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Rio de Janeiro

City of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Top 10 Rio de Janeiro related articles

Rio de Janeiro
Município do Rio de Janeiro
From the top, clockwise: panorama of the buildings of the Rio Downtown; statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado; Sugarloaf Mountain with Botafogo's beach; Barra da Tijuca beach with the Pedra da Gávea at background; Museum of Tomorrow in Plaza Mauá with Rio–Niterói Bridge at background and tram of Santa Teresa.
Coat of arms
Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) Princesa Maravilhosa (Marvellous Princess) Cidade dos Brasileiros (City of Brazilians)
Location in the state of Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Location within Brazil
Rio de Janeiro
Location within South America
Coordinates: 22°54′41″S 43°12′21″W / 22.911366°S 43.205916°W / -22.911366; -43.205916Coordinates: 22°54′41″S 43°12′21″W / 22.911366°S 43.205916°W / -22.911366; -43.205916
Country  Brazil
State Rio de Janeiro
Historic countries  Kingdom of Portugal
United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves
 Empire of Brazil
Founded1 March 1565[1]
Named forSaint Sebastian
 • TypeMayor-council
 • BodyMunicipal Chamber of Rio de Janeiro
 • MayorEduardo Paes (DEM)
 • Vice MayorNilton Caldeira (PL)
 • Municipality1,221 km2 (486.5 sq mi)
 • Metro
4,539.8 km2 (1,759.6 sq mi)
2 m (7 ft)
Highest elevation
1,020 m (3,349 ft)
Lowest elevation
0 m (0 ft)
 (2020 [2])[3]
 • Municipality6,747,815
 • Rank2nd
 • Urban
 • Metro
12,280,702 (2nd)
 • Metro density2,705.1/km2 (7,006/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC−3 (BRT)
Postal Code
20000-001 to 23799-999
Area code(s)21
Official nameRio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea
Designated2012 (36th session)
Reference no.1100
State PartyBrazil
Latin America and Europe

Rio de Janeiro (/ˈr di ʒəˈnɛər, - d -, - də -/; Portuguese: [ˈʁi.u d(ʒi) ʒɐˈne(j)ɾu] ( listen);[4]), or simply Rio,[5] is the second-most populous city in Brazil and the sixth-most populous in the Americas. Rio de Janeiro is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's third-most populous state, after São Paulo and Minas Gerais. Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site, named "Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea", by UNESCO on 1 July 2012 as a Cultural Landscape.[6]

Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, the city was initially the seat of the Captaincy of Rio de Janeiro, a domain of the Portuguese Empire. Later, in 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state of the Portuguese Empire. In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal, who subsequently, in 1815, under the leadership of her son, the prince regent, and future King João VI of Portugal, raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and Algarves. Rio stayed the capital of the pluricontinental Lusitanian monarchy until 1822, when the War of Brazilian Independence began. This is one of the few instances in history that the capital of a colonising country officially shifted to a city in one of its colonies. Rio de Janeiro subsequently served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasília.

Rio de Janeiro has the second largest municipal GDP in the country,[7] and 30th largest in the world in 2008,[8] estimated at about R$343 billion (nearly US$201 billion). It is headquarters to Brazilian oil, mining, and telecommunications companies, including two of the country's major corporations – Petrobras and Vale – and Latin America's largest telemedia conglomerate, Grupo Globo. The home of many universities and institutes, it is the second-largest center of research and development in Brazil, accounting for 17 percent of national scientific output according to 2005 data.[9] Despite the high perception of crime, the city actually has a lower incidence of crime than most state capitals in Brazil.[10]

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, Carnival, samba, bossa nova, and balneario beaches[11] such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. In addition to the beaches, some of the most famous landmarks include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf Mountain with its cable car; the Sambódromo (Sambadrome), a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums. Rio de Janeiro was the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics, making the city the first South American and Portuguese-speaking city to ever host the events, and the third time the Olympics were held in a Southern Hemisphere city.[12] The Maracanã Stadium held the finals of the 1950 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the XV Pan American Games.

