Five places in Rio you should know about
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is one of the most exotic places on the planet known for its high-energy Carnival and hosting the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, bringing together some of the biggest sports names in the world. This article will cover the top five places in Rio that you should know about by giving insight on what this iconic city has to offer.
- Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon Beaches
Rio has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world attracting people from thousands of miles who want to catch a breeze while getting a Brazilian sun tan. Popular “thong” garments originated as a swimsuit style on the beaches of Rio, which totally transformed the general body image of the city.
Copacabana is the main party beach that faces Guanabara Bay with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. This beach attracts locals and tourists alike to its volleyball games, competitive beach soccer games, and vendors selling everything under the sun that you can think of. The Copacabana neighborhood has upscale hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and nightclubs that attract thousands of people who want to know what Brazil is really about.
Ipanema Beach is on the southwest side of Copacabana separated by Garota de Ipanema Park. This park has playgrounds, a skate park, and a walking trail into the fantastic views of Ipanema. This is where the wealthy come out to play. The beach became famous by a song called “Girl from Ipanema,” written on the beach by Carlos Jobim. The nearby hotels and apartments are world-class, high-end, and totally elegant, attracting those in the upper echelon of society. Beach vendors are selling everything imaginable from caipirinhas, cachacas drinks to souvenirs. Regular beach goers have revolutionised the concept of going to the beach by wearing revealing clothes and even going topless in the 1980s which started a trend in Brazil. There are four sections of the beach that you need to know about based on the position of lifeguard towers. They are Posto 7 for surfers, Posto 8 for LGBT, Posto 9 for young hipster students, and Posto 10 for the wealthy.
Leblon beach is the smallest of the three separated by Jardim de Ala Canal. This beach is a mixture of wealthy people and young hipster students who consist of mainly Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives). In the distance are two large hills known as Morro “Dois Irmãos” (“Two Brothers”) on the west side of the beach and next to them is the Ipanema neighborhood known for its random street parties.
- Maracana Stadium
The Maracana stadium is the largest in South America. If big-time soccer games need a hosting place, this stadium is the obvious choice. It has hosted the 1950 and 2014 World Cups finals, 2007 Pan American Games and 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, bringing together world-famous, talented soccer players for a series of battles to determine which teams is the best. Since soccer is highly valued in Brazil, this stadium is like a sanctuary for those who participate in the sport. Soccer, which is ‘futebol’ in Brazilian Portuguese or ‘football’ in UK, is the most popular sport in the country. Maracana is a 80,000 seat stadium providing enough room for sports fans from all over the world to watch these games and enjoy them.
- Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is the ideal place for rock climbing as it hovers over the Guanabara Bay with spectacular views of the entire city. There is a cable car that takes you up to the highest summit of the mountain at 395 meters in the air. From here, you can see other important mountains such as Morro da Babilonia (Babylon Mountains) and Morro da Urca (Urca Mountains). This grand monolith has always seemed to make itself on the big screen of movies and TV shows.
The shantytowns of Brazil are known as “favelas.” Stepping foot in one of these extremely dangerous places is not recommended because drug barons control everything that goes on there. When the police decide to enter one or attempt to pacify a favela, violence normally erupts almost immediately. Though this may sound horrible, there is a spec of beauty that shines from the favelas. These areas have their own economy, and in some cases a sense of peace that blankets community because everyone are alike mentally. Since street justice prevails and the drug gangs control everything, everyone has mutual understandings and unity. This energy attracts people who want to visit the favelas, and surprisingly, there are tour companies that will safely take you through some of the most notorious ones. Movies such as the “City of God” (“Cidade de Deus” in Brazilian Portuguese), which depicts the criminal life of street kids in the favela, and the “Elite Squad” (“Tropa de Elite”), which depicts life for police officers attempting to patrol the favelas are the reasons these shantytowns are famous worldwide. The disparities between the rich and poor are obvious in Brazil, but, without the favelas, there would be no Rio!
- Christ The Redeemer
The infamous Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue stands at 30 meters tall from head to toe, and 8 meters from the pedestal to the ground. Situated on top of a 700-meters hill called Corcovado inside the 3972-acre Tijuca Forest National Park, this powerful statue overlooks the city with its arms extended outward. Since this represents a religious figure, some feel that this iconic, gigantic landmark cast a blanket of holiness and blessing to those living below. This is why you hear many Cariocas talk about religion. Walking up the mountain to this monument is a trek to look forward to, so be ready for a sweat. There are tour companies that will drive you to the end of the road closest to the statue. From there, you can continue your trip. This famous landmark is on greeting cards, books, television shows, movies, and anything else resembling Rio de Janeiro. Now it is one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World,” and Rio is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
There are many other interesting places in Rio that are worth visiting such as the Centro city center (CBD) where all the tall skyscrapers are, and the historic Lapa neighborhood which has a bohemian vibe with live nightclubs, samba schools randomly having street parties and concerts, and tramcars that travel up the historical parts of the neighborhood. Rio has much to offer that you have to come see it to believe it!
Derek is a Canadian travel blogger and loves marketing & advertising. Has travelled all around the world including Australia & New Zealand.