The park is a paradise for adventure tourism, with activities ranging from hiking, mountain biking and canoeing to rock-climbing, rappelling, spelunking and cave-diving. Local guides and tour operators can assist with logistics. Most are found in Lencois, the main town, where you’ll also find inns tucked away among colorful colonial buildings on cobblestone lanes. The national park is a scenic, six-hour drive or bus ride west of the coastal city of Salvador.
The intersection of rock and water is what makes the park unique. Grottos and caves descend to sunken pools, and many waterfalls tumble off the park’s red-rock cliffs. The most dramatic waterfall, 1,312-foot Cachoeira da Fumaça, dissolves into a smoky mist at the base. Poco Encantado (or “Enchanted Pool,” a 200-foot-deep flooded cave) and the Lapa Doce cave (stalactites and stalagmites in massive “gallery rooms”) are must-sees in and around the national park. But there are many others, including unusual rock formations and bright-blue “swimming hole” pools of crystal-clear water.
In the 1990s, tourism replaced diamond mining as the main source of income for residents of the five small towns near Chapada Diamantina National Park. (“Diamantina” means diamonds.) But don’t worry — the park is still a diamond in the rough, relatively undiscovered by the masses. Located on a grassy mesa, the national park is towered over by escarpments and Atlantic Forest mountains that rise to 6,680 feet. Frequent rains at the higher elevations, especially in the evenings, fill the park’s lakes, rivers and subterranean streams.
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Other visitors are more attracted by nature: diving coves, nature reserves and the forested mountains of Serra da Bocaina National Park, which surrounds Paraty on three sides. The Green Coast is the name given to the stretch of coastline from Rio to Paraty, but in Paraty, the Gold Coast might be more fitting, as its new riches from tourism have brought a return to its golden days.
Then in the 1970s a paved road from Rio de Janeiro was built (140 miles north) that made the trip easy for Rio vacationers. Now the rush is back on — this time for a reservation at Banana de Terra, a seafood restaurant in a colonial house where plantains enliven many dishes.
Fishermen now rub elbows with writers and artists; the town is full of galleries and hosts Brazil’s largest literary festival each July. Many others come for tours by bike, bus, jeep, horseback, kayak or schooner to see sights like the historic Gold Trail that once connected the mines with the harbor, and the 300-year-old fort that protected the gold cargoes from pirates.
Paraty town is no party town — except during Carnaval, when celebrants ceremonially cover themselves in mud. It’s a town where colonial buildings line cobblestone streets banned to cars, and its bay is embraced by mountain parklands. Few towns have swung so wildly from fortune to neglect back to fortune. Paraty was a key harbor town during Brazil’s gold rush in the early 1700s, when many of the city’s Old Town forts, churches and colonial houses were built. But it became just another fishing and banana-growing town once the mining road was rerouted.
Balneário Camboriú also has much to offer families. At Parque Santur you can find a zoo, aquarium and fishermen’s museum. There’s also a host of family-friendly options at Parque Unipraias including an aerial tram ride between the main beach and Laranjeiras Beach. You’ll also find a 17th-century pirate ship that connects the two beaches, a zip-line ride above the forest and the elaborate Fantastic Forest theme park.
Situated halfway between São Paulo and Porto Alegre on Brazil’s southern coast, the city’s 3.7-mile-long main beach and boardwalk are Balneário Camboriú’s chief magnet for visitors, who outnumber locals during Brazil’s summer. Expect a festive atmosphere with countless restaurants and bars across Avenida Atlantica. There are also quieter beaches south of the city. Enjoy a fine view of the city from Cristo Luz — at 110 feet it’s about the same height as Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. It’s lit in seven alternating colors at night, though it still doesn’t outshine the nightclubs far below; the city is regarded as Brazil’s capital of electronic music, with weekend DJs performing till dawn.
With its long beach and statue of Christ on a hilltop, you might think for a moment that you’re in Rio while walking around Balneário Camboriú. But as much as they have in common, this resort city of 125,000 is far less crowded and much newer. It wasn’t even incorporated until 1964. A more apt comparison may be Dubai. “Brazilian Dubai,” in fact, is the city’s nickname, owing to its many high-rises — including Brazil’s tallest building — and upscale tourism.
