An empty hammock is always an invitation, and this one was more enticing than most. Slung low across the beach house decking, it was designed in the Brazilian style: a king- sized swathe of cream cotton fringed with decorative crochet.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Brazil.
JUST WAIT WHILE WE GRAB OUR BEDAZZLED FEATHER HEADDRESS.
That’s the spirit. There’s nothing for it but to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the hedonism that is the world’s biggest, brightest, loudest carnival street party.
THESE BRAZILIANS CERTAINLY KNOW HOW TO PARTY.
So much so that the prospect of 40 days of good behaviour over Lent sends locals into a last-ditch party planning frenzy. Before everyone is expected to better themselves, they let it all hang out with music, massive parades, lots of drinking and non-stop dancing.
CAN WE GET INVOLVED EVEN IF WE CAN’T CARRY OFF THE WHOLE FEATHERED-BIKINI LOOK?
So long as you’re prepared to move to a samba beat, no one is going to stop you. Most visitors join in on a bloco (street party) where a band of drummers leads people through the streets in a non-stop dance off. You may be asked to colourcoordinate your t-shirt but won’t be required to strip down to next to nothing. Be warned, however: the music may make you do things you never dreamed of. Anything goes.
A 20th-century city of pure invention, Brasllia is the realization of a seemingly impossible dream. President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira ( 1956-60) was elected partly on the bas is of his highly ambitious pledge to move the capital of Brazil746 miles (1,200 km) inland, from Rio de Janeiro into the country’s empty center, before the end of his first term. This was miraculously achieved by the tens of thousands of workers who created the specially built city from an area of scrubland. The principal public buildings, which include a cathedral, are strikingly designed. Brasilia fulfilled Kubitschek’s ambition to develop the country’s interior and create a monument both to modern architecture and Brazil’s economic potential.
THE CITY’S LAYOUT
Brasilia’s unique design is referred to as the Pilot Plan. Urban planner Lucio Costa said he simply used a shape that followed the lie of the land He wanted to form a centralized, geometric plan to create an ideal city, and therefore an ideal society. The design is based on two axes: a Monumental Axis and a Residential Axis. Six wide avenues are intended to provide the grandeur of a capital city, with the Supreme Court, Congress Complex, and Presidential Palace (Planalto Palace) representing the balance of the three powers. The residential area is made up of “superblocks” — six-story apartment buildings, grouped to form neighborhood units.
In 1957, Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were announced as the winners of the competition launched to choose the urban design of Brasilia. Costa was responsible for the general design of Brasilia, but Niemeyer created the main buildings. Both were students of the modernist architect Le Corbusier, the father of functional, boxlike buildings. Costa has been criticized for not providing for public transportation, and for designing a city for 500,000 people that today houses two million residents, many living in slums. However, it is generally agreed that Niemeyer achieved his goal of creating a city with “harmony and a sense of occasion” with his powerful public buildings.
The vision of Oscar Niemeyer has become synonymous with the rise of modern Brazil. Born in 1907, Niemeyer graduated from Rio de Janeiro’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934 and collaborated with Lucio Costa and Le Corbusier on the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio. His style became more daring as he incorporated reinforced concrete into his buildings. He is probably best known for his designs for the main public buildings in Brasilia, such as the concave and convex domes of the National Congress, the simple yet evocative cathedral and the spectacular Palace of Justice. A pioneer of modern architecture, he has won numerous prizes.
The striking yet simple form of the cathedral provides Brasilia with a recognizable identity. An illusion of space is created in the interior by the circular floor being set below ground level and therefore lower than the entrance.
This contains a huge crucifix carved from a single piece of tropical cedarwood.
This unusual, egg-shaped building is said to be a representation of the host (sacramental bread). It is connected to the cathedral by a tunnel.
Oscar Niemeyer’s design symbolizes a crown of thorns, and consists of sixteen 131-ft (40-m) high concrete columns that suggest arms reaching toward the sky.
This is decorated with stained glass made from 16 pieces of painted fiberglass. Suspended from its ceiling are three floating angels by the Brazilian sculptor Alfredo Ceschiatti.
Light gilds the row of rectangular buildings standing sentrylike along the Esplanade of the Ministries. Each one is home to a different government department. In the distance is the Congress Complex.
Palace of Justice
This low-rise, unimposing building features water cascading between its delicate white arches. Nearby is a stone sculpture of the head of Juscelino Kubitschek.
