Despite the fact that Brasilia is Brazil’s capital city, Rio de Janeiro is the most talked about, and for good reason. After making my way through Latin America with my back pack and battered Lonely Planet, I finally made it to Rio. Honestly, my expectations were very low, I was constantly thinking, how can anything be better than Machu Piccu, or the Salt Flats in Bolivia? But from day one, I was hooked. Hooked to the culture, the people and the Caipirinhas (Brazil’s famous fresh lime and Cachaca drink). Although a lot of the places I went to were very touristy, they are the places you need to see and experience.
The Lapa Steps
The Lapa Steps, shamefully the only reason I knew what these were was because they were featured in Pharrell and Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” video. Located in one of Rio’s bohemian towns, The Lapa Steps are beautifully tiled with a range of fantastic colours, and covered with street musicians and local artists. To really delve in to the Brazilian culture, visit the Lapa Steps on a Friday night to enjoy Rio’s biggest street party. With live samba music and an amazing food market, the Lapa street party is the place to be.
Rocinha Favela Tour
The 2002 motion picture “City of God” introduced people to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro; however the film does not allow you to really understand the favela societies. The famous favelas located all over South America, are a huge and important part of the Latin American culture. Why can you only visit them in Brazil? The favelas tend to come hand in hand with the word ‘dangerous’ and only certain ones have recently been pacified. Rocinha Favela is the most popular for tourists, whereby you can visit the favela, boost their economy by purchasing fresh baked goods made by locals, and explore the reality of Rio de Janeiro.
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Open your eyes and see the stunning view of Rio de Janeiro, just a cable car away. For a good price you can visit one of Rio’s most famous hot spots. To get the best out of your visit to Sugar Loaf Mountain, arrange to go at sunset. Just a three minute cable car up to one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Sit back, relax, and really see Rio.
An incredibly obvious landmark to visit, Christ Redeemer was one of the most incredible structures I have ever seen. No matter how many pictures you look at, you still will not believe how big, and how carefully carved it is. With a restaurants and shops to enjoy as well, Christ Redeemer is a must see, and a fantastic Kodak moment.
Metropolitan Cathedral, Lapa
A not-so-obvious place to visit in Rio, but in my eyes, a MUST. The Metropolitan Cathedral, built between 1964 to 1979, is a fabulously modern take on a church. The cathedral that stands 80 meters high and houses around 20,000 people is located in Lapa, and is built like a church I have never seen before, including stunning, carefully designed stain glass windows reaching up to the ceiling. The cathedral is a short bus journey away from central Rio.
Rio de Janeiro, the real heart of Brazil, is a colourful and magical city full of culture, and wonderful people. With beautiful beaches, a variety of restaurants, and incredible sights, Rio de Janeiro has so much to offer and is a perfect place to see it all.