Rio creates a rhythm all its own. It’s the lulling wash of waves on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana; the pounding beat of fresh limes being muddled into an icy caipirinha; the sweet melody of Brazilian Portuguese floating from outdoor cafes and lively samba clubs. Cariocas, as Rio’s residents are called, pump up the tempo with their own fierce passions: art, music, dancing, and fútbol. The resulting mix is irresistible to visitors. Plan on partying in the “Marvelous City” from golden sunrise well into the tropical night.
High atop Corcovado mountain, the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) welcomes visitors to Rio with open arms. Completed in 1931, the 98-foot-tall sculpture is built from reinforced concrete and more than 6 million soapstone tiles. It was voted one of the Seven New Wonders of the World in 2007, beating out its kindred spirit, the Statue of Liberty. For a closer look — and stunning city views — head to the summit via hiking trail, minibus, or bright-red cog train.
Did you know? During Carnaval, a wild parade of drummers and dancers known as Suvaco do Cristo (Christ’s Armpit) sambas in the streets below the statue’s outstretched arms.
When Cariocas hit the beach, they dress to impress. Make your own fashion statement with a chic suit from Rio-based designer Lenny Niemeyer — her sophisticated cuts have won fans such as Nicole Richie and Lady Gaga. In Ipanema, Bumbum has been hawking bikinis since 1979, and is famous for bold, barely-there swimwear. Confidence sold separately. As for Rio’s beach boys? They flock to Blue Man for colorful sungas, which resemble slightly fuller Speedos.
Did you know? The French may have invented the bikini, but it was cheeky Brazilians who popularized the thong. One particularly skimpy version is called fio dental or — ahem — “dental floss.” 😬
Some stairs leave you winded. The Escadaria Selarón takes your breath away. Connecting the bohemian neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa, these 250 steps are covered with glittering mirrors and more than 2,000 brightly colored tiles. This mosaic masterpiece was the “crazy dream” of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón, who considered it a tribute to the Brazilian people. Note the numerous blue, yellow, and green tiles — the colors of the Brazilian flag — as well as tiles painted with Selarón’s signature image: a pregnant woman.
Did you know? These kaleidoscopic steps have appeared in numerous fashion shoots and TV commercials, plus the music videos for Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” and U2’s “Walk Away.”
Energy flagging? It’s açai bowl time! For centuries, Brazil’s rainforest tribes have eaten these dark berries — the fruit of the açai palm — mashing them into a purple paste that’s packed with antioxidants. The taste? A strangely addictive blend of raspberries, dark chocolate, and ... dirt. Stands selling sweet, frozen açai are now ubiquitous in Rio, but for an authentic experience, try tiny Tocacá do Norte. Their chilled bowls of pure, creamy açai come topped with crunchy granola and crispy tapioca beads.
Did you know? Açai hit Rio’s radar back in the 1980s, when the Gracie family — the city’s famous jiu-jitsu clan — began recommending the nutrient-packed paste as a pre-workout meal.
Rio’s decaying port district got a much-needed makeover, thanks to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Renamed the Porto Maravilha, or “Marvelous Port,” the area is now anchored by the striking Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow). Blending science, art, and technology, the museum’s exhibits explore the challenges of our age — overconsumption, inequality, climate change—and invite visitors to imagine a more sustainable, socially just future.
Did you know? Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the futuristic museum, which has been compared to everything from a giant insect to a dish-drying rack. Calatrava says he was inspired by bromeliads in Rio’s Jardim Botânico.
Cocoflosser @delanorp loved strolling through Jardim Botânico, a lush 137-hectare garden. A highlight? The enclosed orquidário, or orchid house, where 600 species of the delicate flower flourish. And @sappysappyboi says to eat a salty flour cookie on the beach, sip a caipirinha (the country’s national drink), and ride the cable car up Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) mountain.
1. A metropolis of over 6 million inhabitants, Rio is also home to the world’s largest urban _______.
2. In the early ’60s, a striking carioca named Helô Pinheiro caught the eye of composer Carlo Anthony Jobim at a beachside café, inspiring the bossa nova classic ________
3. The Cristo Redentor statue receives an average of 3 to 5 ______ each year.
4. Like other Portuguese speakers, Rio’s residents use the term _______ to describe a nostalgic melancholy for something that will likely never come again.
5. In 2016, Rio became the first city in ________ to host the Olympic Games.
6. In Rio, açai is often sweetened with extract of guaraná, an Amazonian fruit that contains more ________ than coffee.
7. In the 1979 film “Moonraker,” ________ battles the archvillain Jaws in mid-air, standing atop the cable car to Rio’s Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf) mountain.
8. During Carnaval, Rio’s mayor hands over the keys to the city to a mythical master of ceremonies known as _______.
9. In 2010, King Momo urged Rio revelers to wear ________, calling them, “the best Carnaval costume.”
10. Rio’s Maracanã stadium hosted a record crowd of nearly 200,000 frenzied fans for the 1950 ________ match between Brazil and Uruguay.
11. The word “carioca” comes from a Tupi Indian term meaning “house of the _______.”
12. Fleeing from the invading army of ________ in 1808, Portugal’s royal family established Rio de Janeiro as the temporary capital of the Portuguese empire.
Answers: 1. Forest 2. “Girl from Ipanema” 3. lightning strikes 4. saudade 5. South America 6. caffeine 7. James Bond 8. King Momo 9. condoms 10. World Cup 11. white man 12. Napoleon