01 Jun 2018 2756
Fernanda Meneguetti Devorável

120 hours in Rio de Janeiro : Five intense days that fly by in the Marvellous City

"The city that's a purgatory of beauty and chaos". The famous verse from the early 1990s that is still sung today at parties. It belongs to "Rio 40 Graus”, by Fernanda Abreu, a Brazilian pop music classic and a real truth about the city. For decades, Rio de Janeiro brings to mind a fantasy land of bikinis, football and carnival between the sea and the mish-mash of hills, under the protection of Christ the Redeemer, the sculpture with one of the best – if not the best – panoramic views on the planet.

Over recent years, however, Rio has adopted a more cosmopolitan vibe: the revamp of the port area, with new museums and restaurants springing up under its ever-festive sun. Here are some tips to make the most of the new and the old, so that you can find happiness in both beauty and chaos.


9:00 . You arrive or wake up in the heart of Copacabana. You open your bedroom windows, let the breeze drift through and head down to La Finestra, the restaurant with sweeping views at the PortoBay Rio Internacional. Typical Brazilian cheese bread, detox juice, tapioca and fresh fruits set a tropical tone for the morning.
11:00 . Instead of walking along the beach promenade, why not try cycling?  Bike Rio has 2,600 bicycles spread out over 260 strategic stations. There are daily plans for R$5 that allow unlimited trips of up to 60 minutes, which is enough time to get from Copa to Ipanema.
12:00 . Find a spot to call your own and, between dips in the ocean, discover the typical culinary treats served on the carioca sands: sweet or savoury Globo biscoito de polvilho (cassava biscuits) and iced mate with lemon (the vendors pass by with pre-sweetened gallons and sell it by the cup) make up the classic and sacred selection on offer, but it is also worth snacking on the grilled cheese, green corn, tubs of acai with banana and granola, or sipping on a caipirinha or fresh coconut water. 
14:00 . Maybe now there's no point sticking to your usual lunch hour, so just pop to Vero (R. Visconde de Pirajá, 229, Ipanema, tel.: 21/3497-8754) for a slice of pizza and some handmade ice cream. Lychee, ginger and lemon; raspberry, hibiscus and thyme; Bahian cocoa with pimenta arriba saia (skirt-raising pepper!); dragon fruit; jambo; caju amigo (cachaça and cashew); jamelão - Bolognese Andrea Panzacchi is tireless in his quest for flavours. Detail: any of the thirty items available in the display counter can be used on a fluffy organic bread roll. 

Photo: Tomás Rangel
15:00 . Walk to Leblon and continue on to the Morro Dois Irmãos. Go via Rua Gabriel Mufarrej, close to the Jardim de Alah and to the beach, where there is a Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora do Vidigal (Pacifying Police Unit) sign. Just follow it. From the top, you can see some of the city's postcards: Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Botanical Garden, Corcovado and, of course, the beaches of Leblon and Ipanema. 

Photo: Riotur
18:30 . Grab a bike to return to the PortoBay Rio Internacional in Copacabana. However, before you get there, take a well-deserved rest and stop at Venga! Chiringuito (Av. Atlântica, 3880, Copacabana, tel.: 21/3264-9806). Depending on your mood, this could be just a pit stop, or you could stay there for a night out! This lovely house with sea views has a partnership with the fishermen of the Fishing Colony No.6. This means that the ingredients going into their tapas, arroces and fideuás are local and ultra-fresh. And one or two (or even more) gin and tonics will surely hit the spot. The one with thyme, lemongrass, basil and lemon is so fresh and goes down amazingly with some appetisers that it's almost dangerous!

