Rio de Janeiro (/ˈriːoʊ di ʒəˈnɛəroʊ, -deɪ ʒə-/; Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈʁi.u dʒi ʒɐˈnejɾu]; January’s River), or simply Rio,is the second largest city in Brazil, the sixth largest city in the Americas and the world’s thirty-fifth largest city by population. The metropolis is anchor to the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, ranked as the second most populous metropolitan area in Brazil, the sixth most populous in the Americas and the eighteenth largest in the world. Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s third most populous state. Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site, named “Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea”, identified by UNESCO on 1 July 2012 in the category Cultural Landscape.
Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, the city was initially the seat of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, a captaincy of the Portuguese Empire. Later, in 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a State of the Portuguese Empire. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal, who subsequently, in 1815, under the leadership of her son, the Prince Regent, and future King João VI of Portugal, raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarves. Rio stayed the capital of the pluricontinental Lusitanian monarchy until 1822, when the War of Brazilian Independence began. This is one of the few instances in history that the capital of a colonizing country officially shifted to a city in one of its colonies. Rio de Janeiro subsequently served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasilia.
Rio de Janeiro represents the second largest GDP in the country (and 30th largest in the world in 2008), estimated at about R$343 billion (IBGE/2008) (nearly US$201 billion), and is headquarters to two of Brazil’s major companies—Petrobras and Vale, and major oil companies and telephony in Brazil, besides the largest conglomerate of media and communications companies in Latin America, the Globo Organizations. The home of many universities and institutes, it is the second largest center of research and development in Brazil, accounting for 17% of national scientific production—according to 2005 data.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, carnival celebrations, samba, bossa nova, balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. Some of the most famous landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums.
Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics. This will be the first time a South American and Portuguese-speaking nation hosts the event. It will be the third time the Olympics will be held in a Southern Hemisphere city. On 12 August 2012, at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, Mayor Eduardo Paes received the Olympic Flag, via Jacques Rogge, from London Mayor Boris Johnson. Rio’s Maracanã Stadium held the finals of the 1950 and 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the XV Pan American Games both opening and closing ceremonies. Rio de Janeiro also hosted the World Youth Day in 2013.
Rio de Janeiro never fails to impress us with its modern outlook that reflects its progression through the times of yore. The historic sites, sparkling beaches, green belts and jubilant attitude of the locals embrace the tourists to the world where heaven meets the earth. If Ronaldo played football at the Maracanã stadium, then Christ the Redeemer puts Rio on the world map. Rio’s carnival with its effervescent samba dancers jiggling their hips attracts thousands of tourists around the world. The rain-forests, museums, beaches and the glitz of the city have made Rio what it is today – Brazil’s top-notch tourist attraction.
Top 10 Rio de Janeiro Landmarks
Christ the Redeemer
Standing atop the Corcovado Mountain with his arms spread out, this enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) has been embracing the people of Rio since its inauguration in 1931. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the imposing structure of soapstone and cement provides panoramic views of Rio beyond compare. Book a cog train to the statue through the trails of the Tijuca Forest National Park. The Corcovado Mountain is a tourist destination in itself with every inch occupied by frantic visitors. So arrive early to get a surreal view of the statue and an amazing view of the city. Entry is free.
Maracanã Stadium (Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho / Estádio do Maracana)
Fans of legends like Ronaldo, Pele, Romario, Carlos Alberto and Nilton Santos will surely love to pay a visit to the Mecca of Football; the Maracanã Stadium. Officially inaugurated during the 1950 World Cup, this all encompassing stadium features a capacity to hold 100,000 cheering fans. If you are lucky enough, it is possible to catch one of your favourite players in action. Otherwise, pay a visit to the sports museum with treasuries in store. The stadium is hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)
Named after the traditional sugarloaves used during the yesteryears, the Sugarloaf Mountain is a tall 395 meter peak rising at the Guanabar Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. Right at the top, tourists will have the chance of their lifetime to capture photo opportunities of the sparkling Rio beaches, statue of Christ and the green forests. Although, most visitors arrive by a cable car, which takes 2-3 minutes, others can test their enthusiasm and energy by climbing the mountain. The best time to visit the peak is at sunset when the flickering colours of the sun make way for a blanket of stars.
