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Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Samba the night away in Lapa, people-watch and sip sunset cocktails on Ipanema Beach or get up close to Christ the Redeemer and marvel at the panoramic view of Rio; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Rio de Janeiro and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro:

  • Full-color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, music, football, architecture, outdoors, beaches, dance
  • Free, convenient pull-out Rio de Janeiro map (included in print version), plus over 26 color maps
  • Covers Ipanema, Leblon, Gavea, Jardim Botanico, Lagoa, Copacabana, Leme, Botafogo, Urca, Flamengo, Centro, Cinelandia, Santa Teresa, Lapa, Zona Norte, Barra da Tijuca, Western Rio and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalize your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Rio de Janeiro, our most comprehensive guide to Rio de Janeiro, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

  • Looking for just the highlights? Check out Make My Day Rio de Janeiro, a colorful and uniquely interactive guide that allows you to effortlessly plan your itinerary by flipping, mixing and matching top sights.
  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Brazil for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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11 Chapters

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Ipanema & Leblon


1Frolicking in the waves, sipping refreshing maté and watching people parade on lovely Ipanema Beach.

2Joining fishers and couples on rocky Ponta do Arpoador for the nightly spectacle of sunset.

3Feasting on Bahian snacks and browsing artwork and handicrafts at the weekly Hippie Fair.

4Gazing out over the length of Leblon and Ipanema at the Mirante do Leblon.

5Catching a concert at Vinícius Show Bar, and following with drinks along Rua Vinícius de Moraes.

The favored address for young, beautiful and wealthy cariocas (residents of Rio), these twin neighborhoods boast magnificent beaches and tree-lined streets full of enticing open-air cafes, restaurants and bars. They're also the epicenter of the city's high-end shopping, with dozens of colorful boutiques and multistory galerias (shopping centers) selling pretty things that can quickly deplete a budget. While there are few traditional sights here, you can bask on the beach and explore the leafy streets. Ipanema is also Rio's gay district, which revolves around the cafe and bar scene on and near Rua Farme de Amoedo.


Gávea, Jardim Botânico & Lagoa


1Hiring a bike and going for a spin around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.

2Taking a stroll through the lush and flower-filled Jardim Botânico.

3Looking for monkeys on the forested paths of Parque Lage, followed by lunch in the open-air restaurant.

4Sipping cocktails in an alfresco setting while admiring the view from Palaphita Kitch.

5Checking out the latest exhibit at the Instituto Moreira Salles.

Rio's picturesque lake is the focal point of these well-heeled neighborhoods. The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is actually a saltwater lagoon and is much utilized by cariocas (residents of Rio). Joggers and cyclists zip along the shoreline trail by day, while the lakeside restaurants fill with people enjoying a meal and live music in the open air by night. This area includes the north, east and west sides of the lake. The streets on the south side of Lagoa are generally considered part of Ipanema and Leblon.


Copacabana & Leme


1Soaking up the sunshine on Copacabana Beach, followed by a meal at an oceanfront eatery.

2Exploring the Forte de Copacabana and taking in the view across the beach.

3Walking to mountaintop heights along a forested trail inside the Forte Duque de Caxias.

4Admiring the breathtaking sea views from the Bar do Alto in Babilônia favela.

5Listening to samba jam sessions at Bip Bip.

With the construction of the neoclassical Copacabana Palace hotel in 1923, Copacabana – and Rio – became South America's most elegant destination, one frequented by international celebrities. Copacabana remained Rio's untarnished gem until the 1970s, when the area fell into decline. Today's Copa is a chaotic mix of discount stores and noisy traffic-filled avenues, with a humming red-light district and slightly edgy streets. While paradise it clearly is not, the beach remains beautiful. Framed by mountains and deep blue sea, the magnificent curve of shoreline stretches more than 4km.


Botafogo, Humaitá & Urca


1Gliding up to the top of Pão de Açúcar by cable car for the awe-inspiring view of Rio at your feet.

