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Rio de Janeiro is a breathtakingly beautiful city that is highly popular with tourists for its gorgeous beaches, revelry attitude and wild parties. The yearly Carnival is boisterous fun at its best, and for those who are lucky to be in this party city in February, it is a magnificent experience. The locals are passionate, energetic, fun-loving and jovial. The infectious party nature rubs off on you, and you’re invariably pulled into one of the hundreds of parties happening around town.
In 1502, Rio de Janeiro was named by a Portuguese ship’s captain, who thought he had actually anchored at the river’s mouth. During a 1567 festival, the city was officially called Sao Sebastiao de Rio de Janeiro. Brazil subsequently received independence in 1889, and Rio was anointed the Capital of the Brazilian Republic. This continued until 1960, after which Brasalia played home to the government.
 Rio also goes beyond being a mere frolicking beach destination. Visitors can feast on the architecture, the fascinating museums, the eclectic dining options, and the bustling nightlife. The spirit of carnival is omnipresent in the Rio air, and amiable locals will invite you to the most happening parties at the drop of a hat.
Rio’s most popular tourist attractions and activities are all located in the vicinity, making it a charming walk down the city’s cobbled streets. The weather is always perfect and hence visitors love walking down the city and seeing the outside. The city will serve you everything from delectable food to party invites to creative concoctions on a platter.  There's absolutely no reason to stay around the pier -- it's a working cargo port with no services. Ships may arrange transportation to Copacabana, the Ipanema beaches, and the city center, or you can simply hail a taxi. 
While inarguably exciting, visiting Rio is still equated with the word "danger" in some conversations. In reality, there are some safety concerns if you venture far out of the normal tourist quarters. But the overall situation for visitors has improved greatly in the past decade, and pickpocketing and mugging incidents are not common. So kick back and relax as you are drawn into Rio's magnificent orbit.
Docking & Local Transportation
Your ship will dock at Pier Maua, The downtown which is within walking distance of Rio’s central business district. Taxis are readily available, or your cruise ship might arrange transportation for you to Copacabana, Ipanema or the city center. Some jewelry stores may also offer complimentary rides to and from their stores, usually located in Ipanema.
Port’s Renewal -- The port of Rio de Janeiro will undergo a major renovation for the 2016 Olympic Games. Work began in 2010 it’s the major infrastructure works of the city over the past 30 years. The port area currently does not offer many attractions or tourist services. A big part of Perimetral viaduct will be demolished allowing the reduction of visual pollution in the region. The high speed train Rio – São Paulo, which should also be ready in 2016, will depart from Cidade Nova neighborhood, in the region. The great purpose of government is to bring investment to the port area, developing tourism and services industries and also improve the aesthetic beauty of the region.
Rio's subway, also called the metro, is economical and effective. Trains ply to several destinations within the city from as early as 6am until 11pm. Taxis are easily available as well. Rates are much more affordable before 8pm and on weekdays. For an efficient taxi service, contact Coopertramo (21/2260-2022) for price information. You can opt to rent a car while in Rio, but be advised that driving here is more daredevilry than functional driving skills. Contact Hertz (21/2275-7440) for everyday rental prices and availability.
The central part of Rio de Janeiro where the major sights are located is very walkable. Taxis are also readily available. While Rio has an excellent public transportation system (buses and metro), they can be tricky to figure out for first-timers. The metro extends along Copacabana beach and includes Ipanema.
Another option many cruise passengers have is free transportation, courtesy of internationally known jewelers; companies like H. Stern often offer complimentary roundtrip sedan rides to its jewelry store in Rio, which is in Ipanema -- the city's chic-est neighborhood. No purchase is required and passengers who don't buy aren't hassled about it. But if you do accept the free ride (cars go back and forth between the ship and the store all day), be courteous and at least browse the store before heading off to the beach or town. 
Rio means Carnival, symbolized by the exciting music, exotic costumes and rhythmic dance of the samba, a fusion of Portuguese, native and African influences. No visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without experiencing the glamor and rhythm of a colorful samba show (Plataforma Samba Show Tour).
Getting Around
By Public Transportation
Rio may seem like a large and sprawling city, but the neighborhoods in which visitors spend most of their time are very easy to get around in. From Centro south to São Conrado, the neighborhoods hang like beads on a string on the narrow strip of land between the ocean and the mountains. You can almost always see one or the other; with landmarks like these it's pretty hard to stray too far from where you want to go.
