Cariocas call Rio neighborhoods as ‘bairros.’ All these communities make up zones or ‘zonas’ and Rio is categorized into four such zones.
During the Carnival, when the whole of Brazil is at a standstill, all these neighborhoods form their own street bands or eagerly throw their support behind a samba school that will compete at the Sambadrome.
The modern Carnival can trace its beginnings to the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, whose devotees embraced Christianity and reportedly left behind their old ways.
That’s the reason Lent is very important because it symbolizes their repentance by abstaining from indulging in worldly pleasures for 46 days before Easter. Learn more about history of Carnival.
All roads lead to Centro, the most notable of all Rio neighborhoods, because it is where the Sambodromo is located. The competition between these schools is very fierce without losing their sense of camaraderie and fair play.
You can hardly move between bodies during the Carnival but that doesn’t stop the street bands from inciting the crowd to dance from Carnival Thursday until Fat Tuesday.
The samba is the national anthem of Brazil and for good reason. The music from the trumpets, horns and percussions is like something a Pied Piper would play and you have no choice but to dance.
Lapa and Santa Teresa are straddled by the South of Rio and Centro. Roaming around these areas and you can see hints of Rio’s colonial past when it was under the influence of the Portuguese. Old colonial buildings and neo-classical architecture can be seen peeking through modern infrastructure.
Artists are drawn to these districts and that’s why they still retain enigmatic aura even today. Both neighborhoods share the Santa Teresa tram which trudges across a bridge that used to be an aqua duct. There are countless bars and nightclubs in Lapa which can whet up the dancing appetite of locals and tourists.
Walking along the four-kilometer stretch of Copacabana can yield a pleasant surprise when you see the old fortresses used during the colonial period guarding its both ends. The Copacabana Palace Hotel is also found in the south zone.
Leblon and Ipanema are two affluent Rio neighborhoods. From their retail shops carrying expensive brands, exotic restaurants to very exclusive disco houses and bars, these Rio neighborhoods are not for the faint-hearted indeed. Visitors who have been to both areas, however, swear that you get value for your money.
You can visit their beaches, boasting of powdery-white sands and clean sea, to spend less. Three Rio neighborhoods like the Sao Conrado, Gavea and Jardim Botanico are considered well-off bairros. You can paraglide or hang-glide in San Conrado beach for a panoramic view of the city.
Don’t worry if you have no experience, an expert will accompany you. By its very name, Jardim Botanico has plenty of natural and man-made gardens and forests you can explore. Before leaving Rio, make sure to plan a trek to Pedra da Gavea, which is one of the tallest peaks in Rio.
Some say it’s a religious experience. At the foot of the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain, you can find Urca. It’s a small area but it’s also very popular choice to build your house because of the splendid view. Aside from Sugarloaf, you can also see the Bay of Botafogo, the Niteroi Bridge and the Flamengo Park.
Botafogo and Flamengo are Rio neighborhoods sandwiched between the Centro and south zone. They are known for their beautiful beaches and water sports competitions. And if you wait long enough, you can have a spectacular view of the sunset. For a taste of concerts and open air entertainment, head off to Botafogo beach; the Flamengo Park is just across the beach.
Aside from being a place to rest, you can find the Museum of Modern Art inside the Parque do Flamengo. There are loads of shopping malls, souvenir shops and retail stores in these two neighborhoods. Botafogo also hosts the Indian Museum.
Barra da Tijuca can probably compete if there’s a search for most affluent places in Brazil. The standard cost of living here can be very high.
But you pay for the privilege of living among Brazil’s movie stars and sports superstars. Barra is also popular for its beaches and natural creeks and lakes.
Naturally, because its residents are well-off, the largest shopping mall in South America—with nearly 600 retail stores—can be found here. Its beaches also stretch across 18 kilometers of white sand. Tourists always appreciate their visit to Barra for the nightlife, seafood, entertainment and beaches, even if it’s one of the richest Rio neighborhoods.