Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Rio de Janeiro Travel Information
Río de Janeiro´s spectacular surroundings adorn the city that extends 20 km along a narrow strip of land in between the hills and the sea. The water here is a deep blue colour and dotted by rocky islets; the hills around Rio are carpeted by wild lush vegetation which simply make it otherworldly. Brazilians say God made the world in six days and the seventh he dedicated to the construction of Río de Janeiro.
The most remarkable landmarks around the city are the Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar), one of the highest summits in Río, and the Corcovado, standing out 710 m over the city and crowned by the gigantic Christ Statue that keeps an eye on the 'Marvelous City', as Rio is also known.
Río de Janeiro enjoys some of the best climatic conditions in Brazil. It is warm for most of the year; June, July and August are the coldest months with temperatures that range from 22-32C, while from December to March, temperatures vary between 32-42C, which allows visitors to enjoying the long and wonderful beaches for most of the year.
Two of the main avenues are particularly attractive: Río Branco Ave is about 2 km long, traversed by the city's main thoroughfare, and the 4km-long President Vargas Ave. This begins by the sea, rounds the famous Candelaria Church and crosses Río Branco Ave to lead further on to the Main Train Station. Finally, President Vargas Ave joins Mangue Ave, traversed by a canal. President Vargas Ave is flanked by smart and beautiful buildings, such as Brazil's Academy, the National Arts Museum, the National Library, the Municipal Chamber of Commerce and Theater. Ouvidor Street, which also crosses over Río Branco Ave, is lined by the largest stores in the city. However, the most exclusive shops and the city's chief markets are to be found in Ipanema, Leblon. Beira Mar Ave, ornamented with tall palm trees and luxurious buildings along Botafogo and Flamengo beaches, is an excellent area to walk around.
The city's most refined architecture is found on Chile Ave, the National Bank, the new Cathedral and Petrobras are some of the outstanding constructions there.
Rio de Janeiro Attractions and Tours
Highlights of Rio City
The Copacabana neighborhood is the most renowned in this city and the legendary beach, flanked by towering buildings, is probably the most famous beach in the world. The Copacabana Palace Hotel was the only high-rise here in the 1930s. Though one of the tiniest now, it is surely the most famous. This hotel has welcomed flocks of celebrities and tourists from every corner of the world.
There is practically everything in this "city within the city". The stores lining Copacabana Avenue and Barata Ribeiro Street, are excellent. This is also the liveliest area as far as the glamorous nightlife is concerned. A fort placed on the beach´s far end, commands the Bay access and separates Copacabana from Ipanema and Leblon beaches.
Ipanema and Leblon
The suburbs of the beautiful Ipanema and Leblon Beaches expand beyond Copacabana, a perfect place to see the sunset. These beaches are less crowded than Copacabana, so they tend to be cleaner.
Nowadays, the great majority of exclusive stores and fine restaurants are to be found in Leblon and Ipanema, as these areas have become the city´s center of fashion and glamour in the last couple of decades.
Niemeyer Ave. lies further down from Leblon, snaking around the cliffs and allowing for striking sea views. Sao Conrado is a small exclusive beach, nestled behind the cliffs.
Santa Tereza is a suburb located atop a hill close to downtown, known as Río´s bohemian area. Santa Tereza still shows several colonial-styled buildings and tree-lined picturesque streets. It is recommended to take a close look at the convent´s façade (visitors are not allowed inside), also visit the Chácara do Céu Museum and Santa Teresa Hotel, the area´s oldest house. This neighborhood is heavily visited thanks to its traditional tram which traverses the whole area.
The Maracaná Football Stadium
The Maracaná Stadium is one of the world´s largest sports centers. The football field is oval-shaped and has capacity for 200.000 spectators. Matches here are always good fun, even for non-followers. The stadium hosted the 1950 Football World Cup and these days it is only used for important games.
The Corcovado Hill rises 710m overlooking the city. It is crowned by a 40-m tall Christ statue, built in 1931 and weighs 1,200 tons. The view from the top is nothing but magnificent: the city, the hills and the sea. Views are sometimes impaired by fog though. The base of the statue can be accessed by driving or riding the cable car. Either way, there is a 220 steps to climb to the top. To have day and night views, it is recommendable to ascend at around 4pm and return on the last train at 6.15pm.
