As my mum is Brazilian, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Rio de Janeiro almost every year to see family. Rio, otherwise known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City), boasts some truly stunning scenery and very vibrant culture. Though I may be biased, I do believe it should be up there on everyone’s travel bucket list. Here’s why…
You simply can’t visit Rio without taking a trip to one of its beautiful beaches. From the song-worthy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, to the trendy Leblon and our personal favourite, Barra da Tijuca. Be sure to bring your smallest bikini, best volleyball skills and a couple of Reais (Brazilian currency) for a fresh coconut to sip on. With brilliant sunshine almost all year round, there’s no excuse not to sit back and soak up those rays.
The Christ the Redeemer statue is a must-see when in Rio. Listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it’s most definitely worth a trip up Corcovado mountain to see the impressive monument in all its glory. What’s more, the views are spectacular. Not forgetting, Sugar Loaf mountain is also well worth a visit. Although smaller in size, the views of the coast are even more breath-taking and it’s interesting to see the city from a different perspective. Whereas the Christ statue can be reached by train or taxi van, Sugar Loaf is reached via cable car, which is a fantastic experience in itself.
Rio’s Carnival is without a doubt the most important celebration of the year. The foot-tapping, booty-shaking sound of samba never fails to lift spirits and bring a sense of community to the city. If you’re lucky enough visit during Carnival season (around February), you’re in for a treat. Even without experiencing carnival itself, you’re never too far from a fierce drum beat or dazzling samba dancer. Another cultural quirk is that Rio is extremely laid-back. Cariocas (local name for Rio residents) take everything in their stride, so expect things to be a little later than you’d expect.
Best described as the religion of Rio, football means everything to Cariocas, no matter what age, gender or background. When they’re not playing it on the beach or streets, they’re watching it in bars or stadiums. Going to see a live football match is an experience not to be missed, especially in the iconic Maracanã stadium. Rio’s rival teams include Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama. On match days, you can’t help but get swept up in the intense atmosphere and truly appreciate the Cariocas’ love of the game.
5. Food & Drink
In Rio, you’ll find many churrascarias (barbeque restaurants), which are often buffet-style and great value for money, as well as famous rodízos serving all-you-can-eat meat. You’ll also come across numerous botequins (bars with table service). One of my favourite things about the city is that no matter what time of day, there will always be people sat outside with a drink or two, socialising and simply enjoying life. My drink of choice has got to be a Caipirinha – a traditional Brazilian drink made with sugar cane brandy, lime, sugar and ice. Saúde! (meaning cheers!)