information about rio
Rio has a similar buzz to it as New York and accordingly you can pack a lot into a relatively short time. Below are a few suggestions of things to do in and around the city.
Rio has a classical tropical climate, so expect some rain. Summer (December to March) is hot with top temperatures ranging from 25°C (77°F) to 40°C (104°F). It can also be dreadfully humid; there are more showers in summer than at other times, but they rarely last long. Winter temperatures range from around 20°C (68°F) to 30°C (86°F), with plenty of good beach days.
As Rio is pretty spread out you will almost certainly have to travel by car to get around. Car rental is not for the faint hearted, parking is dreadful and some streets along the coast become one-way at the weekend. If possible, avoid using yellow taxis in favour of either Cootramo Radio taxis as they are registered with the tourist board, although the concierge at the hotel will be able to call reliable taxis for you when needed.
Copacabana is a good place to spend a little beach-time although it is touristy. The Avenida Atlantica runs the length of the bay and separates the beach from the city. It is fun to wander down the beach on the famous black and white swirled pavement - avoiding joggers, cyclist and roller-bladers – watching games of football and volleyball on the beach and eating from the stalls offering cold beer, chilled green coconuts, grilled shrimp and corn-on-the-cob. The beach is perfectly safe, but follow local custom and take nothing more than a few dollars, a towel and sun cream. Watch out when swimming, as the tide is very strong and don’t walk on the beach at night or in the early morning (locals don’t).
Ipanema/Leblon, in the next bay along, is another area to explore on foot (it is possible to walk from the Sugar Loaf end of Copacabana to the Leblon end of Ipanema along the beach – fabulous at the weekend). Livelier and chic-er than Copacabana, it is the district for window shopping (concentrated two blocks back from the beach on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, in Lebon and Av. Visconde de Piraja in Ipanema) and has great nightlife with a huge variety of bars and restaurants. Try Bracarense (Rua Jose Linhares 85) in the back streets for glasses of draught beer (chop) and excellent seafood snacks or Jobi for perfect Brazilian tapas (petiscos) turned out from their tiny kitchen. Both are Rio institutions. See the box below for more suggestions.
The jeep safari in the Tijuca Forest is great fun and can provide a welcome break from the heat of the city. The open Second World War jeeps are the most enjoyable way to do the tour. The lush forest – the ‘Lungs of Rio’ – offers a very different view of the city with a chance to explore the native flora travelling along mountain trails through the dense vegetation by open jeep. Stop on route to bathe under the Macaco Waterfall.
For a more rarefied glimpse of the city’s plant life then the Botanical Gardens (open 0800 – 1700) are well worth a visit, if only to walk along the spectacular avenue of Royal Palms. Highly recommend for anyone who is interested in plants or gardens.
Ruins Park is set in a beautiful colonial boulevard at the top end of the Santa Teresa district and has fabulous views over the city, from colonial to modern. (You virtually pass by Ruins Park on route to Corcovado).
Hang-gliding is a popular local sport and it is relatively straightforward to organise a tandem flight. Most pilots fly from the top off Pedra Bonita and it is easy to spot the hang-gliders circling down to land on the beach. The landing area is on Praia do Pepino at the far end of Leblon and the flights can be organised by talking to the pilots who hang around there, or it can be arranged in advance by your concierge or guide.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is a 45 minute drive from your hotel, at Niterói. The building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer (and to my mind looks like a space ship) and has great panoramas of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The museum holds a collection of Brazilian Artists (amongst others) from the latter half of this century. Tel (021) 620 2400. Other recommended museums are the Naïf Art Museum, Rua Cosme Velho, 561 (Tel (021) 205 8547) 10h00 – 18h00 a huge collection of native art from the 15th Century to the present.
Parque Lage, on Rua Jardim Botanico, is not, strictly speaking a museum, as the main house is now home to one of Rio’s better art schools, but it is well worth a visit to see the beautiful old mansion and stunning gardens which rival the Botanical Garden down the road. Entrance is free and it seems very few tourists ever make it here which makes it even more special. Make time for a coffee or a drink in the little café in the courtyard from where the Christ the Redeemer Statue is visible.