The juxtaposition of the dishes and twin towers provides the dramatic, space-age silhouette that is a symbol of the city.
In augurated in 1981, this monument was built to honor the former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, whose tomb is housed here.
A PRIESTLY VISION
In 1883, an Italian priest named Dom Bosco had a vision about the future site of Brazil’s new capital. Each year, on the last Sunday in August, a procession in Brasilia celebrates the anniversary of his dream.
1956: Kubitschek is inaugurated as president of Brazil. A competition is bunched for the design of Brasilia.
1957: Construction of the city begins, based on Lucio Costa’s Pilot Plan.
1958: The foundation stone of the cathedral is laid; the building is consecrated in 1970.
1960: Brasilia is inaugurated on April 21 and becomes the capital city of Brazil.
1987: Brasilia is designed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Centro – Rio’s often-maligned historical centre has undergone a renaissance, thanks to the Olympics. The focus has been on the Porto Maravilha area, with the Museu do Amanha (‘Museum of Tomorrow’) extending from Maud Square into Guanabara Bay. The museum’s high-tech look at sustainability is ideal for families, but it’s the architecture that’s the real jaw-dropper — a sinuous Santiago Calatrava creation cantilevered over the water. On the other side of the square is the new Museu de Arte do Rio — the views from its sixth-floor terrace stretch as far as Niteroi. As the starting point for new tram lines, the Praca Maua is the hub of the ‘new’ Centro, luring weekend crowds to a city centre previously empty (and dodgy) outside of office hours.
Centro’s other main development is the area around Santos Dumont, the domestic airport overlooking Guanabara Bay. The newly revamped airport is now linked to a new shopping mall, while restaurant group Best Fork plans to turn the roof space into a vast Asian-themed restaurant and nightclub, opening at the end of 2016 with 360-degree city views. And it’s not just new-builds causing a stir in Centro; even traditional sites are getting in on the act. The Real Cabinete Portugues de Leitura, a colonial-era library, has just reopened after a refurb. And while many of the buildings from Rio’s past as Brazil’s capital have long been converted into art galleries, they’re pulling out the stops with blockbuster exhibitions this year — the Paco Imperial, for example, is currently hosting a Picasso exhibition.
Lagoa & Gavea – Lacking the knockout coastal views of Ipanema and Copacabana, the area around Rio’s lagoon has traditionally seen fewer visitors; but neighbouring areas Lagoa, Gavea and Jardim Botânico are now firmly in the global spotlight following the lagoon’s starring role as the rowing venue for the Games. A largely residential area — and a wealthy one at that — there are few hotels, but it’s worth staying here to see an entirely different side of the city. La Maison By Dussol, for instance, is a five-room boutique joint that spills down the steep hillside in Gâvea, with views of the mountains and Corcovado from the rooms, and Rocinha, the city’s largest favela, from the pretty garden.
This is also one of the best areas for shopping — from the Shopping da Gavea mall, filled with Brazilian labels, to Rua Lopes Quintas, which recently eclipsed Ipanema’s Rua Visconde de Pirajâ as the trendiest place to shop. In the past few years, former houses have been transformed into independent boutiques. They include Brir, whose beautiful handmade jewellery is Rio to the core — bright and outre, but beach-ready and laid-back — using materials like rope, string and beads instead of precious stones and metals. Sardina is another single-room shop in a first-floor apartment, with brightly patterned clothes made by the owner.
Dona Coisa, one of the first shops to colonise the street, has a huge stock of local designers’ clothes, accessories and homeware, and even launched its first menswear collection just in time for the Olympics. Oba!, meanwhile, is an architects studio-cum-children’s design store that’s definitely for grown-ups too, with furniture designed in-house, lighting (including lamps shaped like wellies and dogs), and cushions made from bright fabrics that owner, Leila Bittencourt, picks out on her travels.
Nightlife here revolves around the Jockey Club, Brazil’s largest racecourse, with race meetings on weekend afternoons and Monday and Friday evenings. The track is lined with some of the area’s best restaurants and bars — Palaphita is the place to go for drinks overlooking the course, while Rubaiyat Rio combines superb steak with astonishing views of the mountains and Corcovado beyond. Beside the paddock area, Prado.co is known for its weekday lunchtime buffet, showcasing dishes from five regions of Brazil.
