Hotels in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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The ‘marvellous city’ of Rio de Janeiro
The bounds of sprawling Rio de Janeiro are just big enough to hold all the unique magic of the city within them.
Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, Rio de Janeiro is now the second most populous city in Brazil, home to world-famous sporting facilities, a lively downtown area, a variety of accommodation with hotels to suit everyone, universities and educational centres, beaches bustling with activity and a diverse, active population.
Rio is also home to UNESCO World Heritage site ‘Carioca Landscapes between the mountains and the sea,’ and jungle-like Tijuca Forest National Park, mixing an energetic culture and a thriving dining and party scene with natural wonders to make an eclectic city unlike any other.
Go crazy at Carnival
Rio de Janeiro is known for its unique character and natural landscapes, but also has a reputation as a music, dance and cultural hub thanks to its history with samba and the world-famous Carnival. Carnival celebrations have popped up around the world over the years, but Brazil’s and Rio’s in particular is by far the most iconic and therefore a must for anyone that likes a good party.
Held between the Friday afternoon and noon of Ash Wednesday, Carnival marks the beginning of the 40-day period preceding Easter, Lent. Celebrations take place all over Brazil, with each favouring a variety of costume and even rhythm.
Larger cities like Rio also feature a spectacular parade, with samba schools – of which there are more than 200 divided into five leagues within Rio itself – travelling through the enormous Sambadrome on floats. Each float is decorated in a certain theme, and holds near 50 people including a band and dancers in elaborate costumes.
Figures say around one million tourists stay at hotels in Rio de Janeiro every year for Carnival, joining the millions of locals in the populous city for a party headlined by glitzy costumes, dance and drumbeats.
A tropical escape in the heart of the city
For something quieter than the revelry of Carnival, visit some of Rio de Janeiro’s slower-paced attractions. Tijuca National Park is the leafy tropical heart of Rio, situated in the city itself with imposing, jungle-covered mountains that create Tijuca Forest, one of the biggest urban forests in the world – and a stunning backdrop to the Rio skyline.
The presence of such lush greenery in the centre of a big city, combined with the 80 kilometres of sandy beach that frame Rio on the coast, give the metropolis a unique feeling of being surrounded by nature.
Within Tijuca National Park sits 700-metre tall Corcovado mountain, atop which is perhaps the most iconic site to tick off in Rio de Janeiro – Christ the Redeemer, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The 30-metre tall statue of Jesus Christ overlooks the city from its perch on top of the mountain, where visitors can enjoy spectacular almost 360-degree views across the city and coast.
‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ and its beats
‘Cidade Maravilhosa’, or ‘marvellous city’ is the aptly-named official song of Rio de Janeiro, where a thriving urban music scene has evolved since Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes first penned ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. The hit song is of the bossa nova genre – one of the several musical styles created in Rio de Janeiro.
Poorer neighbourhoods or slums known as favelas are also credited with contributing greatly to Brazilian dance and music culture, particularly ‘funk carioca’, a style of music first popularised in these parts of Rio de Janeiro and other areas of Brazil. Favela culture has become such an iconic part of greater Brazilian culture that these neighbourhoods are becoming increasingly popular tourist destinations, but they remain areas of questionable safety and it is therefore wise to visit only as part of an arranged tour with a guide or your hotel.
Copacabana and cold coconut water
Just as familiar as the image of Christ the Redeemer looking down over the city are snapshots of Rio de Janeiro’s many iconic beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema, and Barra da Tijuca. These popular beaches lined with bars, restaurants and hotels are not made for sitting quietly and reading a book – they are bustling with activity as swimmers splash in the ocean, beach volleyball enthusiasts always find a place on the sand, and vendors pace back and forth offering cold drinks like fresh coconuts, snacks of both the hot and cold variety and beach towels.
Even in winter the weather can be suitable for swimming, with temperatures ranging from around 18 to 27 degrees in the coldest parts of the year.
Get around by bus, train or metro
Rio de Janeiro is a sizeable city, and visitors will certainly need some help exploring further afield than the immediate surrounds of their hotel. Buses are the main form of transport in Rio, but there is also a metro, an electric tramway, urban trains and even ferries to nearby islands.