2Learning about Brazil’s many indigenous cultures at the interactive Museu do Índio.

3Walking between forest and sea on the peaceful Pista Cláudio Coutinho.

4Checking out works by some of Rio’s most talented street artists at GaleRio.

5Basking on the sands of Praia Vermelha, one of Rio’s prettiest little beaches.

Traditional, middle-class Botafogo and neighboring Humaitá may not have the beaches of their neighbors to the south, but they don’t lack for much else, with intriguing museums, movie theaters, quaint bookshops, a shopping center, and festive, open-air bars on tree-lined backstreets. There are also a few nightclubs and a boulevard dotted with old mansions.

To the east, Urca is even more idyllic, with shaded, quiet streets. Its eclectic architecture includes art deco and modernist houses backed by manicured gardens. Along the seawall, which forms the northwestern perimeter of Pão de Açúcar, fisherfolk cast for dinner as couples lounge beneath palm trees, taking in views of Baía de Guanabara (Guanabara Bay) and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). Tiny Praia Vermelha in the south marks the beginning of a pleasant walking trail and has one of Rio’s finest beach views.


Flamengo & Around


1Taking the steep cog train up Corcovado for a panoramic view beneath Rio's open-armed Cristo Redentor.

2Exploring Rio's past days of demagogues and political intrigue in the Museu da República.

3Admiring the colorful works of talented but little-known artists at the Museu Internacional de Arte Naïf do Brasil.

4Making the short but steep climb up to the 18th-century Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro.

5Taking a bike ride through the expansive Parque do Flamengo.

Running east from the bay out to Corcovado, the residential neighborhoods of Flamengo, Laranjeiras, Catete, Glória and Cosme Velho have much history hidden in their old streets. The Parque do Flamengo dominates the region. Also known as the aterro (landfill), this beach-fronting green space is one of the world's largest urban parks, and includes a nationally recognized art museum, biking and running trails, sports fields and thousands of trees and flowering plants. Inland from the park, the shaded streets of Flamengo are sprinkled with a few cafes, historic botecos (small, open-air bars) and gossip-filled juice bars.


Centro & Praça Mauá


1Pondering the future while browsing interactive exhibits in the beautifully designed Museu do Amanhã.

2Peering back through hundreds of years of Brazilian history at the Museu Histórico Nacional.

3Taking in first-rate art installations and rooftop views at the Museu de Arte do Rio.

4Going eye-to-eye with fish, sharks and rays in AquaRio.

5Watching a show inside the lavish Theatro Municipal.

Rio's downtown is a wild architectural medley of old and new, with striking baroque churches and narrow colonial streets juxtaposed against looming office towers and wide, traffic-filled boulevards. During the week it's all fuss and hurry as Rio's lawyers, secretaries and clerks jostle among the crowded streets. But despite the pace, it's well worth joining the fray; Centro has some of the city's best museums and its most intriguing historical sights, including avant-garde art galleries and 18th-century cathedrals.




In recent years, many of Rio’s favelas (slums, informal communities) have been transformed. Although controversial, the pacification plan – police invasions to drive out drug traffickers followed by the installation of security posts – has been largely successful. Public investment has poured into these safe harbors, helping to unite them with the rest of the city.

New transportation has been installed at some favelas, including cable cars at sprawling Complexo do Alemão, elevators whisking residents up to Cantagalo and Pavão/Pavãozinho, and a tram to the top of Santa Marta. As part of the port beautification (Porto Maravilha), plans are underway to add a cable car to Morro da Providência, considered Rio’s oldest favela, and one of its most crime-ridden until recently.

Favelas have attracted artists. The rainbow-colored hues painted across residences overlooking Praça Cantão in Santa Marta have helped show the world that a favela is more than a backdrop of poverty and hopelessness. The giant photographs by French artist JR have raised awareness of marginalized communities. In Morro da Providência, his oversized portraits plastered on homes, show the human, individual face of the favela rather than the faceless million-plus who live in Rio’s shanty towns.


