Melanie Lieberman
August 08, 2016

With all eyes on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics, it seems a good time to get to know the city a bit more intimately. After all, there’s more to the Marvelous City than its best-known attractions, Ipanema Beach and the Christ the Redeemer statue.

After a bit of digging, we discovered that Rio is a pretty quirky city. It may be home to sugary, white-sand beaches and wild dance parties at gafieiras (one of the most fun things to do in Rio), but it’s also hosted the world’s largest soccer game and has its own Party King.

Even the city’s name is unusual. Rio de Janeiro means January river—but no such thing exists here, or anywhere else in the world. Turns out that when the Portuguese first discovered the city in January of 1501, they mistook Guanabara Bay for a large river. Who knew?

One of the best Rio attractions is its incredible weather and impossibly blue sky. Turns out, it’s the bluest sky on earth—and that’s a scientific fact. In 2006, a researcher traversed the planet with a spectrometer to determine that Rio’s sky is the closest to true blue. 

Related: Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

Another interesting fact: the entire city was worth 612,000 gold coins and 100 chests of sugar in 1710. That year, the French seized Rio and demanded the exact amount as ransom.And one of our favorite fun facts: graffiti is pretty much legal in Rio. Since 2009, street art has been permitted on city property—and even private property with owners’ permission. The popularity and acceptance of graffiti in Rio led a handful of recognizable street artists, including Rita Wainer and Vik Muniz, to team up with Instagram to launch @InstawalkRio. The account has an interactive map of the artworks scattered across Rio, and highlights some of the latest creations.

For more quirks, facts, and oddities about Rio de Janeiro, check out the video above.

Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.

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