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Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

About Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is an awe-inspiring city; its stunning tropical setting is matched by its fun-loving residents. Sheer granite peaks rise from the ocean between glorious stretches of sand. Skyscrapers vie for space with gracefully aging colonial buildings as lush forests tumble down hillsides up to the city limits.

Brazil’s former capital has retained much of its distinguished character, with magnificent churches and mansions clustered in downtown Centro. However, it has long since outgrown its original site.

Such has been the success of its urban planning though, much of Rio’s coastal landscape (including the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer) has been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.

Frequently voted the happiest city in the world, Rio revels in life. Irregardless of background or status, Cariocas (locals) share a passion for existence through three obsessions: the beach, football and Carnival.

The annual Mardi Gras pageant is Rio’s way of showing the world what it does best: party. Spectators pack the Sambódromo to watch the dazzling parades. Cidade do Samba, Carnival’s exhibition centre, houses floats and hosts samba shows all year round, giving visitors a flavour of the big event.

High above all this fun and frivolity are Rio's ever-present landmarks: Corcovado (Hunchback) mountain and Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) with its historic cable car. Rio also boasts a wealth of attractions, plus great food, music and entertainment - enough to keep a visitor busy for any length of stay.

Nevertheless, Rio is constantly re-inventing itself and pushing a vibrant agenda, boasted by the 2016 Olympic Games which helped transform the city.

Copacabana, birthplace of its original hedonistic image of the 1920s, is still impressive but no longer the centre of attention. Now, further flung areas are drawing more visitors. Barra is booming with Cidade da Música, a huge new arts centre, giant shopping malls and gourmet restaurants.

Downtown Lapa, a formerly seedy district, is now the arty hub of Rio’s live music scene. Nearby, the rundown docks are also being transformed with a futuristic new museum, art gallery and pedestrian-friendly spaces, giving tourists even more reasons to visit this incredible city.

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Featured Hotels


Windsor Barra Hotel

Windsor Barr Hotel is a good choice for exploring Rio's western suburbs and beaches, particularly for surfers and for those planning to attend the 2016 Olympics. This modern, high-rise hotel facing Barra da Tijuca beach has 338 comfortable if not luxurious rooms with all mod-cons. It also has a restaurant, bar, two swimming pools, fitness centre, sauna, and airport shuttle bus.

Fasano Rio

Still the coolest luxury hotel in Rio de Janeiro, Fasano Rio is a place where both Brazilian and global celebrities come to see and to be seen. Overlooking Ipanema Beach, this stylish designer hotel brings a modern concept of hospitality, elegance and sophistication. The interiors are a joint venture of renowned architect Philippe Stark and the restaurateur and hotelier Rogério Fasano. The décor combines dark tropical woods with light and airy drapes and furnishings. All 79 rooms and 10 suites have a balcony and most with a sea view. Its rooftop terrace and pool gives a superb view over the beach to the Dois Irmãos mountains, stunning at sunset. The restaurant, Fasano Al Mare, is under the capable hands of three-Michelin-star chef Luca Gozzani.

San Marco Hotel

Located right in the heart of Ipanema, San Marco Hotel is the perfect choice for holidaymakers on a budget who want to take full advantage of the nearby beach – two blocks away - without missing out on Rio’s exciting nightlife. The small modern hotel has 56 tidy and functional rooms, all en-suite with TVs and air conditioning, and is in the thick of Ipanema’s trendy bars, shops, restaurants and clubs (ask for a room on an upper floor if on the street side). Its friendly bilingual staff, wireless internet connection, and competitive rates make this one of the few good-value budget hotels in Ipanema.

Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon

Located in the heart of Leblon, Rio's most expensive square metre, Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon offers quality services at affordable prices. Its rooms are well furnished if not huge, with modern décor. A generous buffet breakfast is included and the hotel has up-to-date facilities, including spa and a small pool. It's a couple of blocks in from the beach and close to cinemas, theatres, shops, restaurants and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.


This no-frills but clean and well-run hotel is highly rated among regular visitors to Rio. It's in a handy location between downtown and the Zona Sul, in an historic, up-and-coming district. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the buffet breakfast is excellent, and facilities include a spa, gym and small roof terrace. In all, the Regina is one of the best budget hotels in the city.

Rio Hostel

This hostel in an old colonial building in Santa Teresa has basic dorms as well as three- and four-bed rooms, which are ideal for families. With its hillside location, Rio Hostel offers great city views and it also has a tiny swimming pool. Facilities include laundry service, tour information, Wi-Fi connectivity and air conditioning in some rooms. The staff are friendly, some are multilingual, and they serve a decent buffet breakfast.