Before the Portuguese landed in Brazil in the 1500s, the continent was inhabited by native tribes. The Portuguese began to build colonies in the New World, but Rio was not the first to develop. It was Sao Paulo and Salvador that the Portuguese first erected a community in. Rio only became an important location during the French and Portuguese battles in the mid-1500s. After the French were defeated, the Portuguese began to build in Rio de Janeiro, and in the 1600s, Rio became a somewhat important city. It wasn’t until the 1700s did Rio really grow, thanks to the gold and silver rush. Fast forward another 100 years, right after Napolean invaded Portugal, the Portuguese monarchy fled to Rio and established a monarchy there. This was the time when Rio was converted into something beautiful. The monarchs began to build a real city, from churches and mansions to gardens and other important buildings.
Now, Rio has become a go-to destination for those who want to experience Carnival, beaches and learn about the history and culture of a beautiful nation. So if Rio de Janeiro is on your list of cities to visit, here are a few great spots to check out on your trip there.
Located right off the mainland, Ilha Fiscal is a palace located on a little island that used to be the home to government offices. It was also the place where the last grand ball of the ruling monarch was held before Brazil became a republic. Now, Ilha Fiscal is a museum where you can tour and uncover the history of the last monarch while walking through the many halls and rooms. Although it’s not as grandeur as it once was, it’s still a beautiful place to see—plus, the view is spectacular.
Arco de Teles
If you’re looking for some inexpensive dining options or even good, cold beer midday, make your way to Arco de Teles. This street, identifiable by an arch entrance (hence the name), is full of delicious restaurants and bars serving authentic Brazilian dishes for cheap. It’s a fun place to hang out with the locals, especially in the evening! If you’re here on a Thursday, you can catch a live performance by a samba band that gets everyone in the mood to bust out some moves, no matter who they are.
If you’re in Rio for several days and want to relax, then spending a day at the beach may be exactly what you’ll need. Although there are several touristy options such as Copacabana and the Red Beach, we recommend finding one that’s less crowded by visitors. One option is Prainha Beach, a favorite among the surfing community. Although it’s not located in Rio, rather a 50-minute drive from the city center, it’s definitely a nice escape if you have the time.
Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church
Built in the 1700s, the Sao Francisco da Penitencia Church is a magnificent structure from the outside and more notably, the inside. As you step into the Church’s walls, you’re greeted by intricate designs, paintings and carvings covered in gold. Aside from the Church, there’s a convent beside it, a garden, and even catacombs that were being used up until the mid-1800s. If you’re interested in visiting the catacombs, you must plan a tour in advance by a tour group (solo entrance is not allowed).
Santa Teresa is a fun, colorful place to visit in Rio. Situated on the top of a hill, the area is full of structures erected during Portuguese colonization. The area is also known for the elaborate steps called Escadaria Selarónd, designed by Jorge Selarón, an artist from Chile. You can walk all 215 steps to the top while examining more than 2,000 tiles, some of which represent an African woman who is with child. These tiles didn’t all come from the same place either—they’re from 60 different nations around the world. Aside from the stairs, Santa Teresa also offers locals and visitors various art galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques.
Rio de Janeiro is the “Magnificent City”, as it’s sometimes called, with a thriving culture and amazing sites to see and good food to eat. Although they say it can be dangerous to visit, knowing where to go and being mindful of your surroundings will allow you to have a fantastic experience. And, we hope this city guide can help your trip be even more memorable!
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