By Metrô -- The easiest way to get around is by subway; in Centro and the Zona Sul it covers almost every major area of interest, particularly now that there are integrated bus/subway lines for the parts of the city where the Metrô has not yet reached. There are only two lines: Line 1 goes north from downtown -- it's useful for going to the Maracanã and the Quinta da Boa Vista -- while Line 2 begins at the Central Station and goes south, covering most of Centro, then swinging thorough Glória, Catete, Flamengo, and Botafogo before ducking through the mountain to its final destination in Ipanema. The trip takes about 20 minutes to move you from Centro to Copacabana (as compared to a 40-60-min. bus ride in rush hour). The system is very safe and efficient. You purchase a magnetic ticket card at the entrance of the station, either from a machine or from a ticket booth. You can buy a single ride card (R$2.80), or opt for a rechargeable magnetic card, to which you then add value, which gets deducted when you swipe the card passing through the turnstile. There is no charge for the magnetic card, but the minimum recharge value is R$10.
The subway system recently expanded its integrated Metrô/bus service, and now has new air-conditioned buses feeding into the Metrô system from all parts of the city. The more popular routes include: Metrô/Ipanema (to Ipanema; transfer at Siqueira Campos); Metrô/Gavea or Barra (to Leblon and Gavea or Barra; transfer at Siqueira Campos); Metrô/Rodoviaria (to the main bus terminal; transfer at Largo do Machado); Metrô-Urca (to the Sugarloaf; transfer at Botafogo); and Metrô-Cosme Velho (to the Corcovado; transfer at Largo do Machado). The price is R$3.60, cheaper than paying separately for the Metrô and bus. After you use the electronic ticket to enter the subway turnstile, the ticket is returned so that you can present it on the bus at the transfer station.
Know the Subway Hours -- The Metrô operates Monday through Saturday from 5am to midnight. On Sundays and statutory holidays the Metrô runs from 7am to 11pm. Special schedules apply during New Year's and Carnaval when trains will run all night.
By Bus -- Rio's buses follow direct, logical pathways, sticking to the main streets along much the same route you'd take if you were driving. What's more, they're fast. Indeed, it's a good idea to wedge yourself in your seat; Rio drivers like to lean into the turns.
More than 30 different buses run from Centro to Copacabana alone. Figuring out which to take is straightforward. The route number and final destination are displayed in big letters on the front of the bus. Smaller signs displayed inside the front window (usually below and to the left of the driver) and posted on the side of the bus list the intermediate stops. Armed with that information and a map, it's fairly uncomplicated to figure out which route the bus will take and how close you will get to your destination. A bus going from Praça XV in Centro out to Copacabana, for example, would show COPACABANA as the final destination, and on the smaller sign list intermediate destinations such as CINELANDIA, GLORIA, LARGO DO MACHADO (in Flamengo), and RIO SUL (the big mall in Botafogo). Tip: If you're going from Ipanema or Copacabana all the way to Centro (or vice versa), look for a bus that says VIA ATERRO in its smaller window sign. These buses get on the waterfront boulevard in Botafogo and don't stop until they reach downtown.
Buses only stop if someone wants to board. If you see your bus coming, wave your hand at the driver. Most buses are boarded from the front and exited from the rear. Have your bus money ready -- R$2.50 to R$3.50 -- as you will go through a turnstile right away. You pay for each ride; there are no transfers. Buses are safe during the day; just watch for pickpockets when it gets busy. In the evening, when fewer passengers ride, it is better to take a taxi.
By Taxi
Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. They're the perfect way to reach those out-of-the-way places and the best way to get around in the evening. Regular taxis can be hailed anywhere on the street. You will also find taxi stands throughout the city. A ride from Copacabana to Praça XV in Centro costs about R$25 to R$30; a ride from the main bus station to Leblon is about R$35, R$40 in traffic. Radio taxis are about 20% more expensive, often work with a set fee per destination, and can be contacted by phone; try Coopertramo (tel. 021/2209-9292) or TransCoopass (tel. 021/2209-1555). Most hotels work with radio taxis so if you don't want to pay extra just walk to the corner and hail your own regular taxi. Radio taxis are said to be more reliable (and they have air-conditioning as well), but -- aside from at the airport -- we've never had a problem with any regular taxi.
By Van
When you see the chaotic bus-ridden streets of Rio de Janeiro, it's hard to believe that there could be a shortage of buses. However, in the last few years the city has seen an explosion of additional bus services provided by Volkswagen vans and microbuses. Some of these vans are licensed, many more remain officially illegal. Fares range from R$2 to R$4.50 and quality ranges from downright scary to clean, modern vehicles. Those that circulate along the Zona Sul waterfront and farther out to Barra da Tijuca are generally quick and efficient. Vans can be hailed anywhere and will let you off anywhere on their route.
