Life in Rio de Janeiro

The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Rio is the biggest Carnival in the world. People come there for hedonism, and escapism. But in Rio, life is not only carnival and beach. Life can be a bitch too.

All the Flavors of Rio

It’s not like you will travel somewhere just to eat. But you need to eat. And Rio is the place where putting on some extra pounds is well worth it.

The best way to start your day in Rio is by eating buffet breakfast. Variety of tropical fruit is always included. And juices in Rio are always freshly squeezed.

At every corner, you’ll find coconut water and guarana in all shapes. Gas no gas, ice-cream, cheesecake. One sure doesn’t need guarana supplements in Brazil.

You can have your dinner from 7pm on. It’s not unusual to see locals eating very late at night.

Dinner often starts with bread and spreads. But it’s smart to save some room for delicious desserts. It doesn’t look like anyone in Brazil is caffeine sensitive because even late evening meals end with coffee.

Ice-creams are better than Italian. And one thing you shouldn’t miss in Brazil is world-famous rodizio-style restaurants. Even if you are vegetarian you will find all kinds of salads that one can eat as a side dish or main course, but the way that meat is served is very special. Their “all-you-can-eat” system means they will be feeding you more of t-bone steaks and fillet mignons, rear or well done, any way you like them, until you put the sign on your table saying – stop.

The main areas to explore restaurants are Ipanema, Leblon Copacabana and Leme.

Hotel Copacabana Palace was opened in 1920. It’s the home of legendary balls. One of the world’s most famous beaches was named after it. If you are not staying in historical Copacabana Palace hotel, that still attracts rich and famous, at least you can afford to have a dinner there, or one drink by the pool. Even though you’ll be in Copacabana, you can bet that, among all the bossa-nova, and light jazz music, you will hear the song A girl from Ipanema.

Life is a Beach

woman suntanning on copacabana beach

You can enjoy a walk at the long and wide beach of Copacabana. Beach vendors are many, but all you need to say if you are not interested in what they offer is ‘no, thank you’.

If you walk along the street, you will see the recognizable street mosaic. Once its pattern gets changed, you know that you are in the different area.

For people watchers, Copacabana is the hot spot. Beauty of Brazilians is in diversity. It’s often hard to tell which race one is. And mixed ones are many. Especially interesting are Amerindians. If you see one coming out of lush vegetation, you can get the feeling that you are in the middle of the movie set.

Bikinis in Rio can be very tiny, but still you won’t see nude sunbathing. Little straps seem to make a big difference. Beauty of Brazilians is not in their firm bodies but in the way they carry themselves. They ooze carefree, relaxed, feel-good-in-my-skin confidence. And that’s sexy.

Ipanema, the birthplace of thongs is more chic than Copacabana. Barra da Tijuca is almost 11 miles long beach stretch that resembles Miami South Beach. That’s modern Rio and home of the super big malls and luxury shopping.

There are not many cities where you can see so many people in bikinis and swimwear. New Year’s Eve is the night when you can hang on the beach with another two million people. Still, it’s not easy to swim in Rio. Waves are huge, and currents strong. But if you move south or north you will find equally exciting Sun Coast and Green Coast.

Búzios, famous thanks to Brigitte Bardot, is boasting 23 beaches, and if you take a boat off Angra dos Reis, you’ll find Ilhas Tropicais, crystal clear water paradise with over 300 islands to explore.

Dance, Like There’s no Tomorrow

brazilian samba dancer

Dance is the way for poor people to get out of their favelas. Preparations for the carnival last all year long but the streets of Rio apart from February have no carnival atmosphere.

For the taste of Samba visit Sambodrom or one of the Samba salons. There are also colorful shows for tourists in Plataform and Skala, with hundreds of dancers and Brazilian rhythm. Masters of Capoeira perform too.

Every step you make you will see time and temperature displayed. While time is accurate, temperature seems to be different, very different, at every corner.

Rio de Janeiro is majestic in its natural beauty. Sugarloaf and Corcovado, with famous Christ the Redeemer statue, are must-see if you want to know how Rio looks from the bird’s perspective.

Ideally you can climb there just before sunset and have a look of both daylight and night lit city.

The way to Corcovado goes through the biggest urban jungle – the Forest of Tijuca. Botanical garden is another big park where you can get in touch with nature.

Another Side of Rio

After sunset stay away from the beach. It’s lit, and people may be jogging. Still, if you have anything of value, soon enough you won’t have it anymore.

Nowhere in the States, there’s such a contrast between rich and poor. Huge favela Rocinha that looks like the city itself is above São Conrado, the most elite part of Rio, with guarded houses.

Some visitors go for favela tour. I suggest City of God movie, instead.

Rio is dangerously beautiful. If safe and not fatal to some, Rio de Janeiro could easily get my vote as the most beautiful city in the world. It would indeed be Cidade Maravilhosa.

About the author


Writer, talker, walker, joker. Contradictory, capricious, postmodern fragmented, direct, too direct sometimes, playful, holding no grudges and regrets. If you can't find her, she's somewhere chasing summer around the world.

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