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Popular Destinations near Rio de Janeiro
Favourite Cities and Hotels in Brazil

Sultry, seductive Rio de Janeiro sways to the rhythm of samba and pulsates with a wanton multiethnic vibe. The city provides untold opportunity for delicious excess, from the sexy shores of Ipanema to a feral nightlife, flamboyant festivals and a candid, open culture.

At 12 million people strong, Rio is a formidable enterprise. With the meridian of luxury and extravagance on the doorstep of shameful slums and poverty, the city is a study in division. The contrast is germane to the geography as well. Urban sprawl sits between vast forests and the lush mountains of Pão de Açúcar and Corcovado, with miles of Guanabara Bay and Atlantic Ocean coastline as a spectacular border.

A New Wonder of the World, Christ the Redeemer looms over Rio de Janeiro with compassion and grace. On the summit of Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park, the concrete and soapstone sculpture is the icon of Brazil.

The South Zone of Rio, home to some of the wealthier neighbourhoods in the city, contains some of the best urban beachfront in the world. On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Ipanema and Copacabana are the famous names that resonate, although Botafogo on the Guanabara Bay side is singularly beautiful.

Downtown Rio is the financial and historic heart of the city. With a surfeit of Belle époque and colonial-era architecture, the area is a step back in time. Principal attractions include the excellent National Museum of Fine Arts, National Historical Museum of Brazil and pre-eminent city park in South America, the Passeio Público. The central district also boasts a slew of impressive cathedrals in this bastion of Roman Catholicism, from the Baroque Candelária Church to the Old Colonial Cathedral and inimitable Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, whose conical shape colors the cityscape.

A cable car to the peak of Sugar Loaf, or Pão de Açúcar, may not be for the faint of heart but if you can stomach the elevation, the ride is well worth it. Superb views of Ipanema and Rio abound, as well as occasions to explore the mountain, courtesy a network of trails.

Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with Carnaval, the foremost event in the world to mark the advent of Lent. Held in February, four days prior to Ash Wednesday, the phantasmagorical parade draws millions. Not for the bashful, the theatrical revelry of Carnaval is overtly profane.

Futebol is the famous national passion of Brazil. The sport is no less popular in Rio, where five clubs compete for city affections. Flamenga however, is head and shoulders above the rest, with over 40 million fans worldwide and capacity home crowds of 95,000 at Estádio do Maracanã.

Festas Juninas is a superb event held throughout the month of June that celebrates Brazil's rich folkloric heritage.

Other than Carnaval, December 31 is Rio's time to party. The city's beaches explode with brilliant fireworks displays, as millions usher in the New Year.

Rio de Janeiro is a tropical city, with temperatures that seldom dip below 20°C and hover just above 30°C. The shoreline areas receive cool breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, while inland, urban congestion can bring hot and sticky temperatures that soar above 35°C. To illustrate how even Rio weather is year round, the “cold” month of August has on average, minimum and maximum temperatures of 17°C and 23°C respectively.

Rio de Janeiro Hotels

Rio de Janeiro hotels

Remarkable Rio

Rio de Janeiro is a lot like a glazed cherry. No, not that it’s small and red and sitting on top of something far more alluring, but because it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny appeal and forget there’s also delicious fruit underneath. ... Read more »

The throbbing samba atmosphere and festivals are merely the tip of the iceberg, and for the tourist who ventures a little deeper, Rio de Janeiro reveals itself to be a thriving historical and cultural centre.

Flying into Rio de Janeiro, you see a city growing organically from the ground. From the beach bums of Barra da Tijuca and Leblon to the precarious cable cars travelling down Sugarloaf Mountain and the Victorian mansions of Santa Theresa nearly engulfed by the rainforest, the interaction between man and nature is enchanting.

Upon landing, the heat will hit you – urging you to move just to stir up a breeze. The diverse range of people who call Rio de Janeiro home really define the city, from the rich swanning in the Avenida Atlantica to the suburban Favelas swarming up the hillsides – it is a blend that, while not particularly fair, gives Rio de Janeiro its flavour.

Rio de Janeiro’s Top 10

10. Santa Teresa Travel back to the 19th Century with this neighbourhood’s mansions, cafes and cobblestone streets.

5. Ipanema Beach The higher-end beach, leading to leafy streets lined with expensive boutiques and lively bars. Just try not to spend the whole time wandering around humming The Girl from Ipanema.

