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A city guide to Rio de Janeiro – spectacular beaches, iconic landmarks and world-class football

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Known as Cidade Maravilhosa, the Marvellous City, Rio is home to some of the friendliest people and the world’s most famous beaches. Brazil’s interracial history of Portuguese, Japanese, Indian and German settlers have created a multi-cultural society which has led to festivals and celebrations that are known all over the world. Choose from a fantastic selection of water sports, learn how to samba or view the city from one of the cable cars.

Rudy Valli

My Destination local expert on

Rio de Janeiro

South Zone


Best described in two parts, the South zone of Rio is the most popular section of the city, and what most tourists are attracted to because of the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The quieter part of ‘Zona Sul’ consists of numerous residential areas and traditional restaurants, perfect for reasonable priced hotels if you want to take a step back from the beach front. From the Republic Museum in Catete to the Fort do Vigia in Leme, these areas are surrounded by gardens and are bursting with restaurants and bars, they are both perfect for staying close to the entertainment, but far away enough to relax. Flamengo and Botafogo are both busier areas, consisting of authentic bars and shopping centers and becoming increasingly vibrant.


Copacabana and Ipanema are overloaded with gorgeous beaches and non-stop fun, the type of places people only dream of going. Whilst the beautiful district of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas offers a variety of water sports and is one of the most popular areas in Rio, overlooked by Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain. Leblon is an up-market area full of high-end restaurants and bars whereas Sao Conrado is a mixture of slums and mansions, designer shops and street stalls.


North Zone


The North Zone lacks quantity of hotels and activities for tourists, but makes up for that in the quality of its landmarks such as football stadiums, the zoo and the world’s largest urban forest. It is the most populated district in Rio and is scattered with diversity from high-end neighbours to incredibly underprivileged areas in close proximity. Engenhao and Maracana Stadiums are fantastically built, mostly hosting football matches and providing guided tours through the ‘Walk of Fame’. Discover the National Museum and Zoological Gardens in Sao Cristovao, both rich in history and beauty, or climb Corcovado Mountain to marvel at the Christ the Redeemer Statue.


West Zone


The West Zone is expanding quickly, transforming into the future of the city. Barra da Tijuca is the neighborhood hosting most of the Olympic 2016 events and also boasts 20 high-end shopping malls. Check out the beaches in this area, packed with tourists due to its range of nightclubs, water sports and music venues. To the east, Recreio boasts some of the cleanest, most pleasant beaches in the city (Praia do Recreio, Praia da Macumba) and the Casa de Pontal Museum, with art work from all 24 states of Brazil.


Central Zone


The historic center of the city is where people of all classes come together to work, dine and shop, and for the tourists to embark on their adventures. Rich in history but with plenty of trendy restaurants and nightclubs, the central zone is full of life. Some of the best churches are waiting to be explored here, Ordem Tereciro do Carmo and Santa Cruz dos Militares along with some of the best museums. Enjoy a boat tour or learn to scuba dive in Gloria, or check out Lapa 40 where people go to play snooker, samba and enjoy a few drinks.