While dining in one of the many riverfront restaurants in Morretes, be sure to try the traditional Brazilian dish called barreado. Claimed by townsfolk as their invention, it’s a beef stew slow-cooked for hours in a broth inside a sealed clay pot. Afterwards stroll past the distilleries where the cherished Brazilian liquor, cachaça, has been made since the colonial era.
A portion of Guaricana National Park, set aside to protect the shrinking Atlantic Forest in 2014, is partly within the town limits of Morretes. National park activities in the surrounding mountains, which rise above 5,500 feet, include hiking, mountain biking, river-rafting, canoeing and jeep tours. Pack your rain gear, because the mountain rainforest receives more than 100 inches of annual rainfall. The quiet town itself is charming. Attractions include colonial buildings that line the river through town, wood-carving crafts vendors and three 19th-century churches.
For a compact town of about 18,000, Morretes has a lot to offer visitors. Even the experience of getting there is memorable, assuming you take the historic Serra Verde Express, a railway completed in 1885 and the only train to pass through Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The scenic train traverses the mountains between the major Brazilian city of Curitiba (south of São Paulo) and the coastal city of Paranagua, over dozens of bridges and through many tunnels. Morretes is the final stop before the train reaches the coast.
Neves Square, though less lively, is also a hub of activity.
You can negotiate Santa Teresa’s hills on foot or in a taxi, but it’s more fun to ride the Santa Teresa Tram, distinctive yellow streetcars similar to San Francisco’s cable cars. The cherished streetcars, back on track after a five-year overhaul, start from Carioca metro station, the best place to begin any exploration of Santa Teresa.
The cryptically named Museum of the Country Home in the Sky (Museu Chácara do Céu) is the district’s top attraction. This hilltop museum is inside the former mansion of a 20th-century art patron who bequeathed the home and his extensive collection to the people. Paintings inside are by legendary European artists like Picasso, Dali, Matisse and Monet, plus you can find Brazilian art, antiques, rare maps and books. Some of the district’s best views of central Rio are found just outside the museum. The nightlife heart of the district is Guimaraes Square, where street parties are common, bars host live music and vendors sell caipirinhas.
The Santa Teresa district is the beating bohemian heart of Rio de Janeiro. Between its brightly painted houses, diverse galleries, café-culture coffeehouses and lively bars, the buildings lining its steep cobblestone streets ooze as much character as the people who work and live inside. Folded into the hills just above central Rio, the neighborhood’s architecture — from Victorian walk-ups to alpine-style chalets — reflects the eclectic blend of its residents and shopkeepers. Many of the district’s old colonial mansions have become guesthouses and boutique inns.
Santa Teresa Neighborhood
First, find your way to Rio’s Urca district, which features colonial architecture, two quiet beaches and a nature path at the base of Sugarloaf. Arrive in the afternoon if you wish to enjoy the setting sun from the summit. The glassed-in, 65-passenger aerial tramway which departs every 20 minutes, stops first at Morro da Urca, a smaller mountaintop with its own views plus a spectacular at Cota 200 Restaurante. Then it’s onward and upward to the observation deck atop Sugarloaf. At the top are panoramic views of downtown Rio, Guanabara Bay, Rio’s famous beaches and the surrounding mountains. You’ll also enjoy watching rock climbers as they follow dozens of routes up the two mountains.
Sugarloaf (Pao de Acucar) is the massive, conical, monolithic block of granite that towers 1,300 feet above Rio. You’ve surely seen it many times, including nightly in the opening aerial shot during Olympics telecasts. It’s as iconic a landmark in Rio de Janeiro as the Christ the Redeemer statue and Copacabana Beach. Fortunately, you don’t have to limit your admiration of this natural wonder to peering up at it from the city, the harbor and the beaches. You can climb it — without the effort and danger of the rock climbers who routinely scale its face — by taking an aerial tramway to the top.
Snorkeling in the coral reef just off shore, waterfall hikes into the dense forest, explorations of the 1728 fort, sunset viewing at the 1855 lighthouse and around-the-island boat trips are all popular activities. It’s quiet by day and lively by night. But the most popular activity of all is not all that active. It’s letting time lazily drift by on the beach while sipping a caipirinha —Brazil’s national cocktail — swirled with lime or fresh fruit.
Salvador, northern Brazil’s most populous city, is filled with beaches, parks and historic buildings. It’s easy to like. But you can fall in love with the island village of Morro de São Paulo (St. Paul’s Hill), two hours by passenger ferry from Santiago..