9. Lapa This former red-light district is now home to Rio’s samba scene.

4. Botanical Gardens With over 7000 rare species of plants and 140 varieties of birds, this is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.

8. Hippie Fair Craft Markets in Ipanema Although largely aimed at tourists, it’s good for rare finds.

3. Sambodromo Rio De Janeiro With permanent stadiums, this street is always ready for Carnival.

7. Parque Nacional and Floresta da Tijuca With over 46 square miles of tropical rainforest, it’s the world’s largest urban reserve

2. Christ the Redeemer Statue One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this international icon, provides a messiah’s eye view of the entire city.

6. Maracana Stadium No trip to Rio is complete without seeing a game of football in this hallowed home of Ronaldo and Pele.

1. Copocabana Beach The most famous beach in the world, boasting impossibly beautiful – and several famous – people, endless activities and restaurant options.

Rio de Janeiro History

  • Forte de Copacabana –You can visit the old fort, which is maintained exactly as it was, or roam the grounds and enjoy the sunset.
  • Sao Bento Monastery – The monks still sing Gregorian chants in this historic monastery.
  • National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) – An impressive collection of books and archives.
  • Museu Internacional de Arte Naif – Both the historical colonial plantation building and the primitive art it contains are noteworthy.
  • Museo do Indio – A small museum, but excellently presented.

Rio de Janeiro Art & Culture

  • Cristo Redentor – The giant statue outside of Rio, which you have to see in person.
  • Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – Check out the theatre, look at art and always people watch.
  • Teatro Municipal – Beautiful theatre built in 1909.
  • Carmen Miranda Museum – For many people, she still is the embodied vision of Rio.
  • Museum of Modern Art – Home to more than 2,000 exhibits, including works by Picasso.

Rio de Janeiro Shopping

  • Hippie Fair Crafts Market – When you get your souvenirs here, you also get a memory of the wonderful time you had finding them.
  • Copacabana Fair – Shopping in the evening. If you are comfortable with haggling, you can get a good price.
  • Ipanema City Centre—All kinds of specialty shops in a picturesque and safe area.
  • Rio Sul Shopping Centre – Multiple floors means that there is a shop for almost every interest, even for the kids.
  • Praca Quinze – Where you go if you are an antiques hound.

Gay & Lesbian Rio de Janeiro

  • Galeria Café – Boutique and club together with a large local patronage.
  • Gay Baths – There are many in Ipanema and Copacabana, and most do not require a membership. Call ahead and you might find one that also offers massages.
  • Farme Gay Beach – A gay beach. Wear your Speedo and enjoy.
  • Farme – Almost every option on the street is a gay bar.
  • Banda de Ipanema – These three parades of drag queens are centered around Carnival.

Rio de Janeiro Outdoor

  • Ipanema Beach – The beaches of Ipanema are legendary for a reason.
  • Copacabana – Another area of beaches that offers visitors fun in the sun.
  • Tijuca National Park – Try taking a jeep tour to soak in the scenery.
  • Santa Teresa – A quiet little neighbourhood with lots to see and do.
  • Claudio Coutinho Trail – Enjoy an outstanding view when hiking and spot monkeys and tropical birds.

Rio de Janeiro Sport

  • FIFA World Cup – Preparations are in place to host the tournament in 2014.
  • Olympics – In 2016, Rio will host the Olympics.
  • Hang Gliding – A surprisingly popular sport in Rio with packages for the beginner to the expert.
  • Beach Football – Gather a crowd and have fun on the beach.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Take a class in the country where this martial art was born.

Rio de Janeiro Local

Centro

Built during the colonial era, this modern-day financial centre is, ironically, home to some of the most beautiful old churches in the city. Old religion blends with new in Centro, in a dichotomy almost as striking as the sprawling Favelas juxtaposed against the powerful Rio skyline.

Go to City Hall and sit in on a meeting of the City Council, or take a guided tour of the National Library (the eighth largest in the world). Step inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian – shaped like a volcano, inspiration is easy to find in its crystal-lit spires. The National Museum of Fine Arts is also worth a visit; its architecture is based on the Louvre and it regularly holds exhibits from the world’s most renowned art houses.

South Zone

The South Zone of the city is made up of a collection of idyllic beaches and their surrounding leafy suburbs. It is the most recognisable region of Rio de Janeiro worldwide, and is home to the most expensive real estate on the continent.