Helicopter Tours of Rio
On a clear day, a tour of Rio from the sky takes some beating. The heliport situated on the edge of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon (usually just referred to as the ‘Lagoa’) offers panoramic flights from about US$400 per person. Circuits include the Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain and an overflight of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. They also operate from heliports at Sugar Loaf and on the Corcovado. For further info, bookings and outline of the possible visit: http://www.helisight.com.br
OUR 10 FAVOURITES RESTAURANTS OF THE MOMENT
These restaurants are picked simply as we – and our clients – love them, not least as they are restaurants that form part of the fabric of Rio
1/ JOBI, Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, Leblon Traditional Rio Bar: Wonderful petiscos and Brazilian dishes served up in this tiny Leblon bar
2/ APRAZIVEL, Rua Aprazivel, Santa Teresa Contemporary Brazilian food served in an incredible open air setting in Santa Teresa. Ask the hotel or your concierge to book a car as many taxi drivers will not know how to find the restaurant.
3/ RUBAIYAT RIO, Rua Jardim Botânico, 971Jardim Botânico, overlooking the Jockey Club and race track in Jardim Botânico. A high end grill restaurant with both great service and an elgant setting with tables inside and out. The selection and quality of the meat is second to none in the city.
4/ ZAZA BISTRO Rua Joana Angelica 40, Ipanema is fun for an evening out. The eclectic, bold décor is matched by the menu which is a mix of typically Brazilian dishes served with an Asian twist. The upstairs is spread with pillows where dinners sit crossed legged at Moroccan tables.
5/ AZUMI, Rua Min Viveiros Castro, 127 Copacabana The best and most authentic Japanese restaurant in the city, tucked away in a non-descript address in Copacabana
6/ ROBERTA SUDBRACK, Av. Lineu Paula Machado, 916 Jardim Botanico The best contemporary Brazilian restaurant in town and a treat.
7/ YUME, Rua Pacheco Leao, Jardim Botanico The best sushi and sashimi in town. The restaurant is located in a lovely colonial house behind the Botanical Garden. Get a table in a private booth, in the back room where carp swim under the tables. All busy with a lively local crowd.
8/ ZUKA, Rua Dias Ferreira 233, Leblon Thai-fusion menu with a lively, good looking crowd. Good place to kick off a night out.
9/ CELEIRO, Rua Dias Ferreira, Leblon The most incredible selection of salads, pasta and sushi served to a glamorous local crowd
10/ SUSHI LEBLON, Rua Dias Ferreira Leblon Consistently good sushi, but many people go just for the hype as the restaurant is well attained by local glitterati and starts passing through town.
Generally we would recommend avoiding the touristy places as they tend to be over priced and a little too themed. Here are a few suggestions for restaurants and bars you will eat well and do ask if there is a particular place you have heard of or a type of restaurant you are hankering after:
Our favourite churrascaria is without a doubt Porcao Rio in Flamengo, although the Fogo de Chao Restaurant also over looking the sea in Flamengo is highly recommended.
Leblon, especially along the Rua Dias Ferreira, boasts many of the best new restaurants in the city. Carlota is one of the best restaurants in town and was recently voted in the 50 ‘Most Exciting’ restaurants in the world by Conde Nast Traveller. Also in R. Dias Ferreira are Zuka and Sushi Leblon, the most fashionable of Rio’s excellent Japanese restaurants and a good tapas bar, Venga (which has just opened a second restaurant on Rua Garcia D’Avila in Ipanema).
Gero Rio is currently one of the hottest tickets in town, situated in Rua Anibal de Mendonça in Ipanema and serves traditional and contemporary Italian dishes, although I would suggest the food at the Forneria Sao Sebastiao (almost opposite Gero, but presently closed (July 2016) is almost as good and rather less formal.
