City Guide: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

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Your curated guide to the best bites, sleeps and spots, as seen through the season Siren lens. 

Rio de Janeiro is the second-largest city in Brazil with a population of 6.5 million cariocas. It is best known for its world-famous sights such as Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain; Carnival; football; samba and bossa nova; and beaches, such as Ipanema and Copacabana.

Rio is a year-round destination, but its high season runs from December to March, when the weather is hot and Carnival’s in full swing. Off-season, when prices are lower and the temperatures not so steamy, runs May to October.

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Solid Mid-Range Sleep:  Porto Bay Rio Internacional Hotel
Photo: @portobay
Av. Atlântica, 1500 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22021-000, Brazil

This is a great four-star option located in a prime spot on Copacabana beach. Spacious and modern rooms, sweeping beach views from the rooftop pool and bar, a decent breakfast spread, and private beach area make this a good base in Copacabana without breaking the bank.

Old-World Luxury Sleep: The Belmond Copacabana Palace
Av. Atlântica, 1702 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22021-001, Brazil

This property is the crowning jewel of Copacabana beach. This elegant, historical hotel has a stunning facade, posh restaurants, and beautiful courtyard pool. If booking a room is out of reach, the poolside courtyard offers a romantic spot for pre-dinner drinks.

Off The Beaten Path Sleep:  La Suite by Dussol
R. Jackson de Figueiredo, 501 – Joá, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22611-000, Brazil

This high-end design boutique hotel dramatically set cliffside in Joatinga. A good alternative for travellers who want the seaside views without the hustle-and-bustle of busy Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon.

Best Stay: Hotel Fasano Rio
Av. Vieira Souto, 80 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22420-002, Brazil

The it hotel located on the it beach, Ipanema, this Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel can be summed up in three words: glamorous, sexy and sleek. The rooftop pool and lounge offers spectacular views of the beach and surrounding mountains; plus, it’s a brilliant spot to people watch. Rooms are ultra-modern, yet warm and comfortable. Tip: opt for a beach-facing room, it’s worth the splurge.

 Photo: @barespiritosanto

Photo: @barespiritosanto

The Best Bite & Why:

For traditional home cooking inspired by Amazonian techniques and ingredients, Espirito Santo Restaurante in Santa Teresa is a neighbourhood gem. The Banana Stew—a semi-sweet stew made with bananas cooked in coconut and herbs—and the Chayote in Xinxin—Brazilian squash and mixed vegetables sautéed with a mixture of ginger, peanuts, cashews and herbs—were inspired and delicious.

A must-try snack is the pão de queijo, doughy balls of cheesy heaven. Our favourite were served steaming at the Fogo de Chãochurrascaria in BotaFogo.

Book well ahead for Olympe restaurant, the flagship restaurant by carioca chef, Claude Troisgros, in Lagoa. Olympe remains Rio’s top European dining experience with one of the most innovative tasting menus in the city.

 Photo: @fasano

Photo: @fasano

The Best View:

The best city views can be seen from Christ the Redeemer statue—one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—at the peak of Rio’s Corcovado Mountain.

For those who prefer their vistas paired with a caipirinha, the trendy rooftop pool bar at the Hotel Fasano Rio is unmatched. Go for sunset.

Notable Excursions:

More intrepid travellers can arrange a private or small group tour of one of Rio’s favelas, offering a unique perspective on these communities.

For an adrenaline rush, try hand gliding from the top of Pedra Bonita, towering above the Tijuca National Park at 2,283 feet.

 Photo: @gucopa

Photo: @gucopa

Best Local Hot Spots & Top Attractions:

Rio Scenarium, located in the Centro neighbourhood, is a fun and non-intimidating samba bar with some of Rio’s best live samba bands.

Not To Be Missed:

Be one with the locals and catch a football match at Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums, when one of Rio’s four major teams are playing (Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, and Vasco da Gama). The sheer spectacle of the game and energy of the crowd is amazing.

Have we mentioned the beaches? Ipanema, Copacabana, and Barra da Tijuca, to name just a few, each with their own distinct personality.

Cultural Events:

Regarded as the “Carnival Capital of the World”, Rio’s famed Carnival is considered to be the largest in the world, with two million people per day on the streets. This year Carnival runs from February 5 until February 10, 2016.

Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics, marking the first time that a South American nation has hosted these events.