Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), Erre Jota (RJ), Rio 40 Graus (Rio 100 Degrees), these are the various nicknames for the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. The city is best known for its beautiful beaches, samba, caipirinhas, and carnaval. We have all seen pictures of Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, and Ipanema Beach. They are, of course, must-see places for first time visitors but I am also here to tell you that there is more to Rio de Janeiro than the postcard images. Here are a few awesome locations not featured in the travel guidebooks.
Pedra Do Sal
The samba circle at Pedra Do Sal is the best known location to check out authentic samba music. It is located in the northern part of the city in the town of Saúde. The town of Saúde was founded by immigrants, mostly freed slaves, from the northern state of Bahia. With them they brought their religious practice Candomblé and the sounds of samba. Pedra do Sal became the community’s main social gathering space where religious and cultural events occurred. The samba circle of Pedra do Sal is one of these events that became a tradition in the town of Saúde. Nowadays you can find Cariocas (Rio de Janeiro natives) and tourists alike dancing and singing at Pedra do Sal. The roda (circle) takes place on Monday nights. It is the perfect location to get to know the locals and to practice your samba skills.
Uruguaiana Market is the place to go to buy your souvenirs and cangas (beach sarongs) at a much cheaper price compared to Copacabana. The market extends a few miles across downtown of Rio de Janeiro. You will find everything you can think of at this market; clothes, shoes, sunglasses, bikinis, fake iPhones – like I said, everything. It is also a very popular location to buy outfits and accessories for carnaval. It is crowded, it is hectic, but it is one unique cultural experience.
Ilha de Paqueta
If you want a break from the hustle and bustle of the city head over to Ilha de Paqueta. The island is a car free zone where residents get around in bicycles and horse-drawn carriages. Take time to walk through the cobblestone streets, admire the architecture, eat some delicious acai, or sit on a bench to admire the view of the ocean. The island is pretty small and you can walk through it in a day but do arrive early as shops and restaurants close at about 5 p.m. You can reach Ilha de Paqueta by taking a ferry from downtown Rio.
Feira de São Cristóvão
Feira de São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher Fair) is a one of a kind market located in the northern zone of Rio. The fair is best known for bringing Northeastern Brazilian culture to Rio de Janeiro. The northeastern region of Brazil is known for its forro music (similar to country music), authentic sea food plates, and strong cachaça (Brazil’s sugarcane alcohol). There are hundreds of shops selling all types of food, sweets, and crafts. You don’t have to leave Rio de Janeiro to get a taste of what the Northeast is like. If you want to party with live forro music go on a weekend and get ready to eat a lot of delicious food.
These are just a few of the gems that I discovered during my time living in Rio de Janeiro. I hope that if you decide to visit them you will be able to see the diversity and cultural richness the city has to offer!