By Ferry
Rio has a number of ferries operated by Barcas SA (tel. 0800/704-4113; www.barcas-sa.com.br), departing from Praça XV downtown. The busiest routes link downtown Rio with downtown Niterói or Charitas (also in Niterói) across the bay -- also reached by car and bus by crossing the 14km (8 1/2-mile) bridge. The service to Niterói runs daily from 6am to 11:30pm; to Charitas the service is Monday to Friday 6:50am to 9pm; departures on both routes run at approximately half-hour intervals. On the Niterói route, the cheapest ferry (R$2.80) is the regular one, taking about 25 minutes to cross. The catamaran and aerobarco, a hydrofoil, cross the same route in less than 10 minutes and cost R$5. The Charitas ferry costs R$8. A popular ferry for tourists as well as Cariocas on the weekend is the route to Paquetá, a large car-free island in the Baia da Guanabara. The ferries to Paquetá depart Rio at 5:15, 7:10, 10:30am, 1:30, 3:30, 4, 7, 9, and 11pm; the fare is R$4.50.
By Car
A car is not required for exploring Rio; a combination of public transit (in the daytime and evening) and taxis (late at night) gets you pretty much anywhere in the city for very little money.
The truth is, driving in Rio is not for the weak of heart. Traffic is hectic, street patterns confusing, drivers just a few shades shy of courteous, and parking next to nonexistent. Better to get used to the city traffic as a pedestrian first and rent a car only if you're going out to destinations such as Petrópolis and the historic towns of the Minas Gerais region.
Special Driving Rules -- The rule is, there are no rules. Okay, maybe we're exaggerating. Traffic has improved immensely in recent years since police began using photo-radars. People now wear seat belts and stop at red lights during the day. However, Cariocas still drive aggressively. Lane dividers are either absent or ignored. Any space larger than 10 centimeters (4 in.) between your car and the one in front will be instantly occupied by another driver. Later at night red lights become optional. Be careful when approaching intersections.
Things To See and Do
With its white sandy beaches, soaring mountains and picturesque harbor, it’s no wonder that Rio de Janeiro is known as the “cidade maravilhosa”, or marvelous city. Facing the South Atlantic coast, the second-largest city in Brazil is blessed with one of the most beautiful natural settings for a metropolis in the world. The dazzling landscape is just one of the reasons that visitors flock to Rio. During carnival season, the streets fill with music and ornately costumed dancers, attracting revelers from all over the globe. At any time of year, visitors won’t want to miss the top tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro.
The most famous attraction in Rio De Janeiro is Corcovado Mountain, and the massive one-hundred-foot Cristo Redentor statue that flanks it. The statue was a monument erected to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Brazil's independence from Portugal. The work culminated in 1931, and one can get an up close look at it by taking the Corcovado Railway to the top of this dramatic viewpoint.
Christ the Redeemer
#1 of Tourist Attractions In Rio De Janeiro.  Perched atop the 710 meter (2,330 feet) high peak of Corcovado Peak, the statue of “Cristo Redentor” stands with arms outstretched, gazing serenely out over the city. Construction of the statue began in 1922 during the heyday of the Art Deco movement, and the concrete and soapstone statue is considered the largest statue designed in the genre in the world. Most visitors take a vertical cog train to reach the base of the summit. From there, visitors to the monument once had to climb hundreds of steps to reach the top. Today, elevators and escalators are available to shorten the trip.
Separated from Ipanema to the west by surfer-favored Arpoador beach, Copacabana has a more active vibe than its equally famous neighbor. Rio locals, called “cariocas,” always seem to have a game of soccer or volleyball in play, and vendors vociferously hawk their drinks and snacks from the kiosks that line the beach. Fort Copacabana, a military base with a wartime museum that is open to the public, stands at one end of the beach. On the length of beach fronting the fort, fishermen offer up their morning catch for sale.
Visitors and cariocas alike love to stroll along the promenade that borders the 4 km (2.5 mile) long beach. Originally built in the 1930s, the walkway features a wave-like design laid out in black and white stones. Inland from the promenade are closely-packed multistoried hotels and apartments.
The beach made famous in the bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema” in the 1960s remains one of Rio’s most popular tourist spots today. A long, arcing expanse of soft white sand and rolling waves, Ipanema routinely reaches the top of the “Best Beaches in the World” lists year after year. The beach is bordered by a well-organized grid of shops, cafés and restaurants as well as an array of art galleries, theaters and clubs.
Located in the upscale South Zone, or “Zona Sul”, Ipanema lies between the beaches of Copacabana and Leblon. Posts or “postos” mark off the beach into sections, and different types of people tend to congregate in each area. Families favor the section between posts 11 and 12 while the area near post 9 attracts dedicated sunbathers and free-wheeling artists.