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro)
The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens is a complete resource on Amazonian tropical species including 5000 varieties of plants explicating the rich botanic diversity of Brazil. The garden showcases a fine collection of excruciatingly large Victorian water lilies and Japanese plants. Sitting on the edge of Tijuca Forest, Dom João VI designed the garden himself in 1808 to include plants of artistic, archaeological and historical importance. Visit the parks on the weekdays to avoid weekend crowds.
Sambadrome (Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí)
During the Carnival season, the fervour gains ground in Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí where samba school dancers compete to become the best in town. Dancers performing to the school’s samba anthem impress the crowd with their music, elaborate costumes and most importantly heart stomping samba dance. The Sambadrome, also known as the Apoteose Square, holds a capacity to accommodate 90,000 people who come to watch the enthralling Carnival parade every year.
Rio will never be complete without the mention of Copacabana Beach. The stimulating 4.5 km of crescent coastline never sleeps, as visitors play beach soccer, soak in the sun or swing and dance until the wee hours of the morning. One of the culturally richer neighborhoods of Rio, the borough is filled to the brim with bars, restaurants and upscale hotels. Tourists of all ages will have some or other activity to do at the beach, be it soaking in the sun, snorkeling or water sports. The place will be one of the hosts for the 2016 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and also is favored by revelers who want to bring in the New Year celebrations with great enthusiasm.
The wealthier sibling of Copacabana, Ipanema is a glitzy neighborhood located between Leblon and Arpoador. Favoured by the Rio’s locals (cariocas), Ipanema’s beauty lies in its dusky stretch of sand dotted by greenery with cafes, bars and restaurants weaving up the place. The waters at Ipanema are dangerous at times, so swim or surf in areas allotted by the many lifeguards.
As the historical and financial hub, Rio’s central district holds many jewels in its purse. Despite the bustling traffic and skyscrapers, the lanes provide an insight to how Rio was discovered and then consequentially developed in the years that followed. There are a number of historic landmarks that distinguish Central Rio – The National History Museum, displaying relics from Imperial days, the 17th-century Mosteiro de São Bento church, the 1905 Theatro Municipal, The Paço Imperial; seat of former Portuguese rulers, the baroque styled Igreja Sao Bento church, the 18th-century Passeio Público garden and the 1750 built Arcos da Lapa aqueduct. Today, these restored structures include many restaurants, art galleries, tea houses and specialty shops for tourists and locals alike.
Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca)
Covering some 32 km², Parque Nacional da Tijuca is the world’s largest urban forest in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Hand-planted in the 19th century to recover the damage caused by extensive coffee plantations, the wildlife park population includes many insects, ocelots, birds, howler monkeys and other endangered species known only to the Amazon basin. The park’s summit, where the symbolic Christ the Redeemer statue is situated, offers fantastic views over the city and ocean. Although many visit the park by car, hiking tours for the more adventurous type are arranged by a number of local travel agents.
Petrópolis (The Imperial City)
About an hour drive away from Rio is Petrópolis, a town also known as ‘The Imperial City of Brazil’. Petrópolis unique location at the foothills of Serra dos Órgãos National Park bestows it with a cool climate, compared to the muggy surroundings of Rio. A popular resort town, the main attraction of Petropolis is the Summer Palace of the former Brazilian Emperors, which is now restored into a museum displaying Imperial memorabilia. Other notable buildings are the Palacio Cristal glasshouse and the Cathedral.
