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Rio de Janeiro see + do

Arrayed around the glittering waters of Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro sprawls luxuriously up the steep slopes of a dozen morros, or ancient mounds of gneiss. Some of the peaks, such as the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and Mount Corcovado, are accessible by cable car or funicular railway, their lookout platforms always crammed with tourists gazing down on the city's splendid skyline. For all its physical beauty, however, Rio is a turbulent city, embracing both the luxury and the grit of Brazil's highly divided society. Stay on the glinting white sand at Ipanema and Copacabana, and you'll mix with the sophisticated and well-heeled, who dedicate their lives to sensual pleasure and the search for surgically enhanced physical beauty. Wander just a short distance away, however, and you'll glimpse Rio's flip side, its darker alter ego: the grim and desperate slums, menacing by day but curiously picturesque at night, when lanterns and gas lamps flicker in the wind-stirred boughs of the ever-encroaching jungle.

Yet despite Rio's reputation for violent crime, the simple act of walking around Rio is no longer the adrenaline-pumping gamble it once was. Urban regeneration programs have turned several once-derelict areas into buzzing nightspots or up-and-coming tourism enclaves. Lapa, for instance, has now been reclaimed as the city's hottest spot for samba, while Santa Teresa, which once sent chills down the spine of all but the toughest Carioca, has seen its elegant mansions restored, many converted into stylish bed-and-breakfasts and boutique hotels. Investment in security, lighting, and urban infrastructure has also improved life in the part of Rio that draws the most visitors: the Atlantic waterfront between Copacabana and Leblon, where rich and poor alike flock to the beaches by the thousands to play.

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Instituto Moreira Salles, Gávea

This exceptional cultural center, exhibition space, and museum of cinema was founded by Brazilian banker Walter Moreira Salles, whose filmmaker son, Walter...more

Editors' Pick
Hang Gliding in Rio, Rio de Janeiro

Tourists have leaped off Pedra Bonita's 1,800-foot summit for more than a quarter century, when Rio became one of the first cities in the world to authorize...more

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Gloria Sunday Market, Gloria

This largely neglected neighborhood near the Santos Dumont domestic airport has a boisterous Sunday market that offers a tantalizing insight into the ordinary...more

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Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro

"Welcome to the only part of Rio that the locals don't know," chirps the guide, escorting a handful of open-mouthed tourists into the heart of Rocinha, one of...more

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Hotel Photo
Corcovado and the Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro

Rio's equivalent of the Statue of Liberty, this 125-foot-high statue of Christ has an arm-span of more than 90 feet. Sculpted in France, it was installed in...more

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Hotel Photo
Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro

All of Brazil celebrates Carnaval, each region with its own distinct flavor and tradition. And though many locals leave Rio for Carnaval—some of the...more

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Hotel Photo
Beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro

If you come to Rio with any intentions other than hitting the beach, you're mildly insane. Sand and sun inform most everything about the city and its people,...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.



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