By Karen Austin
Just mentioning the name

  • Corcovado – Touristy? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Unless you hit a completely cloudless stretch, it’s hard to plan when exactly to head up Corcovado since the summit is often hidden by one stubborn cloud. The best strategy is to loosely plan your day and then head up if the weather is nice (i.e.: the cloud is gone) or reschedule if the view looks questionable. You can go up by taxi or by cogwheel train. The train is nicer as it passes through the forest and a taxi charges the same price per person as the train anyway. Take a cab only if you are pressed for time or the wait time for the train is too long. Near the train station is a Naãve Art gallery, which is worth a stop on the way back.
  • Pão de Aucar

  • Pão de Aucar – Everyone asks which view is better, from Corcovado or the Pão de Aucar. My personal opinion (please don’t tell the Tourism Bureau) is that if you can really truly only do one of the two, then choose Corcovado as the view looks out towards the bay and is particularly stunning (this picture of Pão was taking from Corcovado). On the other hand, if you are in Rio for work and are only free in the evenings, then head up the Pão de Aucar (the only one of the two open at night) and marvel at the inward looking view and all the twinkling lights of the city. Of course, the optimal choice is to head up Corcovado during the day and then go to the Pão de Aucar just before sunset. This way, you can enjoy the view in the daylight as well as at night.
  • São Francisco

  • São Francisco da Penitencia – Ever wonder where all the gold in the world ended up? Obviously, it didn’t all end up in this church (the rest is spread out in several other Brazilian churches in Salvador, Ouro Preto and Recife), but, by golly a lot of it did. São Francisco da Penitencia was built between 1653 and 1773 and is a stunning example of Brazilian baroque. Have a seat, be overwhelmed, and wonder what São Francisco, a saint dedicated to a life of poverty, thinks (Carioca Metro Station).
  • Confeitaria Colombo

  • Confeitaria Colombo – Confeitaria Colombo was the where’s where of the who’s who in turn of the century (XIX) in Rio. Head there either for lunch or high tea and imagine what life in upper crust Rio used to be like (Carioca Metro Station).
  • Ipanema

  • Taking a Walk/Jog/Stroll on Ipanema and Copacabana – Rio is about the beach, so take a walk, stroll or jog along two of the city’s most famous stretches. Stop for a refreshing agua de coco or cerveja gelada and enjoy people-watching. Sundays are particularly animated when one half of the boulevard is closed to traffic and the Hippy Fair is in full swing on Praa General Osório.
  • Eating – Rio has some pretty good eateries, so grab a copy of the Quatro Rodas guidebook or a copy of the Rio insert of Veja and enjoy a night of culinary delight – for all tastes and budgets. A particularly fun location is the top floor of Shopping Botafogo, overlooking Botafogo Bay and the Pão de Aucar. Nestled in on the eighth floor is a Japanese restaurant, an Italian cantina, and a rooftop pub – all good choices for gazing over the twinkling lights of the bay (Metro Botafogo).
  • Catching a Show

  • Catching a Show – There is always something going on in Rio, so check the weekly entertainment guide in Veja and catch a concert or show. You never know who will be putting in an intimate performance in one of the city’s locales. Otherwise, just pop into a bar or botequim and catch a local act.
  • Secondly, places worth visiting:

    Museum of the Republic

  • Museum of the Republic – Housed in the former presidential palace, the Museu da Republica and its gardens are worth a visit even if Getulio Vargas’ bedroom, bloodied pyjamas and single bullet on display are slightly on the macabre side (Catete Metro Station).
  • Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

  • Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – Tired of the beach? Head to the peaceful Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in/behind Ipanema and go for a jog or stroll on the 7.2km pathway. At night the lagoon-side bars open making for a nice (if bizarrely isolated from reality) spot for a drink.
  • Shopping in Ipanema – Ipanema and Leblon are the premier neighbourhoods in Rio and boutiques and cafes are chock-a-block on Rua Visconde de Piraja and its cross streets. Enjoy an afternoon of window (or real!) shopping.
  • Garota de Ipanema

  • A Garota de Ipanema – Yeah, it’s touristy, slightly overpriced, and the career waiters seem to have an extra dose of surliness, but the Girl from Ipanema bar where Tom Jobim and Vincius de Moraes spent their days penning their music, is still worth a post-beach stop for a beer and petiscos.
  • Thirdly, places worth visiting if you have time:

    São Bento Monastery

  • São Bento Monastery – Slightly off the beaten track, the Mosteiro de São Bento is another site that ended up being a repository for colonial Brazil’s gold overload. Sunday mass comes replete with Gregorian Chants by the Benedictine monks that run the place. To get there, take the elevator at 40, rua Dom Geraldo to the fifth floor.
  • Candelria – Built between 1775 and 1898 on the site of Rio’s first church, Nossa Senhora da Candelria is an island of calm in a sea of traffic. It is also the spot where a group of off-duty plain-clothes police open fired on a group of sleeping street children in 1993, killing eight of them. Simple painted bodylines offer commemoration to the young lives lost. (Metro Uruguiana)
    Nossa Senhora da Glória – another colonial gem with beautiful white and blue Portuguese tiles, Nossa Senhora da Glória was one of the royal family’s favourites during their days in Rio. (Metro Glória)
  • Museums – Rio has tons of museums, many of which are worth a peek: the National Historical Museum (particularly if you are interested in learning more about Brazil’s monarchy), the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art to name just a few.
  • Botanical Gardens – Rio’s botanical gardens were founded by Prince Regent Dom João in 1808 in his attempt to Euro-ise Rio. The gardens house over 8,000 species of plants and trees, including a pavilion dedicated to orchids.
  • Floresta da Tijuca

  • Floresta da Tijuca – One the world’s largest urban parks, the Floresta da Tijuca is 120 km of Atlantic Rainforest, nestled in the middle of the city. The Visitors’ Centre organizes free hikes and excursions at a variety of levels of ease or difficulty. You won’t even be able to imagine that you are surrounded by a metropolis of eight million people!
  • Nice to visit, but be careful:

    Santa Teresa

  • Santa Teresa – The bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa is perched on a hill overlooking Rio’s Baia de Guanabara. Formerly home to Rio’s elite, Santa Teresa is now home to ateliers, restaurants, cafs, and a couple of museums. Accessible by Rio’s famous streetcar or bonde (right), Santa Teresa is also infamous for high levels of assaults and robberies. If you go, do not take anything of worth, carry only your cash for the day, and stick to the beaten track, no matter how enticing and safe the side streets look.
  • And places to forget:

  • A Orla Noite – No matter how romantic it sounds, do not walk on any of Rio’s beaches past sundown. The side/boardwalk is fine. The sand is not.
  • O Centro no Domingo – Rio’s city centre, like most city centres in Latin America, is a place of business and commerce. On Saturdays and especially on Sundays, when businesses are closed, the centre becomes a lonely and isolated place. Best to keep visits to this part of town for weekdays only.
  • Slums and Skyscrapers

    Rio: Same City, Worlds Apart.

    Karen Austin has been living in Brazil since 2004 and is currently based in Recife.

    0 Comments/by

    By W. J. Woodward
    January 18, 2012

    I truly wish I could share Alison McGowan’s overly optimistic and lyrical vision of the retaking” of the favelas in Rio, however I can’t seem to find my rose colored glasses anywhere. Having lived in Brazil for ten years now I know from personal experience things here just don’t happen as she has described.

    The state and municipal governments will do just about anything at the moment in order to make purely cosmetic improvements in the run-up to the World Cup and Olympic Games. The operation in Vidigal and Chacar do Cu, like all the others, was just that cosmetic. Nothing different than an embalmer applying make-up in order to make a corpse presentable for a funeral service.

    Giving advanced notice of these operations meticulously planned? Did McGowan bother to ask herself exactly where the drug-lords have gone to? Sure, the police (due to extreme luck) managed to capture Nem and Peixe, but that’s all. How can she really believe that the capture of these two individuals will even make a dent in the free flow of drugs and the related violence that goes along with drug trafficking? One need only consider the fact that even though he is in one of the most secure prisons in all of Brazil, Fernandinho Beira-Mar is still able to manage a drug empire that moved according to police reports R$62 million in the slums that make up the Complexo do Alemão. Even if Nem and Peixe are unable to do exactly the same thing you can rest assured that someone stepped in to fill the void in the chain of command the second that the two were arrested. It would also not surprise me in the least if both Nem and Peixe get the same kind of controversial privileged treatment, which included trips, time outside of the prison walls, telephone calls, etc., that were afforded to Fernandinho.