Rio de Janeiro Intro articles: 45


Historical affiliations
Founding of Rio de Janeiro on 1 March 1565
Rio de Janeiro, then de facto capital of the Portuguese Empire, as seen from the terrace of the Convento de Santo Antônio (Convent of St. Anthony), c. 1816
Map of the city of Rio de Janeiro in 1820, then capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, with the transfer of the Portuguese court to Brazil

Pre-Colonial period

The region of Rio was inhabited by the Tupi, Puri, Botocudo and Maxakalí peoples.[13]

Colonial period

Europeans first encountered Guanabara Bay on 1 January 1502 (hence Rio de Janeiro, "January River"), by a Portuguese expedition under explorer Gaspar de Lemos, captain of a ship in Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet, or under Gonçalo Coelho.[14] Allegedly the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci participated as observer at the invitation of King Manuel I in the same expedition.

In 1555, one of the islands of Guanabara Bay, now called Villegagnon Island, was occupied by 500 French colonists under the French admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon. Consequently, Villegagnon built Fort Coligny on the island when attempting to establish the France Antarctique colony. Eventually this French settlement became too much of a threat to the established Portuguese colony and in 1560 the order was made to get rid of them. A years long military aggression was then initiated by the new Governor General of Brazil Mem De Sa, and later continued by his nephew Estacio De Sa. On 20 January, 1567, a final defeat was imposed on the French forces and they were decisively expelled from Brazil for good.

The city of Rio de Janeiro proper was founded by the Portuguese on 1 March 1565 and was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honour of St. Sebastian, the saint who was the namesake and patron of the Portuguese then-monarch Sebastião. Rio de Janeiro was the name of Guanabara Bay. Until early in the 18th century, the city was threatened or invaded by several mostly French pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc and René Duguay-Trouin.[15]

In the late 17th century, still during the Sugar Era, the Bandeirantes discovered gold and diamonds in the neighbouring captaincy of Minas Gerais, thus Rio de Janeiro became a much more practical port for exporting wealth (gold, precious stones, besides the sugar) than Salvador, Bahia, much farther northeast. On 27 January 1763,[16] the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. The city remained primarily a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family and most of the associated Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, moved to Rio de Janeiro.

Portuguese court and imperial capital

The kingdom's capital was transferred to the city, which, thus, became the only European capital outside of Europe. As there was no physical space or urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes.[17] In the first decade, several educational establishments were created, such as the Military Academy, the Royal School of Sciences, Arts and Crafts and the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the National Library of Brazil – with the largest collection in Latin America[18] – and The Botanical Garden. The first printed newspaper in Brazil, the Gazeta do Rio de Janeiro, came into circulation during this period.[19] When Brazil was elevated to Kingdom in 1815, it became the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves until the return of the Portuguese Royal Family to Lisbon in 1821, but remained as capital of the Kingdom of Brazil.[20]

From the colonial period until the first independent era, Rio de Janeiro was a city of slaves. There was a large influx of African slaves to Rio de Janeiro: in 1819, there were 145,000 slaves in the captaincy. In 1840, the number of slaves reached 220,000 people.[21] Between 1811 and 1831, 500,000 to a million slaves arrived in Rio de Janeiro through Valongo Wharf, which is now a World Heritage Site.[22] The Port of Rio de Janeiro was the largest port of slaves in America.[23]

When Prince Pedro proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822, he decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of his new empire while the place was enriched with sugar cane agriculture in the Campos region and, especially, with the new coffee cultivation in the Paraíba Valley.[20] In order to separate the province from the capital of the Empire, the city was converted in Neutral Municipality in 1834, passing the province of Rio de Janeiro to have Niterói as capital.[20]

Botafogo Bay in 1869
Botafogo Bay in 1889

As a political centre of the country, Rio concentrated the political-partisan life of the Empire. It was the main stage of the abolitionist and republican movements in the last half of the 19th century.[20] At that time the number of slaves was drastically reduced and the city was developed, with modern drains, animal trams, train stations crossing the city, gas and electric lighting, telephone and telegraph wiring, water and river plumbing.[20] Rio continued as the capital of Brazil after 1889, when the monarchy was replaced by a republic.

