September 2000

The Main Dishes

Barra da Tijuca, Maracanã, Pão de Açúcar, Corcovado,
Cristo Redentor, Parque Nacional da Tijuca.
All the names that made Rio a world-class destination.

Pepino/São Conrado

After the Sheraton there is no beach along the coast for a few km until Pepino beach in São Conrado. You can also take Avenida Niemeyer to the tunnel leading to Barra da Tijuca.

Pepino is a beautiful beach, less crowded than Ipanema. It's where the hang-gliders hang out when they're not hanging up there. Along the beach are two big resort hotels, the Hotel InterContinental and Hotel Nacional. Behind them, nestled into the hillside, is Brazil's biggest favela, Rocinha.

Bus No 546, 547 or 557 goes to Pepino. Don't take valuables, as these buses are frequent targets of robbers. There is also an executive bus (No 2016 `São Conrado') that goes along Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to Pepino.

Praia Barra da Tijuca

The next beach out is Barra. It's 12 km long, with clean, green water. The first few km are filled with bars and seafood restaurants (peixe frito is recommended). Further out there are only barracas (food and drink stalls) on the beach. It's calm on weekdays, and crazy on hot summer weekends.

Barra's population has doubled in the last 10 years and it's currently the most fashionable place to live in Rio. There are more than a hundred closed condominiums, and the area is now known as the Califórnia Carioca.

Further Out

The beaches further south—Prainha, Grumari, Marambaia—are very beautiful and worth exploring but not easily accessible by public transport. They only get busy on weekends when bus lines swell. All have barracas. Prainha, the next beach past Barra, is one of the best surfing beaches in Rio. Grumari is arguably the prettiest beach near the city, and there is a restaurant on the beach where the crabs are good.

To reach these beaches by car you can turn off the Rio-Santos road, BR-101, at Barra and follow the beach road. If it's a busy weekend, go a few km further and turn left at Estrada Bemvindo Novais, at Recreio dos Bandeirantes or Estrada Vereador.


This stadium, Brazil's temple of soccer and a colossus among colosseums, easily accommodates over 100,000 people and on occasion—the World Cup Game of 1950 or Pelé's last game—has squeezed in close to 200,000 crazed fans (although it's difficult to see how). If you like sports, if you want to understand Brazil, or if you just want an intense, quasi-psychedelic experience, then by all means go see a game of futebol, preferably a championship game or one between rivals Flamengo (Fla) and Fluminense (Flu).

Brazilian soccer is perhaps the most imaginative and exciting in the world. Complementing the action on the field, the stands are filled with fanatical fans who cheer their team on in all sorts of ways: chanting, singing and shouting; waving banners and streamers in team colors; pounding huge samba drums; exploding firecrackers, Roman candles and smoke bombs (in team colors); launching incendiary balloons; throwing toilet paper, beer and even dead chickens—possibly macumba inspired. The scene, in short, is sheer lunacy.

Obviously, you have to be very careful if you go to Maracanã. Don't wear a watch or jewelry. Don't bring more money than you need for tickets, transport and refreshments. The big question is how to get to and from the game safely.

The big games are held on Sunday at 5 pm year-round. Tourist buses leave from major hotels at 2.30 pm (they often run a bit late) for 5 pm Sunday games. They cost about $25, which is a ripoff, but it's the safest and easiest way to get to the game. They drop you off and pick you up right in front of the gate and escort you to lower-level seats. Unfortunately this is not the best perspective for watching the game, but it is the safest because of the overhead covering which protects you from descending objects (like cups full of bodily fluids).

However you get to the stadium, it's a good idea to buy these lower-level seats, called cadeira, instead of the upper-level bleachers, called arquibancada. The price is $8, unless it's a championship game, when it's more.

