Rio de Janeiro (sometimes simply referred to as Rio) attracts so many travellers every year that it is not only the most visited city in South America, but in the entire Southern Hemisphere. All of those visitors know one thing: Rio de Janeiro is one of the World’s Coolest Cities. From its gorgeous natural beaches and lively carnival celebrations, to its massive football stadium, Rio is a city full of vibrant life and endless sunshine. If you are looking for a party that never stops, you will have the time of your life in Rio.
Carnival, Beach Babes, Cable Cars and Jesus Christ
Along with ranking amongst our World’s Coolest Cities, in 2009 Rio de Janeiro ranked top of Forbes’ list of the Happiest Cities in the World. It’s hard not to be happy when you live in such a beautiful part of the world, and the locals here are notably friendly and possess an enthusiastic passion for life. We all know happiness is contagious, and a trip to Rio pretty much guarantees that you will bring this infectious joy home with you.
Climate: Subtropical (hot year round with a rainy season and a dry season)
Population: 6, 100, 000
Currency: Brazilian Real
Language: Portuguese (different than the Portuguese spoken in Portugal)
The World’s Biggest Party: Rio de Janeiro Carnival
Every year in March, Rio is host to a huge four day celebration of outrageous costumes, vibrant live music, and incredible spectacle. This is one of the most amazing times to visit Rio, as you will be swept up into a frenzy of colour and sound that overcomes the senses and enlivens the soul.
Rio Carnival’s origins date back the 1600s, beginning as imitations of European bourgeois balls and masquerades. It also has roots in the religious tradition of indulging in excess of the “Pleasures of the Flesh” directly before the self-denial of Lent. Over the centuries the ornate, costumed affair has picked up elements from Native American and African cultures, making it a fascinating blend of celebration traditions from around the world. Carnivals are celebrated all over Brazil, but the one in Rio is the biggest and the most famous. The Carnival begins with the crowning of the “Fat King” or King Momo, who received the key to the city from the Mayor. The city then works itself up into an absolute euphoria with singing, dancing, many parades and live samba performances.
Carnival time is the most expensive time to visit Rio, and you will find that the hotels tend to triple or even quadruple their rates. If you can’t make it to Carnival, don’t worry: Rio de Janeiro is a fun-loving city that is a super place to party all throughout the year, not just during these four days. However, if you dream of experiencing the true spirit of Carnival, seeing this overwhelming city-wide celebration of life is a travel memory that you will treasure.
Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Brazilian Bikinis
Rio de Janeiro boasts one of the most famous beaches in the world, the Copacabana, as well as many other gorgeous places to enjoy the sun and sand. The Copacabana is located in the Zona Sul or South Zone of Rio, and it is absolutely teeming with people making their way to and from the warm ocean water and golden sand. As you walk through the lively atmosphere here, you will see all sorts of people, including groups of young men performing the Brazilian dance/martial art of Capoeira, buff bodybuilders doing chin ups on the training equipment, gorgeous Brazilian girls in tiny swimwear, talented sand sculptors and more! The salty ocean breeze, the sizzling, mouth-watering scents coming from the food stalls, and the cold refreshment of an icy beer sipped under a beach umbrella, make for the ultimate Copacabana beach experience.
If you want to try something a little different than Copacabana as well, you can visit the Buzios Peninsula on the north coast for a more rustic experience. This area is only about 105 miles from the city, and offers over 24 tranquil and picturesque beaches amongst several historic fishing villages. A favourite holiday location of Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, the quiet, authentic atmosphere of Buzios is a nice contrast to the busy party zone of the Copacabana.
Enjoy the View: Sugar Loaf Mountain
Rising 396 metres above the harbour in the traditional shape of a loaf of concentrated refined sugar, is one of the most well-known natural landmarks of Rio de Janeiro. Sugar Loaf Mountain was once an important settlement for the first Portuguese arrivals to Rio, because it offered them a view out to the sea and mountains to spot attackers. Today tourists enjoy the same impressive view after riding up to the top in comfort thanks to the cable car system installed in 1912.
The ride up to the top of the mountain takes two different cable cars, and will lift you above Urca Hill where you can enjoy magnificent views of Corcovado Mountain, Guanabara Bay and Copacabana beach. The bubble shaped Italian-designed cable cars are mostly glass, so you can witness the spectacular views all around you.
Christ the Redeemer
One of the most iconic symbols of Rio de Janeiro, the Christ the Redeemer sculpture stands over 100 feet tall atop Corcovado Mountain and watches over the city with outstretched hands, embracing and protecting its people.
This massive sculpture took 5 years to construct, and was finally finished in 1931. You can visit the top of it by taking an electrified train through the largest urban forest in the world. Don’t forget to visit the chapel built into the base of the sculpture.
Once you arrive at the base, you might be thankful for the escalators that give you the option to avoid the 220 step climb to the viewing area. Even if you do brave the climb yourself, the view is absolutely worth the effort. When the weather is clear, you can see an astonishing panoramic scene that includes the beaches, city, mountains, Botanic Gardens, and much more. If you time your visit well, you will be rewarded by a sky painted with a palette of rich colours as you watch the sun set.
Rio de Janeiro for Sports Fans
Rio de Janeiro is poised to become an athletic hotspot in the next 5 years, as it will be playing host to the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. These very important worldwide sporting events will be held at the impressive Estadio do Maracana or Maracana Stadium. This gigantic venue is built to hold approximately 100,000 fans that create the loud and intense Brazilian experience by cheering their teams on with drums, flares and chants. The stadium is currently under renovations to prepare it for accommodating the World Cup and the Olympics. It is scheduled to reopen in 2012.
Check out Rio de Janeiro for Yourself
Rio de Janeiro is an exciting, vibrant South American city where you can live the party lifestyle, relax on the beach, and enjoy the culture. There is no doubt that it is one of the World’s Coolest Cities, but why not discover it yourself and find out more?