On 6 February 1889 the Bangu Textile Factory was founded, with the name of Industrial Progress Company of Brazil (Companhia Progresso Industrial do Brasil). The factory was officially opened on 8 March 1893, in a complex with varying architectural styles like Italianate, Neo-Gothic and a tower in Mansard Roof style. After the opening in 1893, workers from Great Britain arrived in Bangu to work in the textile factory. The old farms became worker villages with red-bricks houses, and a neo-gothic church was created, which still exists as the Saint Sebastian and Saint Cecilia Parish Church. Street cinemas and cultural buildings also appeared. In May 1894, Thomas Donohoe, a British worker from Busby, Scotland, arrived in Bangu.[24]

Donohoe was horrified to discover that there was absolutely no knowledge of football among Brazilians. So he wrote to his wife, Elizabeth, asking her to bring a football when she joined him. And shortly after her arrival, in September 1894, the first football match in Brazil took place in the field beside the textile factory. It was a five-a-side match between British workers, and took place six months before the first game organized by Charles Miller in São Paulo. However, the Bangu Football Club was not formally created until 1904.[25]

Republican period

Rio de Janeiro, ca.1910s
The Sugarloaf cable car between the 1940s and 1950s
A convoy of tanks along the streets of the city in 1968 during the military rule. At the time, Rio de Janeiro was a city-state, capital of Guanabara.

At the time Brazil's Old Republic was established, the city lacked urban planning and sanitation, which helped spread several diseases, such as yellow fever, dysentery, variola, tuberculosis and even black death. Pereira Passos, who was named mayor in 1902, imposed reforms to modernize the city, demolishing the cortiços where most of the poor population lived. These people, mostly descendants of slaves, then moved to live in the city's hills, creating the first favelas.[26] Inspired by the city of Paris, Passos built the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the National Library in the city's center; brought electric power to Rio and created larger avenues to adapt the city to automobiles.[27] Passos also named Dr. Oswaldo Cruz as Director General of Public Health. Cruz's plans to clean the city of diseases included compulsory vaccination of the entire population and forced entry into houses to kill mosquitos and rats. The people of the city rebelled against Cruz's policy, in what would be known as the Vaccine Revolt.[28]

In 1910, Rio saw the Revolt of the Lash, where Afro-Brazilian crew members in the Brazilian Navy mutinied against the heavy use of corporal punishment, which was similar to the punishment slaves received. The mutineers took control of the battleship Minas Geraes and threatened to fire on the city. Another military revolt occurred in 1922, the 18 of the Copacabana Fort revolt, a march against the Old Republic's coronelism and café com leite politics. This revolt marked the beginning of Tenentism, a movement that resulted in the Brazilian Revolution of 1930 that started the Vargas Era.

Until the early years of the 20th century, the city was largely limited to the neighbourhood now known as the historic city centre (see below), on the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The city's centre of gravity began to shift south and west to the so-called Zona Sul (South Zone) in the early part of the 20th century, when the first tunnel was built under the mountains between Botafogo and the neighbourhood that is now known as Copacabana. Expansion of the city to the north and south was facilitated by the consolidation and electrification of Rio's streetcar transit system after 1905.[29] Botafogo's natural environment, combined with the fame of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the luxury hotel of the Americas in the 1930s, helped Rio to gain the reputation it still holds today as a beach party town. This reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years by favela violence resulting from the narcotics trade and militias.[30]

