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Rio De Janeiro - The Marvelous City

Known world-over simply as Rio, this is the largest metropolitan area in South America it's number one tourist destination.

Rio de Janeiro has been the capital city of Brazil for two centuries and locally named Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City). Brasilia became the officail capital of Brazil in 1960.

Situated on the natural inlet, Guanabara Bay, the geography of the area makes it a stunning tropical location with long sandy beaches and sheer vertical mountains cocooning the largely south facing city.

The city is largely known for it's lively carnivals and large iconic Christ the Redeemer, statue that overlooks the bay; now considered to be one of the seven wonders of the new world.

The Portuguese settled here after discovering the large natural bay on January 1st 1502, hence the name "Rio de Janeiro, "January River").

The beach's natural beauty, combined with the fame of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the luxury hotel of the Americas in the 1930s, helped Rio to gain the reputation it still holds today as a beach party town.

It was announced on October 2, 2009 that Rio would host the 2016 Olympic Games. Brazil is already hosting the 2014 World Cup with the final likely to be held in the Maracana Stadium.

Top 10 things to do in Rio De Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer

Considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world, this 39.6m high statue of Jesus Christ is located at the peak of Corcovado mountain, overlooking the bay and city down below.

Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931 and cost around £25,000. The monument was officially opened on October 12, 1931.

The statue has been struck by lightning several times, including during a violent electrical storm in 2008 that wrecked havoc in the city. The statue survived unscathed, largely due to the use of soapstone, the material forming the outer layers of the statue, which is a good insulator.

There is a small chapel built at the foot of the statue able to accomodate around 150 visitors.

The Christ the Redeemer statue can be accessed by the Corcovado Rack railway. The trip by rail is approximately 20 minutes and leaves the base of the statue every 30 minutes.

Once at the mountain either by road or the train terminal, to reach the base you can choose to walk up the 222 steps if you're moderately fit, or opt to take a combination of escalators and elevators.

Visit the statue in late afternoon or early evening when you can enjoy the splendour of the setting sun while taking in one of the most important landmarks in the world.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain (known locally as Pao de Acucar) is a large 396m height granite cone-shaped peak that sits in the entrance of Guanabara Bay.

Its peculiar name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar.

However it looks, It really is an itinerary must for any visitor to Rio.

You get to the top in stages. Two cable cars ascend first to Morro da Urca at 220m where there is a restaurant and a children's play area. The second cable car then climbs to the top of Pao de Acucarãçú with spectacular views on a clear day of Corcovado Mountain and Copacabana Beach.

The whole trip only takes around 3 minutes from ground to peak with cars running around every 30 minutes between 8am and 10pm.


Officially a borough of the city, this area is known for its 4km long curved white sandy beach - one of the most famous in the world.

Copacabana beach stretches from Posto Dois (lifeguard watchtower Two) to Posto Seis (lifeguard watchtower Six) with historic forts at either end. Fort Copacabana, built in 1914, is at the south end by Posto Seis and Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, at the north end.

Being renowned for it's very lively nightlife, hotels, restaurants, bars, night clubs are dotted all along the beachfront.

Activities on Copacabana beach include volleyball, water sports and all night samba parties.

If you're looking for a quiet relaxing stroll along a beach, this is not the beach for you, especially at New Year when several million visitors party away the remaining hours of December.

Botanical Gardens

Founded in 1808 by John VI of Portugal, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens or to give it it's proper name, Jardim Botânico, is located in south zone of the city.

Originally intended for the acclimatization of spices like nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon imported from the West Indies, the Garden was opened to the public in 1822, and is now open during daylight hours every day except Christmas and New Years day,

The 140-hectare park lies at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain and contains more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants and trees, including 900 varieties of palm trees. A 750m line of 134 palms forms the Avenue of Royal Palms leads from the entrance into the gardens.

The gardens house collections that include bromeliads, orchids, carnivorous plants, and cacti. These include Brazil’s largest botanical library and collections of dried fruits, rare Brazilian plants, and many photographs.

As well as the many sculptures and fountains within the gardens other attractions also include an old gunpowder factory, the Victoria Lilies in the Lago Frei Leandro pond and the Japanese Garden.

National Historical Museum

The museum lies in the Quinta da Boa Vista park area of Rio.

Established in 1818, the museum was started as an initiative to stimulate scientific research in Brazil, which until then was an immense and wild colony, practically unexplored by science.

With quite a varied set of collections, the Museum shelters one of the largest exhibits of the Americas, consisting of animals, insects, minerals, aboriginal collections of utensils, Egyptian mummies and South American archaeological artifacts, meteorites, fossils and many other findings.