    Earlier this year, I watched the first police invasion in awe with the traffickers escaping up the dirt road, on foot, in pick-up trucks and not one police officer in sight. The operation gave a whole new meaning to the term “police intelligence”, and not a very good one at that. The logic of a police force that, knowing the escape route, would announce their coming well in advance and not take steps to capture those escaping along the known route eludes me completely. The fact that they would do exactly the same thing again is unconscionable.

    Will the drugs stop flowing in Rio? Will the violence related to drug trafficking come to an end? Clearly, the answer to both these questions is a resounding NO! These problems have just been displaced. The gangs that control the movement of drugs in Rio and most of Brazil have simply moved to other cities in the state, Maca and Campo dos Goytacazes as well as into the surrounding states. They will continue to operate virtually unaffected, but from a distance. The governments of Rio de Janeiro at every level can pat themselves on the back in a very public way and brag to those gullible enough to believe them that the situation is now under control and the public will be safe during the World Cup and Olympics. What they can’t do is turn this “fairy-tale” into reality. Nothing has changed and nothing will.

    The only significant difference is the fact that the residents of the favelas will, at long last, have a little peace in their own backyard. They might even see a little bit of the government spending and services that they have been denied for so many years. I guess that in itself is really a major achievement that is worthy of praise. Too bad that it is about the only positive aspect of this whole sad situation.

    As far as McGowan’s overly simplistic account is concerned, I have great difficulty in giving credence to a report from anyone remotely connected to either the hospitality industry or marketing sector since they clearly have a vested interest in painting a rosy picture in order to keep the money flowing into Rio for these major events. I hardly think she is so naãve as to really believe what she put into print.

    Readers Comments:

    Of course my article is simplistic – there is no space in 500 words to go into bigger issues and as I believe I said in the article the invasion doesn’t mean everything is just going to be bright and rosy from now on. The drugs trade for one will survive anywhere as long as there is a market for it and Rocinha itself (and I live up close and personal) has been in many ways more difficult since the invasion with loads more armed robberies following the lack of protection from drug lords. But I do believe it was definitely a step in the right direction and not purely cosmetic as our rather cynical friend purports.

    Mr Woodward seems to think that as he has been in Brazil 10 years and is not involved in marketing or tourism his view is somehow more valid than mine. Unlike him I have actually lived in Rio itself on and off for over 17 years, and I was here when Brizola made his momentous and ill fated decision in the early 80s to keep the police out of the favelas in return for the traffickers keeping off the asfalto. Despite what Woodward assumes from his erroneous idea of what I do, I have no “vested interest” in presenting only a rose coloured Brazil. In this case I just gave my own perspective on what was rather a momentous event.

    – Alison McGowan

    January 18, 2012

    This is our regular column called Ask a Brazilian”, the idea being that you can quite literally ask a question of a Brazilian – for those issues you aren’t sure about but perhaps dare not ask someone else. It is meant as a bit of fun and answers should not be construed as expert opinion or the definitive reply on the matter. For that reason we ask you to please send your own comments and experiences in order to add to our replies.

    I moved to São Paulo 2 months ago for work, and my boyfriend comes this week for visit for a month. A married couple friends of mine (also foreigners here) said that they are always asked if they are married when checking into hotels so I am to tell any hotel that my boyfriend and I check into that we are married otherwise we would need separate rooms. Is this true? I know about the distinct difference between a hotel and a motel here, but with the relaxed attitude to relationships here I would have thought that staying overnight with your boyfriend in a hotel would not have been a big deal.

    – Megan

    No, it is not! Just tell the hotel your friend is coming and that’s all! Maybe your foreign friends have that impression of sex tourism, maybe hotels are used to try to control that, but you absolutely have no need to tell anyone you are married in order to sleep together in a hotel, OK?

    Beijos, hope that helps.


    Hello. I went on a date with a Brazilian. He then visited another state, and we were planning on meeting up again after he got back. The second date was set for Friday, and we talked about it on Thursday via text. However, when I messaged him on Friday at 8pm (while I was getting ready) to ask him when we should meet up, he said he was still out of town, and maybe we could get together Sunday. Is this acceptable behavior to a Brazilian?

    – Katie

    Mmmmm, Katie… This is not Brazilian behavior, if you had a date you had a date and he was supposed to be there. This seems to me more like the “he is just not that into you” kinda thing. If you want to have fun go with him on Sunday, if not tell him with very short notice you had something else to do.