Lagoa Neighborhood
The Lagoa area is not only the most exclusive neighborhood in the affluent Zona Sul district but is the third-most expensive neighborhood in all of South America. It is also home to a large lagoon known as the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The four-mile path encircling the lagoon is a favorite spot for joggers and cyclists. Open-air cafés and restaurants along the shore offer stunning views of the lagoon and the beaches beyond.
Maracana Stadium
Football (or soccer) is by far the most important sport in Brazil and the Maracanã Stadium is one of Rio’s most important landmarks. Once the world’s highest capacity football venue, it was able to hold nearly 200,000 people when it opened in 1950. In modern times, the capacity has been reduced because of safety considerations, and the introduction of seating for all fans. It was partially rebuilt in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and is currently able to seat 80,000 spectators making it the largest stadium in South America.
Tijuca National Park
One of the largest urban forest in the world, the Tijuca National Park covers a huge area of a mostly mountainous landscape. Visitors can hike to Rio’s highest peak, the Pico da Tijuca, to enjoy expansive views of Guanabara Bay and the city below. Nearly destroyed in the early 1800s by encroaching coffee plantations, much of the forest was replanted by hand in the latter half of the century with as many as nine million trees. Attractions include the Mayrink Chapel, which has murals painted by the famed Brazilian neo-realism painter Cândido Portinari, and the tumbling 100-foot Cascatinha Waterfall.
Lapa Neighborhood
Located in the downtown section of Rio known as “Centro”, the Lapa neighborhood was once the city’s red-light district. Today, the area is known for its vibrant nightlife. Lined with samba and choro bars, the music and dancing spills out into the street on weekend nights. Most of the neighborhood’s architecture dates back to the 1800s, providing a scenic backdrop to all the festivities. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends and cariocas to sample local cuisine and to sip caipirinha, the national cocktail made with sugarcane hard liquor and lime. Escadaria Selarón, a set of famous steps connects both the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods.
Santa Teresa Neighborhood
Perched on a hill overlooking the city’s harbor, the Santa Teresa neighborhood invites visitors to step back in time and experience the faded elegance of Rio’s 19th-century plantation mansions and cobblestone streets. The region escaped development until 1896, when an aqueduct was built that linked the neighborhood to the city. The district was a haven for artists, musicians and writers in the 20th century, and although trendy clubs and boutiques have since overtaken the neighborhood, it still retains a friendly artist-colony vibe. The city’s last remaining streetcar, the Santa Teresa Tram, used to be a popular tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro but was closed after a serious accident on the line.
Jardim Botanico
Located to the west of the Lagoa neighborhood, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, or Jardim Botanico, houses more than 8,000 species of plants. Built in the early 1800s, the garden features many mature specimens, including avenues of towering palm trees. Visitors flock to the park to view the 600 species of orchids. The garden includes a number of monuments, fountains and features, including a Japanese garden, a pond filled with water lilies and the new Museu do Meio Ambiente, which displays exhibits that focus on the environment.
Sugarloaf Mountain
Rising 400 meters (1,300 feet) above the mouth of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf mountain is a monolith of quartz and granite that visitors can crest via a glass-walled cable car known as a “bondinho” or “teleférico.” The cable car departs every 20 minutes from the base of Babilônia hill and climbs to the top of the Morro da Urca hill. From there, visitors can take a second cable car up to the mountain’s summit.
Downtown, there are numerous gorgeous churches dating back to the 17th century. Among those worth seeing is Convento do Santo Antonio (Largo da Carioca 5, open weekdays from 2-5 p.m.), which dates from 1615; don't miss its colonial-era artifacts. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelaria(Praca Pio X, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. - noon and 1 - 4:30 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.) represents Brazil's 18th century. At the Mosteiro de Sao Bento (Rua Dom Gerardo 32, open weekdays only, from 8 - 11 a.m. and 2:30 - 5:30 p.m.) the highlight among many is its intricately wood-carved altar. For those with more contemporary tastes, check out the daring and modernCatedral de Sao Sebastiao do Rio de Janeiro (Avenue Republica do Chile 245, open daily from 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.), which was built in the early 1960's.
Art museum aficionados should head to Rio's Flamengo neighborhood. Main attractions there include the Museu de Arte Moderna (Avenue Infante Dom Henrique 85, Tuesday - Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.) to see a huge collection of contemporary works. The Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, otherwise known as the National Museum of Fine Arts (Avenue Rio Branco 199, Tuesday - Friday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., weekends 2 - 6 p.m.) features Brazil's best artists of the 19th and 20th century. And for a fun stop, check out the Museu Carmen Miranda (Avenue Rui Barbosa 560, Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., weekends from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.), which memorializes Brazil's most famous bombshell -- not to mention star in the arts of samba, singing, dancing and acting. Another must-see stop on the cultural radar is the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Museu de Arte Contemporarea de Niteroi, a contemporary art museum, where cutting-edge masterworks meet a striking "spaceship" building with unparalleled views of the city (Mirante da Boa Viagem, Niteroi, Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.)
