So I landed in Rio de Janeiro, for two weeks, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. I have been in Rio countless times, but always discovering new locations, hotels, restaurants and attractions. These are some of my findings during my recent visit. Also see all my minute-to-minute past/current/future posts and experiences in Rio de Janeiro.
I came to Rio de Janeiro, commissioned by my corporate client NBCUniversal, to create bespoke experiences for the VIP guests and executives during the course of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Two full weeks of hard work, but also with time to explore the city on my own and discover new options to share with you all.
I was lucky enough to take part of most of the main Olympic events, like the Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium and some of the Gymnastics Competition at the Olympic Village.
Rio de Janeiro is destination with such sex-appeal and so many layers to be explored. Of course during my time either working or on my own private time, I have enjoyed most of them. Of course during my time there, I came 4 times to the Corcovado to see the Christ Redeemer on a private experience we’ve created for our guests. Or spent time walking by Botafogo overlooking the Bay of Guanabara , Urca and the Sugar Loaf or walking by Copacabana and Ipanema Beach while enjoying a fresh coconut. But most of you know this side of Rio de Janeiro.
I had to repeat some of the top experiences I have scouted in the past, for my clients to enjoy and embrace the soul of the Carioca spirit. One of them, which BTW I strongly recommend, is the behind the scenes Samba City Experience, where you can see the world of Samba from the backstage. My choice is Escola de Samba Pimpolhos da Grande Rio. See more here. Nobody should leave Rio de Janeiro, without at least mastering a few basic Samba moves.
Also, an obligated stop, is always Lasai Restaurant, which we privatized for our group, for the opening Gala Dinner. A MUST try when in Rio de Janeiro.
But enough with the basics – which you can read more on my previous posts on Rio de Janeiro – and on to the new discoveries. It is not a secret, that my favorite district in all Rio de Janeiro, is Santa Teresa. A bohemian enclave, located atop Morro Santa Teresa. Originally an upper class borough famous for its winding, narrow streets and many opulent villas. Santa Teresa aristocratic past is long gone,but it has been revived as a fashionable hotspot. Home to several artists and art studios and galleries. The offer of restaurants and bars is also varied. Most of you might have heard of Aprazivel Restaurant, a lovely local gourmet option with panoramic views. But during my last visit, I’ve discovered some alternative options, which I consider most original and charming.
First was Espirito Santa Restaurant by Chef Natacha Fink. where you can not only try the traditional Moqueca, but also amazing fresh options and traditional recipes from the Amazons, created using international gourmet techniques. And trust me, the fusion is impeccable.
Another fantastic option, only steps away, will be Bar do Mineiro Restaurant. Perhaps this one more local and daunting, if you venture to try the classic Feijoada.
Make sure to spend sometime exploring the center of Santa Teresa, it is very interesting and its bohemian personality is rather contagious. Just walk around and do not forget to visit the famous Escadaria Selaron ( the famous stairs of Santa Teresa ). Once ready to move on, get back to the center of Santa Teresa, to take the Tram all the way to Lapa and thought the aqueducts dating from the 18th century. Next stop upon arrival to the Lapa Tram Station, would be the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, only five minutes walk away.
The Tram service in Santa Teresa is free of charge, and it will take you on a 10 minutes ride, from Morro Santa Teresa, all the way down to Lapa neighborhood and Terminal Tram Station, after crossing the Lapa Aqueducts. The tram has been designated a national historic monument and it ranks as one of the oldest city trams in the world plus the oldest electric railway in all of Latin America.
The Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, better known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro. Designed by Edgar Fonseca in a modern style based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids. Built between 1964 and 1979.
But the adventure continues, if you wish to do so. Next take a stroll across Downtown all the way to the new district of Puerto Maravilha. There you will find the Museu do Amanha, by Santiago Calatrava. ( I strongly recommend buying your tickets for the Museum online ).
Sunset was about to hit, it was time to look for the best options to enjoy a beer o r caipirinha, with an amazing view, followed by a nice meal. And, indeed, I found two options, totally new to me. The first one very casual and simple, but featuring stunning sunset and panoramic view at the Forte de Copacabana at Copacabana Beach. The second one, more formal at the brand new Hotel Yoo2 Rio in Botafogo.
As I’ve said, I have been many times to Rio de Janeiro, and have never before paid attention to the Forte de Copacabana, at the end of Copacabana Beach towards Apoador and Ipanema Beach. And wow, I could not believe how I have missed this place for so many years. What I did like most about it, is that like me, many other tourist are not even aware of it, therefore it is very quiet. Since it was still early, and sunset still was minutes away from hitting Copacabana Beach, I decided to explore the Forte de Copacabana, which was very interesting.
OK – 5.30PM and it was the perfect time to seat over a chilled local beer and some of my favorite cod fish balls with lime, and enjoy the sunset. Of course after sunset, once it got dark and the lamps went on, we stayed there over Caipirinhas and shrimp moquecas till 10PM. There are two restaurants, and you may choose the one that is best to your liking.
The other options I tried, on a different evening, was this time the Rooftop overlooking Botafogo, the Sugar Loaf and the Christ Redeemer, followed by dinner at their restaurant, at the brand new Yoo2 Hotel Rio in Botafogo. The hotel is lovely, the rooftop is fantastic with a nice menu of Tapas and drinks. The restaurant, on the other hand, hmmmm nothing special to be honest, decent food but totally forgettable. Let’s give them sometime to settle-down, since they have just opened.
Another day was about to begin. The sun was rising and I was awake for an exciting – still way too early – morning, scouting new venues to host a private Champagne Brunch with breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro. Not an easy task, but we did find the perfect one, and I must say, it is my new hotel crush in Rio de Janeiro.
The rest of my time in Rio de Janeiro, went along reining the world of luxury travel – literally, planing unique and bespoke travel experiences for my clients. Oh yes … and also eating as many Cod Fish fried balls as I could… ha ha ha ….
Was time to say goodbye to Rio de Janeiro and head to my next destination…. Quite an experience attending my first ever Olympics Games.
By Carlos Melia – Full Story at the Carlos Melia Blog
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