Not everyone can afford to hop on a plane over to South America, but with enough planning and savings, this beautiful continent is certainly worth the visit. One of tourists' favorite cities to visit sits on the southeast coast of Brazil. As a coastal city, Rio de Janeiro offers a tropical climate and history going back centuries. Engaging in the relaxing Brazilian culture helps visitors better understand their love of tradition and festivities, though it can at first seem a little overwhelming when you land in this city of over six million people and the second largest in Brazil.
Historic Wonders: Four Enriched Places of Interest
Christ Redeemer: The monument that most often sets apart Rio de Janeiro. The sculpture of Jesus outstretched stands 99 feet high and 98 feet wide. It's at the top of the Corcovado Mountain, extendeding far over the tops of the trees in Tijuca Forest National Park. After five years of work, the project was inaugurated in 1931. Its face looks over the entire city. Of course, it's not the tallest Christ statue in the world - that honor belongs to Christ of Peace in Bolivia (112 feet tall).
Real Gabinete Português de Leitura: Books, anyone? Packed with over 350,000 volumes of Portuguese history, culture, fiction and what have you, this reknowned library gives literary lovers the time of their life. They've also taken the libery to completely computerize and catalogue every book, providing a link between the modern and past ages. Unique carvings and designs within the library (including statues imitating the Portuguese eternal guardians of human knowledge, Fatherland Alter) also evoke a sense of its richness.
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum: Appreciation for art is easy in Rio de Janeiro, especially when you can tour museums like this one. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1996, the museum boasts a circular shape similar to a bulging bowl or flying saucer. Inside, visitors can see paintings and photography, all from the 20th and 21st century. The surroundings include a reflecting pool that shines light back onto the structure. There's also a ramp that wraps around from the ground to its interior. Every side of the museum features enormous glass windows to give viewers every angle of the surrounding courtyard.
Parque Lage: A mansion with a taste of the rainforest. Enter a Roman palace replica that sits inside the Tijuca National Park where many exotic animals and birds reside. Intrically-designed double gates. Vast European-style gardens. A swimming pool with Italian marble tile. Twelve fish tanks. The luxury doesn't even come close to ending there, though. Throughout the mansion, visitors will find cozy rooms like the Cafe du Lage, and warm diner serving breakfast on the weekends. Outside the mansion doors sits rows of seats for gazing into the sculpted landscape (though untamed outside of the mansion property).
Outdoor Excursions: Nature's Hub of Three Alluring Sites
Ipanema Beach: If you have an ear for music, you'll want to stop along this beach. Along with the crashing waves, you'll most likely see an artist or two playing among the people, singing their own brand of Brazilian tunes. The most famous song is that of "The Girl from Ipanema", a story by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. Many local painters and poets celebrate this beach; it offers a combined calmness and strength not see in other parts of the city.
Sugar Loaf Mountain: If you're close to Guanabara Bay, you'll have no trouble recognizing this landmark. The mountain's name comes from the original shape of sugar in its refined, loaf form. Americans might think it looks like the top of a football jutting out of the ground. You can hit the top of the mountain by taking the "Sugarloaf Cable Car," which starts at Praia Vermelha and takes you on a journey in length of 2,460 feet. Once you get to the top, you'll find it's worth it. Views of the whole city await you.
Copacabana Beach: Okay, so this beach isn't exactly private, but you if you love the ocean, you won't want to pass up this gem. The most famous portion of the beach features a black and white pavement design all along the coast, and it makes the beach walk that much easier. Sculptors celebrate Brazilian culture by creating statues and designs from some of their best artists. The beach has also been home to huge New Year's Eve celebrations and world championship soccer and volleyball.
Entertainment Entities: Two Cultural Celebrations of Brazil
Carnival Rio de Janeiro: Imagine an age-old competition between neighbors' Christmas decorations gets out of hand. Now substitute students for the neighbors, and you've walked into one of the world's most famous school "float" competitions in the world. The carnival features huge parades of colorful cars, traditional music and intricate costumes. You can participate in the fun by bringing your own costume as well!
Rio de Janeiro Theatre: This concert hall features some of the most well-known Brazilian plays and music from the start of its completion back in 1909. Like many historic buildings, the exterior and interior portray the stories of Brazil through its detailed artistry. From the entrance you can see two statues representing Dance and Poetry. Atop the building a golden eagle watches over the festivities. If you take a tour of the interior, you can gaze through three stained glass windows designed by German makers Feurstein and Fugel.
These are just a few of the sites in Rio de Janeiro. The city and its people give a new understanding of Brazil's roots. Since Brazil is such a large country, it's best to start in one of its most famous cities to get a feel for who Brazilians see themselves, both as individuals and communities. You certainly won't run out of things to do here. The better you understand a culture, the more you'll appreciate it, which will certainly be the case after coming back from your visit in Rio de Janeiro.