Santa Teresa – Perched on a hill above the historical centre, boho Santa Teresa is getting more hipster by the day. And night, too — this, along with neighbouring Lapa (the two are connected by the 215-step Escadaria Selaron staircase) is the place to go for an evening of bar-hopping or a weekend retreat, as the locals prefer.
By day, there’s a laid-back, village feel to Santa Teresa’s brightly coloured, 18th-century villas and cobbled streets – by turn, artists’ studios (the Arte de Portas Abertas Festival, every July, involves around 80 local artists), bars and small boutiques. Baoba Brasil, which opened earlier this year, is a pop-up-style shop in the corner of a bar — its ‘urban Afro’ fashion takes fabrics from Mozambique and sews them into modern pieces, to eye-popping effect. It sits within Sao Joaquim, an armazem cultural (‘cultural grocer’) — a bar, restaurant, jazz venue and cultural centre.
Down the street is Cafecito, a restaurant-gallery in an old villa, with a coffee shop in the garden under an almond tree. Armazem Sâo Thiago—another former grocer’s, retaining its original 1920s style — is another popular stop, as is Aprazivel, a bar and restaurant styled like a treehouse. The views from here rival even those from Corcovado, and the best place to see them is the Parque das Ruinas, which offers sweeping views of the Sugarloaf, the Zona Sul and Guanabara Bay from a ruined villa repurposed as an art gallery. Next to it is the Museu da Chacarâ do Ceu, the former home of businessman Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya, now a museum preserving his art collection, which includes works by Modigliani, Picasso and Chagall. It reopened fully after renovations earlier in the summer.
While evenings in Santa Teresa revolve around Largo dos Guimarâes and Largo das Neves, down in Lapa, Rua do Lavradio is going from strength to strength as Rio’s alternative nightlife hub. A pedestrianised block is filled with offbeat bars such as Rio Scenarium (a samba venue in an antique-filled villa), Santo Scenarium (kitted out with religious art) and Atelie Belmonte, an antique shop by day and bar by night. Soon, there’ll be somewhere to stay within stumbling distance, too — next year, Le Paris By Dussol is set to open at the far end of the street.
Zona Sul – Most people, of course, come to Rio for the beaches, but step away from the sand and you’ll find there’s more to the Zona Sul (‘southern area’) than sand. The three main resort areas — Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana each has its own distinct personality. Copacabana has sunk far from its heyday, Ipanema works the young, trendy and LGBT scenes, while Leblon caters to a more sophisticated crowd, with some of the best restaurants in Rio. In Leblon, Giuseppe Grill is known for its booze (92 brands of cachaga and one of the finest wine lists in town) and its meat — it even serves its own signature cuts, like the picanha, a type of rump steak.
Fish is hyper-local, supplied by individual fishermen; several dishes are made from staff members’ family recipes; and the signature ‘Romeo and Juliet’ dessert (soft cheese with guava jam) is handmade by a housewife in Minas Gerais province. Other Leblon stand-outs line Rua Dias Ferreira, the main dining drag — Zuka is one option with a fantastic modern Brazilian menu. If Leblon is the place to eat, Ipanema is the place to shop. Rua Visconde de Pirajâ is Rio’s answer to Oxford Street—a never-ending strip of Brazilian stores, from skincare brand Granado, upmarket jeweller H Stern in Rio, Havaianas (which cost a fraction of the price they do in the UK) to a mini mall filled with bikini shops: Ipanema 2000, which includes Salinas (an iconic store said to stock the best bikinis on the planet) and Bumbum.
Trendy but longstanding is the way in Ipanema. The Philippe Starck-designed, Sao Paulo-operated Fasano has long been the most stylish hotel in Rio, with a rooftop pool and bar that’s open only to guests; locals walk the neon catwalk to the Baretto Londra bar, decorated with a giant Union Jack and rare rock ’n’ roll LPs on exposed brick walls, and the Fasano al Mare restaurant — an outpost of the legendary Sao Paulo restaurant—offers some of the best Italian food in town, with signature dishes including mozzarella-stuffed ravioli, as well as local fish. Two blocks away, the Casa da Feijoada was Rio’s first restaurant devoted Brazil’s national dish, feijoada (a stew of beans with beef and pork), when it opened in 1989, and it’s still going strong.
