Lucy’s Rio de Janeiro

Hello, city-lovers! Today we’re heading south to Rio de Janeiro, South America’s second-largest city. Local expert Lucy Bryson tells us what’s hot in this Brazilian metropolis.

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Rio de Janeiro is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Santa Teresa. Most people think Rio is all about the beaches, but this bohemian hillside neighborhood has the most beautiful buildings in the city, fantastic views, excellent bars and restaurants in an amazing village-style environment.

When I crave decent vegetarian food I always go to New Natural. This place has a great, largely veggie, buffet, and the best pastéis (stuffed pastries) in the city.

To escape the heat I head to Parque Lage–you can seek shade in the little caves if the beating sun gets too much!

If I want to work on my tan I go to Ipanema Beach.

For complete quiet, I can hide away at Parque Catacumba. It’s right by the Lagoa, but very few tourists have discovered this shady park.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with Jesus! What other city can say that?

If you have to order one thing off the menu from the ubiquitous street side snack bars it has to be pão de queijo. These little cheese bread balls are unbelievably addictive.

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Lapa is my one-stop shop for great nightlife, historic buildings, vintage clothes shops and a fantastic monthly antique market.

Locals know to skip work and check out the beach instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Centro and check out the cheap pay-by-weight restaurants.

For a huge splurge I go to Aprazível and watch the monkeys play in the trees as I enjoy a meal in the tropical gardens.

Photo ops in my city include Christo Redentor, Sugar Loaf, and the city beaches and the best vantage points are from up in the hills in Santa Teresa.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Johnny Depp. Slightly edgy, very sexy.

The most random thing about my city is the things people sell on the street. Children’s life jacket, anyone? Mini-sewing kit? Clockwork mouse? It all depends on what fell off the back of a lorry that day.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking in Parque Floresta da Tijuca.

My city’s best museum is Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil.

My favorite jogging/walking route is Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.

For a night of dancing, go to any of the samba clubs in Lapa. Or, for live music, check out Leblon for bossa nova.

Koni Store is the spot for late-night eats. There are branches of this sushi joint all across the city.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read www.lanalapa.com.br.

You can tell a lot about my city by the exuberance of its people.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they place more importance on the beach and futebol (soccer) than on work.

In the spring you should be prepared for rain.

In the summer you should spend your days at the beach and your nights at street bars and street parties.

In the fall you should take advantage of the cooler weather and see the city on foot.

In the winter you should make the most of beach days before a cold front comes along to spoil the fun.

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A hidden gem in my city is Parque das Ruínas – you can see amazing views from the top of this restored mansion house set in pretty gardens.

For a great breakfast joint try Casa Cave, in Centro. Or any of the juice bars that you find on every street corner. If you’re feeling rough from the night before, order an açai juice (made from the Amazonian ‘power berry’).

Don’t miss Carnaval in February and/or March.

Just outside my city, you can visit Ilha Grande. An enormous tropical island dotted with beautiful beaches.

The best way to see my city is from the sky – if you have the nerves for it (which I don’t), try taking a tandem hanggliding flight.

If my city were a pet it would be a toucan – so beautiful it appears almost unreal.

The best book about my city is Rio for Partiers.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is País Tropical, by Jorge Ben JorPaís Tropical, by Jorge Ben Jor.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the bonde (tram) ride up to Santa Teresa.

Luxury apartment complexes right next door to sprawling slums could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it is at once beautiful/ugly/welcoming/challenging, and socially fascinating.

Photos: tmlvngs, Renata F. Oliveira, and photog63 via Flickr