Top 5 Bars
Bar do Gomez
Located in Santa Teresa, Bar do Gomez opened its doors in 1919 but back then it was a simple grocer store for Rio’s thriving migrant population. The bar is still known by the name Armazem São Thiago for this exact reason. To this day it still keeps hold of its humble roots with old fashioned tins and jars on display containing olives and other tinned sundries. Gomez has run the place for many years so there’s a distinctive homely feel about the establishment. The bar attracts all sorts of local characters that are more than willing to share a friendly, although usually slightly inebriated conversation with a newcomer.
Address: Rua Áurea 26, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel.: +55 21 2232 0822
A beer drinkers paradise….For those drinkers who have grown bored of Rio’s incessant cans of Skol or draught Brahma chopp; this is the place for you! With over 180 different local and imported beers on offer you’ll be spoilt for choice. Beer (drinking and brewing) is a serious business for the folks that run and those that frequent BeerJack’s, there is a monthly tasting session upstairs and the excellent bar-style food is always served with a matching strong flavoured brew on the side. Once again…an absolute beer drinkers paradise!
Address: Rua Martins Fereira 71, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel.: +55 21 2226 0267
Located near the world famous Maracanã stadium, Aconchego Carioca is a city-famous bar, known for its great atmosphere and amazing bar food. The queues for tables are an obvious clue that this is a special place in the hearts of the locals. From their own take on the Brazilian staple feijoada stew – little deep friend balls of flavor to the 150+ beer menu. A trip to Aconchego Carioca will not be forgotten…
Address: Barão de Iaguatemi 379, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel.: +55 21 2273 1035
If its music and a drink you’re after (in that order) then this is the bar to spend an evening in. There are tables and chairs for the band…but that’s it and perhaps standing room only for six to seven people. Be warned, music is taken very seriously in this establishment. If you talk to load during the tunes be prepared for a very public telling off by the proprietor.
Address: Rua Almirante Gonçalves 50, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel.: +55 21 2267 9696
Affording wonderful views of the Guanabara Marina, Bar Urca is a two story place with a bar downstairs and a more inviting restaurant upstairs. A charming cozy little corner, few places in Rio can beat its bayside location. It’s one of those easy places where you grab a slice without all the humdrum. Just cross the street to order an incredibly cold beer and tasty bar snacks like empadas pies and shrimp pasties. Pictorial views of the Niterói and the statue of Jesus Christ make it a perfect junction for an afternoon.
Address: Rua Cândido Gaffrée 205, Urca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel.: +55 21 2295 8744
City Tours & Sightseeing
City tours & sightseeing offer you many more ways to discover Rio de Janeiro’s beaches, mountains and rain-forests! These affordable tours allow you to experience the cultural vivacity of the city at your own leisure and good time. Choose from a range of tours lasting from a couple of hours to a whole day. Hire a bus coach, jeep or simply walk with similar minded tourists to the vantage points of Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountains, Tijuca Rain Forest, Corcovado Mountain, Santa Teresa and historic Rio. The onboard guide is always omnipresent to quench your thirst for knowledge.
A day trip gives you the chance to rejuvenate without spending a night away from Rio de Janeiro. These types of recreational activities are possible through guided tours of the neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro such as Buzios, Angra dos Reis, Sepetiba Bay & Petropolis. Get away from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro to enjoy the cool climate, turquoise blue waters and fascinating history that awaits you.
The romantics love the cruising part of Rio de Janeiro where they get to travel down the sparkling Atlantic waters and visit the nearby Sepetiba Bay, Guanabara Bay and islands of Angra dos Reis. Embark on leisurely day / half-day trip cruise, arresting the beautiful views of Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountains and the panoramic Rio de Janeiro.
Cabarets & Concerts
Rio de Janeiro has always enjoyed the glamour of stardust sprinkled over its traditional cabaret shows and concerts. A trip to Rio de Janeiro is incomplete without experiencing the shimmer and jiggle of brilliant samba dancers. Along with the exciting music and dance carnival, the delectable Brazilian steak surely will do the wonders. If you are a true blue sports fan and want to kiss the field where your favorite players practiced his moves, book a Maracanã Stadium tour to attend a Brazilian football match.
