Are you looking for somewhere special to relax and get that tan you’ve always dreamed of? Check out tropical Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most famous city, for a trip you won’t soon forget. If you’re familiar with Portuguese, the language of Rio’s founding fathers, you’ll know that Rio de Janeiro translates to “January River.” The settlement began in the mid-1560s, after Portuguese mariners chased earlier French colonists from the land. Much has happened since then.
If you’re the outdoors type who thrives on adventure and perspiration, Sugar Loaf Mountain will probably be your first stop in the city. The view of the mountain from a distance will be enough to inspire you; as the modern city curls around the water, Sugar Loaf juts out seemingly to the sky, one huge pillar standing alone. There are picturesque trails and places to see the view as you walk below the peak. Don’t forget to look for the little boats you will invariably see sprawled around the marina.
Anyone who has looked at pictures of Rio de Janeiro or visited personally has most likely seen the famous statue known as Cristo Redentor, or, in English, Christ the Redeemer. It is one of Rio’s main attractions, attesting to the centuries-old presence of the Christian faith in the city. You should never visit without taking time to get up close and personal with Cristo Redentor. It rests on Corcovado Mountain and makes an awesome sight and a great photo opportunity. If you choose to journey to the top of the mountain, you will be awarded with the view of nearly everything Rio has to offer.
You’ve most likely heard of Copacabana, but did you know it’s located in Rio de Janeiro? This is only one of many area beaches, but it is one of the most well-known. If you want a place to relax and enjoy terrific scenery, watersports, and the warmth of Brazil, Rio is the place to go. Some other beaches in or near the city include Ipanema, Prainha, and Barra da Tijuca. The beaches are not all the same; some will have amenities you are looking for, and others may not. Some will be crowded on the particular day you plan to visit, and others will have very few people. Choose carefully.
Is the museum scene more to your liking? Rio de Janeiro won’t disappoint you. If you’re interested in Brazil in general, try the National Museum and the National History Museum, known in the native tongue as Museu Historico Nacional. For art-lovers, you might want to consider Museu Internacional de Arte Naif, the Museum of Modern Art, and Chacara do Ceu Museum.
Children may not appreciate the museum scene so it’s good to know that you can send them off to plenty of kid-friendly activities in the area while you get your fill of history and culture. Rio’s beautiful Botanical Gardens are also of interest, and the local zoo is certainly one suggestion that might excite younger members of your family a little more.
Religious history is also a big part of Rio de Janeiro’s past. To get a glimpse into a historical monastic community, consider Convento do Santo Antonio and Sao Bento Monastery. You will have to check websites to see if these places are currently open to the public and if so, what time visitors are allowed. Some churches you should visit include Church of Our Lady of the Glory of the Outeiro and Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria. The Chapel of Sao Jose is a beautiful colonial church constructed in the 17th century and seemingly out of place underneath modern skyscrapers.
There are also historical structures that are not connected to religion, such as the Palacio do Catete, which became the home of the presidency in the late 19th century. Its origins date back further, however; it was once a palace, and the rich, lavish interior attests to this fact. You can come inside and explore the grand rooms and artifacts. The building is tall and flat, with minimum ornamentation on the outside. Here and there you will find a little decorating whimsy, like wrought-iron accents and the eagle statue that perches above the front entrance.
Even with all the terrific beaches, historical spots, and places to eat and relax, Rio’s best attraction is probably its natural beauty. From the regal, mysterious grandeur of Sugar Loaf Mountain to the stunning city views, Rio’s scenery will stay in your mind forever. If you only have a little time in Rio de Janeiro, make sure to see the views quicker than anything else; attractions are fun, but the sights are truly amazing.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer