Are you ready for Rio? The answer is yes, if you want the ultimate beach break in a beautiful, surprising and downright sexy city. And that’s now much cheaper to achieve with Norwegian’s new Dreamliner flights from Gatwick competing with BA’s service from Heathrow.
Rio is also one of the few places where the pound goes much further. So here’s how to make the most of a low-cost trip to Brazil, and 12 tips to make it sizzle.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its buildings cling to the coast alongside endless ribbons of beach supported by craggy outcrops. Cable cars ascend to the granite summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer with open arms stands on Mount Corcovado, and joyous madness permeates the streets of Ipanema and Copacabana to the Carnival parade grounds and roaring stadiums .
If you are looking for once in a lifetime photos, there is a great backdrop in most corners which is why you will find professional movies and photoshoots going on. You can easily fill a week by checking off the glut of sites. Everyone wants a selfie in front of Christ the Redeemer, on top of Sugarloaf Mountain, and on the wavy mosaic pavement along the beaches. But the more you explore Rio, the more you’ll find.
The easiest way to reach Christ the Redeemer is by taking the 20-minute cogwheel train, where the best seats are the rear-facing ones on the right side of the cars as you look up the mountain. These offer the best views on the right when you reach the halfway point of the ride. Many city tours include ‘Cristo’ tickets, or buy them online for £ 13 at tremdocorcovado.rio. At the base of the statue, visit the small chapel which is built into the foundation.
You can see Sugarloaf Mountain from all over Rio, and nearly 40 million visitors have taken the two-part cable car to the top. With every three-minute ride, the views are spectacular, so don’t worry about your location. At the top you will have another view of the city and the ocean. And because it’s a prime location for weddings, you’ll often end up photo-bombing a couple’s big day. Cable car tickets are included with many city tours, or buy online at bondinho.com.br.
Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are the ultimate places for people-watching as you stroll the sand with a caipirinha in hand. But don’t limit yourself to Rio’s great beaches. Head west for Jurassic Park-style ‘secret’ spots where lush green mountains rise straight out to sea.
A first choice is Prainha Beach, ideal for surfers, a short bike or taxi ride from the coast. Like most beaches in Rio, there is a cafe and showers. Most also have outdoor gyms if you want to build up some muscle before hitting the waves.
Nothing beats a great Brazilian red sunset, which is why crowds cheer every night when the last rays disappear below the horizon. The most popular place to capture the moment is right after Copacabana Fort on the Arpoador Rocks. On a clear night, you will see the sun frame Christ the Redeemer before the light darkens beneath the mountains.
With 6.5 million inhabitants and 500 years of history, Rio has something for everyone. Culture vultures are well served by the world-class galleries, the brutalist concrete cathedral, the sparkle of the mosaic steps of Escaderia Selaron, and the gloriously opulent Theatro Municipal, inspired by the Paris Opera.
Rio is also family-friendly, with most restaurants serving large portions. And if you’re struggling to get your kids into traditional museums, you’ll score points with the high-tech museum of tomorrow, with its expansive video screen presentations and question-and-answer personality tests.
Turn off your cell phone and step into one of the most beautiful working libraries in the world, the Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura. Black-covered book shelves rise three levels toward a stained-glass dome, and students work on century-old mahogany desks. If Hogwarts opened a school in Brazil, it would be this one.
Coffee is big in Brazil. To drink with a touch of elegance amid the splendor of Confeitaria Colombo, founded in 1894. Until 1970, men had to wear suits and women needed hats to enter the premises. Today, a pianist plays as you sample pastries and admire golden mirrors and beautiful Portuguese-style ceramic tiles.
Rio is built on a series of steep hills. Take a historic yellow tram above the arches of Lapa and you’ll climb one of the steepest slopes to the trendy Santa Teresa neighborhood. Find street art, crafts, and the ghostly House of Ruins, the former mansion of an eccentric socialite that’s now an art space like no other.