The locals refer to it as Cidade maravilhosa (the marvelous city) and yes we knew it was a beach capital with stunning features, but nothing could have prepared us for the panoramic, friendly and vivacious town which we encountered on our recent visit between the olympics.
From either of the city’s airports it takes just a matter of minutes to get to realize how scenic and joyful the vibe is here. A combination of massive architecture, grand mountains, sea and a blockbuster of culture and color are around every turn.
We arrived in a flight from Sao Paolo, the view from the air was spectacular, it laid out the various mountains, beaches, bodies of water and skyscrapers just outside the plane window. We recommend a daylight arrival as the best way to take it all in.
Our trip was heightened by the fact that we had the advantage of being received by locals who took it on themselves to give us a marathon tour of the city from end to end. The hospitality was indicative of how Brazilians love people.
The first major tourist attraction we saw was the pão de açúcar (sugarloaf mountain) our gracious hosts helped with planning because tickets can be hard to get on holidays and weekends. The ride up in the Bondinho cable car system is amazing with a panoramic view of all the famous landmarks and 360 degrees of just pure natural loveliness. For those who have been to Hong Kong there is a similar feel to the landscape and skyscrapers with Rio being even larger and more beautiful.
Be sure and see the beaches, shopping malls. and restaurants and of course the Christ statue. Rio is a city that never seems to sleep. The downtown is a more historic and financial center area and the cathedral is a wonder in itself.
Are there dangerous places in the city? Yes, but it is a matter of being informed and prudent to navigate the city well. It is a place where wealth and poverty exist side by side, but it is livable and people are able to get around. The new face of Rio due to the olympics has excellent hotels, malls and parks especially in the area of Barra. But plan well your transit, it can take an hour and a half to go from side to side.