The magic of the Cidade Maravilhosa is that it enjoys an undeniably unique location. Opposite the Atlantic, on the East Coast of the largest country in Latin America, Rio bursts out of the tropical forest and mingles with its rugged greenery. The only city in the world to boast its very own national park, Tijuca, Rio lives to the rhythm of vibrant nature, filled with multi-coloured birds and flowers smelling of spicy fragrances. Its raw temperament is celebrated within its Botanical Garden, where its palm trees offer a welcome breath of fresh air.
Since the 1920s, Rio has also been a popular destination due to its long beaches lined by the deep blue sea. Although the golden age of Copacabana, popular with the international jet set in the 1950s, may be over, its fine sand will always be associated with the joyful, seductive life of the Cariocas. Today, visitors prefer the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, which can be found next to the chic neighbourhoods of the same name. These hip districts synonymous with trendy, laid-back youngsters, are the epicentre of a way of life lived to a bossa nova beat. It comes to life in its stylish bars and restaurants and the string of elegant boutiques showcasing local designers. Although the malls, Barra Shopping and Shopping Leblon, are popular reference points, Brazil is also a land of inspiration for high-end designers.
Rio, a melting pot of different influences is buzzing with life, and imbued with a crazy kind of electric energy, by day as well as by night, when it hums with caipirinhas. Its intensity is never as striking as it is during the famous Rio Carnival, which brings the city to life every year. It draws on a prolific musical and artistic scene, driven by prestigious events such as the Rio Film Festival. In the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, with its stepped streets and colonial buildings with genuine old-fashioned charm, you can really feel this cultural buzz. Explore its studios and art galleries, before seeking out the peace and quiet of Leme, a small seaside resort north-east of Copacabana, or Urca, famous for its stunning Art Deco buildings.
Next, you can step back in time to when Rio was discovered by Portuguese explorers by heading to Cinelândia. It is lined with historic buildings, like the National Museum of Fine Arts. Not far away, the modernist MAM tells the story of the 20th century through Brazilian art. But it is further afield, opposite the futurist architecture of Oscar Niemeyer’s MAC that you can really understand the essence of Rio de Janeiro, intrinsically linked to that of the whole country. Stefan Zweig summed it up when he said: “When one describes Brazil’s present, one talks without any knowledge of the past. It is only by having the future in sight that one can really understand what it means.” How true: the Football World Cup had barely finished in 2014 and Rio was already beginning to prepare for its next moment in the spotlight: the 2016 Olympic Games.