Pão de Açúcar
The Sugar Loaf mountain is a 396-m high cone-shaped granite mountain at the entrance to Guanabara Bay. The summit offers another impressive vista of the city and the beaches. A cable car ascends every 30 minutes from the foot of the hill, which stops first at Urca Hill halfway up and moves on to the Pão de Açúcar. There is a restaurant, a children´s park and night entertainment on Urca Hill.
Tijuca´s National Park
Tijuca´s National Park is an ideal choice for trekking fans. The 1,012-m ascend to Tijuca´s Peak takes from 2-3 hours. The bay and the ships spring into view once the summit has been reached. Open from 6am - 9pm.
Bom Retiro is the best spot for a picnic, barely 1/2 hour walk. There are some places to look at on the way up, such as the Cascatinha (Little Waterfall) Taunay, Mayrink Chapel built in 1860 and "Floresta" restaurant.
The trail ends at Bom Retiro and it takes another hour walk on a different trail from here to the summit. It is a very pleasant walk whose last section consists of steps carved out of sheer rock.
"Barra da Tijuca"
Barra da Tijuca is one of Rio´s major recreational areas whose main attraction is its 20-km long beach with gigantic waves for fantastic surfing. This is a more modern venue, lined by countless bars and restaurants concentrated on both ends.
There are several shopping centers like "Riocenter", a 600 000-m² Convention Center, the huge "Barra Shopping" Complex and "Carrefour" Shopping Malls.
The motorbike racing track lies beyond the Barra within Jacarepaguá District. Brazil´s Grand Prix takes place here or in Interlagos, Sao Paulo, in January.
Many wonderful beaches lay south of the Barra, such as Recreio dos Bandeirantes, small and agitated as an ocean, Prainha, also small but good for surfing and Grumari, primitive but attractive.
Rio City Museums
All museums and the Botanical Garden remain closed during the Carnival.
It is said that the National Museum on Quinta da Boa Vista is one of the most important in South America. This building served as Brazil´s Emperors´ Palace, but only the Throne Room and the Ambassadors´ Reception Area still show the glory of a by-gone era. The famous meteorite "Béndego" is on exhibit in the main hall. It was found in the State of Bahía in 1888, its original weight before a section broke off was 5,360 kg.
Besides several foreign remarkable collections, the museum hosts a great collection of weapons from Brazilian indigenous populations, items of clothing, utensils and historical documents. Birds, animals, fish and butterfly collections complete the exhibits. Open 10am - 4:30pm, except Monday.
The Museum of Fauna is also located on Quinta da Boa Vista and owns an interesting collection of Brazilian fauna. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12m - 5pm.
The National Library on 219 Río Branco Ave, was founded in 1810. Its first book contribution came from Ajuda Palace in Lisbon and today it possesses over 2 million books and several old manuscripts. Open Monday to Friday, 9am - 8pm, Saturday 9am - 3pm.
The Fine Arts National Museum stands on 199 Río Branco Avenue. It shows nearly 800 original paintings and sculptures and some thousands of unique reproductions. It is the venue for contemporary artists´ exhibits. Open Tuesday to Friday from 12m -6pm, Saturday, Sunday and National holidays, 3pm - 6pm.
Those more interested in contemporary art may also visit the former Education Ministry, designed by Corbusier, to see the huge mural painted by Candido Portinari, whose canvas "Café" is shown in the museum.
The Municipal Theater lies across from the Art Museum. This is the venue for opera and orchestra performances, the small museum downstairs is now on R 103/105 São João Batista Street, Botafogo. Open Monday to Friday from 1pm - 5pm.
Palaço Imperial, former Royal Palace on Praça Quinze de Novembro, is a beautiful restored colonial building from 1743. It features an art gallery for temporary exhibits and occasionally free concerts.
The Modern Art Museum, another impressive construction on 85 Infante D. Henrique Ave, suffered the effects of a fire in 1978, the collection is being restored and several countries have contributed with donations of masterpieces. The place also owns a non-commercial movie theater. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12m - 6pm.
The National History Museum, situated on Praça Rui Barbosa, contains a rather interesting collection of historical treasures, sculptures, colonial furniture, maps, paintings, weapons, armors, silver and porcelain items. The building was used once as the Empire´s War Arsenal, a section of which was built in 1762. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am - 5:30pm, Saturday, Sunday and national holidays from 2:30pm - 5:30pm.
The Oceanographic Naval Museum: located on 15 Manoel Street, shows a specially varied exhibit of paintings and engravings, complemented by a collection of weapons and sculptures. Open every day from 12m - 4:30pm.
