Beyond the medals: Discover Rio

Posted at 11:44 AM, Aug 12, 2016

If ever there was a city that loved a good party, it’s Rio de Janeiro. 

But, there’s more to Rio de Janeiro than Carnival, samba, and caipirinhas. South America’s sixth-largest city boasts the world’s largest urban forest, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and a Parisian-inspired downtown. 

Urban Forests and Iconic Views

Tijuca National Park isn’t known for its claim to be the world’s largest urban forest, it's known for the Christ the Redeemer statue, on top of one of the park’s most prominent peaks, Corcovado. Completed in 1931 and named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, the art deco statue is a must-see if you are visiting Rio de Janeiro for the first time.

Rio de Janeiro’s Backyard

Rio de Janeiro’s beaches are a draw for tourists, but many cariocas consider them an extension of their own backyards and are more likely to ask a friend to meet them near a particular lifeguard post on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches than to invite them into their own homes. These posts often are associated with certain groups. For example, young athletes test their skills at futevôlei, a hands-free version of volleyball, at Post 4. Stake out your favorite spot early since the beaches can, not surprisingly, get very crowded, especially on warm, sunny days. 

The Heart of the Marvelous City

To visit Centro, as downtown Rio de Janeiro is known, is to walk through the city’s history. You can look down at the crumbling stones that served as the original harbor, now a short distance inland, and stand on Salt Rock, where human cargo was sold to work sugar plantations and gold mines. Street art depicting the plight of these Africans and their descendants covers the walls of adjacent buildings. 

Colorful Neighborhoods

If you want to experience everyday Rio de Janeiro, venture into its neighborhoods. The hilltop community of Santa Teresa is famous for its arts scene, bohemian bars, and the Escadaria Selarón, a 215-step staircase that Chilean-born artist Selarón covered in bright mosaic tiles. Below Santa Teresa, the neighborhood of Lapa draws crowds to its samba clubs. 

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