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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Updated on October 13, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, The Most Beautiful City in the World

Rio de Janeiro is often described as the most beautiful city in the world, but has a reputation for being quite dangerous and crime-ridden.

On my recent trip there Rio turned out to be a stunning and beautiful place, with wonderful views, hotels, restaurants and plenty to do for several days.

This article is about vacation travel tips, advice and recommendations for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. My main reason for a trip to Brazil was to explore the Amazon, but you have to start somewhere and why not Rio?

Rio 2016: Rio has just been announced as the venue for the 2016 Olympic games, beating Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo and following on from London in 2012. The first time it will have been held in a South American country.

Please also see my South American Photo Gallery

Getting There

We flew with Iberia from London Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro via Madrid, with just a couple of hours wait in Madrid. On arrival, the official Rio de Janeiro taxis at the airport are the recommended, safest way of getting to your hotel and prepaid vouchers can be bought in the airport at the tourism desk. Alternatively there are also shuttle-busses into central Rio and to many of the hotels. We had the itinerary of flights and hotels put together for us by Audley Travel (www.audleytravel.co.uk) and they had arranged someone to meet us with a driver, which was probably unnecessary, but quite useful when tired after a long flight. We did however have to put up with the usual hard sell of various additional tours on the way to the hotel.

Map of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Travel Guides for Rio and Brazil

Places to Stay In Rio de Janeiro

Hotel Luxor Regente, Rio de Janeiro

We stayed at the Luxor Regente which is a pleasant modern fifteen-storey hotel, in an absolutely wonderful location overlooking Copacabana Beach and very near Ipanema Beach. We had fantastic views of Sugarloaf Mountain and the beach from our room. Rio is divided by the Serra da Carioca Mountains into a northern and a southern zone and the hillside occupied by shantytowns on both sides. Rio de Janeiro fills a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea. It is a stunningly beautiful city and any good hotel directly next to Copacabana or Ipanema beaches, such as the Luxor Regente, would make an ideal base. The Luxor Regente has a reasonable restaurant that provided an adequate breakfast, but there are however far better, more luxurious hotels either to stay or eat at along this stretch of sand, such as the Copacabana Palace.

Copacabana Beach

We walked along most of the length of Copacabana Beach from the hotel going east. It is beautiful and a great place to relax with a coconut. Rio had a bad reputation for crime, but this area seemed completely safe during the day, although walking along the beach at night may not have been such a good idea and, of course, all of the usual precautions should be taken with belongings. It was mid-September and while more than warm enough for me, the locals were not out in large numbers on the beach. Later it started raining and there was a fantastic thunder storm, which given the setting really was rather impressive. We took a taxi to praço de 15 Novembro, the centre of the old colonial part of the city, but that was quite run-down and did not feel quite so safe, but certainly interesting from an architectural point of view. We decided not to stay too long and took another taxi to Santa Teresa, a less touristy area very near the hotel, which was recommended in our guidebook, but the taxi driver didn't agree and repeatedly told us that it was not a good idea to go there on our own. We ignored him, assuming he had some ulterior motive. On arrival we discovered that he was right as it looked even more scary and deserted, so again we headed back to the safety of Copacabana Beach.

Sugar Loaf Mountain

We booked a half-day excursion to Sugar Loaf Mountain, rather than just getting a taxi there. Well, that's what we expected anyway. We were picked up from the hotel in a coach and taken first for a tour of the city, football stadium and cathedral. Brazilians seem to be very keen on football and couldn't understand why we would not be interested in their stadium. We finally arrived at Sugar Loaf Mountain, located at Praia Vermelha, and took the famous trip by cable car, as seen in the Bond-film, Moonraker. It is in two sections, first going to Morro de Urca and the mid-way station with its gardens and view points, then a short walk past a cafeteria where lots of friendly salespeople tried to convince us that we really wanted our pictures on a souvenir plate. The second leg took us to the peak, Pao de Acucar, 396m above sea level. There were breathtaking views of Guanabara Bay and the city, or at least there would have been had it not been raining and very misty. It was still an incredible experience despite the weather and amusing to watch the cable car disappear into the fog.

A very gloomy day in Rio

In the evening we walked along Ave. Atlântica, next to Copacabana beach, to Churrascaria Palace, for a meal. Like so many restaurants in Brazil it was a high quality buffet and barbeque with huge a selection of meat that kept arriving at the table. I ate far too much, but there was such a great selection it was difficult not to.

Corcovado and Tijuca

We took another half-day excursion, this time to Corcovado and Tijuca. We really should have just got a taxi on our own rather than a tour, after our experience the previous day, but we had already paid for this one. We were picked up and taken to the Cosme Velho Railway Station. The funicular railway starts here, climbing through the Tijuca rainforest to the steps of the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. At over 700m above sea level, there are stunning views of the city of Rio, Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain. This time the weather and visibility was good. There is also a view of the Jockey Club Racecourse, Lagoa lagoon and the Leblon and Ipanema beaches and huge lumps of granite jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. The statue itself is also very impressive and huge, requiring a wide-angle lens to fit it all in while at Corcovado, but is of course also a striking view from far away as well, high up of the peak of the jagged lump of rock.