The Mosteiro de São Bento is located at Rua Dom Gerardo 68 (21/2206-8100) and is a gorgeous church in the middle of Rio de Janeiro. This monastery and church started work 1617 and were incomplete even until 1641. The main altar of the church is spectacular, and the woodcarvings embossed in solid gold make for a surreal. The silver chandeliers and intricate artwork of the Mosteiro are striking as well. For those who are here on a Sunday, the Gregorian choir is a must see.
The Museu Nacional de Belas Artes is housed at Avenida Rio Branco 199 (21/2240-0068). One of the most conspicuous works is Leandro Joaquim's landscape of the city from the fascinating 18th century. Apart from this, if you travel out of the local galleries, you can witness some of the most exquisite pieces of African and folk art.
The Museu Histórico Nacional is located at Praça Marechal Âncora (21/2550-9224). A few parts of this majestic erstwhile date back to 1603, though a lot of what actually borders the museum was constructed in 1762. This is at best a cache, a beautiful melange of Brazil's heritage and glorious past. Artistic masterpieces, maps, old papers, collector’s coins, ancient weapons, and more are displayed here.
Corcovado: The Art Deco-style statue of Christ the Redeemer is Rio's most famous and enduring symbol, perched atop the 2,300-foot-high hill of Corcovado. Spectacular views of mountains, bays and beaches await those who take the easy funicular ride; the trains leave Cosme Velho station every 20 minutes.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acugar): The views from the top of this imposing natural wonder amply demonstrate why no other city in the world can compete with Rio's scenic beauty and setting -- a magnificent harbor and impossibly beautiful beaches are nudged tight against dramatic Tijuca National Park, the largest urban expanse of tropical forest and mountains on the planet. To get to Sugarloaf, take a taxi to the cable car station at the base.
The Jardim Botanico (Rua Jardim Botanico 1008, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily) is a lovely, peaceful respite from always-busy Rio. It's spread out over 340 acres, and its biggest attraction is Avenue of the Palms, part of the world's largest collection relating to the Amazon.
The Burle Marx House (Estrada da Barra de Guaratiba 2019, guided visits by appointment at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m.) is a large, expansive estate that has morphed into an art gallery and museum, honoring Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx. The highlight is the elegant landscaping and plants that surround the house.
Take in a "futebol" (soccer) match at Estadio Maracana, Rio's gargantuan stadium (the largest in South America), which holds nearly 89,000 passionate fans.
Some cruise lines plunge headfirst into the celebration (and madness) of Rio's world-famous Carnival celebration by scheduling their port stops around this unique and joyous party. A four-day event, it begins on a Saturday and ends on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday); the date changes every year.
The major samba schools begin practicing months before they make their hundreds-person-strong entrances into the famous Rio Sambadrome during Carnival. Some offer behind-the-scenes tours where you can try on one of the elaborate (and heavy) costumes to try to shake your booty Latin style. No one will laugh even if you think you're making a fool of yourself -- except your significant other! Check with your ship's shore excursion desk, as the schedule varies greatly.
Rio Scenarium (Rua do Lavradio, 20 - Centro, 2233-3239) is a large nightclub and restaurant with eclectic decor that's part fun house, part antique store. A rotating selection of local groups plays samba and forro, the accordion music of Brazil's northeast, and everyone eventually gets up to dance the night away.
One Day in Rio de Janeiro
Start your day with a visit to one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous sites – Corcovado, the large art deco statue of Christ the Redeemer that stands over 2,000 feet above the city. Get there by taking the funicular from the Cosme Velho station first thing in the morning to enjoy the views and beat the crowds.
Then, head back to central Rio to explore some of the city’s museums and churches. The 16th-century Mosteiro de Sao Bento, the 17th-century Convento do Santo Antonio and the 18th-century Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelaria are all worth a visit. Art lovers will then want to make their way to the Flamengo neighborhood, where you will find the Museu de Arte Moderna with its large contemporary art collection and the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, which showcases Brazil’s top artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Spend the rest of the afternoon walking the length of Copacabana Beach, taking in Rio’s legendary beach scene. Continue south to Ipanema, recently named the best beach city in the world. For a quick lunch, you can stop at a lunch counter around Copacabana or Ipanema for a sandwich and fresh fruit juice, or pull up a seat at an outdoor café and enjoy the people-watching.
