When people think of Rio, a fiesta comes to mind. A riot of colour, upbeat music and a people that truly know how to celebrate life. But there’s also much to be said about the natural beauty of the city along with the truly mouthwatering local fare. Before we whet your appetite, here’s a look at some of the more iconic spots to visit in Brazil’s bustling capital city.
The first time I heard of Sugarloaf Mountain, I thought, “What a pretty name!” And it really got it’s name simply because its shape resembled a traditional loaf sugar. And what a magnificent view from the very top!
Despite being very popular with visitors, it was not crowded at all. We just got our tickets at about USD$40 each and hopped on some very well-maintained cable cars to reach its peak. And along the way, the area was sprinkled with cafes serving up anything from warm churros, to acai bowls and ice-cream for a hot day.
On the way up, we even spotted a helicopter landing pad. There were even helicopter rides for those who wanted a more interactive birds-eye view of the place. These were rather expensive I thought for very short rides so we gave that a miss. But we pretty much spent the whole morning there enjoying the view, tucking into some delicious local treats while people watching.
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
Christ the Redeemer is the indisputable icon of Rio de Janeiro. Designed by a French sculptor and built in the 1920s, the towering statue stands at 30 metres high and has a wingspan of 28 metres.
We were so lucky to run into some Chilean pilgrims that day who were dressed in their traditional costumes and spontaneously broke out into song and dance.
It felt like we were celebrating a festival up there on the peak! We were totally psyched.
Also synonymous with the idea of colour Brazil is the gorgeous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, the former immortalised in a popular bossa nova tune.
We had a gorgeous view from our vantage point in our hotel, Sofitel Ipanema, which I definitely recommend for its great location and excellent security. Also, the beach is literally at your doorstep.
After spending the day exploring the city, it was the perfect way to wind down with a relaxing walk on the beach at sunset. Brazilians are truly a sporty bunch, there were so many groups of people just playing beach volleyball and futsal on the sand. It was fun to watch. There are also a great many beachside bars and cafes for you to literally watch the world go by.
The beach is truly a balm for the weary city soul.
Of course, one of our favourite parts of the trip has got to be the food! Our first meal there was a traditional Brazilian Churrasco (barbecue) which featured generous portions of never ending cuts of delicious, beautifully-done meats. It was overwhelming in the most wonderful way! We tried so many new cuts of meat we never even knew existed. My personal favourite? Chicken hearts. Haha.
Also, you might be interested to know that the rump cap is what Brazilians consider the choice cut of meat for churrasco. And hey, who are we to argue? These guys definitely know their meats.
Another favourite i couldn’t get enough of — Pão de queijo!
I would have at least one small bucket of these every single day. These Brazilian cheese puffs are heaven in the mouth. Super cheesy, chewy and just oozing with amazing flavour.
Another local must-try is the Cachaça (say ‘ca-CHA-sah’), which is a distilled spirit made of sugarcane. It’s a little like rum, sans the molasses.
Sampling it out of the barrel was quite a unique experience for us.
And who can forget, the quintessential Acai bowl?
These guys are killing it around the world. Everyone with a sweet tooth, or who is a health food junkie is raving over these babies. Although in Brazil, they tend to prefer it untouched instead of blended with super sweet juices. It has a very unique chocolate-y berry flavour that keeps you going back for more.
We also had a lot of fun exploring Rio city. I LOVE checking out local food carts in every country I visit. Simply because it’s a fascinating microcosm of the kinds of food that appeal to the locals.
Another thing I loved about the city was that it never lacked music, life and colour. People always seemed to be celebrating. Although I must clarify that the main city is a far cry from the reality that is life in the impoverished and gang-ruled favelas. We really wanted to visit with a local guide but ran out of time.
Overall, if you keep to the more busy parts of the city, Rio is a wonderful and safe place to be. There’s lots more to do there, I’m sure. So do let me know what i missed and what else you’d recommend doing in the city that is Brazil’s pride and joy.