If São Paulo is Brazil’s London or New York, then Rio is… well, actually, there’s nowhere I’ve ever been that comes close to any comparison with Rio. It’s a one of a kind place that absolutely has it all; beaches, parties, history, nature, fashion, art, I could go on! Here’s just a few things that made me fall in love with the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ – marvellous city.
The beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema
Rio isn’t short of beaches, but these two are the most popular and the best; they’re right next to each other and stretch for miles. The Copacabana is possibly the most famous beach in the world, and for good reason. I loved it! It’s exactly what I imagined; perfect white sand, warm turquoise water and a lively atmosphere – if you prefer private, secluded beaches this definitely isn’t the place for you. Cariocas (Rio locals) play volleyball and beach football on the sand, work out on the public exercise equipment and sell cold beer and fresh açai to sunbathers. Brightly coloured beach huts also line the strip, and are a good place to get lunch, people watch and take a break from the brutal Rio sun. Ipanema is seen as the trendy alternative to its more famous neighbour, but Copacabana is much more beautiful and my favourite. On Sundays the stretch of road alongside the beaches is closed off and only allows for cyclists and skaters, which is really cool and brings out a young crowd.
The chance to see Christ the Redeemer
Obviously this is top of every tourist’s list in Rio, but I was caught off guard by how much it stunned me. I was speechless, and no number of superlatives can describe how big and majestic he is up close, 710 metres above sea level atop Corcovado mountain.
Pictures can’t really do him justice either – especially as we realised when boarding the tram that we had no memory card in the camera, cue minor breakdown from me. But of course travelling isn’t about seeing things through the lens of the camera blah blah blah, so when I got up the mountain I was immensely grateful just to take it all in (and get a few iPhone pics, the Gram was waiting).
The incredible views
Something that makes Rio so beautiful and unique are its many mountains and hills. They surround you whilst you lay on the Copacabana, and at night Christ the Redeemer lit up above the Corcovado is visible from almost anywhere in the city. Pão de Açúcar, or the Sugarloaf Mountain, is one of the most famous peaks in the city, and can be accessed by cable car for one of the most incredible views you’ll ever see. We were recommended to go at sunset and it didn’t disappoint.
The atmosphere of Lapa
The neighbourhood of Lapa has a bad reputation for crime, but still receives a huge number of tourists, partly due to its abundance of bars and clubs, and also because it’s home to the famous EscadariaSelarón. These colourful mosaic steps by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón have become one of the most famous images of South America and people come from all over to see them – as in, they get very crowded! This is all part of the fun though, local residents blast music and sell beers out of their windows to the crowds, and street vendors sell freshly made caipirinhas for 5 real – this is just over a pound, I quickly got over my aversion to them when I realised this!
Lapa by night is absolutely mental; the bars and clubs overflow to the point that the biggest party is on the street, and again people play their own music and sell beer and caipirinhas from cool boxes. There’s also lots of street food on offer. Unfortunately I got no pictures here as the area is known for pickpocketing, so all phones were left at the hostel.
The bohemian bars of Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a beautiful neighbourhood in Rio that very nearly passed us by. It’s located at the top of a hill; after reaching the top of Escadaria Selarón, no small feat in itself, you continue left all the way up the EXTREMELY high, steep slope. We legit almost died, it was 38 degrees one of the days we did this. At the top you’re rewarded with a beautiful view and a nice bar to sit outside and recuperate. Carry on to the right and you’ll reach the heart of Santa Teresa – colourful 19th century mansions, a thriving artistic scene and beautifully bohemian bars and cafes that draw you in. We only came up here to look around, but ended up spending an entire day here and were having to find our way home in the dark before we knew it!
Side note – you can also reach Santa Teresa on the Bonde streetcar for 20 real per passenger.
People always make a place what it is, and Brazilians are just great in general. They’re so passionate about their country, their cities, and especially football – which we witnessed when we went to watch Fluminense vs Botafogo at Rio’s world famous Maracana stadium.
People in Rio are so friendly and excited to show you their wonderful city. If you stray from the gringo bar scene and go for a drink in a neighbourhood boteco you’ll find the locals to be so warm and welcoming, and despite the big language barrier they’ll want to introduce you to their whole family! This is a good way to make some Brazilian friends whilst saving a lot of money; drinks are a fraction of the price in these sorts of places.
Fluminense fans at the Maracana
Until next time Rio! ✌️