The metro is closed on Sunday, and taking a bus or cab can be a hassle, Getting to the stadium isn't too difficult: catch a bus marked `Maracanã' (from the zona sul, No 434, 464 or 455; from Centro, No 238 or 239) and leave a couple of hours before game time. Returning to your hotel by bus is often a drag. The buses are flooded with passengers and thieves set to work on the trapped passengers. Taking a cab is a possible alternative, but they can be hard to flag down; the best strategy is to walk away from the stadium a bit.

Surprisingly, driving a car to the stadium is pretty easy. You should leave a couple of hours before kick-off and, for easy departure, park away from the stadium. The traffic isn't all that bad and if you arrive early you can watch the preliminary games.

Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf)

Sugar Loaf, God's gift to the picture-postcard industry, is dazzling. Two cable cars lift you 1300 meters above Rio and the Baía de Guanabara. From here, Rio is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world. There are many good times to make the ascent, but sunset on a clear day is the most spectacular. As day becomes night and the city lights start to sparkle down below, the sensation is delightful.

Everyone must go to Sugar Loaf, but if you can, avoid going from about 10 to 11 am and 2 to 3 pm when most tourist buses are arriving.

The two-stage cable cars (295-8244) leave about every 30 minutes from Praça General Tibúrcio at Praia Vermelha in Urca. They operate daily from 8 am to 10 pm and cost $8. On top of the lower hill there's a restaurant/theatre. The Beija Flor samba school puts on a show on Monday from 9 pm to 1 am. Less touristy shows are the Friday and Saturday Carioca nights. They have some excellent musicians; check the local papers for listings.

To get to Sugar Loaf take a bus marked `Urca' from Centro and Flamengo (No 107); from the zona sul, take No 500, 511 or 512. The open airbus that runs along the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches also goes to Sugar Loaf.

Corcovado & Cristo Redentor

Corcovado (Hunchback) is the mountain and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the statue. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 709 meters. The statue, with its welcoming outstretched arms, stands another 30 meters high and weighs over 1000 tons (a popular song talks about how the Cristo should have his arms closed against his chest because for most who come to Rio the city is harsh and unwelcoming).

The statue was originally conceived as a national monument to celebrate Brazil's 100 years of independence from Portugal. The 100 years came and went in 1922 without the money to start construction, but in 1931 the statue was completed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, thanks to some financial assistance from the Vatican.

Corcovado lies within the Parque Nacional da Tijuca. You can get there by car or by taxi, but the best way is to go up in the cog train—sit on the right-hand side going up for the view. The round trip costs $11 and leaves from Rua Cosme Velho 513 (Cosme Velho). You can get a taxi there or a bus marked `Rua Cosme Velho'—a No 184 or 180 bus from Centro, a No 583 from Largo Machado, Copacabana and Ipanema, or a No 584 from Leblon.

During the high season, the trains, which only leave every 30 minutes, can be slow going. Corcovado, and the train, are open from 8 am to 6.30 pm. Needless to say, the view from up top is spectacular.

Santa Teresa Bondinho

The bondinho (little tram) goes over the old aqueduct to Santa Teresa from Avenida República do Chile and Senador Dantas in Centro. Santa Teresa is a beautiful neighborhood of cobbled streets, hills and old homes. Favelas down the hillsides have made this a high-crime area. Young thieves jump on and off the tram very quickly. Go, but don't take valuables. Public transport stops at midnight, so you'll need a car if you are going anywhere after that time.

There's a small Museu do Bonde at the central tram station with a history of Rio's tramways since 1865 for bonde buffs. You may wonder why people choose to hang onto the side of the tram even when there are spare seats. It's because they don't have to pay.

The Museu Chácara do Céu (224-8991), Rua Murtinho Nobre, 345 Santa Teresa, has a good collection of art and antiques.

