The Portuguese first ruled Rio de Janeiro after they landed in the Guanabara Bay of Brazil in 1502. This site, as well as the rest of Rio, was contested by the French because of its strategic position in Brazil. After two years of intense fighting, the French were not able to gain ground and left the region. After these conflicts, the inhabitants moved Rio to a safer area known as Castle Hill, and, during this period of peace, the city grew economically from its cash crop; sugarcane. With continued economic development and exploration, gold and diamonds were found in the Mines Gerais. This discovery reignited European interest in the region, caused further conflict in 1763. Fighting raged for many more years but in the 19th century Rio gained its independence, which was followed by economic, cultural, and political expansions.
Today, Rio de Janeiro is known by many Westerners as the most festive cities in South America, especially because of its world famous festival Rio Carnival. This festival is one of the largest in the world and the first records of this event date from the early 1700’s. This festival has always been a time when societal norms and traditions give way to freedom of expression and national unity. This manifested in ways such as the ruling class trading clothes with the lower classes, which would breakdown social barriers and welcome people from all walks of life. As the festival evolved, Parisian bourgeoisie added masquerade balls to the mix and African culture heavily influenced the carnival with dance and music such as samba and polka. These traditions remain a large part of today’s Rio Carnival festivities and tourists from around the world come to participate.
Next year’s Rio Carnival will be from February 5th – February 9th. There will be street bands playing along the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, dances at Cinelandia, and concerts at Samba Land and Lapa. Parades will crowd the streets and many themed balls such as The Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace Hotel and the Long Live the Beer Ball in Rio Scala will be held. The Magic Ball at Copacabana Palace Hotel is a black tie event where numerous international and local VIPs will be found enjoying a dinner buffet and open bar. The Scala Ball is held in the Rio Scala nightclub where patrons engage in thematic dances and massive parties. Twelve different samba schools will compete throughout the week but the highest ranked will compete on the Sunday and Monday festival. For less structured festivities, numerous options will be available for drinking and dining and much of the partying will happen in the streets, outside of bars and restaurants.
The city is also famous for the Sambodrome, Copacabana Beach, Flamengo Park, and Tijuca National Park. The Sambodrome is a venue that was built specifically for the Samba Schools to compete during Rio Carnival. This venue holds 90,000 spectators and will be used to host the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games. The Samba parades last from 8PM to 6AM and with the newest modifications, visibility and acoustics have been greatly enhanced. Not far from the Sambodrome is Copacabana Beach. This vacation hotspot is the most popular beach in the world and stretches for almost three miles across powdery, white sand. The area is surrounded by beautiful scenery such as Sugar Loaf Mountain and Fort Duque as well as nightclubs, restaurants, and boutique shops.
When looking for a place to hang out in the city, many visitors resort to Flamengo Park. It is the largest recreation site and place of leisure in Rio de Janeiro. Its popularity amongst sports enthusiasts is due to its tennis courts, soccer fields, and basketball courts. The park is also used as the finish line for many marathons and contains a pivotal segment of the Rio Cycling Race. Further inland is the Tijuca National Park, which is the largest urban forest in the world covering almost 13 square miles. This rain forest supplies the city with much of its water and has many picnic areas, waterfalls, and hiking trails. The Corcodova Mountain can also be found where many tourists travel to the top to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer.