, tourists should dress-down; hide jewelry and take all necessary safety measures with cash, taking only what you will need for food and transportation. Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful city that can be thoroughly enjoyed when keeping these tips in mind.

If attending a football game between bitter city rivals such as Flamengo and Vasco da Gama, be sure to take precautions and attend with a local person, if possible, as these matches can become dangerous due to over-exuberant fans.

It is best to drink bottled water while traveling in Rio de Janeiro as with anywhere in South America, especially in rural areas, to prevent contracting any harmful parasites or water-borne illnesses. If no bottled water is available, be sure to travel with water purification tablets or to boil water for 15 minutes to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

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