The informal restaurants up in Santa Teresa are among our favourites - scruffy, laid back and cook some of the best food in the city. Santa Teresa is given a wide birth by most tourists (and tour companies) which means that you should be the only tourists there. Eat at Sobrenatural, Bar do Mineiro or (the slightly smarter) Espirito Santa on Rua Almirante Alexandrino for excellent sea food and perfectly chilled Bohemia beer. Further into the Santa Teresa hills and with great views over the city, is Aprazivel (please ask us to book a driver to get to Aparzivel as not many taxi drivers will be able to find it) although prices now reflect is increasing renown.
One of the best kept secrets in Rio is the Japanese Restaurant, Azumi, set a couple of blocks back from the beach in Copacabana. The décor is functional, but the food is superb – by far the best in the city and it is always busy so make sure to book ahead. Rua Ministro Viveiros de Castro 127, Copacabana.Tel: (21) 2541 4294.
Cariocas are by and large a healthy lot and this is reflected in the city’s restaurants which usually offer a lot of lighter dishes and varied salads. The best way to start the day is in one of the city’s juice bars such as BB Sucos. In addition to the traditional favourites of freshly squeezed orange, mango and pineapple it is worth trying the more exotic Brazilian fruits and blends of juices and vitaminas (milkshakes). This healthy eating continues through lunch where the fresh salads, grilled fish and fresh juices are on offer at two hip Zona Sul new comers, Celeiro (Rua dias Ferreira 199) and the lounge style Juice & Co (Avenida General San Martin, 889, Leblon).
In Ipanema, just a block or two back from the beach is Zaza Bistro which is fun for an evening out. The eclectic, bold décor is matched by the menu which is a mix of typically Brazilian dishes served with an Asian twist. The upstairs is spread with pillows where dinners sit crossed legged at Moroccan tables. Rua Joana Angelica 40, Ipanema.
BARS & BOTEQUIMS
Bars – Academia da Cachaça on Rua Conde Bernadotte 26 in Leblon is a great place to start an evening and serves, probably, the best caipirinhas in town. They also do very good traditional Brazilian food in a way not dissimilar to tapas. The bar itself is very low-key, situated in on the payment in a busy Leblon street. See box below on botequims.
The Bar of the Marina All Suites Hotel gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights and is popular with the fashionable local set, often busy rubbing shoulders with local music and screen stars. Also in Ipanema are the touristy, but still fun Garota de Ipanema (where The Girl from Ipanema was written) on Rua Vinicius de Moraes 49 and and the area around Rua Joana Angelica has a number of bars that are always overflowing on to the pavement from the early evening on.
Try Bar Jobi (Rua Ataulfa da Paiva 1165)for the best in local Brazilian snacks, it opened in 1956 and is regarded by many as the quintessential botequim café.
Lapa a seedy, down-at-heel, no-go area for most visitors to the city until relatively recently, it is the place to head for to experience real Carioca nightlife and is undergoing a great revival. The old dance halls are welcoming an increasingly hip and younger crowd that are attracted by the samba clubs. The best are Rio Scenarium (20 Rua do Lavradio, 21-3147 9005) and Carioca da Gema (79 Rua Mem da Sa, 21-2221-0043)
RIO BOTEQUIM: Tapas, Rio-style Botequims are the traditional bars that reflect the spirit of each neighbourhood and could loosely be likened to a Spanish Tapas, serving of the best and most traditional dishes of Carioca Cuisine. Emphasis is on the drinks, the food and the chat...always lots of chat. Like the beach and Havaianas, Botequims are one of the nation’s most democratic institutions populated and used by anyone and everyone and they spread all over the city from the Zona Sul (Ipanema, Leblon, Copacabana), through the Centre to the Zona Norte. There are few better ways to get a feel for the city, for the essence of Carioca life or a particular neighbourhood than to pull up a chair in a botequim and start to work through the menu.