Plans for moving the nation's capital city from Rio de Janeiro to the centre of Brazil had been occasionally discussed, and when Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president in 1955, it was partially on the strength of promises to build a new capital.[31] Though many thought that it was just campaign rhetoric, Kubitschek managed to have Brasília and a new Federal District built, at great cost, by 1960. On 21 April of that year, the capital of Brazil was officially moved to Brasília. The territory of the former Federal District became its own state, Guanabara, after the bay that borders it to the east, encompassing just the city of Rio de Janeiro. After the 1964 coup d'état that installed a military dictatorship, the city-state was the only state left in Brazil to oppose the military. Then, in 1975, a presidential decree known as "The Fusion" removed the city's federative status and merged it with the State of Rio de Janeiro, with the city of Rio de Janeiro replacing Niterói as the state's capital, and establishing the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region.[32]

In 1992, Rio hosted the Earth Summit, a United Nations conference to fight environmental degradation. Twenty years later, in 2012, the city hosted another conference on sustainable development, named United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The city hosted the World Youth Day in 2013, the second World Youth Day in South America and first in Brazil. In the sports field, Rio de Janeiro was the host of the 2007 Pan American Games and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final. On 2 October 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2016 Paralympic Games, beating competitors Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid. The city became the first South American city to host the event and the second Latin American city (after Mexico City in 1968) to host the Games.

Rio de Janeiro at night in 2013.

Rio de Janeiro History articles: 101


Rio de Janeiro is on the far western part of a strip of Brazil's Atlantic coast (between a strait east to Ilha Grande, on the Costa Verde, and the Cabo Frio), close to the Tropic of Capricorn, where the shoreline is oriented east–west. Facing largely south, the city was founded on an inlet of this stretch of the coast, Guanabara Bay (Baía de Guanabara), and its entrance is marked by a point of land called Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar) – a "calling card" of the city.[33]

The centre (Centro), the core of Rio, lies on the plains of the western shore of Guanabara Bay. The greater portion of the city, commonly referred to as the North Zone (Zona Norte, Rio de Janeiro [pt]), extends to the northwest on plains composed of marine and continental sediments and on hills and several rocky mountains. The South Zone (Zona Sul) of the city, reaching the beaches fringing the open sea, is cut off from the centre and from the North Zone by coastal mountains. These mountains and hills are offshoots of the Serra do Mar to the northwest, the ancient gneiss-granite mountain chain that forms the southern slopes of the Brazilian Highlands. The large West Zone (Zona Oeste), long cut off by the mountainous terrain, had been made more easily accessible to those on the South Zone by new roads and tunnels by the end of the 20th century.[34]

The population of the city of Rio de Janeiro, occupying an area of 1,182.3 square kilometres (456.5 sq mi),[35] is about 6,000,000.[36] The population of the greater metropolitan area is estimated at 11–13.5 million. Residents of the city are known as cariocas. The official song of Rio is "Cidade Maravilhosa", by composer André Filho.


Parque Lage with Corcovado in the background
Arches in the Botanical Garden

The city has parks and ecological reserves such as the Tijuca National Park, the world's first urban forest and UNESCO Environmental Heritage and Biosphere Reserve; Pedra Branca State Park, which houses the highest point of Rio de Janeiro, the peak of Pedra Branca; the Quinta da Boa Vista complex; the Botanical Garden;[37] Rio's Zoo; Parque Lage; and the Passeio Público, the first public park in the Americas.[38] In addition the Flamengo Park is the largest landfill in the city, extending from the center to the south zone, and containing museums and monuments, in addition to much vegetation.


Due to the high concentration of industries in the metropolitan region, the city has faced serious problems of environmental pollution. The Guanabara Bay has lost mangrove areas and suffers from residues from domestic and industrial sewage, oils and heavy metals. Although its waters renew when they reach the sea, the bay is the final receiver of all the tributaries generated along its banks and in the basins of the many rivers and streams that flow into it. The levels of particulate matter in the air are twice as high as that recommended by the World Health Organization, in part because of the large numbers of vehicles in circulation.[39]

