Santa Teresa Neighborhood
Perched on a hill overlooking the city’s harbor, the Santa Teresa neighborhood invites visitors to step back in time and experience the faded elegance of Rio’s 19th-century plantation mansions and cobblestone streets. The region escaped development until 1896, when an aqueduct was built that linked the neighborhood to the city. The district was a haven for artists, musicians and writers in the 20th century, and although trendy clubs and boutiques have since overtaken the neighborhood, it still retains a friendly artist-colony vibe. The city’s last remaining streetcar, the Santa Teresa Tram, used to be a popular tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro but was closed after a serious accident on the line.
Located to the west of the Lagoa neighborhood, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, or Jardim Botanico, houses more than 8,000 species of plants. Built in the early 1800s, the garden features many mature specimens, including avenues of towering palm trees. Visitors flock to the park to view the 600 species of orchids. The garden includes a number of monuments, fountains and features, including a Japanese garden, a pond filled with water lilies and the new Museu do Meio Ambiente, which displays exhibits that focus on the environment.
Rising 400 meters above the mouth of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf mountain is a monolith of quartz and granite that visitors can crest via a glass-walled cable car known as a “bondinho” or “teleferico.” The cable car departs every 20 minutes from the base of Babilonia hill and climbs to the top of the Morro da Urca hill. From there, visitors can take a second cable car up to the mountain’s summit.
The beach made famous in the bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema” in the 1960s remains one of Rio’s most popular tourist spots today. A long, arcing expanse of soft white sand and rolling waves, Ipanema routinely reaches the top of the “Best Beaches in the World” lists year after year. The beach is bordered by a well-organized grid of shops, cafés and restaurants as well as an array of art galleries, theaters and clubs.
Separated from Ipanema to the west by surfer-favored Arpoador beach, Copacabana has a more active vibe than its equally famous neighbor. Rio locals, called “cariocas,” always seem to have a game of soccer or volleyball in play, and vendors vociferously hawk their drinks and snacks from the kiosks that line the beach. Fort Copacabana, a military base with a wartime museum that is open to the public, stands at one end of the beach. On the length of beach fronting the fort, fishermen offer up their morning catch for sale.
Christ the Redeemer
Perched atop the 710 meter high peak of Corcovado Peak, the statue of “Cristo Redentor” stands with arms outstretched, gazing serenely out over the city. Construction of the statue began in 1922 during the heyday of the Art Deco movement, and the concrete and soapstone statue is considered the largest statue designed in the genre in the world. Most visitors take a vertical cog train to reach the base of the summit. From there, visitors to the monument once had to climb hundreds of steps to reach the top. Today, elevators and escalators are available to shorten the trip.