Nature & Eco Tours
Most will agree that experiencing the stunning natural beauty of Tijuca Forest National Park is like climbing the stairway to heaven. A man-made forest, it is home to some endangered species and presents amazing, breathtaking views of waterfalls, Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, beaches, Corcovado & Sugarloaf Mountains. If you’re enthusiastic enough, book a hiking tour to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain or Pedra Da Gavea granite mountain. Many of these tours also cover the charming 19th century district of Santa Teresa.
Ride in an open jeep to visit the Santa Marta favela where Michael Jackson shot the video for his famous song ‘They Don’t Care about Us.’ Jeep tours also include an outing to the Tijuca Rainforest where tourists can hike, giving them the opportunity to spot howlers monkeys, butterflies, etc. Since the Tijuca Rainforest and the Botanical garden grant such an explicit display of rich flora and fauna, some companies offer a combo tour to help you make the most of your trip to Rio de Janeiro.
What with the sparkling blue beaches surrounding Rio de Janeiro, water sports are one of the favorite outdoor activities for a water baby. Go scuba diving at Arraial do Cabo, take private surfing lessons or go Ocean Kayaking to Cotunduba Island; you are spoiled with innumerable choices.
From the deep bottoms of the ocean, take out time to touch the fluffy clouds through a sightseeing tour of Rio de Janeiro in a helicopter. Revel in the incredible, unseen and unimaginable views of the Atlantic Ocean, Christ statue, the Rainforests, Copacabana beach, Sugarloaf and Corcovado Mountains.
Top Rio de Janeiro FAQ’s
Q.1) Where is Rio de Janeiro located?
Ans: Rio de Janeiro, the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro and the second largest city of Brazil is on the strip of the Atlantic Coast close to the Tropic of Capricorn. Located in the southeast part of Brazil, the city/state is surrounded by forests on one side and sparkling beaches on the other.
Q.2) What is the official language of Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: The official language of Rio de Janeiro is Portuguese.
Q.3) When does the Rio de Janeiro Carnival take place?
Ans: The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is held before Lent every year. It is considered one of the most extravagant carnivals in Brazil. Generally it takes place around February / March
Q.4) What is the population of Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: According to the 2010 census, the population of Rio de Janeiro is 6,323,037.
Q.5) When is the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: The tropical climate of Rio de Janeiro makes it ideal to visit at any time of the year. During the summer months of December through March the temperatures can reach up to 45° while during the winters between June to August it can hover between 16°C – 20°C. The best time to visit is during the Carnival season (though airfares are high and the city is cramped with crowds) and the spring time when the humidity level is low. It is one of the best times to see Rio’s lush green forests. Surfers should visit Rio during the winters, while diving enthusiasts should book their tickets for summer.
Q.6) How safe is Rio de Janeiro for tourists?
Ans: Since Rio de Janeiro is prone to frequent crime scenes and mugging at crowded places like beaches, tourists (gringos) should adhere to general safety issues during their stay in the city. Since they are considered easy targets by criminals, it is best to take care of yourself differently than you would at home.
- Do not carry valuables or jewelry like expensive watches, iPod, digital cameras, etc. Store them in hotel lockers.
- Do not carry lot of money or credit cards all the time. Avoid flashing your wealth.
- Carry valuables in a bag that is not too noticeable, possibly hidden from public eye.
- Do not leave personal belongings unattended.
- Avoid taking to strangers trying to strike a conversation or selling things. Perhaps they are drugged.
- Carry a copy of the passport, rather than the real one.
- Avoid roaming on the streets unattended by the police, after dark.
- If you are mugged, look down and let them take your valuables. Do not resist or look into their eyes as the criminals are armed. Afterwards, leave the scene of crime quickly in the opposite direction that the muggers went.
Q.7) When did Brasília replace Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s capital?
Ans: Brasília replaced Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s capital in 1960 after the government felt the need to divert the ever-expanding population to inner parts of the city.
Q.8) Which are Rio de Janeiro’s famous beaches?