The waters of Sepetiba Bay are slowly following the path traced by Guanabara Bay, with sewage generated by a population of the order of 1.29 million inhabitants being released without treatment in streams or rivers. With regard to industrial pollution, highly toxic wastes, with high concentrations of heavy metals – mainly zinc and cadmium – have been dumped over the years by factories in the industrial districts of Santa Cruz, Itaguaí and Nova Iguaçu, constructed under the supervision of State policies.[40]

The Marapendi lagoon and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon have suffered with the leniency of the authorities and the growth in the number of apartment buildings close by. The illegal discharge of sewage and the consequent deaths of algae diminished the oxygenation of the waters, causing fish mortality.[41][42]

There are, on the other hand, signs of decontamination in the lagoon made through a public-private partnership established in 2008 to ensure that the lagoon waters will eventually be suitable for bathing. The decontamination actions involve the transfer of sludge to large craters present in the lagoon itself, and the creation of a new direct and underground connection with the sea, which will contribute to increase the daily water exchange between the two environments. However, during the Olympics the lagoon hosted the rowing competitions and there were numerous concerns about potential infection resulting from human sewage.[43]

Panorama of the city of Rio de Janeiro highlighting the mountains of Corcovado (left), Sugarloaf (center, background) and Two Brothers (right), from the Chinese Belvedere


View of Rio de Janeiro from Niterói
View of the Marina da Glória

Rio has a tropical savanna climate (Aw) that closely borders a tropical monsoon climate (Am) according to the Köppen climate classification, and is often characterized by long periods of heavy rain between December and March.[44] The city experiences hot, humid summers, and warm, sunny winters. In inland areas of the city, temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) are common during the summer, though rarely for long periods, while maximum temperatures above 27 °C (81 °F) can occur on a monthly basis.

Along the coast, the breeze, blowing onshore and offshore, moderates the temperature. Because of its geographic situation, the city is often reached by cold fronts advancing from Antarctica, especially during autumn and winter, causing frequent weather changes. In summer there can be strong rains, which have, on some occasions, provoked catastrophic floods and landslides. The mountainous areas register greater rainfall since they constitute a barrier to the humid wind that comes from the Atlantic.[45] The city has had rare frosts in the past. Some areas within Rio de Janeiro state occasionally have falls of snow grains and ice pellets (popularly called granizo) and hail.[46][47][48]

Drought is very rare, albeit bound to happen occasionally given the city's strongly seasonal tropical climate. The Brazilian drought of 2014–2015, most severe in the Southeast Region and the worst in decades, affected the entire metropolitan region's water supply (a diversion from the Paraíba do Sul River to the Guandu River is a major source for the state's most populous mesoregion). There were plans to divert the Paraíba do Sul to the Sistema Cantareira (Cantareira system) during the water crisis of 2014 in order to help the critically drought-stricken Greater São Paulo area. However, availability of sufficient rainfall to supply tap water to both metropolitan areas in the future is merely speculative.[49][50][51]

Roughly in the same suburbs (Nova Iguaçu and surrounding areas, including parts of Campo Grande and Bangu) that correspond to the location of the March 2012, February–March 2013 and January 2015 pseudo-hail (granizo) falls, there was a tornado-like phenomenon in January 2011, for the first time in the region's recorded history, causing structural damage and long-lasting blackouts, but no fatalities.[52][53] The World Meteorological Organization has advised that Brazil, especially its southeastern region, must be prepared for increasingly severe weather occurrences in the near future, since events such as the catastrophic January 2011 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides are not an isolated phenomenon. In early May 2013, winds registering above 90 km/h (56 mph) caused blackouts in 15 neighborhoods of the city and three surrounding municipalities, and killed one person.[54] Rio saw similarly high winds (about 100 km/h (62 mph)) in January 2015.[55] The average annual minimum temperature is 21 °C (70 °F),[56] the average annual maximum temperature is 27 °C (81 °F),[57] and the average annual temperature is 24 °C (75 °F).[58] The average yearly precipitation is 1,069 mm (42.1 in).[59]