Santa Teresa & Lapa


1Photographing the Escadaria Selarón, a moving work of art created by an artist who made the mosaic-covered staircase his life's work.

2Riding the bonde over the Arcos da Lapa and up to village-like Santa Teresa.

3Watching sunlight play through the dazzling stained-glass windows at the Catedral Metropolitana.

4Surveying the exquisite modern-art collection at Museu Chácara do Céu.

5Taking in the fine views over Rio and Baía de Guanabara from the Parque das Ruínas.

Icons of bohemian Rio, Santa Teresa and Lapa are two rough-and-tumble neighborhoods that have contributed considerably to the city's artistic and musical heritage. On a hill overlooking the city, Santa Teresa has an impressive collection of 19th-century mansions set along winding lanes. Many beautiful colonial homes stretch skyward, their manicured gardens hidden behind gabled fences.


Zona Norte


1Hearing the roar of the crowds as some of the world’s best players take to the field inside hallowed Maracanã Football Stadium.

2Browsing handicrafts, snacking on Northeastern dishes and partner-dancing to live forró inside the sprawling Feira Nordestina.

3Exploring relics from Brazil’s early-19th-century past at the neoclassical Museu do Primeiro Reinado.

4Taking a stroll amid the greenery of the once imperial Quinta da Boa Vista.

5Perusing pre-Columbian artifacts inside the Museu Nacional, a former royal palace.

Vast Zona Norte sprawls many kilometers toward the Baixada Fluminense. It boasts fewer attractions than the Zona Sul and Centro, but there are still excellent reasons to visit, including soccer rowdiness at Maracanã, great views from little-visited landmarks and historical intrigue at former palaces.

The Zona Norte is home to many distinct neighborhoods and favelas (slums, informal communities), including several with pivotal roles in the competitive Carnaval parade. Rehearsals at samba schools are a worthwhile draw, and attract huge crowds as Carnaval draws nearer. Some favelas are receiving dramatic makeovers, including Complexo do Alemão, a collection of communities that is slowly becoming a tourist attraction, courtesy of a teleférico (cable car) that glides over the favela hillsides.


Barra da Tijuca & Western Rio


1Hiking through tropical rainforest, enjoying memorable views from rocky lookouts and recovering beneath cool waterfalls in the Floresta da Tijuca.

2Basking on the wide golden sands of Praia da Barra da Tijuca.

3Exploring the lushly decadent gardens of Sítio Burle Marx.

4Delving into Brazil's rich folk-art traditions at the impressive Casa do Pontal.

5Looking for wildlife on the peaceful trails of the Parque Ecológico Chico Mendes.

The Miami of Rio, Barra da Tijuca is a sprawling suburb with huge malls and entertainment complexes, long traffic corridors and very little pedestrian movement. Barra – as it's known locally – is also where much of the 2016 Summer Olympics will take place. The beach here is the real attraction, a wide and lovely 12km-long stretch of shoreline.

The commercial area feels quite different from other parts of Rio, as Barra's development happened relatively recently. The middle class first began moving here in the 1970s, when cariocas (residents of Rio) fled crowded, crime-ridden streets to live on an unpopulated stretch of beachfront. Today, the influx of new residents has created crowded, problematic conditions once again.


Directory A–Z


Cook in Rio ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %8761-3653;; 2nd fl, Belfort Roxo 161; per person US$75) There aren’t many cooking classes available in English in Rio, other than this notable exception, which offers one-day courses where you’ll learn how to make a rich moqueca (seafood stew cooked in coconut milk) or a decadent pot of feijoada (black beans and pork stew).

Most language institutes charge high prices for group Portuguese courses. You can often find a private tutor for less. Hostels are a good place to troll for instructors, with ads on bulletin boards posted by native-speaking language teachers available for hire.

Casa do Caminho Language CentreLANGUAGE COURSE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %2267-6552;; Farme de Amoedo 135, Ipanema; private class per hr R$70, 4-week, 80hr course R$1400; W)



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