This largest village on the island of Tinhare, founded in 1535, is small and isolated enough that there are few cars — they’re banned from most roads — yet plenty of reasonably priced lodging options, ranging from B&Bs to bungalows. Like the seafood restaurants, most lodging options are located on the beaches or offer a view of the beach. Those beaches fan out from town, starting with family-friendly First Beach and then party-hearty Second Beach.
Morro de São Paulo
As in any mountain region, the favored attractions are outdoors. You can start with a chairlift ride to the top of Elephant Hill above town, explore Amantikir Garden, see wild monkeys and parrots in the town park (Horto Florestal) or take a lovely 29-mile roundtrip train ride to a waterfall park. Plus, there’s hiking galore. If it’s raining (as it often does from December to February), you can duck into Palacio Boa Vista or Sao Pedro Chapel, a side-by-side palace and church that are each filled with paintings. Then you can head back outdoors in the town that’s nickname is “Brazilian Switzerland.”
When the 12 million residents of Sao Paulo tire of the crowds of the Western Hemisphere’s largest city, they head for the mountains. And no mountain getaway town is more beloved than mile-high Campos do Jordao, 115 miles northeast of Sao Paulo in the Mantiqueira range. It’s the highest-elevation town in Brazil. It’s cleaner and cooler (rarely topping 80 degrees) than Sao Paulo, though it rarely gets cold enough to snow even in Brazil’s June-September winter. It’s become a retreat not only for city dwellers, but international tourists due to its European flavor found especially in the town’s eateries: Baden. Baden restaurant is a slice of Germany right in the heart of town and Baronesa Von Leithner is a Swiss restaurant on a berry farm on the forested edge of town.
Campos do Jordão, São Paulo
A variety of guided tours offer visitors an unforgettable way to explore the stadium. Departing daily from most major hotels throughout Rio, these half-day excursions take guests deep inside the arena’s most exclusive VIP areas, including player and press boxes, bleachers and locker rooms. Be sure to visit the stadium’s sports museum, which features an extensive photo exhibit, vintage cups and trophies, and Pelé’s world-famous No. 10 team jersey. Yet, to truly immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Brazilian soccer, taking in an actual game is essential. From the pounding drums, glowing flares and cheering fans in the bleachers, to the dramatic action on the field, there’s no better way to experience this iconic stadium.
No list of the world’s greatest sporting arenas is complete without the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Opened in 1950 to host the fourth FIFA World Cup, this 78,838-seat stadium is currently the largest of its kind in Brazil and the second largest in all of South America. More than just a sports venue, the Maracanã Stadium is a national landmark of enormous cultural significance. Brazilian soccer legend Pelé made his historic 1,000th career goal on its field in 1969, and FIFA star Zico scored a record-shattering 333 goals within its walls — the most ever in the stadium’s history — during a match in 1989. But it’s the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games which it will be known for in years to come.
Other highlights include the “Baroque Angels” room, which features 25 legendary Brazilian players projected on life-size transparent screens suspended overhead, and the “Body Game” room, which allows visitors to take an interactive penalty kick against a virtual goalie. Combining culture, technology and the world’s most popular game, the Museu do Futebol is a must-visit for sports fans exploring Brazil.
Utilizing a host of multimedia technology, including touch-sensitive video screens and holographic projections, the Museu do Futebol is organized in a 16-stage “fan path” that takes visitors on an eye-opening adventure across Brazil in the 20th century. The trip begins in the “Penalty Area,” a large hall brimming with a massive collection of vintage soccer paraphernalia. Items on display include pennants, flags, magazines and tankards from countless Brazilian teams over the years.
Like the sport it’s named after, the Museu do Futebol (The Football Museum) in São Paulo is about much more than just teams and goals. A tribute to the people and culture of Brazil, this state-of-the-art educational facility offers visitors a fascinating look at how “the beautiful game” has evolved throughout history. Located beneath the bleachers at the famed Pacaembu Stadium, and covering almost two acres of ground, the museum was established in 2008 to publicly recognize soccer’s beneficial impact on the lives of the Brazilian people. Seventeen permanent exhibit rooms are spread across three floors, giving visitors a unique glimpse at how the sport has changed the fabric of Brazil.
