The legendary jet-set destination of the 80s, the ‘Marvellous City’ Rio de Janeiro may be far from its virgin state when the Portuguese arrived at Guanabara Bay in 15th century and thinking that they have arrived to a river mouth on a January day and called the city The River of January, but it still is, in my opinion, one of the top three most beautiful cities in the world. During my first visit to the city I remember myself looking with eyes wide open from the Sugar Loaf Mountain and trying to understand how come these mountains covered with forests meet the white sand beaches, the wild birds’ sound are heard even in city’s noise, the waters of the Atlantic reach the coast and the whole picture is like love at first sight seemed like a thing that would happen to me only at this city. And whenever I got back I always had the same sensation…
For those who will be visiting the city, a bit of practical information: if you do not have a budget limit I would recommend you to stay in the Zona Sul, the South region, where the beaches follow one another, Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon. The hotels on the avenue by the sea will be the most costly but you will find less expensive ones on back streets. Leblon and Ipanema are more decent and chic neighbourhoods compared to Copacabana. Even if you don’t stay by the ocean you should wake up early and have a morning walk there, you will see hundreds of people jogging, walking, cycling- for Brazilians sports is number one priority in their life! You can also swim in the ocean- life indeed is spent by the beach; you can stay there the whole day and feed yourself buying from various vendors selling drinks&food, from grilled cheese to beers, the beach culture is highly advanced in Brazil.
The main tourist activity being to visit the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountain (both worth a visit), if you have more time you can visit the old town during the day (at night time you will find it isolated) with its historical buildings reflecting the beauty of Portuguese architecture (don’t forget Rio was the Capital city for more than two hundred years, after Salvador and before Brasilia); if you are lucky like me you can watch a performance in the Municipal Theatre. Definetely visit the futuristic Museum of Tomorrow. From the old town ferries take you to the coast on the other side, Niterói, a calmer neighbourhood with its famous Niemeyer building. Back in the South region a visit to the Botanical Garden is quite enjoyable. If you’re an adventurous type you may try paragliding on top of the Barra de Tijuca. Or if you feel more easy visit the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa on the hill.
For excursions outside the city, the city of Petrópolis, a mountain town where the Summer Residence of the Royal Family was located, the Green Coast where the colonial picturesque city of Paraty is, and the Big Island with stunning beaches you can only get by boat, all gorgeous places in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
You may use the alternative airport in downtown, Santos Dumont, for your domestic flight and avoid traffic while getting to the main international airport GIG (carrying the name of the famous compositor Tom Jobim). Welcome to the Marvellous city!