The land rises sharply upwards from the beach, with the highest hill in the city – Crow’s Nest Rock – reaching a height of 842 metres. The largest urban forest in the world, White Rock Forest, is located within this region, so if you’re in the mood for adventure, try hang gliding here. It’s only from the air that you can really appreciate the enormity of the rising escarpment that is Sugarloaf Mountain.

The North Zone

The North Zone is the first of Rio’s suburbs you’ll be privy to if you arrive by air. The International Airport is not that much to look at, unless you like airport bars and conveyor belts (hey, we’re not ones to judge), but beyond its confines you’ll find some worthy attractions.

Check out the State University of Rio De Janeiro, home to some of Brazil’s brightest minds, working towards a better and more sustainable future. The North Zone is also home to the famous Maracana Stadium, which is the main place of worship for Rio’s football-mad congregation. In 2014 the stadium will host the FIFA World Cup and in 2016 the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics, so be prepared for Rio de Janeiro to make an even bigger impact on the international scene!

The Western Zone

Experiencing a wave of new construction and development spurred on by the 2016 Olympics, the Western Zone is attracting the nouveau riche of Rio. Although the area is largely residential and industrial, the beaches of Barra de Tijuca are increasingly popular with locals wishing to evade tourists. So if you want a more authentic experience, it’s worth a look… Shhhhhh!

Rio de Janeiro Eat & Drink

The nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is unique, and the party mindset will infiltrate even the soberest of outlooks. The city is alive and pulsing with a unique energy spanning from the beaches to the mountainous surrounds – there is something for everyone as long as your objective is fun. The cuisine is a fusion of old Europe (chiefly Portuguese) with indigenous Latin American, produce is almost always locally sourced, with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and seafood.

Antiquarius Traditional Portuguese cuisine at its height, Bacalhau a Lagareiro – a local codfish recipe – is so popular it’s worth ordering ahead for.

Academia de Cachaca With over 500 kinds of booze, this bar encapsulates the Carnival spirit. Plus, its bar menu would make other restaurants blush.

Aprazivel Casual, down-home vibe and local Brazilian fare are a winning combination.

Rio Scenarium Set over three floors of an abandoned warehouse and stocked with kitsch and movie props, the bar attracts a wide cross-section of Rio society.

Roberta Sudbrack If you’re after a quick bite, avoid. Degustation is the name of the game, and has been voted Best Contemporary Cuisine for three years running. The menu changes daily, depending on the availability of local produce and is inspired by simplicity and respect for the flavours.

Garota de Ipanema Brazil’s most famous song was not named for this bar, but was written within its walls. By far the best place in the city to enjoy a chilled bear and an ocean breeze.

Café Lamas Although simple in design and décor, this restaurant is a favourite with the cream of Brazilian society – actors, poets, and presidents.

The Week Rio’s largest nightclub is housed within an old palace. Some of the world’s biggest electronic acts play for the acclaim of this two-level dance floor. The on-site garden and pool provide a refreshing change of pace for those danced off their feet.

Rio De Janeiro Events

New Year’s Eve sees over two and a half million partiers flock to Copacabana Beach to celebrate with some of the world’s most famous music acts.

Carnival is an annual letting down of the hair before the strictness of the Catholic festival of Lent. See the bright lights and extravagant costumes, hear the pulsing African drums, feel the best Rio has to offer…

The Rio Circuit is Brazil’s largest cycling race. The circuit runs through every part of the city – along the coast, up the mountains and through the city. It attracts a mix of local and international cycling enthusiasts.

For those who had a particular fondness for miniature soldiers growing up, Rio hosts the World Military Games between 16-24 July each year. The festival is not a celebration of war but rather the armed forces. The Games are known for incredible sporting events as national pride is firmly in place.

Each August, Folklore Day sees the celebration of indigenous Brazilian culture and early colonial myths. The stories centre around certain areas and buildings.

On 9 September, Brazil celebrates its independence from Portugal, but not in traditional Rio fashion. Although a public holiday sees the streets fill and parties ensue, it’s usually a more reflective day to take stock of the nation’s history.

Christmas in Rio – While maintaining the true Christian message, the traditional decorations seem just a little kookier in the tropical climate. Palm trees with tinsel and Santa Claus in shorts are just two examples.

When To Go

From Christmas to the end of February is summer holidays, meaning a lot of businesses are closed. Then again, the slower pace means less rush to get around to see everything.

To witness Carnival in all its glory, you need to be in Rio towards the end of February. It’s one of the most electrifying celebrations anywhere on Earth.