Welcome to Rio! The super-size statue of Christ the Redeemer embraces the Atlantic-side city, and will have the best seat in the house for the World Cup
Tipping the scales at 1,145 tonnes, Cristo Redentor – otherwise known as Christ the Redeemer – is a truly heavyweight travel icon. Soaring high above Rio de Janeiro, it is the world’s largest Art Deco statue and, in 2007, was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Cristo stands 30m tall, on an 8m pedestal, a mighty colossus atop Mount Corcovado. For those who navigate the mountain’s 130-year-old railway system and ascend to the statue itself, the rewards are obvious: sweeping views of Sugar Loaf Mountain, the South Atlantic Ocean and the Maracana Stadium.
Designed by Brazilian-born engineer-architect Heitor da Silva Costa, the statue represents Jesus watching over the city, blessing the land and its inhabitants. It has survived wind erosion, lightning strikes and graffiti to become one of the most enduring symbols of Christianity.
Getting around Rio on foot or by bike is relatively simple as many of the attractions are on the city’s well-pedestrianised south side.
The modest underground network (Metro Rio) is useful for accessing areas between Copacabana and Downtown.
There are a few options for accessing Christ the Redeemer. Cog trains depart every 30 minutes, 8am-8pm daily, from the Corcovado train station in Cosme Velho; journey time is 20 minutes. You can also go by van.
The fit might like to hike up – several (steep) trails lead through Tijuca National Park; the main trail takes around two hours. You still need to pay a statue entrance fee.
When you get to the top of Corcovado, you can either climb the 220 steps or take the lift/escalator to reach the statue’s main platform. The Chapel of Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Our Lady of the Apparition) is at the base of the statue, a place of Catholic pilgrimage as well as being used for small weddings and baptisms.
Sunset is atmospheric time to visit. After dark, floodlights illuminate the statue; during the World Cup, green and yellow floodlights are used, in support of the Brazilian team. To avoid big crowds, steer clear of religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
There’s an unwritten rule that when a full moon shines on the village of Caraiva, it’s lights out. Once a month, the 300 residents of this curious Brazilian beachside community synchronise their switch-off, so that their sandy streets are illuminated only by flickering candles and an ethereal lunar luminescence. Squeezed between the Atlantic and the Rio Caraiva, and hemmed in by Monte Pascoal National Park, this sleepy spot occupies a spit of land on Brazil’s east coast. Essentially cut off from the mainland and the modern world – there are no roads, cars or bridges, and electricity only arrived in 2008 – Caraiva has retained a sense of yesteryear. The hippies turned up in the 1970s as whispers spread of this secret, sundrenched idyll.
Its location on southern Bahia’s undeveloped coast has helped it remain off the radar but I’d heard rumours, and was lured by the promise of miles of pristine, deserted shores, quiet little towns and endangered indigenous peoples. The nearest city is Porto Seguro, 100km to the north. With guide Alex behind the wheel (driving a little too fast for comfort), we sped along unpaved roads passing infinite papaya plantations, fields of coffee and blink-and-miss-them villages with endearing names such as Vale Verde (Green Valley). “I holidayed in Caraiva as a child. Back then it took us three days to get there along this road – we were forever getting stuck in the mud,” said Alex. “I want to retire there. It’s paradise. Many Brazilians know about it but it’s still hard to get to, so few bother visiting.”
Caraiva (pronounced kara-ee-va) appeared on the other side of a cloudy river: small huts painted in almost fluorescent shades of pink, yellow, blue and green against a backdrop of tropical plants. Breeza was waiting to meet us on the dock. She had big brown eyes and dark hair speckled with grey – and just like all the other ‘taxis’ waiting nearby, she was chomping on the long grass. “There are no cars here, so all the taxis in Caraiva are horse and carts,” explained Alex as Breeza set off, bound for our guesthouse. The short journey took us along a narrow sandy street where geese waddled and men sat under shady palm trees sipping beer. A lady stood in the shallows, descaling a red snapper for that evening’s dinner. Alex sighed: “Man, I love this place.”
Why go? Some 350km adrift from the Brazilian mainland, and a smidgen south of the equator, the Fernando de Noronha archipelago is a 21-island eco-paradise. The waters are impossibly emerald, the ethos equally green – 70% of Noronha is protected in a national park, and visitors must pay a mandatory Environment Protection Tax on arrival. UNESCO also approves, having inscribed the archipelago on its list for its rich waters (which are ‘extremely important for the breeding and feeding of tuna, shark and turtle’) and its avifauna – Noronha is home to the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the Western Atlantic. It’s also just a beautiful place to be. The water is full of frolicking spinner dolphins and (allegedly) friendly lemon and nurse sharks. There are also abundant reef fish; some are nice to swim with, others turn up at delicious beach barbecues. The hiking is good too: hit the Esmeralda Coast Trail to spot diving pelican or trek to Pedra Alta Little Point, site of Brazil’s first shipwreck.
