Rio de Janeiro
Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Rio de Janeiro-area attractions. Magnificent though
Sugar Loaf Mountain, fabled beaches and other urban treasures may be, much of Rio de Janeiro's
compelling charm emanates from the hospitality of its people, the Cariocas. This tag comes from
Brazilian Indians who named carioca (or "white man's house") a trading station set up by the
Portuguese. The name cariocas still refers to Rio's diverse mix of five to six million residents.
Rio de Janeiro's first official mention occurs in connection with Gaspar de Lemos' second
Portuguese expedition to the new land, discovered in 1500 by Pedro Alvares Cabral. On arrival
in January, Lemos understandably thought Rio de Janeiro's bay was the mouth of a river, and,
accordingly, he named the region River of January. In 1530, the Portuguese court sent an
expedition to colonize, instead of merely using the land as a staging post for overseas
adventures. The French, in and around Rio de Janeiro since the turn of the century, had other
ideas. Yet, by 1560, after assorted skirmishes, the Portuguese had run off the French. The city
first took shape on the Morro de São Januário, later known as the Morro do Castelo, and later in
what is still the city center, Praça Quinze. In 1585, its population was 3,850 -- 750 Portuguese
and 100 African. When gold was discovered in the state of Minas Gerais (General Mines) toward the
close of the 17th century, the Governor of Brazil became the Viceroy. In 1808, the Portuguese
royal family chose Rio de Janeiro as their refuge from threat of Napoleonic invasion. By the time
the royal family returned to Portugal and Brazilian independence had been declared in 1822,
the gold mines were exhausted, giving way to coffee as the new treasure. Development continued
through most of the 1800s, first north to São Cristóvao and Tijuca and then south through Glória,
Flamengo and Botafogo. By 1889, the abolition of slavery and poor harvests halted progress,
and this period of social and political unrest led to Proclamation of the Republic. Rio, now
referred to as the Federal District, remained Brazil's capital. But in 1960 that changed when
the capital was moved to Brasilia. Even so, the glitter of Rio de Janeiro has failed to diminish,
and it continues as the nation's arts and cultural hub. Rio de Janeiro's attractions provide a
journey of discovery through natural wonders, the arts, history, architecture, and especially
through its people.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Rio de Janeiro Area,
with links to more details when available.
- Amsterdam Sauer Museum
On Ipanema's Diamond Row a block away from the Praca da Paz, this museum has a replica of a mine, and a variety of rough stones and gems in virtually every imaginable color.
Rua Garcia D' Avila, 105 - Ipanema
- Botanical Gardens
More than 7,000 varieties of plants, herbarium, aquarium and a library are at these gardens founded in 1908. Bird-watchers are advised to show up early morning since 140 species have been spotted including flycatchers and tanagers, plus the American hawk. The 1992 Earth Summit spurred many improvements including a new Orquidario, an enlarged bookshop.
Near the Parque Laje at R. Jardim Botanico 414.
- Carnival and Carnival Museum
On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, the mayor of Rio symbolically hands over city keys to King Momo, signifying start of an incomparable five-day party. Special bandstands throughout the city are built for parade viewing. Far from being a mere tourist attraction, the Carnival parade is a culmination of intense activity by community groups. To understand different facets of the parade, the small carnival museum in the Sambodromo has photographs and an informative Engish-speaking staff.
R. Frei Caneca. (01) 296-9996
- Copacabana, Ipanema and other Beaches
With more than 50 miles of beach shoreline, famed beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema are far more than tourist magnets, serving as an integral port of local life as playgrounds, gyms, and places to meet, eat, drink and make merry. Framed with black and white mosaic sidewalks and lined with kiosks, Copacabana is a hot spot day and night with lifeguard posts, public showers, hotels, bars and open-air restaurants. Ipanema with its elite shops and restaurants, while more subdued, are a bit more sophisticated. Leblon is also popular and Barra beach, the city's largest and favored by the younger crowd, is known for surfing and windsurfing.
- Corcovado and the Statue of Christ
Atop Corcovado mountain, at 2,330 feet, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer ranks among the world's best known and most-visited monuments. Access starts in the Cosme Vehlo District, aboard a miniature train running through the steep Atlantic Rainforest up to the foot of the statue. The train ride provides stunning glimpses of Rio from assorted angles. A road also stretches up to the summit. The Statue, faced with a soapstone mosaic in art nouveau style, is reached via steep steps. The climb is worth it, with the view of Tijuca National Park spreading out below nothing short of spectacular. Corcovado is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Culinary Sensations
The Cariocas take food quite seriously, with taste temptations on every corner, from juice bars (a Rio trademark) to sophisticated dining enclaves. In fact, the great melting pot of the Brazilian culinary heritage finds its broadest expression in Rio, where restaurants offer not only traditional Brazilian fare, but also excellent French, Italian, Japanese and Indian dishes. Amazonia's wealth of fresh water fish including pirarucu, surubim and tucunare – familiar on menus throughout Brazil -- are now showing up at the once all-meat barbecue houses. From the northeast region come such historic Portuguese dishes as Sopa Leao Velso (a knife and fork fish stew) and moquecas (spicy fish stews). Bahian food was strongly influenced by slaves from the African coast in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and includes acaraje (dried shrimp and bean fritters), moqueca de siri mole (soft-shell crab stew) and bob d de camarao (shrimp casserole). Two Bahian desserts widely favored are cocada (a sweet coconut confection) and quindim (sticky coconut cupcakes), and ice creams and sorbets are another delight in tropical flavors such a guava, cupuacu and mango. Rio de Janeiro was originally responsible for the feijoada (black bean cassoulet), a “Saturday” dish now served virtually any day all over Brazil. Rice, stir-fried kale, farofa and thinly sliced oranges are its accompaniments. From the south, comes churrasco (or barbecue), an assortment of spit-roasted meat – alligator and wild boar have joined more traditional beef, pork, chicken and sausages -- complemented by salads and side dishes. Budget-minded adventurers may want to investigate the kilo restaurants, offering salad buffets, hot and cold dishes and assorted desserts.
