Between the sea and the mountains, Rio de Janeiro covers an enchanting succession of overwhelming relief. With its golden beaches, its magnificent views, and several monolithic morros (hills) that rise straight from the edge of the water, it is clear that the Cariocas are particularly proud of their city.
When the Portuguese reached the Bay of Guanabara January 1502, they believed they had discovered the mouth of a river and named it Rio de Janeiro (“River of Jaunary). When the city was founded in 1565, she was named in honor of the king of Portugal, Sebastian 1, “São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro.” When Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, the Portuguese royal family stayed at Rio de Janeiro. Briefly the city became the capital of the Portuguese and the only European capital outside the continent. Rio was Brazil’s capital till 1960 when Brasilia, a new city created from scratch in the middle of the Amazon, took over.
Today, Rio de Janeiro is still the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro (south-eastern Brazil) as well as the cultural capital of the country. With a population of over six million, it is the largest city in Brazil after Sao Paulo. For over a century, migration from the countryside to the city led to the creation of the favelas (slums) overlapping from the heights of morros Rio de Janeiro. The city reflects the main duality of Brazil, high wealth and abject poverty.
Rio de Janeiro is the first tourist destination in South America. Although the city offers beautiful colonial buildings and neighborhoods to visit, you should go to Rio to enjoy the lifestyle, its beaches, the Centro (downtown city), the Carnival, the sound of samba and the Brazilian drink caipirinha.