The Inside Word on… Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Luiz Renato
  • 8 January 2011

With so many destinations in the WHL Group‘s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our local partners – all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their necks of the woods.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

For a metropolis of over 6 million people, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has preserved its natural beauty and charm. No wonder it’s known as ‘the marvellous city.’

Rowing and Kayaking are popular water sports in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rowing and Kayaking are popular water sports in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a cityscape amongst dramatic landforms provides the ultimate scenic backdrop. Photo courtesy of Pedro Kirilos/Riotur

People from Rio are called Cariocas. Their way of life is centred around the mountains that seem to rise from the ocean; Tijuca National Park, which is the biggest urban forest in the world; the fanciful beaches along the south and west coasts; the fascinating and infamous favelas (residential areas) in the hills overlooking the city; and iconic features such as Corcovado Mountain, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable car ride.

The city is also recognised for its vibrant and international events: Carnival and the New Years Eve party in Copacabana attract over 2 million people every year. On the top of that, Rio is now in the spotlight as host to both the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Extreme Sports and Adrenaline

Extreme Sports and adventure tours are must-dos in Rio. One of the most exciting activities is a Sugarloaf hiking tour, a trek to the summit of the famous mountain – better than lining up for the cable car. For less adventurous visitors, a Rio bike tour is a great way to explore the Arpoador and Ipanema beaches, the lagoon area and the Botanical Garden. The latter tour ends with an adrenaline rush – a zip-line ride is included in the visit to the Park of Catacumba.

Rock climber in Urca, one of Rio de Janeiro's climbing spots

The Brazilian flag waves proudly, giving purpose to the rock climbers behind it in Urca, one of Rio de Janeiro's climbing spots


The shopping in Rio is outstanding. There are unique and carefully made handicrafts in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood, where dozens of local artists live. La Vereda is one of the main shops there.

In Ipanema, fancier shops cater to those looking for high-end products, including famous brands and sophisticated designer jewellery. On Sunday, the area plays host to a street market at the General Osorio Square, where good leather clothing, souvenirs, nice local paintings and a lot more can be found.


Finding a good spot to eat out in Rio de Janeiro is easy. Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro cover all tastes – Spanish, French, Lebanese, Arabian, Greek, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese and Brazilian – and line the streets of the Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa and Jardim Botânico areas.

A typical meal in Rio is the traditional feijoada, a stew of thinly sliced pork meats accompanied by side dishes of rice, black beans, collard greens, orange slices and hot peppers. Most restaurants serve it as the daily special on Saturdays and Sundays.

The caipirinha is a drink that goes well with feijoada and can be spotted everywhere in the city. It is made of cachaça (Brazil’s most common alcoholic beverage, distilled from sugar cane), sugar and lime.

Some restaurants in Rio charge by the kilo of food. You choose what you want from the buffet and salad bars, and then you weigh your plate. This style of restaurant is very popular among locals.

Ipanema beach at sunset, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A surfer and other beach-goers capture the final moments of daylight on Ipamena beach, Rio de Janiero

Local Treats

During the summer, one of the most interesting habits of the cariocas is to watch the sunset from Arpoador Rock at Arpoador beach (the eastern extremity of Ipanema beach). Known for its waves and surfing point, Arpoador attracts both locals and tourists all year round. People climb to the top of the rock, sit down as if it were a movie theatre and wait until the sun sets in the ocean. When it does it, everybody whistles and applauds this daily performance of Mother Nature.

Night Out

The nightlife in Rio usually starts at a bar. There are plenty of options in the Ipanema, Leblon, Copacabana and Lapa districts. People gather to savour some refreshing chopp, which is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Rio. It’s a draft beer served ice cold, which is perfect on a hot night in Rio. Ask for chopp claro if you want a light beer or chopp escuro if you want it dark.

After the warmup at a bar, the main attractions nowadays are in the Lapa district, where night clubs heat up with a variety of rhythms. The main clubs (Rio Scenarium, Democráticos and Lapa 40 Graus) feature live samba, forró or eletronica music.

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adventure travel, architecture & landmarks, beaches, Brazil, cities, festivals & events, food & drink, handicrafts & shopping, inside word, local knowledge, music, South America, whl.travel,

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