- H. Stern Gem Museum
One big sparkling attraction for gem lovers is the gem museum at the world headquarters for H. Stern. Workshop tours showcase intricate steps in transforming a rough gemstone into a gorgeous jewel. The museum, visited on request, features Mr. Stern's private collection of tourmalines and a variety of other gemstones. Free tours can be arranged by hotel concierges or H. Stern representatives in hotels.
Rua Garcia D'Avila, 113 – Ipanema.
- Maracana Stadium
One of the world's largest sports stadiums, this football arena has seating for 200,000, and attendance (even for non football fans) is worthwhile for the samba bands. Guided tours (in Portuguese) are offered of grounds and the museum.
- Museo Carmen Miranda
On display are a collection of gowns and head-pieces for the diminutive Brazilian songstress Carmen Miranda who was oft criticized by Brazilians for having become too “Americanized.” Her first major appearance in her famed baiana costume was in the 1939 movie Banana Terra, and from 1940 to 1953 she starred in 14 Hollywood productions.The entertainer who said all she needed to be happy was “a good bowl of soup and the freedom to sing” died of a heart attack at age 46 after collapsing on stage during a live Jimmy Durante show. She is buried at Cemiterio Sa Joao Batista in the Botafogo.
Flamengo Park area in front of Rui Barbosa 450
- Museo de Arte Moderna
A disastrous fire struck this spectacular building in 1978, forcing need for rebuilding the museum's collection, and several countries have donated to the cause. Exhibits include contemporary Brazilian works by Candido Portinari from the 1940s and 1950s, along with drawings and etchings by Gregorio Gruber.
Av. Infante D. Henrique 85, near the National War Memorial.
- Museum of the Indian
Dedicated to native Brazilians, their art and culture, this museum showcases, pottery, wood, straw and feathers used by tribes from throughout the sprawling country.
Rua das Palmeiras, 55, Botafogo.
- Museum of the Republic
This was the Brazilian “White House” where presidents worked when Rio de Janeiro was the country's capital. Now it encompases exhibitions, music, theater, cinema, video, a bookshop, and a restaurant. This is the first Latin American museum with an automated reference desk, giving access to more than 20,000 books and 80,000 documents.
Rua do Catete, 153
- National War Monument
Saluting Brazil's dead from World War II, this memorial takes the form of two columns supporting a slightly curved slab representing two palms uplifted to heaven. Remains of Brazilian soldiers killed in Italy in 1944-45 are in the crypt, open Tuesdays through Sundays. Beach attire including rubber-thonged sandals are not permitted.
At the city end of the park, opposite Praca Paris.
A center for Carnival activity, Sambodromo seats 60,000 and handles sporting events, conferences and concerts the rest of the year. The best boxes, reserved for tourists and VIPs, have seats closest to the parade.
R. Marques de Sapucari, Cidade Nova.
- Shopping Rio
SAARA, the largest ethnic market in downtown Rio, dazzles with knockdown prices for clothing and exotic foodstuffs. Shopping malls are excellent for comfort and safety. Big sales take place in January and August. Bargaining for discounts is often practiced, yet success generally occurs only in the smaller, owner-operated shops or in the markets. Rio is known the world over for beach wear, towels and other summer accessories. Precious stones, from amethyst and aquamarine to topaz and tourmaline can be good buys. Open air markets unfold at the end of the day on the Copacabana beachfront between Rual Miguel Lemos and Rua Djalma Ulrich and on Sundays at the Feirarte, known as the Hippie Market on Praca General Osorio in Ipanema. A thriving antiques trade extends from jewelry to furnishings and carpets.
- Sporting Options
Popular Rio beach sports include volleyball, beach football, and frescobol (a form of tennis played with a solid wooden racket and a rubber ball). Football is the national sport with big games at Maracana stadium. Also big are golf, hang-gliding, parachuting, cycling, bowling, diving, squash, tennis, water-skiing and windsurfing.
Gavea Golf Club, (01) 322-4141
Itanhanga Golf Club, (01) 494-2507
Hanging-Gliding and Parasailing, (01) 322-0266
Parachuting, (01) 325-5301
Watersports, (01) 224-6990
- Sugar Loaf
Without doubt, the most dramatic introduction to Rio is by sea, as Sugar Loaf Mountain comes into view for the many cruise ships calling. Once arrived at Sugar Loaf, the 887-foot belvedere is the only site for viewing the whole of Copacabana beach. Because the best time to visit Sugar Loaf is late afternoon or early evening, tours typically end here. The summit is reached by a two-step cable car. The first stage arrives at the Morro da Urca, at 550 feet, which has a restaurant, amphitheatre, and a good view of the Botafogo Bay and the Yacht Club. Stage two proceeds to Sugar Loaf itself, named for resemblance to loaves of sugar used by the Portuguese shortly after discovery. Sugar loaf is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.