The City of Rio de Janeiro (Portuguese) is famous around the world and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Blessed with natural beauty and long crowded beaches, its annual Carnaval invites people from all over the world to join the celebrations.
Almost anyone will recognize the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the breathtaking Cristo Redentor statue, and the famous stadium of Maracana. Unfortunately, the Port of Rio de Janeiro is also well-known for crime and the favelas of the ultra-poor. Yet Rio remains a favorite destination for world travelers.
Photo by Welch14
Most of the Port of Rio de Janeiro’s landmarks lie in the South Zone of the city, many of them within walking distance of each other. This area also contains most of the hotels and hostels. Cariocas, the name for the Port of Rio de Janeiro’s residents, are friendly and relaxed, and informal dress is appropriate everywhere except the business and religious communities.
The Port of Rio de Janeiro boasts a unique beach culture which can be easily misunderstood. There are no topless beaches in the Port of Rio de Janeiro, though the ladies do wear tiny bikinis, and it is considered impolite to stare. Surfers can find great waves in Recreio, and the beaches at Leme, Copacabana, Arpoador, Ipanema, and Leblon offer a unique way of riding the waves. Rio’s beaches swarm with vendors that shout out their wares.
Photo by Hank LeClair
Copacabana in the South Zone attracts tourists, lower-class bathers, and even prostitutes. Ipanema is popular with the middle classes, intellectuals, artists, journalists, and celebrities. Surfers and hang-gliders gathered at the beaches in Recreio and Barra until the 1980s when they were taken over by the nouveau riche and favela residents.
Photo by Cafezinho
There are sights visitors to the Port of Rio de Janeiro should not miss. They include tram rides up Corcovado, the mountain that supports the famous Cristo Redentor statue, and Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf mountains). The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is a large lagoon in the South Zone where visitors enjoy skating, jogging, and glorious views of the local beaches.
Maracana is the biggest stadium in the Port of Rio de Janeiro, and it was once the largest on the planet. The Jardim Botanico, created in the 1800s, is a park and a scientific laboratory. It contains beautiful well-kept gardens and is home to small monkeys that swing the trees near the café.
Photo by Carlos Luis M C da Cruz
The Port of Rio de Janeiro is home to many fantastic buildings that tell the city’s historic story. The 1743 Paco Imperial (Portuguese) was the empire’s palace. The Casa Franca Brasil was built in 1820 to educate about French culture. The 1906 Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil, where major traveling exhibitions are housed, contains a gallery, movie theater, library, and performance stages. The 1750 Arcos da Lapa is an aqueduct that brought water to downtown, although it supports a suspended tramway track today. The Palacio do Catete was the presidential palace from 1893 to 1960, and it hosts lovely gardens and a museum of recent history today.
The most popular reason for visiting the Port of Rio de Janeiro is, of course, Carnaval. This two-week city-wide party includes the escolas de samba parading Centro on the giant Sambodromo and hundreds of street samba blocks in almost every neighborhood. You may meet some very famous people in the streets of the Port of Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval.
Photo by Sergio Luiz
Samba shows are popular all year, though, and can be found at many locations. The best place to find them are the samba schools that hold classes in the months prior to Carnaval. They last late into the night. Tourists are recommended to seek out Salqueiro or Mangueira rather than falling prey to more expensive tourist traps like Plataforma or Scala.
The Port of Rio de Janeiro was the birthplace of three important music genres: samba, choro, and bossa nova. Many clubs feature these in the downtown district of Lapa where visitors can find some of the country’s best musicians and a fun, cheap nightlife. The Port of Rio de Janeiro is full of small clubs that offer any type of music, and the underground scene offers rock-n-roll, rap, and electronic music.
Photo by Wutzofant
The Port of Rio de Janeiro has Brazil’s biggest and best New Year’s Eve celebrations. Gigantic fireworks shows and free national and international concerts bring millions of people to the Copacabana every year. If you plan to go, wear white for good luck.
In the 1970s, hang-gliding and para-gliding became popular here, as the steep mountains meet the Atlantic Ocean to make great take-off points and smooth landing zones. You can hire air taxis to get a panoramic view of the Port of Rio de Janeiro. You can also tour the favelas (shantytowns), but do not go there alone.
The Port of Rio de Janeiro has some of the best clubs around. Nightlife is divided between “mainstream” and “underground.” The mainstream includes raves, electronic festivals, and clubs with pop music like Bombar, Baronetti, and Melt. Fights tend to break out often in these expensive clubs, so be prepared.
Botafogo beach seen from Urca. Taken 8 March 2008, 18:49.
Photo by Lima Andruska
Tourists who want to stay safe should stay in the “Zona Sul” (containing Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Gavea, Jardim Botanica, Flamengo, Laranjeiras, Botafogo, and Orca) or the western suburbs (Barra and Recreio). Outside these areas, the Port of Rio de Janeiro can be a dangerous place, especially at night. Having been warned, the Port of Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities on Earth, and your time traveling there will be a life-long memory that you’ll treasure.
Travelers wanting to visit the Port of Rio de Janeiro by sea will find a long list of cruises on the Cruise Compete website.