Rio de Janeiro is a very variable city. The architecture is mainly tall, quite ugly skyscrapers. Yet there are also old, colonial buildings scattered around the centre, and low houses, without windows clinging to the sides of hills that are the favelas. The newest additions to the architecture of the city are of course the fancy stadiums built for the Olympics, and additional temporary shops selling very expensive Olympic paraphernalia.
Wandering around the different areas of the city can often feel like you are visiting completely different towns as the atmosphere changes so much. My two favourite zones were Copacabana and Santa Teresa. Copacabana was great and because it was a few streets away from the seafront the prices were average; the whole set up seemed like the normal, pleasant day to day living. But then you are still relatively close to the beach and it’s just beautiful there. The sand is pure white, the sea is a incredible blue and the beach stretches on for miles. Plus you can even see the Sugarloaf Mountain on one side.
On the other hand I loved Santa Teresa because of how different it was to Copacabana. The famous tiled staircase is on the edge of the zone which you then wander up these narrow steep streets, until suddenly the whole of Rio is spread out in front of you.
My surprise at how large cities in Brazil are has still not faded; in Europe’s big touristy cities you tend to have a small(ish) historic centre and then probably a few things to do on the outskirts. Whereas in Rio, there isn’t one lovely central area to visit, in fact the Centro district was probably the ugliest part of Rio we went to.
I was in Rio for 5 days and I only scratched the surface, there are so many places I still want to explore there. My recommendation to anyone heading to Rio would be to explore different edges of the city; such as Copacabana or Floresta Nacional de Tijuca because Rio’s natural setting just makes these areas absolutely stunning. Certain parts of the city were so vibrant, such as Santa Teresa, but others like Centro, could have just been any city anywhere. But nothing can really beat walking along a paradise beach, and seeing this impressive hill pop out of the city skyline. Rio really is something else.