Museu do Futebol
Flights require no experience whatsoever and last anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes, depending on weather conditions and the weight of the passenger. In most cases, 220 pounds is the limit. Blanketed by a warm tropical breeze, you’ll experience a sense of pure exhilaration as you drift silently through the air like one of Brazil’s majestic royal-hawks. Refreshments are served upon landing at São Conrado Beach, and a GoPro camera attached to the glider will record every second of your flight, so that you can share the adventure with family and friends back home. Passengers are encouraged to reserve flights early to fulfill the dream of a lifetime.
Transportation to the summit can be arranged from most major hotels, or from the local paragliding club on the ground below. Once at the top, an experienced glider pilot will securely strap you into the tandem harness, and then offer a helpful briefing on what to expect. At that point, you and your pilot will run down the ramp and take off on an unforgettable trip above the rainforest.
Whoever coined the phrase “If man was meant to fly, he would've been born with wings” obviously never went hang-gliding above the scenic cliffs of Pedra Bonita, Brazil. In a country graced with some of the most beautiful sights on earth, none is more spectacular than what you’ll experience while soaring through the clouds on a tandem hang glider. The panoramic view of Rio’s emerald green forests and dazzling ocean can best be described in one word: breathtaking. Situated 700 meters above sea level, the Pedra Bonita gliding ramp is the launching point for your skyward journey.
Hang Gliding (Multiple spots. Most popular ones in Rio)
Royal exhibits, including the Imperial throne and an extravagant music room, are located on the ground floor, while bedrooms, offices and state rooms are accessible on the first floor. In Dom Pedro II’s private study you’ll find Brazil’s first telephone, given to the Emperor by Alexander Graham Bell himself in 1876. Adding to the sense of overwhelming luxury, the palace’s floors are laid with Belgium black marble while the doors are carved from rosewood and jacaranda. The museum frequently holds evening light and sound shows, providing visitors with a stunning audiovisual history of the Emperor’s reign, so plan to visit at night if possible.
With its pink neo-classical façade, opulent decor and royal history, the Palácio Imperial (Imperial Palace) in southeastern Brazil is like something out of a fairy tale. Nestled in a beautiful garden designed by French landscape artist Jean Baptiste Binot, this gorgeous public museum is the main attraction in the city of Petrópolis. Built as a summer home by Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1845, the palace was declared a historical museum by President Getúlio Vargas nine decades later. As though stepping into a time machine, visitors to the Palácio Imperial are instantly transported back to the mid-19th century. Among the priceless artifacts on display are the Crown Jewels, made for the 15-year old Emperor’s lavish coronation, jewelry and robes worn by Empress Leopoldina and a golden Imperial Scepter, forged in the shape of a winged dragon.
The Palacio Imperial
Departing from the station behind Curitiba’s main bus terminal, the 3-hour ride is sometimes full, so travelers may wish to purchase tickets ahead of time on the official Serra Verde Express website. Prices vary depending on carriage class, and one-way passes are available as well. For an especially romantic trip, book your ticket on June 12, which is known as Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day) in Brazil. This special nighttime ride comes complete with champagne and live music, making it the perfect occasion to impress your significant other.
What makes the ride so unforgettable is that, for most of the journey, the rail cars cling to the edge of a vertical mountainside, offering astonishing views of the lush rainforest below. A miraculous feat of civil engineering, the trip's highlight is undoubtedly the Ponte São João Bridge, a 180 foot structure that towers above a verdant chasm.
Few things in life are as relaxing as a train ride through the country. Unless, of course, you’re traveling on Brazil’s Serra Verde Express, in which case “thrilling” is the operative word. Passing through more than a dozen tunnels and across 30 gravity-defying bridges, this vintage railway line — sometimes referred to as The Curitiba-Paranaguá Train Tour — covers 380 miles of scenic coastal range. Built in the second half of the 19th century, the train was originally designed to move heavy grain for export along Brazil’s southeastern seaboard — a task which is still performs today.
The Curitiba-Paranagua Train Tour
More than a million awestruck visitors travel to the falls each year, and none leave disappointed. Departing from Rio de Janeiro, a two-hour flight takes you to the town of Foz de Iguacu. From there, tour buses and rental cars provide direct transportation to the falls. In addition to a walkway that grants superb views of the mist-shrouded “Devil’s Throat” — the largest section of the falls — helicopter rides offer spectacular access to Iguazu’s massive expanse. Visitors who aren’t afraid of getting soaked can even charter a speedboat and experience this marvel of nature from beneath the largest water curtain in the world.
