Rio is an exciting city with a beat and beauty all its own. From the moment you step off the plane at the modern GALEAO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, you’ll sense a tempo and liveliness in the air. The pace is fast and the residents have a zest for living. Dominating everything here, is the beauty of the surrounding bay and the superb backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain.
The city is about a 40 min ride from the airport. In town, buses are a convenient way to travel. Taxis are plentiful and reasonable. There are even a few trolleys.
SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN (PAO DE ACUCAR): Rio’s number one tourist stop is a brown gumdrop shaped mountain at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. Its 1,325 summit is reached via two cable cars. They are glass enclosed with the first car carrying you from Praia Vermelha station to Urca, a sister peak 650 feet high. This ride takes 5 minutes, but the views of the bay area are lovely. On the next leg of the journey, the cable car seems to rise vertically before swinging out over the water. When you get to the peak, you’ll find it small, but the views are nothing less than fabulous. On one side…the harbor and downtown skyline. On another side, the mountain range, with Rio’s famous white beaches spread along the shore. In the distance you can see Corcovado Mountain and its famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. The cable cars run every half hour from 8 – 10, daily.
HUNCHBACK MOUNTAIN (CORCOVADO): Rivaling Sugar Loaf in popularity, this is the mountain on which stands the 120-foot statue of CHRIST THE REDEEMER. It was built in 1920 with money raised in churches throughout Brazil, and is visible from all parts of the city, especially at night when it’s illuminated. The views of the city from this 2400-foot peak are just perfect. To reach the statue and the summit, take a 30-minute railroad ride that leaves from Cosme Velho station every half hour from 8-6. After getting off, there’s still a steep climb to the statue. It is worthwhile to explore the mountain as well as the statue. You can do, if you come by tour bus.
PAQUETA ISLAND (ILHA PAQUETA): For a different view of Rio, set aside one day and take a motor launch for a relaxing ride through Guanabara Bay. The launch leaves from a downtown marina and heads into the bay beside the Pao de Acucar Mountains, under the new Niteroi Suspension Bridge, giving one a new perspective of the city. As you near Paqueta, you will see fishing boats, water skiers, and sorcerers. It’s easily the most picturesque island of the 84 islands in Rio’s bay. The launch leaves from Parka 15 November, downtown, near the Alba Mar restaurant, Mondays through Saturdays, 5:30 AM-11 PM, and Sundays 10 AM – 11PM, The trip takes 1 1/4 hours. It’s also possible to visit Paqueta and other islands on the special BAFEAU MOUCHE ferry. The daily schedule is available from any hotel desk.
TIJUCA FOREST (FLORSTA DA TIJUCA): Located only 20 minutes from downtown, this area gives a perfect opportunity to stroll through a tropical forest, along a road shaded by towering trees and lined with flowers. Tijuca was originally cleared as a coffee plantation, but Mother Nature asserted herself and the forest returned to its natural state. There are many types of trees, small waterfalls, narrow paths winding through the woods, and even a 3,000-foot mountain. All city tours include a visit to Tijuca.
ART FAIR (FEIRARTE): This is Rio’s version of a flea market…held every Sunday in Ipanema, the market draws enthusiastic shoppers and bargain hunters. The vendors spread their wares on rugs on the ground…offering bags, belts, sandals, copper wall plates, and hand-tooled leather. What you pay here will depend on your ability to bargain. Watch for pickpockets.
GEMSTONE TOUR: Brazil is to gemstones what Saudi Arabia is to oil. 99% of the world’s supply of aquamarine, topaz, amethyst, opal, turquoise and coral, come from Brazil. Take a guided tour through the workshops to see how it’s done. One of the best tours is offered free by H. Stern, Rio’s largest gem dealer. The very modern tour uses headphones, slides, and views the workers behind glass. Tour lasts about 30 minutes. There’s no pressure to buy.
AVENIDA RIO BRANCO: This is the major street of commercial Rio. During the day, the black and white tiled sidewalks are filled with people rushing to work in the offices.
MAUA SQUARE (PRACA MAUA): This old dock area is interesting to visit because its ornate gray architecture is so different from modern Rio. The area is full of local color…bordering on the sleazy.
MONASTERY OF SAO BENTO (MOSTEIRO DE SAO BENTO): Not far from Praca Maua, this charming religious complex contains one of the most beautiful baroque golden chapels in Brazil.
PRACA XV: This is the oldest square in Rio, surrounded by 16th century churches and pastel-colored buildings.
CARIOCA SQUARE (LARGO DA CARIOCA): This small concrete plaza has benches to rest on, shoe shiners and faith healers, and street vendors selling everything.
METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL (CATEDRAL METROPOLITANA): This is Rio’s avant-garde cathedral, which was under construction for 15 years. The structure is conical, angular, and its only gesture to traditions church design is the presence of four enormous stained-glass windows.
MUNICIPAL THEATER (TEATRO MUNICIPAL): Modeled after the Paris Opera House, the Municipal Theater was built over an underground lake. It is home to opera, ballet, and concerts.
MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS (MUSEU DE BELAS ARTES): This impressive building houses over 800 paintings. (Many of the works, however, are reproductions of well known artists.
CRIME: In 1987 hotels asked their guests not to go walking at night, and to admit no one to their hotel room. Security was tight around all hotels.
FLAMENGO PARK (PARQUE FLAMENGO): Built in 1965 on the 400th anniversary of Rio’s founding, this bustling park has children’s areas with playgrounds, a puppet theater, soccer fields, and other sporting fields. A small tractor-pulled train takes you from place to place.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MUSEU DE ARTE MODERNA): This building, architecturally, is the finest in Rio…designed by A.E. Reidy, a well-known Brazilian architect.
NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL (MONUMENTO DOS MORTOS DA II GUERRA): Two 150-foot pillars supporting a curved bowl with an eternal flame, mark the war Memorial. Three statues of servicemen guard this flame and the crypt beneath it. Inside is the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER, and remains of Brazilian soldiers killed during World War II. Closed Monday.
COPACABANA BEACH: The heart of Rio’s resort area, this beach is the longest and widest in the city. This is where the action is on sunny weekends. Contest to see who can wear the least.
IPANEMA BEACH: The crown princess of beach areas is chic Ipanema. It’s slightly narrower and less crowded than Copacabana, and draws young bongo players, singles, college students, and the upper class.
LEBLON BEACH: Bordering a beautiful palm-lined street.
CARMEN MIRANDA MUSEUM: Filled with photos from the movies of the popular star of the 1940’s…also her famous pineapple turbans and very high-heeled shoes…plus costumes and jewelry. Tue-Fri 11-5, Sat-Sun 1-5. Located at Av. Rui Barbosa 560, Flamengo Park.
ANTONIO DE OLIVEIRA MUSEUM: This museum is a tribute to Brazil’s famous sculptor…1200 wood carvings depicting scenes from Brazilian life. Open daily 9-6…on Urca Mountain, the 1st cable-car stop on Urca Mountain.
MUSEUM de REPIIBLICA: Served as a bank and hotel before becoming the home
of the President (Before Brasillia). Beautiful rooms and floors. The grounds are stunning. Closed Mon. Rue de Catate 179
CINELANDIA: Crowded downtown entertainment center…everything goes!
SANTA TERESA: Picturesque area of city high on hill…Rio in Colonial times.
CHACARA DO CEU: In a lovely old mansion…a few Picasso’s, Monet’s and Modigliani’s. Rooms and grounds are beautiful.