If a city has the nickname ‘The Marvelous City’, then it probably has lots of cool things to offer. Especially when the word ‘marvelous’ is related to the natural beauty of this certain city. Welcome to Rio de Janeiro, or Cidade Maravilhosa, as the Brazilians tend to call their beloved Rio. A city that truly lives up to its nickname. Read here how to spend 24 hours like a real Carioca, as the locals of Rio are called.
// You want to start your day like a real Carioca?
Rise early, and pull on your running shoes for a run along the beach.
Life in Rio is all about being outdoors, on the streets, at the beach, or in the parks, enjoying the city’s famously mellow rhythms. Cariocas love sports. Of course they play a lot of futebol, but there is also a huge fitness scene, especially around the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. You’ll see people running, biking, speed walking, skating and doing exercises on every square metre available. You want to start your day like a real Carioca? Rise early, and pull on your running shoes for a run along the beach. Or grab your bike to cruise the boulevards. Cycling in Rio de Janeiro is getting more popular every day, so give it a try. Mix in some push-ups and sit-ups, to harden your abs and prepare them for some beach time.
After this wholesome activity, it is time for a late breakfast. Visit the relatively un-touristic Parque Lage. You can combine breakfast with a walk in the park, but come early (between 9 am and 10 am) to avoid queues, especially at weekends. The restaurant is located in a beautiful colonial house and with a bit of luck you will spot some monkeys in the rainforest behind the villa. Trails start behind the villa, and you can walk up the hill for a great view: go in the direction of the duck pond (lago dos patos), walk up the stairs and when you reach the first landing, turn left into the forest and follow the trail. When it seems you can’t go any further, press on a bit more and you will find yourself all alone with a great view of the forest and the lake - Lagoa - of Rio de Janeiro. Parque Lage is also the starting point for the hike all the way up the Corcovado (1,5 to 2 hours), where the famous Christ the Redeemer statue awaits the truly determined.
If you aren’t going for the afternoon hike, visiting Praia Vermelha is perfect way to slow it down in this city of more than 6 million people. In the middle of the busy South Zone, right next to one of the most visited places in Brazil—the Sugarloaf—this beach remains a quiet oasis mostly visited by locals. Praia Vermelha means Red Beach, named, so the story goes, because after a 16th century battle in which the Portuguese ousted the French, the sand was drenched in blood of the fallen soldiers.
Now is a good time to quench your thirst with a coconut or a caipirinha, go for a stand-up paddle (SUP, pronounced soopy) or a bit of canoeing and enjoy the views of Sugarloaf mountain. When you have enough of the beach, there is a restaurant on your right (Terra Brasilis) where you can get a snack or lunch.
Prefer to be more active? You can enter the park (Claudio Coutinho) on the left side of the beach, to enjoy a nice walk through the forest. Here you also have the option of hiking up the Morro da Urca (around 200 metres). This is the first hill you would visit with the cable car, before ascending to the actual Sugarloaf. It is a short, but steep hike. You can get to the top in less than an hour.
// There isn’t a real clubbing scene in Rio.
In general Cariocas like to party ‘low profile’.
Finish the day watching the sunset, if the weather is clear, at the rocks of Arpoador. Buy a burger around the corner at the popular TT Burger on the Rua Francisco Otaviano, get a beer from a street vendor or a caipirinha at one of the kiosks, sit down and relax. However you will not be alone. Hundreds of people will be there with you and it sometimes can even be difficult to get a good spot. Regardless of the crowd, it’s definitely worth it.
Unsurprisingly, nights in Rio are fantastic. In general Cariocas like to party ‘low profile’. Gather some friends, grab a table, some chairs, and icy cold beers at a local bar and you have the makings of a great night. There isn’t a real clubbing scene in Rio. Not that there are no clubs: Rio Scenarium is the most famous one, and the three-storey high club is worth a visit. But if you want to experience the real Carioca feeling, go to Pedra do Sal, in the old city center, on a Monday or Friday, for a great street party with live music. This area is known as the birthplace of Samba, because historically this was the point of arrival of West African slaves. Samba originates from these West African cultures, brought to Brazil by millions of slaves.
Last, but not least, learn to use the word saideira. This Portuguese word basically means ‘the last round’. But when you are drinking with Cariocas and somebody says saideira, prepare for a long night!
by Jan Willem Zeldenrust | 17/05/2016