Yet as fantastic as that fable might sound, it pales in comparison to the colossal power of the falls themselves. From November to March, when Brazil’s rainy season reaches its peak, an astonishing 3.4 million gallons of water flow over the precipice every second. Nearly twice as tall and three times as wide as Niagara Falls, the Iguazu was recently chosen in a global poll as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
Located between the Brazilian state of Parana and the Argentina province of Misiones, the Iguazu Falls is the largest waterfall system in the world. Formed over 100 million years ago from countless layers of volcanic rock, the falls’ towering height is equal to a 26-story skyscraper and its width spans almost two miles. According to an ancient Brazilian legend, the falls were created when a beautiful woman spurned the affection of a mighty forest god who had planned to marry her. Angered by the betrayal, the god sliced through the river upon which she and her mortal lover had fled, sentencing them both to an endless watery fall.
Adding to the allure, it’s believed that the opera house may have been built to entice the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso into perform at its opening, so that the region’s wealthy rubber barons could hear him sing. Though taking in a concert is highly recommended, daily guided tours offer an intimate look at the theater’s stylish design.
Built in the heart of the rainforest during the final days of the 19th century, this Renaissance-style opera house is as unexpected as it is beautiful. The theater sports a massive dome decorated with 36,000 colorful ceramic tiles and a wooden floor with thousands of individual pieces of precious Amazon timber. Visitors to the grand pink theater can enjoy frequent musical events, including performances from the world-renowned Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra. But the opulent structure itself is the main attraction. Adorned with almost 200 glass chandeliers imported from Italy, a priceless painted stage curtain created in Paris by artist Crispim do Amaral, and featuring a 700-seat auditorium designed in the shape of an enormous harp, the Amazon Theater is every bit the “jewel” that the Manaus State legislature envisioned it would be.
Travelers to Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are guaranteed to encounter some extraordinary things on their journey. From the thousands of exotic plant, bird and mammal species that inhabit the area, to the isolated tribes of indigenous peoples who call the jungle their home, this part of the country is a world unto itself. Yet perhaps no sight in the region is more surprising than the glorious Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Theater) in the city of Manaus.
The Teatro Amazon
Though you can rent a buggy and spend an afternoon zooming across the beach by yourself, longer excursions require an experienced local driver to take you where you’re going. If you’re feeling the need for speed, be sure to tell your driver that you want to travel “com emoção” – meaning “with emotion.” Then hold on tight as you’re launched on the wildest ride of your life. Fees for multi-day trips usually include lodging, continental breakfast and the cost of a driver, so ask your hotel to recommend a safe and accredited rental agency before setting out on your dune buggy adventure.
Touring the exquisite beaches along the beautiful northeastern coastline in a dune buggy tops the list of memorable activities in Brazil. Nothing else compares to the rush of excitement you’ll feel as you race across the pristine sands, past freshwater lagoons and palm-lined bays, on your way to a remote tropical paradise. Perfect for anyone who wants to explore the nation’s small traditional fishing villages, dune buggy trips can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Intrepid travelers who are eager to immerse themselves in authentic Brazilian culture can hire buggies to take them on an unforgettable five-day, 460-mile journey along the coast, from the city of Natal to Fortaleza. Along the way, you’ll experience the most unsullied coastline in the entire country.
And when he’s not mixing award-winning cocktails, Souza can be found serving up coxinhas — a national snack of croquettes stuffed with chicken and Catupiry cheese and doused in house-made hot sauce. Some claim them to be the best coxinhas in the city. Others go further, with the bloggers at “Soy Loco Por Ti, Coxinha!” crowning Veloso the coxinha champion of the world. “The flavor is marvelous,” they noted. “The spicing is just right, the crust sweet and crunchy, the dough sinfully good.” In between lusty slurps and greedy mouthfuls, patrons talk long and loud into the night. Get there early enough and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.
Rua Conceição Veloso 54
For the fortunate few who arrive early enough and make it inside one of São Paulo’s smallest but most celebrated botecos, the popularity of Veloso is easy to understand. Standing room is often all there is, in part a reflection of the cramped interior, but more likely caused by the bar being completely booked every night. Having opened in 2005 but feeling far older, its walls are an ode to music and football, and hip young Paulistas squeeze in here for two very compelling reasons: The first is Brazil’s national cocktail, an intoxicating mix of cachaça (never vodka), sugar and lime. At Veloso, however, bartender Souza reinvents it with all manner of fresh, competition-slaying combinations — think tangerine with chili pepper and cashew with lime, or the juice of starfruit and the jabuticaba.
