Rio De Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s largest and most exciting cities. A sensual and hedonistic place, Rio is an unmissable experience. An intensity and love for the wilder, uninhibited, and more carefree side of life characterises Rio de Janeiro. This can be quite overwhelming for the first-time traveller, or for those who have only just arrived in the country or the city. Most people, however, find Rio de Janeiro a seductive place to visit, and enjoy being swept up wholeheartedly in the Brazilian attitude and way of life.

Despite its widespread, riotous appeal, the city is not perfect. With more than its share of slums, street children and poverty, not to mention violence, Rio also has a reputation for street crime – in particular petty theft and mugging. This has put people off going to Rio de Janeiro and is understandably an intimidating and worrying side of the city, but, with a little social awareness and the sensible exercise of caution, Rio remains a fascinating, lively, and often friendly place to visit.


The main attraction of Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly the annual Carnaval. During Carnaval, the whole city is turned upside down in a riotous display of exhibitionism, eroticism and sheer extravagance. The Cariocas – as Rio’s inhabitants are called – prepare intensively for the Carnaval. The actual festival officially lasts for the five days before Lent, in sinful preparation for the religious abstinence of the holiday. In reality, the decadent celebrations of Carnaval begin long before this; with the full-blown, all-day and all-night, heady delirium the unrestrained and debauched Carnaval balls saved up for the week preceding Lent.

One of the most significant features of Carnaval is the competition between Rio’s Samba schools – the escolas de samba – that parade through the city’s ‘Sambódromo’ in front of thousands of revelling spectators. Details of how to get tickets for this can be found at the website run by Rio de Janeiro’s official Tourist Board.

Throughout the rest of the year, life in Rio de Janeiro revolves around the city’s many beaches. Most famous are the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, where hoards of Cariocas and visitors alike flock to revel in the Brazilian lifestyle. Here you will find locals playing volleyball (a national passion), socialising while having a drink at one of the beachside bars, or just relaxing. Surfing is also increasingly popular, with a number of surf schools offering lessons and board hire, though be warned that it can get very crowded in the water.

For those who prefer more cultural pursuits, Rio de Janeiro has a number of exciting museums. These include the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes in the Ilha de Paquetá area of the city, with its stunning display of fine art, and the Museu de Arte Moderna in the Botafogo area, which has an impressive array of modern art.

Rio de Janeiro’s most unusual cultural attractions are the traditional Macumba rites to be found being practiced at the crossroads of streets in the city, and at special gatherings. Macumba is an Afro-Brazilian cult, and its rituals include drumming, chanting, and devotees falling into a trancelike state – often involving dancing, and can be quite a spectacle, though you should be aware that photographing the ceremonies is considered deeply disrespectful.


Shopping in Rio de Janeiro can be quite an eclectic experience. The venues for spending your cash range from huge malls to busy and entertaining street or open-air markets. The malls are the best places go to for international, modern items, but the markets offer by far the best, and most quintessentially South American experience. Here you will find hoards of Cariocas browsing the stalls set up amidst the throng of bands, performers, and capoeira displays. A typical Rio atmosphere pervades the markets, and the bustle, noise, and smells not only contribute to the fun of the market place, but also are very tangible examples of the character and life of the city. Some of the best markets in Rio de Janeiro are the ‘hippie fair’, or Feira de Arte de Ipanema, in Ipanema; the Feira do Nordestino in São Cristóvão; and the Feira de Antiguidades in the Centro area of the city.

Nightlife and Eating Out

There is a dizzying array of places to eat in Rio de Janeiro, though it is well worth hunting out those places serving local food and sampling the traditional tastes of the city. The Centro area of the city is probably the best place to go for a good choice of eateries, and you can try out a variety of international and Brazilian foods here, as well as take the opportunity to visit one of the region’s magnificent old-fashioned coffee houses. Coffee, throughout Brazil and particularly in Rio, is a way of life. Café is traditionally served with breakfast, after a meal, and sipped black throughout the day espresso-style from one of the cities numerous cafezinho street-bars.

Evening entertainment, dining, and drinking are often combined in Rio de Janeiro; a city that sees very little need for boundaries between alcohol, food, and a riotous, sociable evening, often mixing them all together at one of the baixos found throughout Rio. These small areas, where bars, cafes and restaurants are all thrown together around outdoor tables, are where Cariocas go to converse, play music, and drink lethal amounts of cachaça – a Brazilian rum concocted from sugar cane, and the essential ingredient of the classic caipirinha cocktail. For an exhilarating night in the true spirit of the city, these are the places to go to enjoy the flow of conversation, alcohol, and music.

Be aware there is also a sleazier side to the nightlife of Rio de Janeiro, with plenty of strip clubs, topless bars, and clubs where anything seems to go. Some of these clubs are frequented by prostitutes, as are certain areas of the beach after dark.

Tourist Information

Rio de Janeiro’s main Tourist Board is Riotur, and is the city’s official guide for visitors.


Rio de Janeiro’s main airport is the Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, otherwise known as the Aeroporto Galeão. Almost all international flights into and out of Brazil land or depart here, and you can fly here easily from London.

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