Rio de Janeiro's youngest neighborhood is Barra da
Tijuca, or simply Barra as locals say. It is an area where
everything is superlative. The beach is seventeen kilometers long
(almost 11 miles). Here is the largest convention center in Latin
America. The largest shopping mall too, with over 650 shops, and
its own monorail system. Instead of supermarkets you have
hypermarkets, with thousands of square feet. Add theme parks,
natural reserves with wild birds and alligators, preserved
beaches with limited access to cars, and you start to get an idea
of the myriad possibilities.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
One of the locals´ favorite leisure areas, Lagoa attracts people of every age, especially on sunny weekends. The most popular activity in Lagoa no doubt is renting the swan-shaped pedal boats and pedaling in the lake´s water. It is also common to see people riding bikes, rollerblading and walking on the bicycle lanes and jogging tracks that surround the lake. Enjoy rollerblading at Parque dos Patins and visit the Flamengo soccer team headquarters, then stop by one of the many kiosks to eat, relax, and enjoy the view.
Possibly the most famous postcard in Rio, this is where the Statue of Christ the Redeemer is located. Ride the train up the mountain and through the nature on Estrada de Ferro do Corcovado and feel the history – the train was originally built in 1882. After the ride up, visit the monument, appreciate the scenery and take many pictures at this worldwide famous location. On the way back, stop by Museum of Naïf Art and Largo do Boticário, and enjoy all that Rio has to offer.
Setting to one of the most famous Brazilian postcards, the Sugarloaf is a 369 meters high (1,100 feet) hill overseeing Guanabara Bay. Ride up on the old-fashioned cable car, enjoy the scenic view of the bay and take postcard-worthy pictures. Sugarloaf is a must-see attraction in Rio de Janeiro.
Lapa Acqueduct (Arches)
Heart of downtown Rio, the Lapa neighborhood is home to the Lapa Acqueduct, built in the early 18th century. The arches used to bring water from the mountains to downtown, but today it is one of the most important landmarks of the historical Lapa neighborhood. Close to the Lapa Arches is Fundição Progresso, where the iron-cast rails seen in many constructions were built. Today it is definitely worth visiting this big cultural center and show hall.
Also known as Catedral de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, this cathedral was inaugurated in 1979. An important religious landmark, it also attracts architecture enthusiasts due to its modern style architecture. Big enough for 20,000 people standing, it is frequently the location for some of the biggest weddings in Rio. Also in the area are the Sacred Art Museum and the Bank of Providence.
The biggest soccer stadium in the world, Maracanã is where Rio´s most classic soccer matches are played. The stadium is often filled to its capacity of 90,000 spectators, especially when there are major matches. The stadium was built for the IV World Cup and very likely will be used for the 2014 World Cup. Watching a match there is an incredible experience for everyone as the passionate fans cheer on their favorite teams.
Lapa by Night
A bustling area with something going on every night, go to Lapa to experience the best of the alternative nightlife in Rio. Enjoy authentic Brazilian samba and chorinho music by the Lapa arches, mingle and dance with locals, go bar hopping, and get to know a whole new nightlife in Rio.
MAC (Museu de Arte Contemporânea Niteroi)
Located in Niterói, the Contemporary Art Museum was designed by famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The building itself and its futuristic designs and panoramic windows attract many tourists, but the museum houses many contemporary works from the 20th century, attracting even more people.
Visit Santa Teresa, one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Rio. Home to artists, sculptors and painters, there is much to be seen and done in Santa Teresa. Ride the Bondinho, the last remaining streetcar in Rio, passing through the Lapa arches, and visit the Santa Teresa Church and Convent, from where the neighborhood takes its name. Don´t miss the Museu da Chácara do Céu, a museum featuring works by many famous artists as well as gardens designed by famous Brazilian designer Burle Marx. Other attractions in the area include Parque das Ruínas, inspiration to some of Villa-Lobos works, Escadaria Selaron and Largo do Guimarães.
Floresta da Tijuca
Originally a coffee-plantation area, Floresta da Tijuca was a reforestation project and today it is the largest urban forest in Rio. Stop by the Chinese Belvedere and Pedra Bonita, two of the best spots overlooking Rio, and take pictures of the spectacular view. From Pedra Bonita, the adrenaline-seeking tourists can choose to handglide down to São Conrado. Among the other attractions in the area are the Mayrink Chapel, featuring paintings by Portinari, Luiz Fernandes, Paulo and Virginia grouts, and the Gabriela and Taunay Falls.
Angra dos Reis
Located off-Rio, Angra dos Reis is one of the most common destinations for cariocas every weekend. With over 300 islands, a must-do activity in Angra dos Reis is taking a boat tour to visit some of the most famous ones, such as Botinas Island and Gipóia Island. The islands offer plenty to do, sunbathing, dipping in the clear waters and dining being the most popular choices.
A calm city just a few hours outside Rio, Petrópolis has many attractions. The Imperial Museum was originally the Brazilian emperor´s summer house, but today it is a museum featuring many the emperor´s clothes, throne, crown and furniture from that time. A place that cannot be missed either is the São Pedro de Alcântara Cathedral. Built in a French neo-gothic style, that is where the remains of some important Brazilian figures are buried. Other historical landmarks include the Santos Dumont House and Crystal Palace.
Most popular weekend and summer destination of not only cariocas, but many Brazilians, Búzios is known for its lively beaches and vibrant nightlife. Búzios has beaches for everyone. One of the most visited beaches, Geribá is the place to go for mingling and surfing. For calming and relaxing, the beaches of Azeda and Azedinha and its calm waters are the best option. The center of the nightlife is Rua das Pedras, a pedestrian only street with many bars, restaurants and nightclubs always open until very late.
With over 100 beaches, this Island has a very special atmosphere, as access to it is only by boat rides. Popular things to do in the island include, of course, visiting the beaches and diving in the clear waters. A must-do thing is walking on one of the trails in the middle of the rainforest - most of the island is still covered with the original Atlantic Rainforest – and appreciating its natural beauty.
Paraty is a beautiful colonial town with many historical and natural attractions. The town was once almost as important as Rio. Paraty is now a popular weekend destination, attracting everybody from history enthusiasts to beach lovers. The sea, of course, cannot be missed. Taking a boat ride in its waters is a must. While in Paraty, tourists have the chance to dip in the clear waters and stop to have lunch at one of the local restaurants.