Parks & Gardens

Parque Nacional da Tijuca

Tijuca is all that's left of the tropical jungle that once surrounded Rio de Janeiro. In 15 minutes you can go from the concrete jungle of Copacabana to the 120-sq-km tropical jungle of Parque Nacional da Tijuca. A more rapid and drastic contrast is hard to imagine. The forest is exuberant green, with beautiful trees, creeks and waterfalls, mountainous terrain and high peaks. Candomblistas leave offerings by the roadside, families have picnics, and serious hikers climb the summit of Pico da Tijuca (1012 meters).

The heart of the forest is the Alto da Boa Vista with several waterfalls (including the 35-meter Cascatinha Taunay), peaks and restaurants. It's a beautiful spot. You can get maps at the entrance.

The entire park closes at sunset and is rather heavily policed. Kids have been known to wander off and get lost in the forest—it's that big. It's best to go by car, but if you can't, catch a No 221, 233 or 234 bus.

The best route by car is to take Rua Jardim Botânico two blocks past the botanical garden (heading away from Gávea). Turn left on Rua Lopes Quintas and then follow the Tijuca or Corcovado signs for two quick left turns until you reach the back of the botanical garden, where you go right. Then follow the signs for a quick ascent into the forest and past the Vista Chinesa (get out for a view) and the Mesa do Imperador. Go right when you seem to come out of the forest on the main road and you'll see the stone columns to the entrance of Alto da Boa Vista on your left in a couple of km.

You can also drive up to Alto da Boa Vista by heading out to São Conrado and turning right up the hill at the Parque Nacional da Tijuca signs.

Jardim Botânico

Open daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm, the garden was first planted by order of the prince regent Dom João in 1808. There are over 5000 varieties of plants on 141 hectares. Quiet and serene on weekdays, the botanical garden blossoms with families and music on weekends. The row of palms, planted when the garden first opened, and the Amazonas section with the lake containing the huge Vitória Régia water lilies, are some of the highlights. It's not a bad idea to take insect repellent.

The garden is on Rua Jardim Botânico 920. To get there take a `Jardim Botânico' bus: from Centro, No 170; from the zona sul, No 571, 572, or 594.

After the garden walk, go a few blocks down Rua Jardim Botânico, away from the beach, to Alfaces at Rua Visconde da Graça 51 for an excellent light lunch with an assortment of salads and good desserts at outdoor tables.

Parque Lage

Just a few blocks down from the Jardim Botânico at Rua Jardim Botânico 414, this is a beautiful park at the base of Parque Nacional da Tijuca. There are gardens, little lakes and a mansion, which now houses the Instituto de Belas Artes—there are often art shows and sometimes performances there. It's a tranquil place, with no sports allowed and a favorite of families with small children. It's open from 8 am to 5.30 pm. Take a `Jardim Botânico' bus.

Parque do Flamengo

Flamengo is a park with loads of fields and a bay for activities and sports. There are three museums—Museu Carmen Miranda, Museu dos Mortos da Segunda Guerra Mundial and Museu de Arte Modema. Inside the park, along the bay, the Barracuda Rio restaurant (265-4641) is a great spot for bay and people watching. There's a deck and tables outside where you can drink or eat, and inside you can get a more substantial meal. It's also open for dinner.

To get there take buses marked `Via Parque do Flamengo': from Centro, No 125 or 132, and from the zona sul, No 413 or 455.

Parque da Catacumba

With high-rise buildings on both sides, Catacumba is on the Morro dos Cabritos, which rises from the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. It was the site of a favela, which was destroyed to make the park. A shaded park for walkers only, it's a good place to escape the heat and see some excellent outdoor sculptures. At the top of the hill there is a great view. Catacumba also has free Sunday afternoon concerts during the summer in its outdoor amphitheatre featuring some of Rio's best musicians. Check the Sunday newspaper for details.

Parque da Cidade

Up in the hills of Gávea this park is also calm and cool, and popular with families. Open daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm, the Museu da Cidade is in the park grounds.

Parque do Catete

The grounds of the old presidential palace are now the Parque do Catete, a quiet refuge from the city; the park has monkeys hanging from the giant trees.

