“Rio’s best party is on the streets, where some 1,000 blocos (street bands) and bandas (brass and percusssion marching bands) sing and dance before and during Carnival.”—Ruy Castro, author, Rio de Janeiro: Carnival under Fire (Writer and the City). www.rio-Carnival.net
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
Standing 125 feet (38 meters) tall, Rio’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue was inaugurated in 1931 at the summit of Corcovado mountain in Tijuca National Park. Voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Cog trains to the statue depart every 30 minutes from Rua Cosme Velho 513; tel. 55 (21) 2558 1329. www.corcovado.org.br
Pão de Açúcar
Rising 1,299 feet (396 meters) above Guanabara Bay, Pão de Açúcar (“Sugarloaf”) mountain offers spectacular panoramic views of Rio, especially at sunset. Reach summit on two-stage cable cars, stopping at Morro da Urca. Tip: “There are summer evening concerts on Morro de Urca.”—Flávia Alessandra, actress, Globo TV. Visit Oi Noites Cariocas (www.oinoitescariocas.com.br) for concert details. Cable cars leave from Avenida Pasteur 520, Urca; tel. 55 (21) 2546 8400. www.bondinho.com.br
“On weekends, Rio’s fashion runway.”—Ruy Castro, author, Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World. Play beach soccer with locals, spot TV stars at Posto 9, watch the sun set against the Dos Irmaos twin peaks.
The hub of Rio’s tourist industry. People from around the world pack the beach by day, the clubs by night. Oceanside avenue shuts down each Sunday for pedestrian-only traffic. New Year’s Eve fireworks display attracts two million revelers.
Bohemian neighborhood enjoying a renaissance. Live choro and samba at night; antique stores on Rua do Lavrádio; street market first Saturday of each month.
“Old-time neighborhood packed with ateliers and traditional restaurants.”—Flávia Alessandra. Ride streetcar across Arcos da Lapa; visit Museu da Chácara do Céu on the way. Start at Estação de Bondes, Rua Lélio Gama 65, Centro; tel. 55 (21) 2215 8559.
340-acre (138-hectare) natural reserve; celebrated its 200th anniversary in June 2008. 8,000 plant species from Brazil and abroad. Rua Jardim Botânico 1008; tel. 55 (21) 3874 1808; fee. www.jbrj.gov.br
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
Saltwater lagoon at Rio’s heart. A 4.6-mile (7.5-kilometer) walking/biking path; over two dozen kiosks; swan paddleboats for rent. Festival in early December to light 27-story floating Christmas tree. www.riodejaneiroaqui.com
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Barra da Tijuca
Upscale district on Rio’s western edge. Includes 11-mile (18-kilometer) beachfront, the city’s longest; cleaner ocean than at Copacabana and Ipanema. Home to Rio’s largest shopping center, 577-store BarraShopping. www.barrashopping.com.br
Small island housing 1889 neo-Gothic castle. Arrive on schooner; guided tours in Portuguese (English booklet). Don’t-miss naval museum and submarine. Thursday to Sunday only. Espaço Cultural da Marinha, Avenida Alfred Agache, near Praça Quinze, Centro; tel. 55 (21) 2233 9165; fee.
Estádio do Maracanã
“The Flamengo/Fluminense soccer matches are a sporting spectacle beyond compare.”—Ruy Castro, author, Garrincha: The Triumph & Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero. Check stadium calendar (www.suderj.rj.gov.br) for soccer match dates and times. Avenida Professor Eurico Rabelo, Portão 18, Maracanã; tel. 55 (21) 2299 2941.