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Rio de Janeiro Guide
Rio de Janeiro - Out and About
Rio de Janeiro, capital city of the state of the same name, is situated at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, forming an amphitheatre around the Bay of guanabrara on the Atlantic Ocean. Amerigo Vespucci arrived here for the first time on 1st January 1502, leading a Portugeses expedition who, mistaking the bay for the mouth of a river, gave the area the name ' January River'. 'Carioca', was the name given to the Europeans, by the local Indios, a nick-name, that even today is still used by the inhabitants of Rio.
It's impossible to accurately calculate the number of residents, those officially counted during the census in 2000, were 5,580,544, but the inhabitants of the Favelas, who may amount to the same number , constantly refuse to take part in any form of census. Rio is one of the major economical and cultural centres of the South American Continent, an immense city, chaotic and contradictory, which symbolises and perfectly synthesizes the situation of the entire nation, both from the historical point of view and the a social point of view; Rio a city with a thousand faces.
Today the traces of Rio's historical past have all but disappeared under a blanket of urban growth, comprising a jungle of skyscrapers and enormous buildings. This image of a rich and well-to-do city co-habits with the extreme poverty of the Favelas areas. In Rio, well dressed citizens mingle with a multitude of begging children trying to make a living and elegant public buildings stand alongside squalid shacks. Considered one of the most fascinating cities in the world for its geographical position between sea, tropical forest and mountain ranges, Rio is one of the prestigious sites for international tourism. The centre, is located in the northern part of the city, around the two important principal streets Avenida Presidente Vargas and Avenida Rio Branco. Here the historic Rio has in part survived and can be seen in the important religious buildings in Morro de Sao Bento. The Benedictine Baroque Monastery, boasts a 17th century façade and a beautiful interior with an altar and balustrade in jacaranda wood. Other interesting buildings include: the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelaria; the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo; the ancient city cathedral and the Royal Chapel, where the Brasilian Emperor Pedro I and II were crowned. The oldest religious building in Rio, the 17th century Convent of Sant Antonio, is situated in Largo Carioca and has the Igreja da Ordem de Sao Francisco de Penitencia standing beside it, a splendid example of late Baroque. The imposing Nova Catedral ( Catedral Metropolitana ) , situated a short distance away, was erected between 1964 and 1976 and stands as an architectural contradiction which characterizes the city.
some of te profane architectural buildings in rio are worthy of note, including the Paco Imperial, the Municipal Theatre, inaugurated in 1909, the National Library and the Carioca Aqueduct or as it is otherwise called Arcos da Lapa e Santa Tereza, a magnificent structure of 42 arches, built on two levels, which once served to supply water to the city's fountains and which today supports the tram line, which links the centre to the Santa Teresa district. This colurful district with its windy roads is home to numerous bars, restaurants and night clubs.
Considered the cultural capital of Brasil, Rio is the site of over 50 museums , some of which have great importance. In particular, the Museu Nacional de belas Artes, in Avenida Rio Branco, which possesses an important collection of international and Brazilian art. The Museu de Arte Sacra displays Brazilian art on a religious theme. The Museu Nacional, situated in Quinta da Boa Vista, houses a vast collection of anthropological and natural science objects.
Rio is particularly famous for its 90km of white sandy beaches, the most important of which are, Ipanema and Copacabana, both of which are located in the northern part of the city. In reality the beaches are far less attractive than one imagines: enormous buildings and hotels encumber both beches, not to mention the high level of pollution of both the water and beach. They are however fantastic, lively meeting places, characterised by varied and multi-coloured crowds.
The most popular public transport system in the city, is without doubt, but it is also the most difficult to use for the visitor. The buses connect all the zones of the city and during rush hour look like tins of sardines. Personal security is also an element to take into consideration, seeing as bag- snatchers use the confusion and crowds to their advantage. It is advisable not to wear objects of value when travelling around the city. The best way to travel around rio is by taxi. Finding one is relatively simple, they are literally everywhere and are easily recognisable by their yellow colour and blue stripe, which runs along the side of the taxi. The cost of the fare is calculated by a meter, but there is an initial tariff of 2 real. During the night and weekends, the taxi's apply an increased charge. Tips are not necessary. The Metropolitan is also a safe method of transport in rio, comfortable and reliable, but it is still relatively small and covers only short distances: the centre, Copacabana, Flamengo and Botafogo.
