Rio de Janeiro is one of those cities that should be on everyone’s bucket list. From week-long carnival parties to tropical beach retreats, the “wonderful city” – as it’s so aptly nicknamed – has everything for a perfect exotic getaway. Culture Trip rounds up the 10 best reasons why you have to visit Rio at least once in your lifetime.
Rio proudly holds the title as the largest carnival celebration in Brazil, which means it also has the largest street party in the world. Over the course of two weeks around Lent, the city comes to a standstill as thousands upon thousands of people swarm the streets to dance, drink, socialize and let go. Expect days of nuns, pirates, policemen, and sailors as people of all ages step into fancy dress and only take it off when the carnival is over.
If Rio had a theme tune, it would be anything samba. The beats of samba course endlessly through the streets, putting a bounce in everyone’s step. Head to Pedra do Sal to see the city’s best and most authentic live samba bands. They gather there every Monday evening for an improvised jamming session – known as roda de samba – much to the entertainment of the large crowds that go there to sip cold beers and enjoy the music.
As the city’s most iconic monument and the statue that represents Brazil throughout the world, a trip to see the Christ the Redeemer is a must-do for anyone’s travel list. Overlooking the city from the summit of the 2,330-foot (720-metre) high Corcovado mountain, Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and provides astonishing panoramic views across Rio. The Christ can be reached by van, train, or hiking.
The national dish of Brazil is feijoada and is made from black beans with chunks of meat – often sausage, dried meat and other cuts, although traditionally it also contains offcuts such as pigs’ ears and trotters. It is served with rice and kale, with chopped bacon and farofa, a Brazilian-style cassava flour. Although it is served anywhere in Brazil, it’s worth trying it in Rio – it is an incredibly heavy meal and nothing beats a post-feijoada nap on Rio’s beaches.
Tijuca Forest is largely considered the largest urban forest in the world – it does, however, stand in dispute with the forest in Johannesburg, South Africa but is usually placed as the biggest. Either way it is an extraordinary natural environment. There are many species of birds, plants and animals living there that are not found anywhere else in the world, depending solely on the forest as their only chance of survival. Tijuca Forest also has plenty of waterfalls, hikes, and manmade attractions such as Vista Chinesa, a Chinese-style gazebo with expansive views over Lagoa and Ipanema.
A good caipirinha can be found anywhere in the world – after all, it is made with only three ingredients: lime, sugar and, of course, cachaça. Yet there is nothing quite like having a Brazilian caipirinha on Rio de Janeiro’s beaches with the sound of samba drifting in the background for the ultimate authentic experience.
Copacabana made a name for itself back in the 1960s when it was the stop-off point for the rich and famous who would jet in to enjoy the glamorous shores of Copacabana beaches and lounge the evening away at the luxurious Copacabana Palace hotel. Nowadays, it is a tourist hotspot and a thriving scene of activity, from sports enthusiasts to sunbathers, to beach vendors and small, beachside bars.
A pleasant way to spend a Sunday is to stroll around the fruit and vegetable street markets. Being a tropical and coastal city brings a unique climate for an array of exotic fruits, many that are rarely, if ever seen within Europe or America. Enjoy Rio’s healthy and active lifestyle by sampling some weird and wonderful new fruits every day during your trip.
The Pão de Açúcar – or Sugarloaf mountain in English – is one of Rio’s most famous natural landmarks. The peak rises from the sea and is accessible by cable cars. The vista offers an extraordinary 360-degree view of Rio de Janeiro and the ocean; go at sunset to see the city swathed in breathtaking shades of red, orange and yellow.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the only places in Brazil that visitors can go to a favela, and the south zone of the city has several options. The safest of them all is Vidigal that holds parties at the top of the community every weekend with both national and international DJs playing the best of funk, reggaeton, samba, and other genres. Rocinha has several favela tours that provide an eye-opening insight into life into favelas and helps to break down preconceptions and stereotypes. Try Favela Phoenix for one of the most in-depth tours in Rocinha.