    Are there any burning questions you have about Brazil, or other issues that you’re curious about, such as Brazilian culture? If so, send your questions to

    Previous articles in this series:

    Ask a Brazilian: Couples and Separate Rooms
    Ask a Brazilian: São Paulo Safety
    Ask a Brazilian: Jealousy
    Ask a Brazilian: Nails and Spanish
    Ask a Brazilian: Tipping
    Ask a Brazilian: UK Visa Issues
    Ask a Brazilian: Gossip
    Ask a Brazilian: Real Estate Scam
    Ask a Brazilian: Lacking Change and I Touch Myself
    Ask a Brazilian: Tampons
    Ask a Brazilian: A Brazilian CV
    Ask a Brazilian: Gender Stereotypes
    Ask a Brazilian: Answering a Question
    Ask a Brazilian: Revoked Visa
    Ask a Brazilian: Pedestrian Problems
    Ask a Brazilian: Trash
    Ask a Brazilian: Tiles
    Ask a Brazilian: Headlights
    Ask a Brazilian: Differences and Love
    Ask a Brazilian: What Do the Police Do?
    Ask a Brazilian: Contractor Frustrations
    Ask a Brazilian: English Books and Brazilian Boys
    Ask a Brazilian: Cold Cahaca
    Ask a Brazilian: Interruptions
    Ask a Brazilian: Travel and Security Concerns
    Ask a Brazilian: Gestures and Toys
    Ask a Brazilian: Hispanics or Latinos, and Duvets
    Ask a Brazilian: Overbearing Sogros
    Ask a Brazilian: Hotels and Bank Transfers
    Ask a Brazilian: Swimming, Showers and New Year’s
    Ask a Brazilian: Making Friends
    Ask a Brazilian: Female Etiquette
    Ask a Brazilian: Washing Machines
    Ask a Brazilian: Picking Teeth
    Ask a Brazilian: Lozenge or Candy?
    Ask a Brazilian: Liberal or Jealous?
    Ask a Brazilian: Truck Wheels
    Ask a Brazilian: Tolerance
    Ask a Brazilian: Screens
    Ask a Brazilian: Brazilian Wax
    Ask a Brazilian: Flashing Lights
    Ask a Brazilian: Lemon and Limes
    Ask a Brazilian: Shocking Showers

    By Alison McGowan
    January 18, 2012

    What an amazing place – the pousada Capim Santo. I had been hearing good things about this pousada for some time from friends but the reality exceeded all expectation. The aim of owners Sandra and Nando is to offer comfort of the highest quality in the relaxed informality of a home from home, with superb cuisine as an additional extra, and guests obviously approve as there is a huge repeat business.

    Capim Santo is one of the most traditional pousadas in Trancoso and it has grown substantially since its beginning some 25 years ago and also added a beautiful pool, massage suite and beautifully kept tropical gardens. There is a choice of different standards of suite, together with individual bungalows, and all have excellent bed linen, flat screen TVs, telephone, safe and fridge, and are decorated in a clean white style which gives an immediate sense of peace.

    However it is the superb restaurant and the service, detail and staff commitment which really set the Capim Santo apart: the welcome you get from the staff when you arrive, the eco-friendly beauty products, the information booklet in English and Portuguese, not to mention the amazing cuisine. I stayed a night and felt immediately like cancelling the rest of my trip and just chilling there. I will be back!

    Trancoso lies forty five minutes drive to the south of Arraial d’Ajuda and an hour from the balsa or ferry which brings you over from Porto Seguro. Originally an Indian fishing community it was founded by the Jesuit priests in 1583 and the famous church of St John the Baptist of the Indians was built on the site of the original 16th construction, at the top of a cliff overlooking a never-ending turquoise sea. From here it is just a short walk down to the beaches and beach bars of Nativos, Trancoso and Coqueiros

    This is a place which manages to combine the best of the old and the new, the chic and the laid back. Boutique shops now inhabit the colourful former fishermen’s cottages round the quadrado or main square which is the focal point of the town and restaurants spread out onto the grass with pretty table cloths and candles and pretty expensive prices to match.