The Image and Rhythm Museum also stands on Praça (square) Rui Barbosa, full of photography and modern paintings about Brazil, as well as an array of Brazilian classical and popular music recordings. In addition, a non-profit movie theater is available there from Friday to Sunday, 1pm - 6pm.
The Museum of the Indian is a small but concise and well-presented exhibit on 55 Das Palmeiras Street in Botafogo. Its craft shop sells items produced by many of the Brazilian indigenous communities.
Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maia Foundation, generally known as "Chácara do Céu", sits on 93 Murtinho Nobre Street and owns a wide spectrum of masterpieces, largely paintings by modern Brazilian artists. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 2pm - 5pm; Sunday 1pm - 5 pm. Castro Maia´s former residence in Tijuca Forest carries the same name and also serves as a museum.
The Geographic-Historical Institute Museum situated on 8 Augusto Severo Ave. (10th floor), right by Beira Mar Ave, shows a valuable collection of typical items from Brazilian indigenous peoples. Open Monday to Friday from 12m - 5pm.
São Cristóvão Pavilion, designed by Sergio Bernardes, features the world´s largest outdoor area, devoid of columns and walls, but access is controlled. It is worth visiting the Sunday market here.
The Astronomy Museum / National Observatory founded in 1827, sits on São Januário Hill, 586 Bruce Street, São Cristóvão. Open Tuesday to Friday from 9am - 5pm, guided visits from 10am - 12m and 2pm - 4pm. An evening visit is recommended for a far better observation.
Rui Barbosa´s House on 134 Sao Clemente Street in Botafogo was the renowned Brazilian jurist and statist´s former residence. It preserves his personal library and many other valuables. Open Tuesday to Friday from 10am - 4:30pm, Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 2pm - 5pm. The great garden is open to the public.
Itamarati Palace, former Foreign Affairs Ministry on Marechal Floriano Ave, shows a rather interesting collection of furniture, wallpapers and other art pieces. It has been renamed Diplomatic Museum.
The Museum of the Republic, in Catete Palace, was the official presidential residence for 63 years when Río served as Federal Capital. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 12m - 5pm.
Guanabara Palace: once Princess Elizabeth´s residence_ Don Pedro II´s daughter; today is Río de Janeiro State Governor´s Office.
The Carnival Museum sits inside the Sambódromo. The main entrance is on Frei Caneca Street and open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am - 5pm.
Rio's Churches & Religious Attractions
The Convent of Terceiro, do Monte do Carmo Order on 17 Primeiro de Marco Praga, close to Praça 15 de Novembro, is one of the oldest establishments built during the early 17th century and used as a school nowadays. Its present Del Carmo Church located on Primeiro de Margo Street, next to the former cathedral, was erected during the 1770s and reconstructed in between 1797 and 1826. Mestre Valentim, the son of a Portuguese noble and a slave, designed and built the beautiful colonnades and the main altar, later silver-plated.
The second oldest convent is San Antonio´s from the 17th century, built on a hill by the Largo da Carioca between 1608 and 1615. The church features a beautiful blue-tiled sacristy. San Antonio is largely worshiped by women in search of husbands.
The crypt holds the remains of a Scottish mercenary called "Wild Skelater de Jock". He served under Portugal´s Government during the Napoleonic Wars and was appointed First Commander in Chief of Brazil´s Army.
A row of iron bars separate the charming Church of Sao Francisco da Penitencia from the latter. Built in 1773, it shows a fantastic carved altar and bright golden walls. A painting by José de Oliveira hangs from the ceiling. There is an adjoining museum, open on the month´s first and third Sundays from 7am - 10am.
San Bento Monastery from 1641, has an access on 68 Dom Gerardo Street and shows a great deal of Brazil´s art from the 17th and 18th centuries. "O Salvador", the first Brazilian painter´s masterpiece, Frei Ricardo do Pilar, hangs in the sacristy. The church has a peculiar shape, the Immaculate Conception and Holy Sacrament Chapels are masterpieces of colonial art. The organ is also very impressive. The monastery lies a few minutes away from Praça Mauá, turning left on Rio Branco Ave. The location also offers a clear view of the seaport and the ever going ships.
The ancient São Sebastião Cathedral on Primeiro de Margo Street, was finished between 1749 and 1770. Pedro Alvares Cabral´s remains, Brazil´s colonizer, are supposedly preserved in the crypt, although they are also claimed to be in Santarem, Portugal.