Ans: The two famous beaches in Rio de Janeiro are Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach.
Q.9) What are the typical business hours in Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Typical business hours in Rio de Janeiro are:
Offices: Monday – Friday: 9 am to 6 pm
Stores: Monday – Friday: 9 am to 7 pm, Saturday: 9 am to 1 pm
Malls: Monday – Saturday: 10 am to 10 pm
Q.10) What is Rio de Janeiro like for gay tourists?
Ans: Rio de Janeiro is the main tourist destination for gay and lesbian travelers from Brazil and rest of the world. It was voted the best lesbian and gay international destination in 2009 and the sexiest gay place in the world in 2010.
Q.11) Should I obtain a health insurance before travelling to Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Tourists should take out an all-inclusive health insurance before travelling to Rio de Janeiro since foreign nationals can encounter unexpected medical emergencies in Brazil. In the summer and rainy season, the risk of contracting dengue is high due to high temperatures. Consult a medical expert on the appropriate vaccinations, present health outbreaks and general disease protection. Also, avoid unprotected sex due to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. All travelers should visit their physician 4-8 weeks before the date of departure. Vaccines recommended for all travelers – Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow fever, Hepatitis B
Q.11) What type of clothing should I carry when travelling to Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Since Rio de Janeiro is warm and humid all round the year, tourists should carry casual, cotton clothes. Shorts, T-Shirts, Sports shirts, Jeans are a common attire to wear in Brazil. Also, throw in a sweater or jacket during winters or if you are travelling to the resort town of Petropolis.
Q.12) What is the Time Zone of Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Standards Time Zone of Rio de Janeiro is UTC/GMT -3 hours. In summer, it observes daylight saving time of +1 hour.
Q.13) What is the Brazilian Currency called?
Ans: Brazilian currency is called ‘Real’ and pronounced as “hay-al”. Since dollar is not accepted in Brazil, you’ll need to convert your home currency to Real at any of the money exchange counters (banks, airport exchange kiosks, exchange shops or exchange houses). Do not exchange money on the street!
Q.14) How much tipping is expected in Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Unless the 10% additional charge is not included in the bill, tipping is expected from customers in restaurants. Give extra money if the service was friendly. Round up to the nearest denomination for taxi drivers while bell boys and chamber maids expect at least R$1.
Q.15) What is a ‘flavela’?
Ans: A flavela is a term assigned to a slum neighborhood in Brazil. The modern favelas were formed when rural people moved to the cities but found no place to stay, ending up in a flavela. Today, the flavelas are ruled by the drug lords with illegal activities and crime rates absorbing the scene.
Q.16) What are the neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: Rio de Janeiro is divided into the historic downtown Centro, tourism based Zona Sul (South Zone), residential Zona Norte (North Zone), Barra da Tijuca, one of the richest places in Brazil and Zona Oeste (West Zone).
Q.17) How do I make a call to Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: To make a call to Rio de Janeiro, you need to exit your country with 00, and then enter the country code of Brazil i.e. 55 followed by the state number 21 and then the specific number.
Q.18) What are the major holidays in Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: The major holidays in Rio de Janeiro are New Year’s Eve, Carnival, Good Friday, Easter, Tiradentes, Labor Day, Corpus Christi, and Independence Day, Holy Mary’s Day, All Soul’s Day, Proclamation of the Republic Day and Christmas.
Q.19) What is the electric current voltage in Rio de Janeiro?
Ans: The electric voltage is 127 V in Rio de Janeiro, though some hotels may provide for 220 V. It is different from U.S. or some of the other European countries, so bring an adapter.
Q.20) How is the drug scene in Rio de Janeiro like?
Ans: The drugs poverty crime scene in Rio de Janeiro is dangerous, so avoid getting into a hassle with robberies and assaults as the muggers may be drugged. Since there is a huge level of illegal drug trafficking, keep bay from strangers, beggars and people selling on the streets. You possibly don’t want to get involved or attacked for no rhyme or reason.