    This is a place where you can get as much action as you want – from snorkelling, golf, tennis, mountain biking, horse-riding, surfing and kite surfing to capoeira and forró dance lessons. The nightlife also offers choice with restaurants vying with bars and all night dancing places. But Trancoso also has its gentle side. It is a super friendly place where people talk to you in the streets and the pace of life is much slower than a normal beach resort. For me one of the best things to do is just to go with the flow, sleep in (with earplugs!) and chill out, soaking in the beauty of an extraordinary place as yet unspoilt by mass tourism.

    Not To Be Missed
    – the quadrado at full moon when it often rises full red
    – chilling by the pool
    – a massage in the spa
    – Jonas’ beach bar
    – a visit to the Pataxo (Indian) villages

    * Arrival welcome and personal service
    * Location just off the Quadrado
    * Superb cuisine in the Capim Santo restaurant
    * Relaxed informality

    Try a different place if…
    … if you are looking for total tranquility in high season or holidays when local establishments play loud music

    Alison is a British writer, musician, and marketing consultant, based in Rio de Janeiro. She can be contacted on Visit her site at

    Previous articles by Alison:

    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Guesthouse Bianca, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Aratinga Inn, Ilha Grande (Abraao), Rio de Janeiro
    Five Exceptional Beach Destinations in Brazil
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Taruma, Conceicao de Jacarei, Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Encanto da Lua, Marau, Bahia
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Fazenda Baia Grande, South Pantanal (Miranda), Mato Grosso do Sul
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Palafitas Lodge, Rondonia
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Mangueira, Boipeba (Morere), Bahia
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Cote Sud, Porto da Rua, Alagoas
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Spa Casinha Branca, Bananal, nr. Paraty, Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Castelinho 38, Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada do Capao, Serro, Minas Gerais
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada d’Oleo de Guignard, Tiradentes, Minas Gerais
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Bela Vista, Novo Airão, Amazonas
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Agua de Coco, Ceara
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Alcino Estalagem, Lenois, Bahia
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada 0031, Cumbuco, Cear
    Brazil: Maguire’s Guesthouse, Manaus, Amazonas
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel Casa do Amarelindo, Salvador, Bahia
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    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Mila, nr. Ubatuba, São Paulo
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Bambu Bamboo Pousada and Spa, Parati, Rio de Janeiro
    Random Ramblings on the Weather in Brazil
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Pousada Beijamar, Bahia
    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Hotel 7 Colinas, Pernambuco
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    Brazil: Hidden Pousadas – Santa Clara, Boipeba, Bahia

    By Mark Taylor
    January 18, 2012

    I have a confession to make: I like karaoke. In fact if I’m being completely honest I should say that I love karaoke. There’s nothing quite like being slightly tipsy and standing on a stage singing to a group of mostly strangers for getting the adrenaline going, although I appreciate it’s not for everyone.

    On my infrequent visits to São Paulo I always seek out some karaoke. The alternative in the UK is either pub karaoke (yeesh!) or bespoke establishments such as Duets.

    The owner also stated that he is a huge karaoke fan, and was so sick of singing in poor establishments that he decided to open his own. His fandom is proven, if by nothing else, by the staggering list of songs on offer (around 200,000). You can search for music on two strategically placed computers, but a tip is to just ask (or write on the piece of paper) as a lot of tracks aren’t on the computers. There are of course plenty of Brazilian tracks, but also a huge number of international tracks as well. StudioBar also regularly run competitions and theme nights, so keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for updates.

    There are a handful of downsides to StudioBar. Firstly, the service can be a little slow. Secondly, you need to have patience when arriving – the front gate is locked, and as a tip it can require some persistent ringing on the bell. Thirdly, beware the holiday season versus closing dates. When visiting before Christmas we were told they reopened on January 5th. When we turfed up though they were still closed, albeit the owner had just returned from holiday. A tip to StudioBar would be to add clear closing dates on their website, that they ideally stick to.

    Other than that it’s an excellent venue which ticks all the boxes for me. If you’re lucky you will arrive on a quiet night when there’s a small audience, and plenty of singing time.

    StudioBar is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 6pm to 1am. The entrance fee is R$20, unless you consume that much in food/drink. It’s open Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 4am. At these times the entrance fee is R$25, of which R$20 can be consumed food/drink. At weekends there is valet parking for R$10.

    Av. Paes de Barros, 3164. Móoca. São Paulo. 03149-000.

    StudioBar at Facebook
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