The New 1976 conic-shaped Cathedral is located on Republic of Chile Avenue, not far from the Largo da Carioca. Its interior reaches 68m in height, 104m in diameter and its exterior rises 83m. It has a 5000-seat capacity and room for other 20 000 people standing. Its most remarkable feature is the four 60m-high glass panels. It is still unfinished.
São Francisco de Paula Church, on Ouvidor Street´s upper end, goes back to the year 1759. It had some of Mestre Valentim´s contributions in two of its chapels, especially that of Our Lady of Victory. Some of the paintings and probably the ceiling´s frescoes are from Manuel da Cunha´s authorship. The lovely fountain at the back only is only on at nighttime.
Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Church (1775-1810) rises on Praça Pio Dez, at the end of President Vargas Avenue. This one deserves a visit to admire the stunning ceiling decorations and paintings. It occupies the area of a former 17th century chapel founded by Antonio da Palma after having survived a wreck, which has been represented in the dome´s interior frescoes.
On the heavily office building-cramped Santa Luzia Street, lies the small but attractive Santa Luzia Church. It was originally built with a single tower in 1752; the second was added in the late 19th century. December 13th is its celebration day, when devotees soak their eyes in holy water, thought to be highly miraculous.
Santa Cruz dos Militares Church (1780-1811) on Primeiro de Margo Street, near the Old Cathedral, is imposing and beautiful at the same time.
Nuestra Señora de la Gloria, a small church located on Gloria Hill, was the imperial family´s favorite. Don Pedro II was baptized here. As an 18th century construction, it shows some excellent samples of Brazilian blue tiling. Its main wooden altar was carved by Mestre Valentim. The church only opens from 9am - 12m on Saturday and Sunday; and from 1pm - 5pm on weekdays.
Nossa Senhora da Penha Church, a construction from the early 20th century on the northern section of Penha Neighborhood, sits atop a huge rock and accessed by 365 carved steps. Pilgrims ascend these steps on their knees during the October festivities. There is a cable car available for less devoted worshipers.
When Gástelo Hill was leveled and turned into build Gástelo Terrace, São Sebastião old church had to be demolished. It successor, the Capuchinos de São Sebastião Church on Haddock Lobo Street, was finished in 1936 and preserves the tomb of Sá, Río de Janeiro´s first founder and governor.
Rio's Plazas, Parks & Monuments
The city abounds with open spaces and squares, many of which feature statues and gardens.
On Gloria and Flamengo beaches, looking out to the Sugar Bread and the Corcovado Hills, lies Parque do Flamengo, designed by Burle Marx and inaugurated in 1965 during the city´s 400th foundation anniversary. It covers a 100-ha section, snatched from the sea. A marina is located behind the War Memorial and the park also owns many sports areas and a Botanical Garden.
For children, there is a puppet theater, a miniature village and day-care center. Show stages and dancing floors contribute to night entertainment. Security is handled by the police and park´s own security staff; this is a popular recreational spot.
The Monument to WW II´s Heroes and the Modern Art Museum lie at the park´s end, across from Praça París. The monument consists of two tall pillars holding what looks like a curved board, which represents two palm trees rising into the sky. The niches contain the remains of the Brazilian soldiers killed in Italy in 1944-45. The tomb and museum are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am - 5pm.
The Largo do Boticario is the place to go for the best image of 19th century Brazil, reflected in a small but charming colonial square on 822 Cosme Velho Street. The square lies near the station to take the train to Corcovado Hill.
The Botanical Garden founded in 1808 surely deserves a visit. It owns over 7000 plant species, an aquarium and a library. The royal palms lining the roads are an amazing sight. The garden was largely improved before the 1992 Earth Summit, including a new Orchid garden, the library´s enlargement, a bar, new cleaning systems and English-speaking personnel. Open from 8am - 5:30pm
The garden is located 8 km away from downtown on a 140-ha surface; A few buses can be taken from the city center, such as Route 104 from Leblon, São Conrado and Gávea (via Jóquei) and Bus Route 592 from Copacabana. Bird watchers should start early to be able to come across some of the 140 bird species registered in this area: yellow-chest birds, tanagers and over 20 different kinds of humming birds. Hawks, pigeons, cuckoos, parakeets, thrushes, woodpeckers and occasionally toucans make up the rest.
Laje Park, on 414 Botanical Garden Street, is a nice spot that imitates the jungle with small caverns and an old tower. The premises host the Fine Arts Institute, open daily from 7:30am - 5:30pm.