Frangó’s tasting menus have been carefully curated to take you on a journey through the best beers known to mankind, each served at the correct temperature and in the correct glass. And to complement each quaff, there is of course the chicken. Be it the ubiquitous coxinhas or the spit-roast chicken served with farofa flour, Brazilian poultry must curse the day it opened — “frango,” after all, translates as “chicken.” For the beer connoisseur who bags a seat on the sidewalk or at one of the well-worn wooden tables inside, a night at Frangó is likely to live long in the memory. What you actually remember of it, however, may well depend on how long you stay.
Largo da Matriz Nossa Senhora do Ó 168, Freguesía do Ó, São Paulo
On a quaint old square in the shadow of São Paulo’s most ancient cathedral stands one of the city’s most celebrated botecos. Perhaps just another unassuming Brazilian bar from the outside, once inside, Frangó is clearly a mecca to those in the know. Since it opened in 1987, fans have come in droves to this northern suburb, drawn to worship the twin gods of beer and chicken. And each night, without fail, their prayers have been answered.
Legend has it that in all, Frangó boasts a 500-label beer list drawn from all corners of the globe, though some say it’s closer to 550. Whatever the exact number, it’s unlikely that you’ll sample them all, certainly not in a single night.
The “academy” does serve other drinks and food at its location four blocks from the sea in the Leblon neighborhood, near famed Ipanema Beach. The cuisine is authentically Brazilian and gets rave reviews for its feijoada appetizer — a black bean stew with pork, cabbage and spices. The dominant ingredients across the menu are shredded sun-dried beef, cassava, coconut, cheese and cream cheese. “Light” and vegetarian options are also offered. The atmosphere is informal at the indoor/outdoor restaurant, which is open daily from noon to late at night. Check out the 2,000-bottle collection of prized cachaça bottles in the display case, which date to 1875. All food items are reasonably priced and so are the caipirinhas.
Academia da Cachaça - Leblon Rua Conde Bernadotte, 26, Rio de Janeiro
Brazilians are as serious about cachaça — the rum used to make caipirinhas, the “national cocktail” of Brazil — as the French are about wine and the Irish about whiskey. So don’t laugh when the waiter or bartender at Rio de Janeiro’s Academia de Cachaça translates the restaurant’s name: Academy of the Cachaça. Ninety cachaça brands are available at the bar by the bottle or in crystal glassware, making this spot the gold-medal destination for cachaça and caipirinha connoisseurs. In case you aren’t one, cachaça is distilled sugarcane juice and it’s combined with sugar and lime (or other fruits for non-purists) to make caipirinhas.
Academia da Cachaça
What it is not, is a restaurant, bar or nightclub like any other. It’s housed in a three-story colonial house where movie props were once stored and many are still there, on every jam-packed floor. Adorning the place are musical instruments, puppets, art and tons of antiques — including an entire wall of antique clocks. It’s quite a spectacle even when it’s half-empty, but starting nightly at 8 p.m., it’s also filled with samba music and dancing. Four bands or DJs perform nightly on weeknights and six on weekend nights with a second band performing simultaneously on the third floor on weekends. Located on a block packed with restaurants in the Lapa nightlife district, the Rio Scenarium is open from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. and charges $11-$16 cover fee. To avoid lines arrive before 9 p.m. or reserve a table.
Rua do Lavradio, 20 - Centro, CEP 20230-070 - Rio de Janeiro
Just what is the Rio Scenarium? For dining, it’s a restaurant with Brazilian tapas like cod fishballs and jerked beef and entrees like grilled picanha Brazilian steak and grilled pirarucu (an Amazon fish). For drinks, it’s a great bar with extensive wine and caipirinha lists. For music, it’s a nightclub with nightly live samba, plus jazz and DJs. But for all who visit, the Scenarium is a “scene” — an experience made memorable by the uniqueness of the décor and the high spirits of the locals and visitors who come to celebrate nightly.
