Welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa, or the Marvelous City, that is how Rio de Janeiro is called in Brazil. The first associations of this wonderful city are beautiful women on famous beaches, Copacabana above all and a beautiful view of the city from the hills of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain), and, of course, the Carnival. However, Rio is a city of stunning architecture, numerous museums and the place of good food. It is full of life, music and joy.
However, this huge city is very dangerous, especially in the slum parts of the city, favelas. Streets are full of drivers who don’t follow any regulations, but don’t let this discourage you, some tips and tricks and a common sense will make your visit unforgettable. One of the Rio’s charms is that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can have fun and not go broke. Here is some advice on what to do when in Rio.
1. Get to the beach
Spending a day at one of the beautiful beaches is the best and a free way to have fun in a public place. You can be at any of the beaches from morning to evening, but maybe it’s better to plan your visits in early morning and late afternoon hours because of the scorching tropical sun.
2. Explore the largest urban forest
Tijuca is the largest urban forest in the world and home to a variety of exotic birds and animals, as well as various trees and plants. There are numerous small waterfalls that adorn this forest, and a pink and purple church Mayrink, which was painted by the famous Brazilian artist Candido Portinari. It is easiest explored by jeeps but it can be explored on foot, just make sure you use established paths as you can easily get lost.
3. Get some amulets
Visit a local hippie fair, which takes place on Sundays on the square Osório, and buy some good luck charms. Look for Figas and buy one for a friend, not for yourself, the magic works only if it’s a gift.
4. Music and dance
Open type parties are held frequently on beaches, especially around Ipanema and Copacabana. You will hear everything from traditional Brazilian music to classical music, jazz or rock music. These parties usually occur spontaneously and you won’t see any announcements for them. If you’re in the mood, run down to the beach and see what’s happening.
5. Visit the Botanical Gardens
It is home to an amazing collection of Brazilian flora, including giant Amazonian water lily and other miraculous plants that inhabit the Brazilian rainforest. Over 6,000 different species of flowers and plants makes this botanical garden.
6. Go to the market
Make sure you visit some of the fruit and vegetable markets. You don’t have to buy anything; it is enough to experience the wonderful scent of fresh herbs, tropical fruits or Amazon flowers. Markets are called Feira Livre and are located in a different place every day. Ask around your hotel for the current location, otherwise you’ll miss it.
The first association of this city is the Carnival parades and beauties dancing to the rhythm of Samba. The famous Carnival lasts from 17th to 20th of February. This is something that definitely shouldn’t be missed and should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. Another similar event takes place on the New Year’s Eve, when locals dress in white clothes and gather on the beach. With the candle light, music and dance, flowers and other gifts are thrown into the sea, while the mass prays to the goddess of the sea – Yemanja.
Just make sure you don’t go to favelas alone, which are ruled by local gangs and aren’t not safe. Don’t wander the beaches at night, money and other valuables keep in your room, carry with you only what you need. Also, pay special attention on the streets because drivers in Rio are everything but careful and they drive too fast. And learn at least a few words of the language since the locals as well as most of the staff don’t know any other languages.
Photo by: Ramon Llorensi