Nicknamed the Cidade Maravilhosa or ‘Marvellous City’, Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest and the most visited city in the southern hemisphere,
The land was discovered on 1 January (Janeiro) 1502 by Portuguese navigators who mistook Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river (Rio). Sixty years later the Portuguese crown established the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro and then spent two years expelling French traders after ‘Brazilwood’.
In the 18th century the city became the main shipping port for gold and diamonds, and, from 1763, the colonial capital of Brazil, which lasted nearly two centuries.
By 1891, Rio had a population of over 500,000, making it one of the largest cities in the world. Mountains were removed and bay water reclaimed as the city grew. Today with a population of over six million, it is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the Americas (26th in the world).
With independence and the creation of Brasilia in 1960, Rio de Janeiro ceased to be the capital city, but remained the most popular, with its stunning backdrop of mountains and tropical forest on one side, and popular bay and beaches, including the world famous Copacabana and Ipanema, on the other. Other eye-popping sights include the statue of Christ Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) on Corcovado mountain, recently declared one of the Seven Wonders of the World and Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car.
Rio is also famous for its incredible carnival and spontaneous street parties: the most spectacular are ‘Reveillon’ (New Year’s Eve) and its annual three-day ‘Carnaval’ in February where costumed dancers (desfiles) perform the Samba down the Sambódromo, a grandstand-lined parade avenue.
Boasting some of the world’s largest football stadiums, Rio is also the epicentre of Brazil’s national sport. In 2014, the children constantly seen kicking balls in the streets will be hoping for a glimpse of the world’s top players when the city’s Maracanã Stadium hosts the FIFA World Cup final.
In 2016, the Olympics will be held there too, the first time in a South American city.
Our boutique pousada, the Quinta Azul, is located in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s most bohemian quarter, Santa Teresa, just across the Lapa arches on the picturesque street car – the Bondinho de Santa Teresa. While many who travel through South America are only interested in hotels in Rio’s most famous spots, like Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, The Quinta Azul offers the authentic Rio experience.