Rio de Janeiro - Not to be missed
The famous Pao d'Acucar, Sugar Loaf, the natural symbol of Rio, can be reached by bus from the centre, Copacabana or Flamengo. However the cable-car is certainly the means of ttransport which offers the best views. The ride is split into two separate parts: the first from the Praia vermelha station to Morro da Urca, the second from here to the summit.
One of the most famous sites in Rio is certainly the Corcovado with its statue of Christ. The statue weighs 1145 tons, an stands over the city at a height of 709 metres. The base of the statue houses a chapel which can accommodate around 150 people. From the summit, it is possible to admire a spectacular view over the city, the sea and the surrounding mountains.in addition to the bus, the summit can be reached by means of a small rack railway. ( the Bondinho), which runs every half hour, climbing through the Parque nacional da Tijuca. The park stretches over 3,300 hectares and is the largest urban park in the world.The Jardim Botanico, situated a short distance away from the park, is a paradise of plants and trees, gathered from the four corners of the globe.
Founded in 1808, the gardens cover an area of 140 hectares and boast more than 4,000 species of plants. The park is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Rio de Janeiro - Walks and tours
The mountainous zone of Serra Fluminense, located 50km from Rio, is an area rich in dense woods, with numerous rivers and streams and a fresh climate.
The main area of the zone is Petropolis, situated at an altitude of 810 metres and once the summer residence of the imperial court. The town, founded in 1829, still maintains in part the orderly and rigorous aspect of that time. The town boasts the Princess Isabel Palace and the Imperial Palace, both built in Neoclassic style and today, home to a museum of jewellery, porcelain and furniture once belonging to the crown. Other important buildings include the Neogothic cathedral and the Palacio Cristal, built in iron and glass imported from France in 1881.
The coast that runs from Rio to Santos is referred to as ' The Green Coast ', an area of intense blue sea with more than 300 islands, covered with lush green vegetation. The main centre is Angro dos Reis, the departure point for those wishing to reach the islands located in the Bay of Sepetiba. Situated off-shore, in front of this town , is the largest island along the Green Coast, Ilha Grande. Parati, a small colonial town is situated a little further along the coast. the town has maintained its original aspect of three centuries ago and has been declared patrimony of humanity site by Unesco.
The town's cobbled streets are practicable only by bicycle, horse or on foot and are surrounded by magnificent old buildings, which house art galleries, restaurants and shops. Parati is full of churches, which reflect its rich 18th century past. The three main churches were in the past used for racial segregation. Nossa Senhora dos Remedios was the church for the white elite, while the Igrja do Roserio, the smallest church, was attended by the slaves and the Igreja de Santa by the freed slaves.
Rio de Janeiro - The traveller's notebook
Currency : Real (BRL)
Electric suply: 110/120 volt. In some hotels 220 volts. An adaptor may be necessary. Climate : Rio de Janeiro is a tropical city. The summer runs from December to March with temperatures varying from '25°C to 42°C. Winter is from June to August with temperatures that can drop to 20°C during the day and 16°C during the night.
Language : Portugese
Opening hours : Shops are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm. Saturday from 9am to mid-day. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 10 to 4:30 pm
Telephones : To telephone Brasil dial 0055 followed by the area code and the private number. The code for Rio is 21.
Rio de Janeiro - A pocket guide
Perhaps the main attraction of Rio is its vast choice of night life. The Carioca are a lively and happy population and manage to find a different way to enjoy themselves every evening of the week. It's possible to start with an evening meal in a restaurant followed by a cinema or theatre trip, or a drink in a bar or café, finishing off with a night club, discotheque or samba dance club.
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