Quinta da Boa Vista

Rio's main park and museum of natural history makes a great Sunday outing, and if you want to make a day out of it, the zoo, Nordeste Fair and Maracanã soccer stadium are all nearby. The park is open daily from 8 am to 7 pm.


Museu Nacional

This museum and its grand imperial entrance are still stately and imposing, and the view from the balcony to the royal palms is majestic. However, the graffitied buildings and unkempt grounds have suffered since the fall of the monarchy. The park is large and busy, and, because it's on the north side of the city, you'll see a good cross-section of Cariocas.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and admission is about $l (free on Thursday). There are many interesting exhibits: dinosaur fossils, saber-toothed tiger skeletons, beautiful pieces of pre-Columbian ceramics from the littoral and planalto of Peru, a huge meteorite, hundreds of stuffed birds, mammals and fish, gory displays of tropical diseases and exhibits on the peoples of Brazil.

The last of these are the most interesting. Rubber-gatherers and Indians of the Amazon, lace workers and jangadeiro fisherfolk of the Northeast, candomblistas of Bahia, gaúchos of Rio Grande do Sul and vaqueiros (cowboys) of the sertão are all given their due. What's interesting about these exhibits is that, with a little bit of effort and a lot of traveling, you can see all of these peoples in the flesh. The Indian exhibit is particularly good—better than that of the FUNAI Museu do Índio.

The museum is at the Quinta da Boa Vista. To get there from Centro take the metro to São Cristóvão or bus No 472 or 474; from the zona sul take bus No 472 or 474 as well.

Museu Nacíonal de Belas Artes

At Avenida Rio Branco 199 is Rio's premier fine-art museum (240-0160). There are over 800 original paintings and sculptures in the collection. The most important gallery is the Galeria de Arte Brasileira, with 20th-century classics such as Cândido Portinari's Café. There are also galleries with foreign art (not terribly good) and contemporary exhibits.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 5.30 pm; and Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 3 to 6 pm. Photography is prohibited. Take any of the city-bound buses and get off near Avenida Rio Branco, or take the metro to Carioca station.

Museu Histórico Nacional

Restored in 1985, this former colonial arsenal (2205829) is filled with historic relics and interesting displays, one of the best being the re-creation of a colonial pharmacy. The building is near the bay at Praça Marechal Âncora.

Museu Folclórico Edson Carneiro

The small Edson Carneiro museum should not be missed—especially if you're staying nearby in the Catete/Flamengo area. It has excellent displays of folk art—probably Brazil's richest artistic tradition—a folklore library, and a small crafts store with some wonderful crafts, books and folk records at very cheap prices.

The museum is next to the grounds of the Palácio do Catete. The address is Rua do Catete 181, Catete, and it's open Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 6 pm, and Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 3 to 6 pm.

Museu da República & Palácio do Catete

The Museu da República and the Palácio do Catete have been wonderfully restored. Built between 1858 and 1866 and easily distinguished by the bronze eagles on the eaves, the palace was occupied by the president of Brazil from 1896 until 1954, when Getúlio Vargas killed himself here. His bedroom, where it took place, is on display. The museum, which occupies the palace, has a good collection of art and artifacts from the republican period. It's open Tuesday to Friday from noon to 5 pm. Admission costs $0.50.

Museu do Índio

At Rua das Palmeiras 55, Botafogo, the Museu do Índio (286-8799) has a good library with over 25,000 titles, a map and photo collection and a quiet garden. The Indian exhibits in the Museu Nacional at the Quinta da Boa Vista are better.

Museu H Stern

The headquarters of the famous jeweler H Stem, at Rua Visconde de Pirajá 490, contains a museum. You may find the 12-minute guided jewelry tour interesting if you're in the neighborhood. With a coupon you can get a free cab ride to and from the store and anywhere in the zona sul.