Organized Tours
DIY When It Comes to Tours -- When booking a tour or outdoor adventure, it's best to make the call yourself. (Don't worry about a language barrier; most tour operators speak English.) If you let the concierge or desk staff make the booking it will cost you anything from 10% to 50% more, and you may not even get the tour you want. Rio concierges are notorious for informing guests that a tour is "full," then putting them on a tour with another company -- one offering the concierge a bigger cut.
Bus Tours
Gray Line (tel. 021/2512-9919; www.grayline.com) offers a number of tour itineraries: the 4-hour US$43 walking tour of Rio's historic downtown is a quite reasonable value; the US$55 half-day tours of the Corcovado or Pão de Açúcar are really a bit of a racket; all they're providing is transfer to and from the train station or gondola, at a very hefty markup.
Boat Tours
Saveiros Tour (tel. 021/2225-6064; www.saveiros.com.br) offers 2-hour tours of Guanabara Bay aboard an antique wooden fishing schooner. Cost is R$55, children 5 to 10 R$25, children 4 and under free, including snacks of fresh fruit. Departure is at noon Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from the Glória Marina (Metrô: Glória).
Take to the water for sundown. Pink Fleet (tel. 021/2555-4063; www.pinkfleet.com) offers evening dinner cruises on Guanabara Bay. Passengers begin boarding at 6pm; the boat departs at 9:15pm and returns at 11pm. Cost is R$80, not including dinner, which you order from an a la carte menu. On Saturdays, there's an additional afternoon tour, departing at 11:45am. The boats depart from the Enseada da Glória, just behind the Museum of Modern Art.
Helicopter Tours
Rio is a town where taking the high ground is rewarded. Helisight (tel. 021/2511-2141, on weekends 2542-7895; www.helisight.com.br) offers helicopter sightseeing tours. They cost R$150 per person for a 6-minute circuit around the statue of Christ; R$300 per person for a 12-minute flight over the Christ, Botanical Gardens, Rocinha, Lagoa, Leblon, Ipanema, Copacabana, and the Sugarloaf. Minimum of three people per flight. Tours depart from Urca Hill (halfway up to the Sugarloaf) and the shore of Lagoa (opposite the rowing stadium in Leblon).
Favela Tours
Rio's hillside favelas, or shantytowns, are huge, complex, and fascinating -- a whole other world, in fact -- but as an outsider it's difficult (and dangerous) to navigate your way through this world. Licensed guide Marcelo Armstrong of Marcelo Armstrong's Favela Tour (tel. 021/9989-0074 mobile; www.favelatour.com.br) knows the territory; he's been doing tours since 1993, longer than any of his competitors. A 3-hour tour to the favelas of Rocinha and Vila Canoas costs R$85 if booked directly, including pickup and drop-off. A portion of the fee goes to fund a school that tourgoers get to visit. While some foreign visitors have qualms about the ethics of touring a poor community, the fact is most favela residents welcome such visits -- not so much for the economic spinoffs (though these are welcome) but for the sense of validation that comes with having foreigners visit their neighborhood (just as they might visit Ipanema or Copacabana). They too are a part of Brazil, and the tours to their community show it.
Community Visits -- For a very different tour, experience Ikoporan's community tours (tel. 021/3852-2916; www.ikoporan.org). This local organization sets up volunteer projects for foreign visitors who would like to help a community organization. Those who don't have the time to dedicate to volunteering can spend a day visiting one or more community projects, getting to know some of the social projects that support some of Rio's most socially disadvantaged groups, learn more about social issues, and talk to staff, volunteers, and local residents. Tours start at R$150 and include transportation, an English-speaking guide, and lunch. Part of the proceeds are donated to the projects.
Walking Tours
Rio Hiking (tel. 021/9721-0594; www.riohiking.com.br) offers a 3-hour guided walking tour of the historic, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Tours depart daily at 9am and 2pm, and cost R$70.
Tour du Jour -- Rio Hiking (tel. 021/2552-9204; www.riohiking.com.br) offers an excellent day tour (R$200 per person) that includes a visit to Pedra Bonita for the views (with the option of taking a leap in a hang glider) followed by a visit to the Museu Casa do Pontal, Sitio Burle Marx, and time for a swim or a walk along Grumari, one of the city's loveliest beaches.
Eating Out
Cariocas love to eat out. Better yet, they love to linger over their meals. Waiters in Rio would never dream of coming by to ask you to "settle up" so they can go off shift. So take your time. Dawdle. Savor. Enjoy.