Everyone has their favourites and many of the botequims are well known for a signature dish or an improved variation on a classic – its always worth paying attention to what is flying out of the kitchen with greatest regularity and ordering one. What ever you choose, wash it down with chilled draft beer chopp (pronounced 'shoppee') or experiment with a caiprinha of limes (the classic) or exotic fruits. When mixed with vodka (instead of cachaça) the name of the drink changes to a caipiroska or sometimes, caipivodka.
Here are some of our favourites and the dishes they are best known for:
Jobi, Leblon: Multi-award winning bar that turns out some of the best bar food in Rio from the tiniest kitchen. Always busy, especially at night. Try the bite-size Empadas de camarao and Feijoada on Saturdays
Bracarense, Leblon: Another classic Rio bar. To get the best out of the bar experience grab one of the bar stalls inside and soak it all up. Famous for Bolinha de Aipim, and roast pork sandwiches.
Academia de Cachaça, Rua Conde Bernardote, Leblon A bar that in its 10 o so years or existence has become almost legendary. The have a wide range of well prepared petiscos as well as excellent caldos to accompany one of the best stocked caipirinha joints in the city.
Bar Urca, Urca With one of the best views of any bar in the city, this tiny little seaside bar is particularly popular on the weekend when locals gather on the seawall to enjoy empadas of shrimp, crab and palm-heart, washed down with ice cold bottle of Original beer. There is also a very good – smarter – seafood restaurant upstairs.
Bar do Mineiro, Santa Teresa: A wonderful payment bar in Santa Teresa famous for its Pastel de feijao. On warm nights drinkers spill out on to the street and there is often live samba in the air and revellers dance where ever they find space.
Bar Lagoa, Lagoa An art-decco Rio institution, right down to the aged waiters who have all worked their for decades. Filet Mignon sandwiches and seafood are excellent as well as the German dishes that it has always been known for. The draft beer is iced and very smooth.
Cervantes, Copacabana A zinc bar and no chairs, this pit-stop for those searching for the best sandwiches on the planet is a Rio institution. Bring an appetite, drink iced cold draft beer (chopp) and order one of the fabulous and filling sandwiches displayed on the board. The most popular are the filet-mignon and pernil (roast pork) sandwiches all available with a slice of pineapple. This place is old-style Carioca and the sandwiches are truly memorable. Open from midday into the early hours for late night feasts.
When not staying in a hotel breakfast out and about in Rio can be a treat, as well allowing you to see a different part of the city as the daily grind begins. Here are some of our favourite breakfast spots in town. Some are chosen for the breakfast, some for the locale:
Parque Lage, Jardim Botanico
While the breakfast tray of fresh fruit, muesli and yoghurt isn’t bad it’s the place that is so stunning. A beautiful colonial house, with internal pool in the courtyard and with a view of the Christ Statue above. Follow it up with a long walk in the luscious gardens, or a trip to the Botanical Garden along the road.
Azul Marinho, Arpoador Inn, Arpoador
The breakfast here is nothing to write home about, but the view is. The restaurant / café of the Arpoador Inn Hotel is one of the few places in the city where there are tables laid out right in front of the beach. What’s more it’s one of the main surf points so there is sure to be plenty to watch out at sea.
The Copacabana Palace Hotel, Av. Atlantica, Copacabana
The weekend brunch is especially good.
Garçia & Rodrigues, Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, Leblon The deli and café favoured by the great and the good ladies of the smart Leblon neighbourhood. Good coffee and excellent fresh bread.
BB Sucos (several outlets around Rio, but we like Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 591. Leblon) For a juice and a pao com ovo after an early walk along the beach.
FOOD Supermarkets The two best supermarket chains in Rio are ZONA SUL and PAO DE ACUCAR. Of the two Zona Sul has the most outlets. They sell everything you would expect from a modern supermarket including fresh produce, dairy, bread, meat, fish and wine. You will no doubt quickly spot that imported brands of food and all wine is relatively expensive.