Leblon neighborhood

Temperature also varies according to elevation, distance from the coast, and type of vegetation or land use. During the winter, cold fronts and dawn/morning sea breezes bring mild temperatures; cold fronts, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (in the form of winds from the Amazon Forest), the strongest sea-borne winds (often from an extratropical cyclone) and summer evapotranspiration bring showers or storms. Thus the monsoon-like climate has dry and mild winters and springs, and very wet and warm summers and autumns. As a result, temperatures over 40 °C (104 °F), that may happen about year-round but are much more common during the summer, often mean the actual temperature feeling is over 50 °C (122 °F), when there is little wind and the relative humidity percentage is high.[60][61][62][63]

Rio de Janeiro is second only to Cuiabá as the hottest Brazilian state capital outside Northern and Northeastern Brazil; temperatures below 14 °C (57 °F) occur yearly, while those lower than 11 °C (52 °F) happen less often. The phrase, fazer frio ("making cold", i.e. "the weather is getting cold"), usually refers to temperatures going below 21 °C (70 °F), which is possible year-round and is commonplace in mid-to-late autumn, winter and early spring nights.

Between 1961 and 1990, at the INMET (Brazilian National Institute of Meteorology) conventional station in the neighborhood of Saúde, the lowest temperature recorded was 10.1 °C (50.2 °F) in October 1977,[64] and the highest temperature recorded was 39 °C (102.2 °F) in December 1963.[65] The highest accumulated rainfall in 24 hours was 167.4 mm (6.6 in) in January 1962.[66] However, the absolute minimum temperature ever recorded at the INMET Jacarepaguá station was 3.8 °C (38.8 °F) in July 1974,[64] while the absolute maximum was 43.2 °C (110 °F) on 26 December 2012[67] in the neighborhood of the Santa Cruz station. The highest accumulated rainfall in 24 hours, 186.2 mm (7.3 in), was recorded at the Santa Teresa station in April 1967.[66] The lowest temperature ever registered in the 21st century was 8.1 °C (46.6 °F) in Vila Militar, July 2011.[68]

Climate data for Rio de Janeiro (station of Saúde, 1961—1990)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 40.9
Average high °C (°F) 30.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.3
Average low °C (°F) 23.3
Record low °C (°F) 17.7
Average rainfall mm (inches) 137.1
Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 11 7 8 9 6 6 4 5 7 9 10 11 93
Average relative humidity (%) 79 79 80 80 80 79 77 77 79 80 79 80 79.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 211.9 201.3 206.4 181.0 186.3 175.1 188.6 184.8 146.2 152.1 168.5 179.6 2,181.8
Source: Brazilian National Institute of Meteorology (INMET).[56][57][58][59][64][65][69][70][71]

City districts

Municipality of Rio de Janeiro and its division into zones and neighborhoods
  West Zone
  North Zone
  South Zone
  Central Zone

The city is commonly divided into the historic center (Centro); the tourist-friendly wealthier South Zone (Zona Sul); the residential less wealthy North Zone (Zona Norte); peripheries in the West Zone (Zona Oeste), among them Santa Cruz, Campo Grande and the wealthy newer Barra da Tijuca district.

Central Zone

Aerial view of Downtown Rio

Centro or Downtown is the historic core of the city, as well as its financial centre. Sites of interest include the Paço Imperial, built during colonial times to serve as a residence for the Portuguese governors of Brazil; many historic churches, such as the Candelária Church (the former cathedral), São Jose, Santa Lucia, Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Santa Rita, São Francisco de Paula, and the monasteries of Santo Antônio and São Bento. The Centro also houses the modern concrete Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. Around the Cinelândia square, there are several landmarks of the Belle Époque of Rio, such as the Municipal Theatre and the National Library building.

