The second largest city in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is famous for its gorgeous beaches, incredible landscape and festive annual carnival. This Brazilian city is also famously known for its unique harbor that is surrounded by several magnificent features, namely the Sugar Loaf Mountain that stands 1,296 feet above sea level, the Corcovado Peak with 2,310 feet and the Tijuca hills with 3,350 feet.
When one thinks about Rio de Janeiro, several distinct structures and destinations immediately come to mind. Copacabana and Ipanema are just a few of the most popular beaches in the city. There’s also the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue that stands at the peak of the Corcovado Mountain and overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro. Rio’s annual Carnaval is also a popular event that brings many tourists and visitors to the city.
The city is divided into four districts – Centro, Zona Sul, Zona Norte and Zona Oeste. Centro is the financial and business center of Rio de Janeiro. It is also where you will find many historic buildings such as the National Library, Metropolitan Cathedral, Tiradentes Palace and the Municipal Theater. Zona Sul or the South Zone, holds most of the city’s landmarks and where its world famous beaches are found including Copacabana, Ipanema and Flamengo Beach. The neighborhoods in this area are more upscale and majority of the tourist spots can be found in this district. Zone Norte or North Zone is where you need to head to if you plan on visiting the Quinta da Boa Vista Park, National Observatory, Maracana Stadium and the city’s zoo. Lastly, Zona Oeste or West Zone are primarily the districts of Jacarepaguá and Barra da Tijuca, also popular for its beaches.
When planning your holiday in Rio de Janeiro, here are just a few tourist spots and destinations to keep in mind:
Copacabana – Located in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro at the Atlantic shore, the beach is 4 kilometers long and one of world’s most famous beaches. The beach starts at Princesa Isabel Avenue and ends at Posto Seis. If you plan to stay in this area, there are at least 60 hotels and 10 hostels to choose from along Copacabana beach.
Ipanema – Popularized by the song “The Girl from Ipanema”, this beach is one of the more popular ones in the city. It is located in the South Zone between Leblon and Arpoador. While it is just beside Copacabana, it is distinctly different. It is home to many topnotch restaurants, cafes and shops. Best time to visit Ipanema would be on Sundays since the city closes the road closest to the beach for locals and tourists to ride, bike, and skate or walk leisurely along the ocean.
Christ the Redeemer – Built between 1922 to 1931, this Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ stands 98 feet tall and 92 feet wide. It is located at the peak of Corcovado in the Tijuca Forest National Park. It is considered to be a symbol of Brazilian Christianity and an iconic feature for the city.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the country’s major transportation hubs. Just 20 kilometers north of the city center is the Galeão - Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport (GIG). This airport is still popularly known by its old name, Galeão International Airport. It has many international connections including flights to and from Europe, Africa, the Middle East as well as North America. To get to the city center from the airport, there are several options to choose from. There are premium buses, the BRT Transcarioca buses and many taxis available at the airport.
Getting around Rio de Janeiro is fairly easy. Getting a taxi would be one of the best ways to move around the city. However, you many get stuck in traffic jams as it can be terrible in some areas of the city. So if you do decide to take a taxi, make sure to check for traffic and give yourself ample time for the commute. Taking a bus is also an option. It is probably the cheapest and most convenient way to get around, particularly in the South Zone. If you travel by bus, be aware of questionable characters and be careful with your belongings. The city also has a subway, the Metrô Rio. It is considered to be safe, clean and comfortable. It is air conditioned and getting around the system will be easier as it has better signage for foreign tourists. Do check with your hotel or subway counters for their hours of operation.
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