It’s hard to know which is the more iconographic image of Rio; that of the 40m statue of Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched as he gazes out over the cidade maravilhosa, or that of the scantily-clad carnival-goers shaking their stuff with unashamed exuberance through the Samba City. Perhaps you think of the canary-clad creativity of the local football tribes playing keep-up on the beach, or the dangerous, high-octane city portrayed in Fernando Meirelles’ City of God.
Rio is all of these things and more. It’s a city of spectacular scenery, sandwiched between glorious, forest-covered mountains and an azure, tropical ocean. It’s a city that plays host to the hedonistic Copacabana and Ipanema beaches yet has one of the world’s most exciting playgrounds on its doorsteps. It’s a city of vibrant nightlife, open air cafes, an explosive multicultural mix and a vast array of diverse neighbourhoods. It’s a city that attracts more visitors than any other in the southern hemisphere and there are hundreds of reasons why.
Where to stay
The restaurant at Fasano is the highlight, but the rooms are also spacious with comfortable beds. Porto Bay Rio Internacional and the Promenade Palladium are sound options; however, the Copacabana Palace Hotel is perhaps the most prized of them all.
Where to eat
Olympe plays host to some of Brazil’s top chefs, though the menu has a decidedly French influence. For great local flavours, head to Galani and Aprazivel, with great atmospheric settings to get you into the party mood.
What to see
Hike up to Christ the Redeemer for great views of the city – there’s also some spectacular rock-climbing in the surrounding Corcovado Mountains. The famous Rio festival is great if you can catch it; but the glorious Copacabana and Ipenema beaches are great all year round.