From the quiet buzz of the city’s historical neighbourhoods to the vibrant, pulsing beats that signify the areas frequented by younger crowds, Rio teems with energy. From Lapa to Lagoa, the landscape of Rio is highlighted by looming mountain peaks and vast stretches of beaches, giving the city even more character than the people provide. If you ever find yourself in Rio, don’t skip town before checking out these must-see neighbourhoods.
Once the city’s red light district, Lapa is now a bright, musical area best known for its bustling nightlife. Located close to the downtown Centro area, Lapa is home to several of Rio’s most famous monuments, including the Arcos da Lapa, an aqueduct constructed in the mid-18th century and now a main symbol of the city. When in Lapa, one can also check out Passeio Publico, the city’s first public park and Escadaria Selarón, an iconic mosaic staircase that links Lapa and its 19th century architecture to the more bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa.
Located at the top of a hill, Santa Teresa was Rio’s enclave for upper-class elites at the end of 19th century and into the 20th. Those who have visited often describe the atmosphere as relaxing and friendly, though the trek up the hill where it’s located can initially be a bit daunting. The borough acts as a gathering spot for artists, musicians and writers despite the fact that many of their cobblestone streets have been taken over by clubs and storefront boutiques. For more high-end retail, though, you’ll have to turn to Lagoa.
Lagoa is to Rio de Janeiro what the Upper East Side is to New York. This ultra-wealthy area is the third-most expensive neighbourhood in all of South America, and it is one of few boroughs in Rio without a favela (slum). The area surrounds the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a lagoon bordered by a four-mile path swarming with joggers and cyclists. Adding to the tranquil atmosphere, open-air restaurants offering beautiful beach views are found all around this swanky neighbourhood. If not for its calmness, the Lagoa perhaps earns its high rent prices for its prime location — the neighbourhood is shadowed by the Christ the Redeemer statue and lies adjacent to the Jardim Botanico. You’ll be strained to find another neighbourhood so beautiful, though Botafogo and Flamengo do make a case for themselves.
Botafogo and Flamengo
Botafogo and Flamengo are best known as the home of Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas, one of Brazil’s best futebol (soccer) teams — and Brazilians couldn’t go crazier for the sport. While these boroughs do boast their own sand strips that are perfect for tanning, the water is too dirty to swim in, so you’re better off checking out the neighbouring ever-popular Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Botafogo and Flamengo are great spots for budget travelers, offering reasonable prices for both hotels and food. At their local churrascaria (meat and seafood restaurant), Porcao Rio’s, visitors can eat as much as their heart’s desire for a flat rate.
Centro, or downtown, is known by cariocas (residents of Rio) as the city’s oldest and most historical area. The neighborhood features incredible museums and open galleries. Around every street corner one can expect to see another one of Rio’s iconic landmarks. The Teatro Municipal hosts operas and ballets, and nearby worshipers flock to the Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. Visitors can shop at Saara, a market named after the Middle Eastern vendors who trade there, or eat at one of the many pay-by-weight buffets. Compared to other popular dining spots around this meat-loving city, vegetarian and vegans can expect to find several options at restaurants in this area. Just be sure not to visit on a Sunday as one will find most shops and restaurants to be closed!
Did you know that our parent company, EF, Education First, is the Official Language Services Supplier to Rio 2016? The EF team has been dedicated to teaching thousands of local Brazilians English in effort to leave a lasting legacy for language learning in Rio. Where will your travels in Rio take you?
Make sure to follow the hashtag #EFLovesRio on social media to keep up and join the conversation.
Open your students’ eyes, expand their perspectives and help them discover the world around them. Browse our tours now!