Rio’s one of the biggest and most exciting metropolises in the Americas. Founded by the Portuguese in 1565, its rich history has been shaped by the gold and diamond trade, the presence of the Portuguese court in exile, and city planners’ desire to create a modern capital equivalent to those in Europe. Though the capital shifted to Brasilia in 1960, Rio remains Brazil’s economic and cultural powerhouse, as well as a fascinating destination to explore.
The natural landscape dictates the layout of Rio, with the granite peaks of Corcovado, Sugarloaf, and the Two Brothers soaring high above the manmade cityscape. Their tropical forest cloaked slopes give way to the beaches and bays: Copacabana and Ipanema might be the most famous, forever celebrated in song, but the Prainha Beach and Praia Vermelha tend to be less busy.
Culture vultures will be in their element in Rio, and not just at carnival time. Make sure you visit the Imperial Palace and the Candelária Church to get a feel for the colonial period. The National Museum of Fine Arts, is unmissable and why not take in an opera at the Municipal Theatre.