In the downstairs café, waffles are topped with ice cream and the dazzling pastries include an ice cream-stuffed éclair drizzled with chocolate sauce. You can wash any of it down with a cappuccino made in the Brazilian fashion (with chocolate). Dinner is not served, not even at the white-tablecloth upstairs restaurant tables, but Confeitaria Colombo stays open until 8 p.m. on weekdays (5 p.m. on Saturdays and closed Sundays) which is about the time that Brazilians start thinking about dinner. Lunch entrees emphasize French specialties, such as quiches, as well as creative items like pork belly and grilled pineapple sandwiches. But it’s the rich ambiance (and rich desserts) that make it special.
Centro - Rua Gonçalves Dias, 32 • Centro – Rio de Janeiro/RJCopacabana - Praça Cel Eugênio Franco nº1, Posto 6 • Copacabana/RJ
Since opening in 1894, not much has changed about Confeitaria Colombo in Centro in downtown Rio. Housed in a grand belle époque building and designed with art nouveau flourishes, everything about the café and restaurant speaks of refined tastes — from the Portuguese-tile floor to the French stained-glass ceiling. For generations it’s been the place where Rio’s power brokers meet to chat, dine, conduct business, and sip wine or tea during the day and into the evening. Fortunately, visitors from outside Rio’s inner circle are also welcome. You can come for coffee, breakfast, lunch or a mid-day drink, but the best way to experience the European elegance is to come for afternoon tea also known as chá da tarde. For about $15/person, you’ll be served a filling choice of sandwiches, cakes and fruits accompanied by tea or coffee.
Aprazivel is often crowded, so the best chance of scoring a table with a view to watch the sun set and admire the city lights below is to make a reservation or arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. But even the indoor tables feel like they’re outdoors. The fern-laced, 19th-century stone wall that’s incorporated into the restaurant’s architecture, the enveloping canopy of trees (including tall trees growing right inside the restaurant) and the panoply of indoor plants conspire to evoke the sensations of garden dining. Off by itself on a curvy road on the highest hill of the Santa Teresa neighborhood, Aprazivel feels like a getaway spot within the getaway city of Rio. It’s open Monday to Sunday for lunch and Monday to Saturday for dinner.
Rua Apraziel 62 • Santa Teresa Rio de Janeiro
High on a hill in the Santa Teresa neighborhood overlooking Guanabara Bay is a sprawling restaurant with the aura of a treehouse plucked straight out of the Amazonian rainforest. The food is distinctive, too, at Aprazivel (“Pleasant”). Chef Ana Castilho was trained at New York City’s French Culinary Institute and it’s evident in the Brazilian-European fusion menu drawing from sustainably farmed, organic ingredients. Splurge-worthy dishes include ceviche, lamb, octopus and wild duck while the wine list emphasizes small winegrowers from throughout Brazil and organic wines from abroad.
PHRASES TO KNOW
Bom dia Bomb dje-a
Translation: “Good morning.”
Você fala Inglês? Vo-sey fala In-gles
Translation: “Do you speak English?”
Lindo maravilhoso! Lindo ma-ra-vi-hoso
Translation: “Beautiful, marvelous!”, a common phrase among Brazilians who, generally speaking, see beauty and marvelousness in many things.
Translation: “Thank you.” (male/female)
Você pode me direto para o Maracanã? Vo-say po-jay me dir-ejo para o mara-cana
Translation: “Can you direct me to the Maracanã?” (Or any other location you are searching for.)
PLACES TO VISIT
FOOD & DRINKS
THINGS TO DO
THINGS TO DO
FOOD & DRINKS
PLACES TO VISIT
Chapada Diamantina National Park
Santa Teresa Neighborhood
Morro de São Paulo
Campos do Jordão, São Paulo
Academia da Cachaça
The Curitiba-Paranagua Train Tour
Museu do Futebol
The Palacio Imperial
The Teatro Amazon
Take the bus: Buses are the best way to get around in Brazil and with few exceptions, travel is comprehensive, safe, inexpensive and comfortable, with frequent departures between major cities.
Try Brazilian street snacks: Food vendors in Brazilian cities seem to be everywhere and indulging in street food can be a culinary adventure.
Opt for "pay-by-weight" restaurants: Of the many phrases you'd do well to master is ‘comida por quilo’ translating as ‘food by the kilo,’ that means ‘pay what you weigh’ — a uniquely Brazilian style of buffet.
Gringo/gringa Grin-go/grin-ga: A non-Brazilian of any nationality, not the insult you may assume.