As the host country of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, all eyes are on Brazil, but Rio de Janeiro deserves extra credit. It was selected to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and is the kind of city that once you have experienced it, you can never forget it.
Rio is dazzling, fascinating, vibrant, and sensual, and simply put, you just have to see it for yourself.
When to Go?
If you would like to join the party of all parties, Rio Carnival gets underway each year in February. It is larger than life and this five day celebration can teach you a lot about Brazilian culture and samba. The summer months leading up to Carnival are buzzing with anticipation but if you prefer to skip the festivities and high prices, keep the following advice in mind: “Spring brings flowers and autumn brings peace and quiet. It is all a matter of preference.”
Rio de Janeiro International Airport / Galeão (GIG) handles international flights to Rio and is about 20 kilometres from the city centre. Be sure to sort out any visa matters beforehand. Upon arrival there are four bus lines (lines 2018, 2101, 2145, and 2918) which you can use to access the city, or you can take a taxi – they are plentiful and best of all, affordable.
Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) is the main hub for domestic flights and is only 2 kilometres from downtown.
If you came to Rio to stretch out on the beach, you will be spoiled for choice. The Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are world-famous but if you want to leave the crowds behind, make your way to the tiny Joatinga beach.
The Sugarloaf Cable Car will bring you to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and present Rio de Janeiro in all its glory. The view is breath-taking and sunrises and sunsets from this vantage point see the city bathed in golden light.
Christ the Redeemer towers over Rio as is perhaps the best known of all the city’s landmarks. At 38 metres tall, it sits on top of the 710-metre Corcovado Mountain and can be reached by taking the Corcovado Railway through the Tijuca Forest.
An effort of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, Selarón’s Staircase is a piece of art. The colourful set of 250 steps are painted and tiled in eye-catchingly attractive motifs and bring an additional pop of colour to an already vibrant city.
Eat and Drink
Don’t leave Rio de Janeiro without sampling Brazilian street food – the more, the better! Vendors can be found all over the city whipping up heavenly smoothies, sweet and savoury tapioca crêpes, bolinhos de bacalhau (deep-fried cod and potato balls), and pastel, another deep-fried delight traditionally filled with ground beef or cheese.
Part restaurant, part club, and located in what looks like an antiques warehouse, Rio Scenarium is a massive space for culture, live music, and Brazilian cuisine. An evening spent here with friends will be an unforgettable night in Rio.
Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha, is made from cachaça rum, sugar, and lime juice, and the best ones can be found at Academia da Cachaça, found in Leblon and Barra. They are known for new twists on the classic caipirinha, and Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, is on the menu every day.
Casa Cool Beans really is cool, and lucky for you, it has two locations in Rio de Janeiro. The first is the original Casa Cool Beans Bed and Breakfast in Santa Teresa. It’s artistic, colourful, and with just 10 rooms, a quiet place to relax in Rio.
Casa Cool Beans Flats, on the other hand, are located in Ipanema just off the white sand beach and in the middle of Rio’s world-class restaurant scene and vibrant nightlife.
O Veleiro Bed and Breakfast is small, just three rooms, but remember that good things come in small packages. Located in Botafogo, the lush gardens are home to parrots, monkeys, and turtles, and are also the source of the fresh fruit served at breakfast.
Spoil yourself at Mama Ruisa, for this boutique hotel is indeed a treat. The rooms are light, airy, and elegant with fantastic views over the Bay of Guanabara. Its location in Santa Teresa makes it a great base for exploring this breezy bohemian neighbourhood.
Here are additional options for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.