Essential Photographic Equipment

A digital SLR is useful piece of kit for a holiday somewhere like Rio, but which one should you buy and are they really better than a compact. Here are a few suggestions, but I have also written an article about digital cameras:

Digital Cameras

Botanical Gardens

After the half-day tour we took a taxi to botanical gardens. These are not bad, although not as good as Kew Gardens (which are about a mile from where I live in London), but with monkeys. It is certainly a good tranquil place to spend a couple of hours.

Copacabana Palace Hotel

It was my birthday, and although our hotel was good, from a location point of view, we needed to find somewhere a bit better for my celebratory meal, so we took a taxi to Copacabana Palace hotel. This was allegedly one of Princess Diana's favourites, so I thought that might do for a spot of dinner. She had good taste. It was extremely good, with wonderful art deco surroundings, excellent Italian food and Ritz level of service and quality. We started with a glass of wine next to swimming pool with small bats swooping past, scooping insects from above the surface of the water, and then we went inside for dinner. I wish we had paid the extra and stayed at the hotel. Maybe next time.

Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful city in which to spend a few days, with its stunning views, good food and a selection of good to excellent hotels in fantastic locations. While not being as dangerous as its reputation suggests it is certainly a place to practise caution and keep an eye on your handbag.

Rio will be an even more popular destination now it has been announced as the venue for the 2016 Olympic games, with increase numbers of visitors, before during and after the games.

Summary: Stay at The Copacabana Palace Hotel

This article was also published on Helium.com

Gifts and Souvenirs from Brazil

Readers' Comments

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      cerdfdf 6 years ago

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    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 6 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      This lens is featured on the Best of South America lensography for Squid Angel neighborhoods. (South America Sizzles)

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 6 years ago from Canada

      Very informative lens and beautiful Rio de Janeiro Brazil pictures! Blessed.

    • profile image

      SeleneMathew 6 years ago

      I have been to Copacabana Beach located within the city confines of Rio de Janeiro. It is a famous beach in the world filled with hotels, restaurants, bars and stores. Millions of people in white dress gather at beach on last day of every year to welcome the New Year. It is also the site for large music concerts featuring Brazilian bands and such international acts as the Rolling Stones. Environment here is bursting with joy and happiness.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 7 years ago

      I never was in south America, so Rio de Janeiro is top of my list.

      Great lens.

      Thanks Andy

    • profile image

      KettyRobinson 7 years ago

      Brazil has many elegant places to visit,one being the Statue OF Christ the Redeemer and other Copacabana beach, which is a place for adventure. Experience and enjoy Brazilian culture and the âCariocasâ to make the most of your vacation. I found them to be the friendliest, most loving people I have ever met.

      http://www.travelamerica360.com/sugar-loaf-mountai...

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Very nice lens, brought back some good memories for me. 5*****. I had to install a computer system in Paraguay with my colleague who was Argentinian, He suggested we stay over in Rio and also Iguassu, so we took a night flight from London to Rio, landed about 5:30am, and by 7:30am had checked into a hotel 1 block behind the Copacabana Palace, showered and were set to walk along Copacabana. Unfortunately it was winter and early morning, so cool and the beaches were fairly deserted. Walked Copa and also half of Ipanema, took a tour of the Sugar Loaf (amazing), a city tour, and then headed off to Sao Paulo and Iguassu the next morning. It was an amazing trip with aq good friend. Also got introduced to Caipirinha's :)

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      If or when you travel to Brazil (Rio De Janeiro) I would recommend staying in Rio apartments or apartments in general, you get a much better experience of the culture and surrounding environment. Great Place to visit!!!

      Rio Apartments

    • Rich-H profile image

      Rich 8 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Great lens! 5*s

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 8 years ago from England

      Another superb travel lens ;)

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 8 years ago

      Fun! Always wanted to go to Rio. 5*

    • piedromolinero profile image

      piedromolinero 8 years ago

      I would love to visit Rio de Janeiro one day, especially in carnival time.

    • SylvianeNuccio1 profile image

      SylvianeNuccio1 8 years ago

      Never been to Brazil, but would love to visit one day! That great info there to make one wanting to go.

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 8 years ago

      Just Terrific!

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

      Would love to visit it! Even more after seeing this lens!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 8 years ago from Idaho

      Beautiful photo's, well done!

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Great pictures.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      I love that Jesus statue. You've traveled everywhere, Andy! Lucky dog!

    • profile image

      PosterChildSmile 8 years ago

      A Rio de Janeiro holiday sounds like a good thing for the soul. Very lovely!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Finally I found one of your lenses that let outsiders leave a comment. I have squidooed over to several of your lenses from time to time from one of Tipi's lenses. Tipi is my sister and quite the fan of yours. Have to admit, I'm a fan too--you do excellent work! Other words that could be used: wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, amazing, awesome, incredible. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Finally I found one of your lenses that let outsiders leave a comment. I have squidooed over to several of your lenses from time to time from one of Tipi's lenses. Tipi is my sister and quite the fan of yours. Have to admit, I'm a fan too--you do excellent work! Other words that could be used: wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, amazing, awesome, incredible. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    • profile image

      Tarra99 9 years ago

      Beautiful photos...sounds like my kind of place! :o)

      Thanks for commenting on my lensography...I appreciate it!

    • anthropos lm profile image

      Lamar Ross 9 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for joining ”Anything and Everything Travel” Group. We look forward to seeing your other travel related lenses in our group. Keep up the good work.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Beautiful photos. My husband's best friend is from Rio. Everyone I've met from there is so nice. Welcome to All Things Travel.