Museu Carmen Miranda

The small Carmen Miranda Museum in Parque do Flamengo is across the street from Avenida Rui Barbosa 560 and is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. Carmen, of course, was Hollywood's Brazilian bombshell, although she was actually born in Portugal. She made it to Hollywood in the 1940s and has become a cult figure in Rio. During Carnaval hundreds of men dress up as Carmen Miranda look-alikes. The museum is filled with Carmen memorabilia and paraphernalia, including costumes, T-shirts, posters, postcards, records and a small exhibit.

Museu Villa-Lobos

This museum is in a century-old building and is dedicated to the memory of Heitor Villa-Lobos. This great Brazilian composer, regarded as the father of modem Brazilian music, was the first to combine folkloric themes with classic forms. As well as personal items, there's also an extensive sound archive. At Rua Sorocaba 200 in Botafogo, it's open from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5.30 pm.

Museu de Arte Moderna

At the northern end of Parque do Flamengo, looking a bit like an airport hangar, is the Modern Art Museum. Construction began in 1954, but for much of the past few years all that one has been able to see of the museum are its grounds, designed by Brazil's most famous landscape architect, Burle Marx (who landscaped Brasília).

The museum was devastated by a fire in 1978 which consumed 90% of its collection. The museum has worked hard to rebuild its collection, and today it's the most important center of contemporary art in Rio, with a permanent display of over 4000 works by Brazilian artists.

Museu Naval e Oceanográfico

This museum chronicles the history of the Brazilian navy from the 16th century to the present, It's close to Praça 15 de Novembro and is open every day from noon to 4.45 pm.

Museu Naval

In Bauru, behind the Modern Art Museum, the Naval Museum is open Tuesday to Friday from 11.30 am to 5.30 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 5.30 pm. It documents the Brazilian navy's role in WW II and has ship models.

Museu Histórico e Diplomático

Housed in the restored Itamaraty Palace, which was home to Brazil's presidents from 1889 until 1897, the museum has an impressive collection of art and antiques. Located at Rua Marechal Floriano 196 (a short walk from Presidente Vargas metro station), the museum has guided tours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 4 pm. To guarantee a tour in English or French, call the palace on (253-7961).

Sambódromo & Museu do Carnaval

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1984, the Sambadrome also houses the Museu do Carnaval. It contains lots of material relating to the history of Rio's samba schools. It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Enter through Rua Frei Caneca. Empty sambadromes are like empty stadiums—there's not a lot happening.

Museu Chácara do Céu

Located at Rua Murtinho Nobre 93, Santa Teresa, this is a delightful museum that occupies part of the old mansion of wealthy industrialist and arts patron Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya. It contains art and antiques from his private collection, which he bequeathed to the nation, including works by Monet, Vlaminck, Portinari and Picasso to name a few. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and has a great view of Guanabara Bay.

It's open from Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 5 pm and on Sunday and holidays from 1 to 5 pm. Entry is $4, free on Sunday. To get there, take the No 206 or 214 bus from the Menezes Cortes bus terminal in the Centro to the `Curvelo' stop. You can take the tram, but don't carry valuables.

Museu Histórico do Exército e Forte de Copacabana

Built in 1914, the fort preserves its original characteristics, with walls up to 12 meters thick and fortified with Krupp cannons. The museum displays weapons, but one of the best reasons to visit is the fantastic view of Copacabana. The fort is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm. Entry is free.

Museu Casa do Pontal

Owned by Frenchman Jacques Van de Beuque, this impressive collection of over 4,500 pieces is one of the best folk-art exhibitions in Brazil. Works are grouped according to themes, including music, Carnaval, religion and folklore.

The museum is located just past Barra at the Estrada do Pontal 3295. It's open on weekends from 2 to 5.30 pm

Excerpts from Brazil - A Travel Survival Kit, 3rd edition, by Andrew Draffen, Chris McAsey, Leonardo Pinheiro,  and Robyn Jones. For more information call Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555. Copyright 1996 Lonely Planet Publications. Used by permission.

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