Rio de Janeiro Destination Guide
Rio de Janeiro Holidays
Literally translated as the river of January, a name that has stuck since the Portuguese first landed, Rio de Janeiro’s pristine beaches, vivacious festivals and world-famous sights make this beautiful city a Latin American nirvana. Practise your samba in Brazil’s electrifying second-largest city.
Rio is home to the world-famous Copacabana beach. The 4.5-kilometre stretch of golden sand is adorned with bikini-clad women, beach soccer games and sun-kissed vacationers enjoying tropical cocktails at one of many beachside bars. This buzzing place is ideal for soaking up the sun and Rio’s opulent beach atmosphere.
Beach aside, a visit to the city would not be complete without visiting the symbol of Rio, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). The magnificent, 38-metre-tall statue of Jesus Christ is the city’s icon, perched atop the 719-metre-high Corcovado Mountain, a tourist attraction in itself. Overlooking the entire city with its arms widespread, the impressive monument is a symbol of faith and happiness.
If you visit Rio in late summer, you’ll be there for the city’s Carnival season. The extravagant festivities are held over four days and are bursting with vibrant samba street parades, costume balls and dance parties, ending with the flamboyant Mardi Gras parade. To see Rio in all its glory, Carnival is a must-see!
Rice and beans are the staples of Brazilian cuisine and traditional dishes in Rio, originating from a combination of African, Portuguese and native Indian influences. The national dish is feijoada, a bean and meat stew served with rice and greens, while Rio’s best-known beverage is the caipirinha, a fresh, alcoholic drink made with cachaca (cane liquor), sugar, ice and lime.
For the best caipirinha in Rio, locals recommend going to the Academia de Cachaca to try from hundreds of varieties of cachaca and cocktails. For a virgin option, coconut water is a local favourite, while coconut is also a common ingredient in desserts such as the traditional cake quindim.
Where to Stay
One of the most exclusive neighbourhoods to rest your head is the Ipanema area. It is smaller than thriving Copacabana but just as vivacious, with country clubs, a sophisticated shopping strip and some of Rio’s best hotels, including the oceanfront Sol Ipanema, as well as Caesar Park Ipanema. The main street to explore in the area is the Rua Visconde De Piraja.
If you want to explore beyond Ipanema’s elegant retail options, you will be spoilt for choice with several shopping complexes in Rio. Before heading to Copacabana Beach, engage in some retail therapy at the nearby Siqueira Campos shopping centre where you will find a treasure trove of souvenirs from bespoke and delicate arts and handicrafts to jewellery and antiques.
For something more commercial, visit the enormous Barra shopping centre or the Botafogo Praia store. Here you can find designer clothing as well as cinemas, cafes and restaurants.
Rio de Janeiro like a Local
To feel like a local, dress like a local. Buy a pair of Havaiana thongs and you’ll fit in instantly. Locals usually own multiple pairs and seem to live in them. Local women also wear a beach wrap called a canga. They come in innumerable designs and colours, so invest in one… or six!