Rio offers an endless variety of places to eat. There are the chopperias, the place for cold beer and casual munchies. Slightly more upscale are the botequins, many of which are open to the early hours. There are hundreds of food kiosks, each with its own specialty, be it barbecued prawns, Bahian finger food, or vegetarian sandwiches. And on top of all that, there's a wide variety of restaurants in all neighborhoods, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive, from simple sandwiches to delicious steaks, from fresh sushi to the complicated stews and sauces of Brazil's Northeast. There's no excuse for going hungry in Rio.
Most restaurants are open from around 11am until 4pm and then again from 7pm until midnight or later. There are also quite a few establishments that will stay open all day, especially on the weekends when people leave the beach at 4pm to go eat lunch. Sunday is often the busiest day for lunch as extended families get together for a meal. Many restaurants close Sunday evening. The exception to these hours is in Rio's downtown, where restaurants cater to the office crowd; only a few of them remain open evenings and weekends.
Where to Find the Finest Feijoada -- For the best feijoada in town, try one of the following restaurants (on a Sat, of course -- lunch only). Confeitaria Colombo serves an outstanding feijoada in the loveliest dining room in town, Rua Gonçalves Dias 32, Centro (tel. 021/2221-0107; www.confeitariacolombo.com.br). Galani, on the 23rd floor of the plush Caesar Park Hotel, Av. Vieira Souto 460, Ipanema (tel. 021/2525-2525; www.caesarpark-rio.com), is famous for its Saturday buffet. Even fancier is the spread at the Sheraton's Mirador, Avenida Niemeyer, São Conrado (tel. 021/2274-1122; www.sheraton-rio.com). After lunch you'll welcome the 30-minute walk back to Leblon.
Don't Shy Away from Street Food
When it comes to street vendors and food, you read a lot of strange things in travel guides. Never eat meat. Don't touch fruit. Don't eat anything at all. Only drinks. In cans. Insist on ice cubes made from bottled water. Sheesh!
Rio is not Rangoon, nor the fetid fever swamps of 19th-century Benin. Yes, tap water is best avoided. It won't kill you; it's just so chlorine-saturated that it tastes like eau de swimming pool. Some of the best meals I've had in Brazil have been purchased from a street vendor. One night in Rio, on the Rua Ouvidor, we came across a man and his charcoal brazier, selling skewers of fresh-grilled prawns, lightly salted and doused with lemon. We bought two skewers, which lasted about 40 seconds . . . so we went back for four more . . . and then another four. The moral? Eating from street vendors is fine, as long as you take precautions. Does the vendor look clean and healthy? Is the food stored in a cooler? Are Brazilians queuing up? If so, odds are the food's good, and whatever supplies he has in his cooler haven't been hanging around long enough to go bad. So eat, enjoy, and don't have a cow. Or rather, do, if that's what they're selling.
Juice Magic
Rio's juice bars are a bit like a magician's hat. You peer into a hole-in-the-wall diner and think there's nothing there, then the guy behind the counter conjures up any kind of fruit juice you care to name, all of it made fresh to order. The menu in these often standing-room-only spots will typically list over 25 different kinds of fruit juice. There are the standards such as passion fruit (maracujá), pineapple (abacaxi), mango (manga), or cashew fruit (caju); there's carambola (star fruit), goiaba (guava), jaca (jack fruit), and açerola (red juice from the tiny açerola fruit). This is where things get fun. You can mix anything with anything else. Try laranja com açerola (orange juice with açerola, a very popular combination); maracujá com mango; or pineapple e guava, cashew e açerola. Some of these work, some don't. The magicians behind the counter are full of suggestions if you have any doubts. (Brazilians like to mix their fruit juice with milk.) You can also just throw caution to the wind and see what comes out of the hat.
Excellent juice bars include Big Nectar, Teixeira de Melo 34A, Ipanema. (no phone; www.bignectar.com.br; 24 hr.). Five other locations are in Ipanema, Copacabana, and Catete. Or try Bibi Sucos, Av. Ataulfo de Paiva 591, Leblon. (tel. 021/2259-4298; www.bibisucos.com.br; daily 8am-2am), with 10 other locations in Rio.
Rio's Avenida Gourmet
We could probably fill half the Rio section with reviews of restaurants on the Rua Dias Ferreira. This windy street on the far edge of Leblon has become a one-stop shop for gourmands. Trendy vegetarians head straight for O Celeiro (no. 199; tel. 021/2274-7843). You pay by the weight so help yourself to the delicious offerings and grab a spot on the large patio. To enjoy a stylish afternoon tea with all the trimmings, head over to Eliane Carvalho (no. 242; tel. 021/2540-5438; closed Mon). For pasta there's Quadrucci (no. 233; tel. 021/2512-4551), which is open for lunch and dinner and has a great patio.
