Dating back to 1823, the Carnival held in Rio de Janeiro before Lent each year is perhaps the liveliest festival on the planet, with upwards of two million people lining the streets awash with a sea of colour and frivolity. Samba beats build the pace of events to a steady crescendo as floats and revellers make their way throughout the city, creating one of the most unique, and arguably one of the most welcoming, festival atmospheres that can be witnessed across the globe.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the carnival is the apex of what Rio has to offer. Whilst the city is certainly at its busiest in the run-up to Easter (more airline tickets are booked to the destination at Carnival season than any other time of year), the city is well and truly alive and kicking 24/7, regardless of the time of year, and with two major sporting events in the offing (the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Olympics in 2016 respectively), the future is looking bright for Brazil, and Rio in particular.
There’s plenty to see and do in the city, including a visit to the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue. Standing at 30 metres tall, this majestic structure looks down upon Rio and is a reminder of Brazil’s predominately Christian culture, although religion aside, the sheer brilliance of the piece is a sight to behold regardless of personal beliefs.
For more natural sights, a trip to Sugar Loaf Mountain provides breath-taking views of the Guanbara bay. Glass-walled cable cars run regularly between the peaks of Morra da Urca and Pão de Açúcar, providing optimal views of the stunning Brazilian scenery.
In terms of cuisine, common dishes involve rice, beans and beef. Rio, Brazil, and indeed most of South America is renowned for its beef production, which means there are plenty of top quality cuts to be found in the city’s restaurants. Churrascaria bars and restaurants throughout Rio provide plenty in the way of marinated, barbeque-style beef in an inimitable Brazilian style.
Of course, no trip to Rio would be complete without a visit to the beach. The famous walkway along Copacabana beach is a hive of activity, buzzing with street vendors and revellers spilling in and out of the beach-facing bars. For a more relaxed approach to sunning on the beach, quieter pockets can be found for some perfect rest and recuperation, although let’s be honest – when in Rio, that Carnival atmosphere takes hold and is hard to shake off, all year round.