With Rio Olympics 2016 breaking records and creating a few more, we present to you the Ultimate Olympics Travel Guide: Rio de Janeiro! It doesn’t matter if you are in Rio witnessing history being made or if you are busy blaming your internet provider for the disappointing Olympics streaming; this travel guide is for all and sundry. Although Parque Olimpico is the epicentre of the main Olympics action, catch up with the length and breadth of ‘the Marvellous City’ in between the games. Do not let the Olympics frenzy take away from the Rio experience. After striking off Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) from your To-See list, turn to our Travel Guide which takes you through things to do in Rio, for the different shades in you.
FOR THE BEACH-LOVING SUN-BASKING YOU
White sand? Check.
Blue water? Check.
Volleyball in a bikini? Check.
Welcome to the sun-kissed splendour of Rio’s beaches. Whether you let crowded beaches soak you in their bustling activities or enjoy breathing in the tranquility of hidden sea-sides, Rio has something to offer for everyone.
A stunning confluence of sand and sea, the scalloped beach of Copacabana houses a kaleidoscope of activities along its length. Here you will find charged football players singing their team’s anthem, cariocas (locals) crowding beach kiosks for caipirinhas (the local drink) and beach vendors filling the air with the prices of their wares. And when the heteronormativity of life gets to you, don’t hesitate to walk into the Stock Market, the gay and cross-dresser section easily recognisable by the rainbow flag.
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Ipanema beach, the quieter, more pristine sister of Copacabana, has postos (posts) to demarcate the distinct subcultures, for example, Posto 8 will give you a peek into the favela kids showing off their football skills. Posto 9 is where the cool kids are at: the hippies and artists pumping out creative juices, while Posto 10 is the haven for sport lovers. The term ‘ipanema’ is an indigenous word for ‘bad, dangerous waters’ which is not far off given the strong undercurrents and frequent tumultuous waves that crash on the shore. It is advisable to be careful and swim only when the locals do.
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If the busy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema do not take your fancy, then hop into a taxi and head towards the city’s western wilderness to Rio’s most secluded beaches, Grumari and Prainha. The journey along the coastal road from Barra de Tijuca offers you some of the most breathtaking views of the ocean.
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FOR THE NOCTURNAL HAKUNA MATATA YOU
As the sun sets on the Rio horizon, cariocas rush home to wash off the sand and sweat. After all, the night is theirs to champion. Greet the night in the Rio way, sipping some chilled cerveza (beer) and munching on light snacks at a botequim (traditional Brazilian bars). And then glide to a dance spot, street party or a traditional bar.
Rio’s balmy weather and the relaxed bohemian vibe of cariocas manifest themselves in the best street parties throughout the week. It is not always about the music and dance; jugglers, skateboarders and pop-up theatre shows make these parties livelier than ever. Don’t miss the Baixo Gavea street parties that are most popular on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. Here you can spend the entire night under the stars, making new buddies and sipping cheap drinks.
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Once you are done marinating in the lively spirit of the street parties, Lapa has to be your next destination. Dotted with traditional bars and modern pubs, this is the party capital of Rio. The Rio Scenarium, with its antique decor and zesty music, is one of the most frequented pubs in Lapa.
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If you are bored of dancing to the same EDM beats and want to experience something new, Rio’s traditional roots have it all sorted for you. Born during the slave era, Samba, with its African influences, pumps through the veins of every Brazilian. The Carioca de Gema is the best place to groove to the beats of Samba. Forro, Samba’s lesser known sibling, is something to look out for. Join Forro enthusiasts every Tuesday in Estudantina Musical as they dance away the night.
FOR THE GASTRONOMICAL YOU
ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT MEAT. My carnivorous friends are already salivating. For meat-lovers, Rio is paradise on earth. You must experience the Churrascaria- a set menu with a selection of salads, side dishes and of course, the mouth-watering char-grilled all-you-can-eat-meat. A visit to the 63-year-old family restaurant Churrascaria Palace in Copacabana is bound to pacify your eternal meat cravings.
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The aroma of tapioca, pipoca, pastels and salgados wafts through every corner of Rio. These are the local street food which give you a glimpse of the growing food entrepreneurship of the city. Apart from these, Rio offers Feijoada. Adapted from ‘the food of slaves,’ this dish, of stewed beans in a pork or beef gravy, has slowly developed into a Brazilian staple. For a classic experience, you must head to Casa da Feijoada in Ipanema. Its waist-coated waiters serving dishes in little cauldrons present a very traditional affair.
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FOR THE ARTSY FARTSY YOU
Along the narrow alleys, constructed in concrete, adorned on steps and floating in the gentle breeze, there is just one force omnipresent in Rio; it is Art. Rio is the palette as well as the masterpiece.
If you visit Escadaria Selaron, you will find Chilean-born Jorge Selaron‘s work on his magnificent, ever-changing project: mosaic-covered steps made from colourful embellished ceramic tiles. These steps connect Lapa with Santa Teresa.
Image source: photography.nationalgeographic.com
Be it stencils on stairways or intrepid tags on sky-kissing buildings, Rio houses one of the most splendid urban art galleries in the world. Lapa has a lavish spread of graffiti art. Most poignant among them is a colossal painting of a woman wounded by a hear-tipped arrow. Its artist, Panmela Castro, highlights various social issues in her captivating artwork showcased across the city.
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If you are already feeling inspired and feel like creating similar artwork, Copacabana’s Espaco Rabisco holds regualar workshops and courses to offer art lovers the opportunity to delve deep into the spirit of spray painting.
Although architecture in Rio is generally associated with favela shacks or mammoth colonial bulidings, the city has its share of great modern architectural sites. Niteroi city, near Rio, is home to some of the most alluring architectural brilliance by the legendary local architect, Oscar Niemeyer. His architectural wonder, the Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Boa Viagem is a must visit. The museum is crafted in the form of a spaceship and is celebrated for its dauntless futuristic design (Star Wars fans won’t be disappointed!).
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FOR THE UNIQUE EXPLORER IN YOU
Buses, cars and cycles are mundane means of transportation, right? Why avail the same in a new city?! What if you could skateboard your way through! Yes, Rio’s long coastline and smooth asphalt allows anyone to explore the city with a newfound ‘rad-ness’. In fact, second only to football, skateboarding is one of the most popular sports in Brazil. Apart from the skating paths along beaches, other skate spots include the circuits around the Maracana Stadium. Guanabara Board’s Escola de Skate (skate school) offers skateboarding lessons for those who want to learn this sport.
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For the best view of the Marvelous City, a visit to the peak of Pão de Açúcar is a must. At the top, the city unfolds beneath you, with the awe-inspiring view of the Corcovado mountain and Cristo Redentor to the west, and the Copacabana beach to the south. Beholding the sunset from the summit is one of the most rewarding experiences in Rio. Two cable cars connect to the peak. However, if your adventurous side reigns supreme, then you could sign up with one of the mountain climbing tours offered by various outfits in Rio.
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Once you are done with striking off all of these places to see and things to do, you will want to keep a little bit of Rio with you; envelope some of its exuberance, bottle up some of its fragrance, entrap some of its breeze and soak in most of its essence.
The Ultimate Olympic Travel Guide: Rio de Janeiro hopes for you to have a splendid vacation in ‘the Marvellous City’ (both during the Olympic season and later).
Farewell. Till Tokyo 2020!