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Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro ("River of January") is the name of both a state and a city in southeastern Brazil. The city is famous for the hotel-lined tourist beaches Copacabana and Ipanema, for the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer ("Cristo Redentor") on the Corcovado mountain, and for its yearly Carnival celebration.

The bay where Rio de Janeiro is located (Guanabara) was discovered by Europeans on January 1, 1502, by a Portuguese explorer Gaspar de Lemos; he named it "Rio" because he thought it was a river mouth rather than a bay.

The city of Rio de Janeiro was founded on March 1, 1565.

Rio de Janeiro was Brazil's capital from 1764 to 1960, when the government was transferred to Brasilia, but remains the second biggest city in the country, after São Paulo.

The city is commonly divided into the historic downtown (Centro), the more touristic South Zone, with world-famous beaches, the industrial North Zone, and the newer Barra da Tijuca region.

The city will be the site of 2007 Pan American Games in 13-29 July 2007, with some of the world´s most famous sites hosting the events. Copacabana beach will be the site of the Triathlon and Beach Volleyball, and Yachting competitions will be held in Guanabara Bay. The city is building a new stadium near the Maracanã, to hold 85 thousand people. It will be named after ex-FIFA president João Havelange.

Table of contents
1 Centro
2 South Zone
3 North Zone
4 Barra da Tijuca
5 Favelas
6 Carnival


Centro is the historic downtown of the city. Sites of interest include both the historic Church of the Candelaria and the modern-style cathedral, the Municipal Theater, and several museums. Centro remains the heart of the city's business community. The "Bondinho", a trolley car, leaves from a downtown station, crosses a former Roman-style aquaduct, and rambles through the hilly streets of the Santa Teresa neighborhood nearby.

South Zone

The neighborhood of Copacabana beach boasts one of the world's most spectacular New Year's Eve parties, as more than two million revellers crowd onto the sands to watch the firework display. As of 2001, the fireworks have been launched from boats, since the previous launch site of the beach has caused several fatalities.

At the end of Copacabana lies the Sugarloaf Mountain ("Pão de Açúcar"), whose name characterises the famous hump rising out of the sea. The top can be reached via cable car, and offers views second only to Corcovado mountain. The tallest mountain in the city, however, at 842m, is the Pedra da Gávea (Topsail Rock) in São Conrado. Hang gliding is a popular activity on a nearby peak - after a short flight, they land on the Praia do Pepino beach.

A night view of the Botafogo inlet with the moon shining above the Sugar Loaf, by João T.R. de Freitas.

North Zone

The North Zone of Rio is home to the Maracanã stadium, once the world's highest capacity football venue, able to hold nearly 200,000 people. In modern times, the capacity has been reduced because of unsafe areas, and the introduction of seating for all fans. Currently undergoing renovation, it will eventually hold 80,000. Maracanã is the site of Ceremonies and Soccer of the 2007 Games.

Barra da Tijuca

To the west of the older zones is Barra da Tijuca, a flat expanse of formerly undeveloped coastal land, which is currently experiencing a wave of new construction. High rise apartments and sprawling shopping malls give the area a far more Americanized feel than the crowded city center (Centro). Land is cheaper and crime is lower out here, and many businesses are moving to take advantage of this. The large beaches of Barra da Tijuca are also popular with the city's residents. Barra da Tijuca is the home of Pan-American Village for the 2007 Pan American Games.


A large percentage of the city's 13 million inhabitants live in areas of poor quality housing known as favelas, often crowded onto the hillsides where sturdy buildings are difficult to build, and accidents, mainly from heavy rainfall, are frequent. Favelas are often troubled by drug related crime and gang warfare.


The carnival Escolas de Samba parades in the sambodrome ("sambódromo").