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Best places to visit in Rio de Janeiro

If you only have a short time in your trip to Rio de Janeiro and would like to see the best of the city, after booking your flight, hotel and travel insurance, here are some tidbits of advice on what to choose.

The main symbol of modern Rio de Janeiro is of course the Corcovado hill. This is that 700 meters high granite hill with a 39,6 meters tall statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) on the top, which has become the iconic representation of Rio.  Open since 8.30 in the morning, the top of the Corcovado can be reached by train, taxi or private van. In Cosme Velho street you can take the “Trem do Corcovado”, or in Paineiras you can take a private van. Bear in mind you cannot access the top of the hill on your own vehicle. The Corcovado opens 8.30am.

But the Christ was not always there. Until the 1930s, when the statue was inaugurated, the main icon of Rio de Janeiro was still the Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) Mountain. Located on the Guanabara Bay, this peak rises 396 meters above the harbor and was named because of the way it resembles concentrated refined loaf sugar.  Open since 8 am, transportation to Pão de Açúcar from Praia Vermelha in Rio de Janeiro departs first at 8.20am. Trips take place every 20 minutes but only up to 65 people can be taken at a time.  The views of Rio de Janeiro from there are not to be missed.

Close to Corcovado is located the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. In Christmas time, the BradescoSeguros floating Christmas tree is set up on this lagoon, with 85 meters of height that make it the greatest in the world. By the lagoon you can also find the Botanical Garden.

The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are, of course, what attracts most people. The most touristic and nicest beaches in Rio are Ipanema and Copacabana, both located in the southern area or ZonaSul of the city. The water is quite warm and, because of the great weather in Rio de Janeiro, you can visit the beaches and enjoy them year round.

While in Ipanema, you can also visit the restaurant Garota de Ipanema. Located on number 53 on the RuaVinicius de Moraes, it is there where the Brazilian singer after which the street is named wrote the famous song after which the restaurant was named. Garota de Ipanema is only a block from the beach and you can go there for a nice lunch or dinner, as well as to take a break from the sun and the beach.

Are you a soccer fan? The Maracaná Stadium is the greatest soccer stadium in the world and; guess what? It is located in Rio de Janeiro.  It is currently being refurbished for the World Cup 2014, but you can still take a tour in the stadium and see its inside.

When you visit downtown, where you can see both colonial buildings and modern architecture mingle together; do not forget to visit the main cathedral, which has a capacity of over 10,000 people standing. This cathedral was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the architect that also planned the capital of Brazil: the city of Brasilia.

As you know, Rio de Janeiro is famous for its Carnival. Carnival is held sometime between February and March, which depends on the moon calendar, but you can visit its premises year round. The Sambódromo is where the parades for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro are held every year. Even if you do not visit Rio in Carnival time, you can still visit the Sambódromo and, if you are lucky, you will see aescola do samba (samba school) rehearsing. Hint: there is a souvenir shop in the Sambódromo from which you can rent carnival costumes to wear and take pictures. This is a good way to have a carnival experience at any time of the year.

With these basics in mind, you can plan a trip to Rio in which you can visit all these sights, and then add as you go the new places you may discover on your way. Remember to first start by booking your hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Especially around carnival time, it may be difficult to find a good spot if you do not book ahead of time. 

Review your travel checklist. We wish you a pleasant trip!

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