The Quinta da Boa Vista was the Emperor´s former private park, with a zoo and a diversity of trees. The Palace hosts the National Museum.
The Zoo exhibits species of imported and Brazilian wild animals, plus an impressive bird collection (this is another popular spot for bird watching). Open Tuesday to Sunday from 8am - 6pm. The main door is a replica by Robert Adán of the door to Syon House near London. The Museum of Fauna lies near the zoo.
The City´s Park is a nice area located a short distance from Gávea´s Bus Station. The grounds used to be Guinle´s family gardens. Access to the park is free and opens Tuesday to Friday from 7:30am - 5:30pm, Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 11am - 5pm.
Praça da República (Republic Square) and Campo de Santana make up an extensive and picturesque public garden close to the main train station. Marshall Deodoro da Fonseca, who proclaimed Brazil a republic in 1889, lived on 197 Praça da República. Julio Furtado Park in the center of the square teems with funny squirrels. The late afternoon is the best time for photos. The park also has a man-made cave with swans.
The Paseo Público (turn right at the end of Río Branco Avenue) is a garden created by the artist Mestre Valentim, whose statue stands close to the former main entrance. A numismatic and philatelic market takes place here on Sunday mornings.
Praça Quinze de Novembro (November 15th Square) holds the original Royal Palace. A market is on every Saturday from 9am - 7pm and the Antiques´ Market comes to life on Sunday along the coast.
Praça Tiradentes (Tiradentes Square) presents an statue dedicated to Dom Pedro I, Brazil´s first Emperor. The stores on the nearby streets specialized in the sale of items for the Umbanda and Macumoa, religions based on African cults related to magic.
Praça Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhi Square), on Río Branco Avenue´s end, is flanked by a movie theater and the city´s amusement park, known as "Cinelândia". The skillfully ornamented fountain created by Mestre Valentim in 1789, was transferred here from Praça Quinze de Novembro in 1979.
Catete Park is a charming tiny park in between Catete Palace (Museum of the Republic) and Praia do Flamengo. Flocks of birds and monkeys inhabit the area.
Praça de París (Paris Square), built on recycled terrain near the Largo de la Gloria, stands out for the beauty of its gardens and nicely-lit fountains.
Lots of dazzling fountains dot the city. The oldest one, la Fonte da Gloria (1789), placed behind Sao Francisco de Paula Church, features 8 bronze water inlets. It is possibly the most elegant, though it has seen better days.
The World's Biggest Party
Rio de Janeiro´s carnival is one of the planet´s liveliest shows. On the Friday previous to the feast start, Río´s Major symbolically hands King Momo the city´s keys, a character considered the master of the carnival. This ceremony is the official beginning of the world-known feast that last for 5 days.
Avenues and streets fill with lights and colors, children dressed in bright costumes and the throngs of locals dancing to the rhythms of Samba. Río owns several Samba schools, organized in 5 divisions. The first three do their parades in the Sambódromo (a Samba stadium). The best school from the inferior division performs on Thursday, while the last details for sound and illumination are sorted. Group 1, formed by 16 schools, parades on Friday and Saturday and then the 16 schools from the Special Group on Sunday and Monday, 8 of them during the evening. The order of appearance is determined by draw, so both days are equally good to watch the parades.
The 12 schools from Group 2 perform on Tuesday. Every school features from 3000-5000 participants, divided in 40 sections and more than 30 floats. The parades are limited to 90 minutes and points are lost if it takes any longer. The 10 selected winners, 5 from the Special Group and Group 1, do a celebration parade the following Saturday evening in the Sambódromo. The Third and Fourth Divisions perform on Rio Branco Avenue, probably a bit less spectacular but free.
Every school chooses a theme, composes a Samba and designs costumes and floats related to it. The jury decides based on the same elements for each school, the best get promoted to a higher division and the poorest are relegated to a lower position like in a football league. The competition is rather intense and fierce. There is a money prize for the winners, financed by entry funds. It is possible to join a Samba school if you get to Río before the Carnival.
The Carnival´s Parade is not meant to be a tourist attraction; it is just the result of the community´s month-long efforts, largely from the city´s poorest districts. In order to understand the traditions of every school, the significance of the different performances during the parade and the carnival as a whole, it is recommended to visit the Carnival Museum in the Sambódromo, though small it features a great deal of photographs and the English-speaking personnel there is highly informative. Access is on Frei Caneca Street, Tel.: 293-9996; Tuesday to Sunday from 11am-5pm; free of charge.