When to go: The dry and high season is September-March. Maximum temperatures average in the high 20°Cs year round. Turtle nesting and hatching season is December-July.
How to go: Flights to Noronha leave from Natal (1hr) and Recife (1hr) on the mainland.
This is a sultry den of masculinity and refined design, with sleek, dark mahogany and miles of soft, toffee-butter leather. An inspired collaboration between Brazilian design heavyweights Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan, this is old-school glamour at its best, encapsulating a bygone era where you half expect to catch Don Corleone sipping the driest of Martinis in a low-lit corner of the hotel’s jazz joint Baretto, where Brazil’s best bossa-nova talents vie to perform.
The 60 rooms, furnished with 1930s design pieces in muted tones, are popular with global big-hitters, who can really relax in the 22nd-floor spa and swimming pool. From here, there are contemplative views over Sao Paulo’s most sophisticated neighbourhood, Jardins, where the streets are leafy, ladies lunch and life feels pretty fabulous.
Bahia’s Special Heritage
There’s no dismissing the carnal, seething, pulsating extravaganza that is Rio’s Carnaval, but these days many travelers are heading north to Salvador da Bahia for a more authentic, participatory, and no less indefatigable pre-Lenten celebration. The infectious rhythm of Rio’s samba is replaced here by African-based axé music that engulfs the 8-mile carneval route snaking from Ondina to Pelourinho.
Through the euphoric crowds, motorized trio elétricos floats carry bands and some of Brazil’s greatest musical superstars (many of whom hail from Bahia and its environs). Carnaval preparations start months in advance, so off-season visitors can absorb some of the city’s myth and magic at the weekly rehearsals of Olodum, Salvador’s most innovative bateria (Carnaval percussion group).
With more than twenty festivals and processions highlighting each year’s calendar, you are likely to happen upon any one of them, especially if you arrive in December, January, or February. The year kicks off on December 31 and January 1 with the Festa de Nosso Senhor dos Navigantes, when the coastal city’s population celebrates the “god of navigators.” Next, Lavagem da Igreja do Bonfim (eight days starting the second Thursday in January) means African hymns and the local women washing the steps of the Church of Bonfim. Then, on February 2, Iemanjá, the African-Brazilian protectoress and mother of the sea (and counterpart to Catholicism’s Virgin Mary), is honored with the Festa de Iemanjá. Exploring the spirituality and religious character of Bahia’s African-based but purely Brazilian condomblé ceremonies is also possible almost any night in the city’s neighborhood terreiros: ask around, but be discreet and respectful.
Proud Heart and Soul of an Afro-Brazilian City
The Pelourinho district, the architectural enclave and highlight of Salvador’s hilltop Cidade Alta (Upper City), has been reclaimed, restored, and transformed into the cultural heart of a city long famous for the richness of its Afro-Brazilian heritage and colonial history. A wealth based on the unseemly but lucrative importation of African slaves peaked in the early 18th century, when most of Pelourinho’s remarkable gold-drenched Baroque churches were completed. They are some of South America’s most outstanding, clustered around what is now Pelourinho Square, whose name means “the pillory” or “whipping post” (one of the myriad reminders of the city’s historical and emotional ties to Africa and slavery).
The home of Salvador’s affluent European descendants until the beginning of the 20th century, Pelourinho then descended into squalor and physical collapse. But a massive restoration begun in 1992 secured its return as a haunt of poets and artists and a showplace for Bahian craftsmanship. Easter egg-colored landmark buildings now house a number of minor but interesting museums, art galleries, and cafés and restaurants.
When Casa da Gamboa, Salvador’s most famous restaurant, opened a branch in Pelourinho, it further established the neighborhood’s role as a cultural and culinary outpost. There are some large international beachside hotels, but they don’t come close to the character and architectural flavor of the Hotel Catharina Paraguaçu, a pink colonial mansion with rooftop views of the Rio Vermelho beach that’s just a taxicab ride away from Pelhourino.