Among its several museums, the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) and the Museu Histórico Nacional (National Historical Museum) are the most important. Other important historical attractions in central Rio include its Passeio Público, an 18th-century public garden. Major streets include Avenida Rio Branco and Avenida Vargas, both constructed, in 1906 and 1942 respectively, by destroying large swaths of the colonial city. A number of colonial streets, such as Rua do Ouvidor and Uruguaiana, have long been pedestrian spaces, and the popular Saara shopping district has been pedestrianized more recently. Also located in the center is the traditional neighbourhood called Lapa, an important bohemian area frequented by both townspeople and tourists.

Carioca Aqueduct, also called "Arcos da Lapa" (Lapa Arches)

South Zone

Fort Copacabana, with Ipanema (background) and Copacabana (right)
Cablecar arriving at Sugarloaf

The South Zone of Rio de Janeiro (Zona Sul) is composed of several districts, among which are São Conrado, Leblon, Ipanema, Arpoador, Copacabana, and Leme, which compose Rio's famous Atlantic beach coastline. Other districts in the South Zone are Glória, Catete, Flamengo, Botafogo, and Urca, which border Guanabara Bay, and Santa Teresa, Cosme Velho, Laranjeiras, Humaitá, Lagoa, Jardim Botânico, and Gávea. It is the wealthiest part of the city and the best known overseas; the neighborhoods of Leblon and Ipanema, in particular, have the most expensive real estate in all of South America.

The neighbourhood of Copacabana beach hosts one of the world's most spectacular New Year's Eve parties ("Reveillon"), as more than two million revelers crowd onto the sands to watch the fireworks display. From 2001, the fireworks have been launched from boats, to improve the safety of the event.[72]

To the north of Leme, and at the entrance to Guanabara Bay, is the district of Urca and the Sugarloaf Mountain ('Pão de Açúcar'), whose name describes the famous mountain rising out of the sea. The summit can be reached via a two-stage cable car trip from Praia Vermelha, with the intermediate stop on Morro da Urca. It offers views of the city second only to Corcovado mountain. Hang gliding is a popular activity on the Pedra Bonita (literally, "Beautiful Rock"). After a short flight, gliders land on the Praia do Pepino (Pepino, or "cucumber", Beach) in São Conrado.

Since 1961, the Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca), the largest city-surrounded urban forest and the second largest urban forest in the world, has been a National Park. The largest urban forest in the world is the Floresta da Pedra Branca (White Rock Forest), which is located in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro.[73]

The Pontifical Catholic University of Rio (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro or PUC-Rio), Brazil's top private university, is located at the edge of the forest, in the Gávea district. The 1984 film Blame It on Rio was filmed nearby, with the rental house used by the story's characters sitting at the edge of the forest on a mountain overlooking the famous beaches. In 2012, CNN elected Ipanema the best city beach in the world.[74]

Rio as seen from Pão de Açúcar.

North Zone

The iconic Maracanã Stadium
Palace of São Cristóvão, the former residence of the Emperors of Brazil, was the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, at Quinta da Boa Vista, located in São Cristóvão imperial neighbourhood.

The North Zone (Zona Norte) begins at Grande Tijuca (the middle class residential and commercial bairro of Tijuca), just west of the city center, and sprawls for miles inland until Baixada Fluminense and the city's Northwest.

This region is home to the Maracanã stadium (located in Grande Tijuca), once the world's highest capacity football venue, able to hold nearly 199,000 people, as it did for the World Cup final of 1950. More recently its capacity has been reduced to conform with modern safety regulations and the stadium has introduced seating for all fans. Currently undergoing reconstruction, it now has the capacity for 90,000; it will eventually hold around 80,000 people. Maracanã was the site for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and football competition of the 2007 Pan American Games; hosted the final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the football matches of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Besides Maracanã, the North Zone of Rio also has other tourist and historical attractions, such "Nossa Senhora da Penha de França Church", the Christ the Redeemer (statue) with its stairway built into the rock bed, 'Manguinhos', the home of Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, a centenarian biomedical research institution with a main building fashioned like a Moorish palace, and the Quinta da Boa Vista, the park where the historic Imperial Palace is located. Nowadays, the palace hosts the National Museum, specialising in Natural History, Archaeology, and Ethnology. The International Airport of Rio de Janeiro (Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, named after the famous Brazilian musician Antônio Carlos Jobim), the main campus of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro at the Fundão Island, and the State University of Rio de Janeiro, in Maracanã, are also located in the Northern part of Rio.