The Sambódromo has its permanent headquarters on Marqués de Sapucaí Street, Cidade Nova, not far from downtown. It is 600 m long and has a seating capacity to accommodate 60.000 people. Designed by Osear Niemeyer, it is not only a venue for sports events, conferences and concerts during the rest of the year, but it also hosts a public education center for nearly 5000 children.
The parades in the Sambódromo begin at 7pm and last around 12 hours. The doors, not clearly marked, open at 6pm. There are different types of seat: "cadeiras", at floor level, terraces or "arquibancadas" and boxes ("camarotes").
The best boxes, reserved for tourists and celebrities, costs around US 1000. The other seats are closer to the square but you may have to fight to get to the front. Seats and boxes for tourists offer a better view, sectors 4, 7 and 11 are among the favorite, not being the case of 6 and 13, though with more room they are located at the end. The terraces, although a bit more uncomfortable, can hold the biggest fans crawling over one another, but this is the real spot to experience the local enthusiasm. It is often too crowded for photos.
The entry tickets (maximum 4) start at US 30 and are sold at the "Banco do Brazil" or the "Banco Meridional" with branch offices in most big cities. They can also be acquired at the "Maracaná" Football Stadium, but not during the Carnival´s weekend. Speculators sell them for twice the price. Tourists´ tickets start at US 100 and are available in travel agencies.
Taxis to the Sambódromo are negotiable (around US 10) and are easily available to return at the main entrances; the closest subway is "Praça 11", normally used by Samba school members already clad in their colorful costumes. The main bus and sub routes work for the entire carnival night but on an irregular schedule.
The majority of the Samba schools admit a certain number of foreigners, who usually pay double price for their costumes (starting at US 100); this money contributes to fund the school´s poorest member. It is necessary to be in Río at least 2 weeks before the Carnival for the purpose of joining a Samba school. If you speak Portuguese, you may directly phone the schools or may be introduced by someone from the hotel or a tour guide.
It is important to be on time for the rehearsals, show respect for the section leader and get soaked in the event´s competitive spirit. For those with the energy and dedication, it will surely be an unforgettable experience. The "Concentration Area", where the schools line up before the parade, is an excellent spot to watch the chaotic preparations for the night ahead; people who can´t afford paying a ticket, come here to see the costumes on President Vargas Avenue.
All the schools show a preview of their performance in their own neighborhoods, usually a week before the carnival. It is worth seeing this, admission fee is about US 1 and photos are allowed. Carrying valuables is not recommended.
Several contests and official events take place during the week of carnival, as well as non-official ones. Exhibits and contests come to their climax on Tuesday and there is a wide choice of programs for those in search of entertainment but unwilling "to play" in the Carnival.
Río´s elegant feasts show from the most sophisticated to the simplest stuff. Most of the clubs and hotels organize at least one competition. Copacabana Palace Hotel offers a sophisticated expensive feast (around US 250) and a very well organized parade on a brightly illuminated terrace.
Two of the most famous dances are: the Red and Black dance on Friday and the Gay dance on Tuesday. Prices go from US 15 per person; US 100 per table for 4 and US 750 for a private box. It is wise to get information at the tour desks and offices, which have a full list of performances and events.
Expensive hotels offer Carnival Breakfasts, all of them very good: Caesar Park (in Ipanema) is highly recommended for the beach sunrise view from the terrace. Visitors willing to see the Carnival should book accommodation well in advance.
If you cannot make it to the Carnival, rehearsals take place in different places from November on. For example, in Portela School on 81 Arruda Cámara Street, Madureira, every Saturday afternoon. Beija Flor, one of the most outstanding Samba schools, rehearses on Monday evenings in Urca, halfway to the Sugar Bread Hill.
Another event, less agitated than the Carnival but very picturesque, is "Oi lemanjá" Festival on New Year´s Eve. The people who practice African cults gather on the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, singing and dancing around a fire while doing their offerings to the gods. At midnight on Copacabana Beach, there is always a fireworks show that attracts a huge crowd in front of the Copacabana Palace and Meridien hotels. At this time some small vessels are thrown in the water as sacrifices to lemanjá.
"San Sebastián" Festival, Patron Saint of Río, is celebrated with a procession in the evening of January 20th, from the Capuchinhos Church in Tijuca, up to São Sebastião Cathedral. This same night, there is another festival at Caboclo´s Monument, in Santa Tereza.