No one wants to fall prey to a city's tourist traps, but some of Rio's highlights are worth braving the crowds for. The iconic open-armed Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado has kept watch from its post since 1931. Pilgrimages there have always been popular—less for the spiritual enlightenment than for the 360-degree city views. Thanks to a new series of inconspicuous elevators and escalators, the 220-stair climb is now optional. • It seems only natural that this futebol-obsessed nation—5 out of 18 World Cup titles, and a bid to host the tournament in 2010—should be home to the world's biggest temple to the sport, Maracanã Stadium (Avda. Maracanã; 55-21/2568-9962). Take a tour of the 110,000-seat space ($1), visit the ode-to-soccer museum at gate No. 16, or, best of all, watch a game (schedules are listed in the newspaper; tickets are $7-$17) • Splashing water, creaking bamboo, and the crunch of gravel underfoot—that's as loud as it gets at Jardim Botânico (1008 Rua Jardim Botânico; 55-21/2294-9349), a lush landscape stretching over 340 acres. Among the 7,200 plant species are a cavalcade of 161-year-old imperial palms and, in the Orchiderio section, hundreds of endangered orchids, all part of the garden's program to reintroduce the bloom to the area. • For a truly breathtaking experience, take off by hang glider from Pedra Bonita in São Conrado and soar over treetops, mansions, and sunbathers basking on Pepino Beach. You'll be in good hands with brothers Paulo and Roni Falcão of Rio Tandem Fly (55-21/2422-6371; www.riotandemfly.com.br; $80 per person). • Santa Teresa is a steep, hilly village populated with clattering bonde (streetcars), century-old houses, vintage bars, and artists' workshops, 50 of which open their doors to visitors one weekend in March and October during Open House Art (www.artedeportasabertas.com.br). For lunch, and the best view of Guanabara Bay, reserve the corner table on the terrace of the cliff-hugging Aprazivel (62 Rua Aprazivel; 55-21/2508-9174; open Thursday-Sunday). • Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil's own Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the striking Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Mirante da Boa Viagem, Niterói; 55-21/2620-2400; www.macniteroi.com.br). The UFO-shaped structure houses more than 1,000 works by contemporary regional artists and offers amazing panoramas of Niterói and its surroundings.
The most stylish boutiques in Rio are clustered at the crossroads of Ipanema's Anibal de Mendonça and Garcia d'Ávila, as well as Visconde de Pirajá and Barão da Torre. Snap up the best local and European labels at São Conrado Fashion Mall (899 Estrada da Gávea; 55-21/3083-0300), or at the many boutiques scattered around the city. • Ten years ago, professional surfer Fred d'Orey added some splash to the surfing scene when he launched a line of funky men's trunks with bold prints in his store, Totem Beach (Fashion Mall, Ipanema 2000, Shopping da Gávea, and BarraShopping; www.totempraia.com.br). "We can't compete with urban fashion, but here in Rio, we know beachwear," says d'Orey, who eventually developed clothing for women and children that includes spirited tunics, pants, shorts, bikinis, trunks, and cangas. • Mixed (476 Rua Visconde de Pirajá, Ipanema; 55-21/2259-0934; www.mixed.com.br) may have originated in São Paulo, but trendy Cariocas consider the place their own. This season, sibling owners and designers Rodrigo and Riccy Trussardi have introduced a collection of miniskirts and pants adorned with Hawaiian-style flowers; chiffon blouses; and pencil pants. • Sollas (68 Rua Henrique Dumont, Ipanema, and 48 Rua Sete de Setembro, Centro; 55-21/2511-6567) is packed with shoes, simple flats, and funky platforms and fabric slip-ons designed by owner Carla Guglielmetti. There's also a counter full of bangly anklets, toe rings, and other fancy foot accessories to match. • One-stop shopping at Galeria Ipanema Secreta (371 Rua Visconde de Pirajá), a not-so-secret second-floor gallery of shops opposite Praça Nossa Señora da Paz, means sexy sling-backs and stilettos by the 25-year-old shoe goddess Constança Basto, as well as candles of all shapes and sizes at Candle Design. • Designer-goldsmith Antonio Bernardo, who specializes in one-of-a-kind gem cuts, has created a cultlike following with his exquisitely simple gold bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. His work is displayed in four boutiques around the city; of Bernardo's two Ipanema addresses, the Pirajá outpost offers the largest and best selection (351 Visconde de Pirajá; 55-21/2523-3192; www.antoniobernardo.com.br).
Next Great Neighborhood Baixo Leblon
This once-bohemian area is where the fashionable girls from Ipanema (and all their followers) like to party. • At Melt (47 Rua Rita Ludolf; 55-21/2249-9309), live music plays while the crowd lingers over caipirinhas and Brazilian-Asian dishes. • A foodie's paradise, Garcia & Rodrigues (1251 Avda. Ataulfo de Paiva; 55-21/2512-8188) has a bakery, café, wineshop, and restaurant. • Don't miss Bracarense (85B Rua José Linhares; 55-21/2294-3549) and Jobi (1166 Avda. Ataulfo de Paiva; 55-21/2274-0547), 1950's watering holes that serve up cold beer with croquettes. • Chef Felipe Bronze, formerly of Nobu and Le Bernardin, blends French and Asian cuisines to produce teriyaki-glazed foie gras at Zuka (233 Rua Dias Ferreira; 55-21/3205-7154; dinner for two $50). • With 500 types of cachaça, Academia da Cachaça (26 Rua Conde Bernadotte; 55-21/2493-7956) is the place to sip Brazil's national drink.
Seu Jorge ACTOR, SINGER, AND MUSICIAN
GET INTO THE GROOVE "Samba is the soul of Rio. Go to Lapa, a downtown neighborhood packed with bars and pulsating music, to hear the newest and best of it."
DANCE FEVER "Rio Scenarium [20 Rua do Lavradio; 55-21/3852-5516], a huge antiques emporium, turns into party central Tuesday through Saturday with live samba and chorinho [an instrumental style that fuses European and Afro-Brazilian traditions]."
HOT TRACKS "Modern Sound [502D Rua Barata Ribeiro; 55-21/2548-5005; www.modernsound.com.br], in Copacabana, and Tracks [140 Praça Santos Dumont; 55-21/2274-7182], in Gávea, have the best choice of Brazilian pop and alternative albums.
"My favorites are the sound track to Cidade de Deus (City of God), which exposed the seedy underbelly of Rio's housing projects, and Procura da Batida Perfeita, an electronic rap and samba mix by emerging DJ Marcelo D2."