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Rio de Janeiro Destination Guide
Rio de Janeiro Holidays
Carnival capital Rio de Janeiro is Brazil's second largest city and a magnet for tourists who flock to its golden beaches and spectacular mountain-fringed setting. Rio de Janeiro tourism is all about atmosphere, from the party vibe of Carnival to showboating on Copacabana beach and the revelry of a packed Maracana. Renowned for its nightlife and laidback carioca lifestyle, Rio still has its fair share of attractions. The imposing Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world, while Ipanema retains its charm as one of Brazil's most vibrant beaches.
Rio de Janeiro will host the 2014 World Cup final and the 2016 Summer Olympics and it's not hard to see what makes this booming metropolis such a popular tourist destination. Many visitors make Corcovado their first stop and you can catch a funicular train to the summit to explore the stunning Christ the Redeemer statue looming over the city. Neighbouring Sugarloaf Mountain affords panoramic views over Guanabara Bay from the the cable cars which glide between its peaks. Rio de Janiero attractions are not just limited to its luscious natural surrounds. Rio is perhaps best known for its annual Carnaval – a spellbinding fortnight of revelry culminating in spectacular samba parades throughout the city.
Need refuelling after a long day at the beach? Rio de Janeiro restaurants provide the perfect pick-me-up in the form of some of Brazil's tastiest dishes. Sit down to some 'feijoada' – the famous black bean stew filled with a delicious selection of meats. All-you-can-eat restaurants known as 'rodízio' are popular, but for a more upscale experience head to glitzy Leblon for a meal at the popular Filé de Ouro. Nearby Ipanema is home to popular sushi restaurant Benkei and with a sizeable Japanese popular, Rio is one of the best places in the world to sample authentic Japanese cuisine. No trip to the city would be complete without sipping on a 'caipirinha' – the national cocktail of Brazil enjoyed by just about everyone in Rio.
Where to Stay
As a sprawling beachfront metropolis, Rio de Janeiro hotels are dotted throughout the city. The Centro district is the heart of Rio's downtown but to soak up the beach atmosphere you can head straight to Copacabana, although you won't meet too many Brazilians on the shamelessly tourist-oriented stretch of sand. For a more authentic beach experience consider a stay in Ipanema, where some of Rio's most fashionable hotels make ideal use of their beachfront location. Laidback Botafogo is home to several serviceable business hotels but for more boutique accommodation head up into the hills of Santa Teresa to relax in the opulent surrounds of the Hotel Santa Teresa.
From beachwear to high-end fashion and impressive works of art, there are plenty of opportunities to stock the suitcase. Rio de Janeiro shopping is often best conducted on the beachfront stalls around Copacabana and Ipanema. Here you can pick up a colourful Brazilian bikini, some fashionable footwear or perhaps a piece of street-made jewellery – just don't forget to bring your haggling skills. Cariocas are serious shoppers, so it's not surprising that several popular shopping centres are situated in the upscale Zona Sul cluster of neighbourhoods, including Shopping Rio Sul and Shopping Leblon.
Rio de Janeiro like a Local
For many the city means only one thing: Rio de Janeiro carnival. To skip the carnival crowds you should consider taking lessons in one of the year-round authentic samba schools. Another of the city's favourite pastimes is soccer, with Rio home to four of South American soccer's biggest clubs. The fierce Fla-Flu derby between Brazil's most popular club Flamengo and affluent city rivals Fluminense is one of the world's most intense. Vasco da Gamba and Botafogo are the other two members of Rio's 'big four' and matches between the Rio giants usually take place at the colossal Maracana stadium.