Winter hits in the middle of the year, but doesn’t hold the same meaning as elsewhere. Occasional wet or cold days aren’t all that bad, and only extreme weather will impact your trips to the beach.

What To Avoid

Airport taxi services. Housed in tiny kiosks, they are notoriously expensive. Your best course of action is learning the address of your hotel in Portuguese and catching a regular yellow cab.

On the beach, prioritise comfort over fitting in. If you’re used to wearing board shorts, keep wearing them – your awkwardness in Speedos will make the trips embarrassing for you and your fellow travellers.

The outskirts of Rio are notoriously poverty-stricken. Although it might seem tempting to travel to these favelas (slums) to experience the ‘real’ Rio, be aware that the areas are run by crime and drug lords and are highly dangerous. Kidnappings and muggings are rife.

Getting Around

Walking – the best way to experience the streets of Rio. Pack a solid pair of shoes, an inquisitive nature and an acceptance that you will get sweaty and the city will unfold in front of you.

Yellow taxis – the cheapest and most readily available transport options. The ‘yellow buzzards’ are everywhere. Don’t tip too much as the drivers get quite a large cut of your fare.

Subways –relatively new and small, safe and reliable, it’s the most comfortable way to travel around.

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Windsor Plaza

3 Stars
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Windsor Plaza
Reviewer score
5.0
out of 51 Reviews
Avenida Princesa Isabel, 263 - Copacabana, Rio De Janeiro, RJ 22011-010

The Windsor Plaza Hotel is also incorporated to the beautiful landscape of the southern area of Rio de Janeiro. Locate... More hotel details

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Mar Palace Copacabana Hotel Rio de Janeiro
Reviewer score
4.3
out of 52 Reviews
552 Avenue Nossa Senhora De Copacabana Rio De Janeiro 22020-000

Offering comfortable accommodation and quality services, this property is the perfect base for you to reside whether y... More hotel details

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Savoy Othon Hotel Rio De Janeiro
Reviewer score
3.8
out of 52 Reviews
995 Avenue Nossa Senhora De Copacabana Copacabana Rio De Janeiro 22060-000

Whether you choose to spend your day exploring Corcovado, or relaxing at nearby Ipanema Beach, you will be centrally l... More hotel details

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Copa Sul Hotel Rio De Janeiro
Reviewer score
3.8
out of 51 Reviews
Avenue Nossa Senhora De Copacabana Rio de Janeiro 1284

Offering cosy accommodations and warm hospitality, Copa Sul Hotel Rio De Janeiro makes for a modern paradise in a tran... More hotel details

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Rio's Nice Hotel Rio De Janeiro
Reviewer score
0
out of 50 Reviews
Rua Do Riachuelo 201 Centro Rio De Janeiro 20230-011

Rio's Nice Hotel Rio De Janeiro is a suitable base for holidaymakers looking for comfy yet affordable rooms close to t... More hotel details

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Windsor Asturias
Reviewer score
0
out of 50 Reviews
Avenida Senador Dantas, 14 - Centro, Rio De Janeiro, RJ 20031 - 202

Windsor Asturias welcomes business and leisure travellers to cosy and inviting accommodations while in the vibrant cit... More hotel details

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Golden Tulip Ipanema Plaza
Reviewer score
4.2
out of 51 Reviews
34 Rua Farme De Amoedo Rio De Janeiro 22420-020

The top floor of the four star Golden Tulip Ipanema Plaza offers all of its guests an unparalleled view of the best of... More hotel details

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Windsor Guanabara
Reviewer score
0
out of 50 Reviews
Avenue Presidente Vargas 392 Rio De Janiero 20071-000

Windsor Guanabara offers comfortably furnished accommodations situated in a downtown location, suitable for corporate ... More hotel details

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Bandeirantes Hotel Rio De Janeiro
Reviewer score
3.8
out of 51 Reviews
548 Rua Barata Ribeiro Copacabana Rio De Janeiro 22040-002

Visitors looking to explore the vibrant Rio De Janeiro find ideal base at the cosy and modern accommodations at Bandei... More hotel details

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Golden Tulip Regente Rio De Janiero
Reviewer score
2.4
out of 52 Reviews
3716 Avenue Atlantica Copacabana Rio De Janeiro 22070-001

Offering the finest accommodations and convenient facilities, the Golden Tulip Regente Rio De Janiero is an ideal plac... More hotel details

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