This region is also home to most of the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro such as Mangueira, Salgueiro, Império Serrano, Unidos da Tijuca, Imperatriz Leopoldinense, among others. Some of the main neighbourhoods of Rio's North Zone are Alto da Boa Vista which shares the Tijuca Rainforest with the South and Southwest Zones; Tijuca, Vila Isabel, Méier, São Cristovão, Madureira, Penha, Manguinhos, Fundão, Olaria among others. Many of Rio de Janeiro's roughly 1000 slums, or favelas, are located in the North Zone.[75] The favelas resemble the slums of Paris, New York or other major cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and Europe, or similar neighborhoods in present underdeveloped countries.

West Zone

Aqueduct built in the 18th century, as was the entire historic complex of the Colônia Juliano Moreira inside Pedra Branca State Park in Taquara

West Zone (Zona Oeste) of Rio de Janeiro is a vaguely defined area that covers some 50% of the city's entire area, including Barra da Tijuca and Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhoods. The West Side of Rio has many historic sites because of the old "Royal Road of Santa Cruz" that crossed the territory in the regions of Realengo, Bangu, and Campo Grande, finishing at the Royal Palace of Santa Cruz in the Santa Cruz region. The highest peak of the city of Rio de Janeiro is the Pedra Branca Peak (Pico da Pedra Branca) inside the Pedra Branca State Park. It has an altitude of 1024m. The Pedra Branca State Park (Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca)[76] is the biggest urban state park in the world comprising 17 neighborhoods in the west side, being a "giant lung" in the city with trails,[77] waterfalls and historic constructions like an old aqueduct in the Colônia Juliano Moreira[78] in the neighborhood of Taquara and a dam in Camorim. The park has three principal entrances: the main one is in Taquara called Pau da Fome Core, another entrance is the Piraquara Core in Realengo and the last one is the Camorim Core, considered the cultural heritage of the city.

Santa Cruz and Campo Grande Region have exhibited economic growth, mainly in the Campo Grande neighborhood. Industrial enterprises are being built in lower and lower middle class residential Santa Cruz, one of the largest and most populous of Rio de Janeiro's neighbourhoods, most notably Ternium Brasil, a new steel mill with its own private docks on Sepetiba Bay, which is planned to be South America's largest steel works.[79] A tunnel called Túnel da Grota Funda, opened in 2012, creating a public transit facility between Barra da Tijuca and Santa Cruz, lessening travel time to the region from other areas of Rio de Janeiro.[80]

Barra da Tijuca region

Barra da Tijuca with Pedra da Gávea in background

This is an elite area of the West Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro. It includes Barra da Tijuca, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Vargem Grande, Vargem Pequena, Grumari, Itanhangá, Camorim and Joá. Westwards from the older zones of Rio, Barra da Tijuca is a flat complex of barrier islands of formerly undeveloped coastal land, which constantly experiences new constructions and developments. It remains an area of accelerated growth, attracting some of the richer sectors of the population as well as luxury companies. High rise flats and sprawling shopping centers give the area a far more modern feel than the crowded city centre.

The urban planning of the area, completed in the late 1960s, mixes zones of single-family houses with residential skyscrapers. The beaches of Barra da Tijuca are also popular with the residents from other parts of the city. One of the most famous hills in the city is the 842-metre-high (2,762-foot) Pedra da Gávea (Crow's nest Rock) bordering the South Zone. On the top of its summit is a huge rock formation (some, such as Erich von Däniken in his 1973 book, In Search of Ancient Gods, claim it to be a sculpture) resembling a sphinx-like, bearded head that is visible for many kilometres around.

Rio de Janeiro Geography articles: 138