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Published: March 15th 2020
A sculpture of a woman
Rio de Janeiro has much more than Copacabana and the Jesus statue
The second half of our vacation in Brazil we spent in Rio de Janeiro - a city that was a lot more interesting than we expected. For some reason we didn't think much of Rio when we arrived. We thought: "A famous beach and a concrete Jesus on top of a mountain and that's probably it."
It therefore came as a very pleasant surprise that there was so much to discover beyond the big well-known attractions.
Rio de Janeiro is a city with so much charm. A bit rough on the edges and it might be argued that it even is a bit run down. But we loved that roughness. Also add that the city has exciting architecture from at least three different centuries and several attractions well worth visiting (many of them far more interesting than a concrete Jesus on top of a mountain) and you get yourself a city right to our taste.
• Rio's old architecture - it's not the first time we say that we don't know anything about architecture. We can't tell the difference between Renaissance
Not the famous Copacabana Beach. But this beach, Ipanema, is also very popular.
Revival architecture and Art Deco. However, we can tell what kind of architecture that we find beautiful and exciting. There was much of that in Rio. We have published some photos to give you an idea. We could easily have taken 50 more photos and still not run out of variation.
• Rio's modern architecture - in the districts of Rio de Janeiro where we spent most of our time the majority of the buildings are probably 50 years old or more, and hardly any modern buildings at all. There were three striking exceptions though. The Museum of Tomorrow (It is a very cool looking building. Were they inspired by dinosaurs when they built it?), Petrobras headquarters (Has been called the ugliest building in the world. We totally disagree. But it does look like a Rubik's Cube with some pieces missing) and the cathedral (A cathedral that resembles a Maya pyramid. That's got to be a first!).
• Rio's well known sites - There are three really famous tourist sites in Rio de Janeiro. Copacabana Beach, the Sugarloaf Mountain and Concrete Jesus on top of a mountain.
Copacabana Beach is a
Rio's old architecture
We found much of Rio's architecture beautiful and exciting
beach, of course. It is 4 km long and is the epicentre of the celebrations at New Year. We celebrated New Year there together with maybe three million others. The reason this beach attracts so many people at New Year is the massive fireworks. It starts right at midnight and lasts for 15 minutes. They launch everything from six different platforms in the bay outside the beach effectively making the fireworks spanning the entire 4 km long beach. We shot a film of it so you can get an idea of it. Notice that in the end there are fireworks in the shape of cubes and in the shape of stars. Is there also a heart shaped one in the film? There were some in the fireworks but perhaps we didn't catch those on the film. Sugarloaf Mountain
is named so because its shape sort of resembles a sugarloaf
, a kind of standardised shape in which sugar was sold many years ago. Sugarloaf Mountain is a nice spot to visit if you are looking for views over Rio de Janeiro.
One of the most famous of all attractions in Rio de Janeiro is
19th century architecture?
Rio has exciting architecture from at least three different centuries
Concrete Jesus on top of a mountain, which isn't called that of course. The correct name of the statue is Christ the Redeemer
. The reason we gave it a silly name is that we think it is a grossly overrated attraction. Sure, it is a nice statue and the views from the top of the mountain where it stands are wonderful. But to include it on the list of the New 7 Wonders of the World
, which is an updated version of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
, is in our opinion nothing short of ridiculous. Seriously, we can probably name 100 other sites more worthy to be included on that list than Concrete Jesus on top of a mountain.
• Rio's lesser known sites - There are several sites in Rio that are hardly known at all outside Brazil but are some true gems nevertheless. Selaron Steps, Confeitaria Colombo, Carioca Aqueduct, Candelaria Church, National Library of Brazil and the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading. Selarón Steps
is decorated with thousands of tiles of different shapes and colours. Many of the tiles were sent to the artist behind this work of art, Jorge Selarón, and he happily included them wherever they could be fitted in. So today there
Rough on the edges
Rio de Janeiro is bit rough on the edges and it might be argued that it even is a bit run down.
are tiles depicting everything from Sagrada Familia via Bart Simpson to Iron Maiden.
Rio has a lot of nice cafés but the Confeitaria Colombo
is really something extra. The interior reminds more of a grand dining room in a royal palace than a café. There is glass, mirrors, brass details, chandeliers and on and on.
The Carioca Aqueduct/Viaduct
was built in the 19th century to supply the city with freshwater. Later, when the aqueduct was no longer needed for water supply, it was transformed into a viaduct for trams. Still today the trams, which is more a tourist attraction today than a means of local transport, run across the Carioca Aqueduct/Viaduct into Santa Teresa Hill. We took that ride one day and we would recommend anyone who visits Rio to try it. Candelaria Church
- It was built in the 18th century and is one of the most ornate churches in all of Rio de Janeiro. National Library of Brazil
is a library. We saw some spectacular photos of masses of bookshelves lined up. We never got to see those sections of the library because most of the reading rooms cannot be visited unless you can show that you need to access the
Possibly a theatre?
There was much beautiful and exciting architecture in Rio.
books that are stored there for research or other studies. But the entrance and the main hall are spectacular enough to merit a visit there. The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading
is a library which is like a dream to visit for anyone who is a book lover. Its walls are totally covered with book shelves with masses of books. The bookshelves are more than 10 meters high! We have tried to catch this in photos (please see the panorama) and we have also recorded a film. But you really have to visit it to understand what it looks like. See the film here.
• Rio's almost unknown cultural heritage - When construction work in the port area, probably in preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games, were carried out in 2011 they uncovered the remains of Valongo Wharf
, a port that in the 19th century was used for bringing slaves into Brazil. When they found the remains of the old harbour they carefully removed the soil that was covering it and made it available for the public. It is such an important cultural heritage that UNESCO made it a world heritage. Having said that, there isn't much to see to be honest.
Is there a chunk missing?
It looks like there might be a chunk missing of this building
It's only some stones and it takes a lot of imaginations to see that it once was a harbour.
• Finally we are going to mention Cemitério São João Batista
. If you are a fan of cemeteries where the graves are adorned with monuments rather than just a simple headstone this is a place you will love to visit.
This is all we had to say for now. However, we have one more blog entry left to publish from our trip in Brazil. It will only be about street art, because they had plenty of that in Brazil in general and in Rio de Janeiro in particular.
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