Feiras Anyone staying for any period of time in Rio in private accommodation will no doubt come across a street market, or feira which happen all across the city with each neighbourhood feira taking place on a set day. There is also much more of a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish an flowers than in a supermarket and the prices are lower. It’s a lovely spectacle and well worth passing through even if you just want some fruit.
Delis / Bread There are two good deli-bakeries in Leblon on Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, both of which also have café’s and offered sandwiches and light meals:
- Talho Capixaba Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 1022
- Garcia Rodrigues, Rua Dias Ferreira, 50 – Leblon
BOOKS & NEWSPAPERS Books are expensive in Brazil, especially the beautifully produced coffee table books on the country that can be found in any of the book stores in the better mauls (see below). It can be hard to track down books in English, but Livraria Argumento on Rua Dias Ferreira 417 (Leblon) usually has a reasonable selection.
There is no daily English language newspaper produced in Brazil, but US and European newspapers and magazines can usually be found on the bancos (newspaper stands) in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon and of course at the airport. Also try Bar das Artes in the Centre on Praça XV de Novembro 48. Lovely bookshop specialising in art, history, photography and works about Rio, with a good selection in English. It is also home to a smart café/restaurant and specialist Brazilian record store.
Modern Sound (Rua Barata Ribeiro 502D, Copacabana www.modernsound.com.br). Copacabana's music megastore, packed with samba, bossa, forró, choro, tropicalismo, maracatu, repentismo, frevo and everything else.
CLOTHES & FASHION Most of the major Brazilian fashion brands such as Osklen, Richards, Maria Bonita and Redley together with bikini designers Rosa Cha, Bluman, Lenny, Banco de Areai and Saliunas can be found in the bigger mauls (which also offer cinemas and restaurants). Those that are most convenient to visitors in the Zona Sul are Shopping Leblon (Leblon, close to the ‘border’ with Ipanema and easy to walk to from both Ipanema and Leblon) or Shopping Rio in Copacabana (best to go in a taxi).
SOUVENIRS & GIFTS There is a small but well stocked Havaianas store on Rua Farme de Amoedo (on the corner of Av. Visconde de Piraja) in Ipanema where you can create your own signature flip-flops and they have the latest styles for adults and children.
Feira Hippy (Hippy Market) on Praça General Osório in Ipanema. Depending on your point of view, this is either a bustling, thriving market where you can find authentic local crafts, or a shanty town of stalls selling predictable hippy jewellery, naff leather gear and tacky paintings. But, by common consent, it's probably the best place to buy a hammock; and the giant leather beanbags are so kitsch they're actually quite fun. (Conde Nast Traveller Magazine). Open Sun 9am to 6pm.
There are also a selection of smaller one-off stores selling souvenirs along the tram tracks in Santa Teresa.
One Saturday a month there is an antique and bric-a-brac fair in Lapa on Rua Lavradio. However, those interested in buying antique Brazilian or art deco furniture are better off exploring the quirky furniture stores that line one side of the street on any other day.
The principle contemporary art scene in Brazil is focused in Sao Paulo, but there are still some galleries worth investigation in Rio. Among the better ones are: Galeria Silvia Cintra, Rua das Acacias, 104 in Gavéa (www.silviacintra.com.br) and Galeria Laura Marsiaj on Rua Teixeira de Melo in Ipanema (http://www.lauramarsiaj.com.br). Both galleries specialise in contemporary Brazilian art. Galeria de Gávea at Rua Marquês de São Vicente, 431 Lj A, specializes in contemporary Brazilian photography.
Antonio Bernardo Rua Garcia D'Ávila, 121 Bernardo is Brazil's most acclaimed jewellery designer and although he is known internationally, he only has outlets in his home country.
The best known and most ubiquitous jewellery store in Rio is H Stern which also has its flagship on Rua Garcia D’Avila, 113. They specialise in Brazilian gem stones.
Please let me know if you have any special request or are looking for something in particular.