For fine dining there are a number of options, mostly only open in the evenings. Zuka (no. 233; tel. 021/3205-7154) offers creative seafood dishes such as crab in phyllo pastry or grilled tuna in a cashew-nut crust. Across the street you'll find Carlota (no. 64; tel. 021/2540-6821), chosen by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the 50 most exciting restaurants in the world. Chef Carlota opened this Rio restaurant after her original São Paulo digs became the toast of the town. As in the original, her Rio dishes are fresh and creative, but portions are tiny. Farther down on the corner of Rua Rainha Guilhermina is the sushi hot spot of the city, Sushi Leblon (tel. 021/2512-7830). Thursday through Saturday evenings the lines can be long, but most people don't seem to mind the wait. If you're up on who's who in the Brazilian entertainment world, you can pass the time spotting artists and actresses. If a smaller and intimate sushi venue is more your style, check out Minimok (no. 116; tel. 021/2511-1476). By the same owners as the Mok Sakebar, this very stylish hole in the wall serves up great variety of sushi, sashimi, tempura, and rolls.
If Cariocas had to list their primary joys in life, shopping certainly wouldn't come out at the top -- there are, after all, beaches, music, and sex to consider -- but it'd certainly be in the top five. Even on the beach, vendors peddle an enormous range of products. Elsewhere clothing, shoes, arts and crafts, musical instruments, and other souvenirs can all be had at good prices.
The old downtown neighborhood of Centro offers great deals for clothes and shoes. Fun to explore are the pedestrian streets around Rua da Alfândega, Rua Uruguaiana, and Rua Buenos Aires, jampacked with hundreds of merchants in small shops side by side. Back in the '70s the area was slated to be demolished to make room for a viaduct, but over 1,200 shopkeepers formed a merchant's association and banded together to put a halt to the development. The best days for shopping are Monday through Friday when downtown is full of office workers. More upscale clothing can be found around the Rua Gonçalves Dias, with many stores selling Brazilian brand names and local designers.
Botafogo has two interesting shopping centers, the Botafogo Praia Shopping and the older Rio Sul. Rio Sul was one of the first malls of Rio and is still a very popular shopping destination. Many Brazilian stores can be found in this mall, and it makes a convenient place to browse and get a sense for brands and prices.

Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon don't have any large malls, just boutique malls known as galerias in Brazil. The prominent shopping areas are the main streets of the neighborhood. In Copacabana, Nossa Senhora de Copacabana is the main shopping street, with the best stores concentrated around the Rua Santa Clara and Rua Figueiredo de Magalhães. The beachfront area also houses a street market on Saturdays and Sundays, selling souvenirs and arts and crafts from various regions of Brazil. For upscale and exclusive shopping in Ipanema, try Rua Visconde de Piraja, especially between the Rua Anibal de Medonça and Rua Vinicius de Moraes. Another popular destination for Rio's well-heeled shoppers is the classy São Conrado Fashion Mall, located in São Conrado, a neighborhood wedged in between Leblon and Barra. Those who prefer megamalls may want to head straight for Barra da Tijuca. This newly developed neighborhood is home to many malls, including the Barra Shopping -- the largest mall in Latin America.
Hours for small stores and neighborhood shops are typically Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Malls are usually open from 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday and limited hours on Sundays (2-8pm). In tourist areas shops will often be open on weekends.
While street vendors and markets take only cash, most shops accept one or more type of credit card. Often you can negotiate a discount for paying cash instead of with a credit card. Sometimes you will see two prices listed on items: á vista (always the lower price) refers to cash payments; cheque ou cartão is the price for payments made with a check or credit card. Please note that there is a difference between Credicard (a brand of credit card) and cartão or cartão de credito (the generic word for any kind of credit card). Galleries -- For many more galleries, see www.mapadasartes.com.br.
Musical Instruments -- The berimbau, that wooden string instrument from Bahia, is one of Brazil's most popular souvenirs, but for music lovers there are many more interesting instruments to choose from (most of which are far more portable). The Rua da Carioca has turned into Music Store Central with at least five shops grouped together on its short length. Look for rattles that fit in the palm of your hand, or else pick up a tambourine or small set of drums. The agôgô is an interesting-looking double bell used to keep a beat. Guitar players will love the cavaquinho, a Brazilian mandolin. It's what gives samba its distinctive twang. For these and more visit Musical Carioca, Rua da Carioca 89 (tel. 021/3814-3400; www.musicalcarioca.com.br); Casa Oliveira Musicais, Rua da Carioca 70 (tel. 021/2252-5636); or Guitarra Prata, Rua da Carioca 37 (tel. 021/2262-9659; www.aguitarradeprata.com.br). Metrô: Largo da Carioca.

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