The museum is open Tues through Fri, from 10am to 5:30pm.

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Ipanema is a neighbourhood located on the southern region of Rio de Janeiro, between Leblon and Arpoador and adjacent to Copacabana beach.

The area is one of the most expensive to live in Rio and is very distinct from it's Copacabana neighbour with it's easy to navigate grid-style streets lined with world-class restaurants, shops, and cafes.

Ipanema holds its own street parade during Carnival festivities, separate from Rio de Janeiro's, attracting up to 15,000 people to the streets.

The surrounds are gorgeous with two mountains called the "Dois Irmãos" (Two Brothers) rising at the western end of the beach.

The beach here is is known for it's elegance and social qualities and is the place to be seen sun worshipping if you are a person of importance (or merely think you are).

Beer is sold everywhere on the beach along with the traditional cachaça, the most popular liquor in Brazil made from fermented sugarcane.

Ipanema is a very friendly and lively beach. Everywhere you go there are always circles of people playing football, volleyball, and footvolley, a combination sport of volleyball and football originated in Brazil.

If you like long beach walks then one thing to bear in mind about Ipanema's beach is that there is an area called "the gay beach," situated near Rua Farme de Amoedo; which is well-known for being a gay-friendly area, with the rainbow flag flying in the air.

Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace or Paço Imperial, was built in the 18th century to serve as residence for the governors of colonial Brazil and was later used by King John VI of Portugal and the rulers of the Empire of Brazil, Pedro I and Pedro II. It was one of the main political centres of Brazil for nearly 150 years, from 1743 to 1889.

It is located in the Praça XV area in central Rio.

Today Paço Imperial is a cultural centre with a busy agenda of temporary exhibitions, videos and other activities, plus a cafe on the inside patio.

The main attraction is the building itself, full of historical charm and interesting architectural details that were carefully restored.

It also hosts the Paulo Santos Library, specialising in art, architecture and engineering, containing several rare books from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

Carioca Aqueduct

The aqueduct was built in the middle of the 18th century to bring fresh water from the Carioca river to the population of the city and stands as a architectural statement from the colonial days.

It can be found in the centre of the city, in the Lapa neighbourhood, although it's unlikely you'll miss this two story 270m long structure with 42 monumental arches unless you've had one two many cachaças.

If you are asking for directions or locating it in a guide book, it's commonly known as Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches).

The aqueduct was deactivated at the end of the 19th century, as new alternatives to supply water to Rio were developed.

The arches were adapted in 1896 to serve as a bridge for a tram - the Bondinho de Santa Teresa (The Santa Teresa Historic Tramway)- that transports passengers between the centre of Rio and the hilly Santa Teresa neighbourhood.

The picturesque ride is popular among locals and tourists alike and is the only tram still in use in Rio de Janeiro.

Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon

The local name for Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is Lagoa and is located in the district of the same name in the South Zone.

There is a 7.5km pathway all the way round the lagoon which is popular with joggers and cyclists.

Around Lagoa you can rent cycles, swan-shaped pedalos and, on the western side near where the helicopters take off, electric cars for the kids.

Due to the high pollution levels of the lagoon (don't ask what goes in there), it's not recommended for swimming.

Shooting off from the lagoon, you'll find many a side street loaded with bars, clubs and restaurants which really come alive in the evenings. They cater for all tastes of music and beer so you won't struggle to find somewhere to call the local for the night.

The lagoon attracts quite a number of visitors during the Christmas holidays due to its famous and gigantic Christmas Tree, which is built over a floating platform that moves around the lagoon.

Maracana Stadium

Built in 1950 for the World Cup, the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho or simply Maracanã Stadium, is the largest open-air stadium in the world, accommodating 170,000 spectators.

It took 17 years after construction began to fully complete the stadium in 1965.

On July 19, 1992, an upper stand in the stadium collapsed, leading to the death of three supporters and 50 more being injured. Following the disaster, the stadium's capacity was greatly reduced as it was converted to an all-seater stadium in the late 1990s. Despite this, the ground was classified as national landmark in 1998, meaning that it could not be demolished.

It now has an all-seated capacity of 88,992.

As well as national football matches, the stadium has been used for concerts from famous artists such as Frank Sinatra to Tina Turner. The late Pope John Paul II also used the stadium to celebrate mass.

The stadium is south of the Quinta da Boa Vista and can be reached by way of Avenida Maracanã or Avenida Presidente Castelo Branco.

The stadium will also be the centrepiece of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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