All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but the city’s appeal will continue long after the medals have been won and the stadiums have emptied.
There is no place in the world like Rio. This steamy, sultry city is home to some of the greatest landmarks in the world, from the spectacular Sugar Loaf Mountain which welcomes you into the bay, to the sweeping sandy stretches of Ipanema and Copacabana; arguably two of the world’s most iconic beaches. From the peak of Corcovado Mountain, the colossal 125ft form of Christ the Redeemer presides over the city; the views before him so awesome, his soapstone jaw would undoubtedly drop if it could.
Christened Port Maravilha, or Marvellous Port, the £1.6bn redevelopment of dishevelled dockland in downtown Rio will create a new heart in the city. The Museu de Arte do Rio, or MAR, has already opened its doors, celebrating the city’s thriving art scene in a space that spans eight exhibition halls. The building itself is as interesting as the artworks inside, merging a new space-age construction with a stately 20th century palace. That said, the cutting-edge Museu do Amanhã, or Museum of Tomorrow, is without doubt the port’s most impressive new arrival. Despite only opening in December 2015, the futuristic edifice is already being celebrated as one of the world’s most extraordinary buildings.
Whilst the new port development promises to bring a cosmopolitan edge to the city, it is unrestrained vibrancy that has always attracted visitors to Rio’s shores. This is a place that knows how to party, sambaing until dawn, before greeting the sunrise on Copacabana Beach, a straw-studded Agua de Coco providing some much needed hydration after one too many Caipirinhas. Brazilians make up a substantial proportion of the world’s most beautiful supermodels and fastest footballers, but they’re such a friendly bunch that it is impossible to begrudge them their successes. That being said, it is surely nigh on impossible to be anything but carefree when 50 miles of the world’s best beaches are on your doorstep.
Football is Brazil’s national sport and Rio’s streets and beaches are filled with future talents, each of them practicing from sunrise to sunset in the hope of one day joining the league of legends that the country has cultivated. Success will take them from the favela to the pitch of the Maracanã Stadium; Brazil’s national stadium and a must-see for visiting football fanatics.
Come Carnival, revellers pack another stadium. The Sambadrome is a purpose built structure in downtown Rio and for four days each February it is transformed in a riot of colour, costume and of course, samba. Time your visit to coincide with the Rio Carnival and you’ll find yourself caught up in the party; the merriment sweeps the city, putting a samba step into the walk of everyone in its path.
When the party ends, the leafy Jardin Botânico neighbourhood promises a fragrant floral respite. This leafy suburb, nestled at the foot of Corcovado Mountain, has been made famous by Parque Lage; a subtropical public park backed by the vast and verdant rainforest of Tijuca National Park. The park is almost other-worldly, managing to escape the crowds, thanks to its position off the tourist track.
Whilst known as a picturesque starting point for hikes up the Corcovado, there’s plenty to hold your attention even if you’ve no intention of heading up the mountain. Bring a picnic, pitch up in the Roman style palazzo and tuck in, keeping one eye on the monkeys and toucans waiting to dine out on your leftovers.
Rio’s lust for life is intoxicating and those who visit can’t fail to fall under its spell.