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Overview to Rio de Janeiro: Travel Guide and Tourist Information

The Iconic Rio Cityscape

If every city has its own unique rhythm, then Rio de Janeiro pulses to the unmistakable beats of samba. The infamous Carnaval might only come round once a year, but the place known as the ‘cidade maravilhosa’ (marvelous city) is rarely anything less than a bustling, exotic hub and a spectacular one-off.

After its almost impossibly lively nightlife and fantastic music, the city’s biggest attraction is surely its impressive beaches. And the beaches aren’t just a geographical feature; they play a central part in the lives of the city’s inhabitants. People play football there, go jogging, meet to eat and drink in the evenings and, of course, stretch out on the sand to sun themselves.

The Zona Oeste (West Zone) is particularly popular for its fantastic strips of pure white sand - especially the areas of Recreio dos Banderanties and Barra da Tijuca. Other beaches in the city include the Zona Sul’s strips of white sand, Leblon, Ipanema and the Copacabana, framed by the familiar undulating mosaics of Avenue Atlantica.

But aside from all the partying and lounging around on the beach, Rio has a vibrant cultural side, with a number of museums open to the (inevitably slightly bleary-eyed) traveler. Collections range from 20th century Brazilian art to exhibitions on the history of the country and its indigenous people.

As befits a place around which the Portuguese empire once revolved, Rio isn't just a modern city of gleaming high-rise buildings. Its old quarters are fascinating, and a stroll through the streets reveals a faded colonial grandeur.

Everything about the city is on a grand scale, from its enormous Maracana Stadium to the beautiful Floresta da Tijuca, or 'Tijuca Forest', one of the largest forested urban areas in the world.

Taking a cable car up to Pao de Acucar (the Sugar Loaf) is a must. A great hunk of rock jutting upwards from the middle of the city, it contributes to the city’s unmistakable look. Still more iconic, however, is the nearby statue of Christ the Redeemer which undoubtedly remains Brazil's most famous landmark.

During the day, the views from up there - high above the city - are truly unforgettable. But it’s after dark that the city really comes into its ownas a visual spectacle, lying like a sparkling, jeweled carpet before you as one of the most sensual and evocative sights imaginable.

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