Rio de Janeiro
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The best of Rio de Janeiro
Seeking respite from Rio’s hedonistic side? The city has no shortage of world-class day spas, which are just the ticket to soothe aching limbs after all that samba dancing hiking around the city’s many hilltop sights and exploring the best things to do in Rio. Residents love pampering themselves in sleek neighborhood salons – fitness and beauty are, after all, both big business in Rio – while the spas at luxurious five-star hotels give non-guests a taste of the celebrity lifestyle. On a serious shoestring? Even on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, skilled masseurs work their magic, setting up massage chairs right on the sand.
Few cities boast as many beaches as Rio. These stretches of golden sand are a backyard and playground for cariocas (aka residents), whether they’re sweating over a volleyball match or strutting their stuff in those infamously tiny bikinis (fio dental – fittingly, it means dental floss) and budgie smugglers (sungas). In a city where social inequality is often stark, beach time is an egalitarian pleasure. You won’t go hungry on these sun-kissed shores, thanks to a constant stream of restaurants and food and drink vendors – must-try local snacks include skewers of grilled cheese, refreshing acai smoothies and crispy cassava Globo biscuits. There are plenty of things to do, from sunbathing and people watching to frolicking in the waves or walking miles of shoreline.
Much like its audacious mountains-meet-sea topography, Rio’s meals pack a big, sensorial punch: sizzling all-you-can-eat barbecues at neighborhood churrascarias; the hearty pork-and-bean feijoada stew; salt-crusted sardines grilled right on the beach. All cut through with the citrus-sweet kick of a caipirinha. From snack-bar kiosks on seemingly every corner, doling out cheese dough balls or popcorn, to the perennially popular por kilo buffet joints (a quintessential thing to do in Rio), there are plenty of ‘bom e barato’ (cheap and good) options to keep hunger at bay in the Marvelous City. At its lively pub-like botecos, portions are often enough for two to share. Rio has traditionally been cast as a meat lovers paradise, but these days vegetarians are better catered for, as are gourmands seeking contemporary Michelin-starred fine dining. In fact, cariocas (locals) tend to see eating out as a daily occurrence – why not follow their lead at these mouthwatering venues?
Football, samba, carnival, barely-there bikinis on incredible beaches—Rio has made its mark on the world in a myriad of ways. And can you believe that scenery? Soaring forest-covered peaks dwarf patches of concrete jungle, tumbling down to meet a dramatic natural bay. Away from the bustling sands of Copacabana and Ipanema, you’ll find dilapidated grandeur and resplendent street art in Santa Teresa, "Am I in Miami?" moments at Barra da Tijuca’s malls and chic restaurants, and breathing space in leafy, affluent Jardim Botannico or Gávea. No one throws a party like Rio’s hedonistic citizens, the cariocas, whose irrepressible joie de vivre spills out into ubiquitous street parties, music halls and the legendary annual Carnival. From lyrical, jazz-influenced bossa nova to rapid-fire samba, music is this city’s lifeblood. Though it’s no longer Brazil’s capital, its abundance of museums, hotels national monuments and nightlife would suggest otherwise. Simply intoxicating, Rio definitely deserves its "Miraculous City" moniker.
Brightly-colored, breezy and a little boho, no wonder carioca (anything that is born or made in Rio) brands have such a global following; who wouldn’t want to bring a slice of Rio’s sand-in-the-toes, beach style home? A rainbow array of Havaiana flip-flops and glam swimwear are easy to cram in your suitcase, while those with deep pockets and an eye for design could get carried away at the city’s treasures troves of iconic Brazilian furniture. There’s an insatiable love for American-style mega malls – called ‘shoppings’ – among Rio’s expanding middle and upper classes, so you can buy from familiar global brands in a safe, sanitized setting. But don’t miss the artisanal boutiques around the cobbled streets of Santa Teresa, or the sensory experience of a local craft market—both quintessential things to do in Rio—such as Ipanema’s Feira Hippie or antiques-focused Feira do Rio Anigo in Lapa. This list serves up some examples for each of Rio’s retail tribes.
The words 'hotel' and 'Rio' tend to conjure up a certain Art Deco icon on Copacabana beach, but this sprawling, fun-loving Brazilian city offers plenty more options for travelers besides one (admittedly lush) postcard picture – from converted mansions in the arty hilltop enclave of Santa Teresa to hard-partying hostels in hipster Botofogo. Rooftop pools and beach views remain, unsurprisingly, the most sought-after elements of any Rio de Janeiro address. The 2016 Olympics prompted a slew of restaurant and hotel openings – especially for stylish mid-range options, with various flashpacking or boutique brands filling Rio’s long-standing gap between high-end hotel chains (think Sofitel and JW Marriott) and basic B&Bs. Whether it’s a post Carnival crash pad you’re seeking, or a private cabana with celeb-worthy service, Brazil’s most popular tourist city now has all accommodation bases covered.
For a slice of local Rio life, there’s nothing quite like an Airbnb. Not only are the venues unique, but they're pretty cost-effective too. Plus, if you hire out an entire place, you won't have to sneak past other hotel rooms when you come back from a long night of partying. Winner. So whether you’re taking a much-needed break or visiting for Carnival, we’ve gathered up some of the best places to stay in south-east Brazil. Make your trip a little more comfortable and a lot more stylish with the best Airbnb venues in Rio de Janeiro.