Photo: Rodrigo Azevedo


10:30 . The beaches are getting packed, so why not head the other way? The port area of Rio, that until recently was pretty derelict, sad and dirty, has now been transformed into the Porto Maravilha. There, the Historical and Archaeological Circuit Celebrating African Heritage will remind you of Portugal, with its narrow lanes and colonial buildings. Of particular interest here is the Hanging Garden of Valongo, on the slopes of the Morro da Conceição, from where you can see Valongo and the Empress Wharf; the Pedra do Sal, where legend has it that samba was born; the Pretos Novos Cemetery, on Rua Pedro Ernesto 32, discovered in 1996 is today converted into a memorial for the captives who could not resist the ill-treatment of the journey from Africa to there.
13:00 . This trip is great, but action-packed right? It's time to unwind a little. Head to A.S.A. Açaí (R. Sacadura Cabral, 79, Saúde, tel.: 21/ 2263-9094), a little nook specialising in the flavours of the Amazon, with treats such as cashew nuts from a women's only cooperative in the city of Tailândia, in Pará, and chocolate from the Baixo Xingu region, as well as tapioca, farinha d’água (flour made with cassava peeled and softened with water) and tucumã fruit oil from Irituia . It's worth trying the comforting bowl of pure acai or, if you're extra hungry, you could go for the Tucupi chicken. 
14:00 . Back on the museum trail, take a look around MAR (Rio Art Museum). Located in the Dom João VI palace, it hosts exhibitions of Brazilian talents and colours, with a whole floor dedicated to Rio. Next, turn your attention to the Museu do Amanhã, the Museum of Tomorrow. The structure designed by Santiago Calatrava occupies 15,000 square metres of the Píer Mauá and is surrounded by mirrors of water and gardens courtesy of writer Burle Marx, as well as acycle track and leisure area. It's an area encouraging discussion on topics such as the use of renewable energies, as well as modern architecture types and their relationship with the scenery.

Photo: Alexandre Macieira/Riotur
19:00 . Once back in the hotel, enjoy a drink in the swimming pool, admire the views and get ready for an unforgettable dinner. Book ahead at Lasai (Rua Conde de Irajá, 191, Botafogo, tel.: 21/3449-1854). We recommend you sit at the crowded counter facing the kitchen, where you can appreciate the quiet and rhythmic ballet of chef Rafa Costa e Silva and his team.

Installed in an early twentieth-century house, the kitchen uses Brazilian ingredients, most of them from the two gardens that the restaurant maintains – one in Itanhangá, in the western area, and the other in the Serra Fluminense. In addition to a star in the Michelin Guide, Lasai is ranked number 76 in the World´s 50 Best Restaurants and 16th in Latin America. Despite this, it is an unpretentious eatery, with amazing service and an exciting tasting menu - from the snacks to the petit-fours in the café, or the vegetables whose roles are just as starring as those of the fish, freshly caught that day or the pork belly. You are advised to follow the pairings proposed by the sommelier, who favours organic, biodynamic and natural labels, and also makes room for cocktails and craft beer.


11:00 . A lazy breakfast overlooking the sea makes you want to head down to the sand, right? But are there so many people that you're having second thoughts? Here's an appealing option: enjoy it from above the clouds. Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, the Jockey Club, the Floresta da Tijuca, Pedra da Gávea, and a series of beautiful beaches – Barra da Tijuca, Joá, São Conrado, Leblon, Ipanema... Leaving the city at your feet is always a good investment! A reliable agency with promotional offers is Rio2Fly.

13:00 . As the flights leave from from Jacarepaguá airport, a good alternative is to make the most of the rest of the day and enjoy the beaches in the western area of Rio, considered the best. Spread out your sarong and open the parasol in Joatinga, Pepê, Praia da Reserva, Macumba, Prainha, nudist Abricó or in Grumari, for example.

Another option is to head back to the south area, specifically to Azur (Av. Delfim Moreira, Posto 11, Leblon, tel.: 11/98295-0045), a trendy beachfront kiosk headed up by Pedro de Artagão (of Irajá Gastrô, Formidable Bistrot, Petit and Cozinha Artagão). Before picking out the dishes to share, in the case of the moquecas (fish stews) and the shrimp stroganoff with mushrooms and saffron, how about trying some Rio-style appetisers? The most famous is the empada, that can be filled with generous palm hearts, slipper lobster or shrimp with Catupiry cheese. 

To drink, there arerefreshing drinks with Porto wine that can also be shared. In this case, a good order is the jarra branca, with dry white Porto, grape, green apple, carambola, rosemary, passion fruit and lemonade soda.
21:00 . To round off the weekend, our tip is Nosso (R. Maria Quitéria, 91, Ipanema, tel.: 21/99619-0099), a bar with a discreet façade covering three floors. One of the stars of the drinks menu is the rum, served in mojitos, daiquiris and creations aged in barrels by award-winning bartender Tai Barbin. 
Curiously and happily, this is where high-class cocktail party meets the cuisine of chef Bruno Katz, who even serves a tasting menu for up to four diners upon reservation. This six-course experience usually features oysters and fresh scallops from the region.


9:00 . Leave the hotel in a good mood: the Jardim Botânico (Rua Jardim Botânico, gate nº 1008 or Rua Pacheco Leão, gates nº 101 e nº 915), Brazil's leading one. The idea was Dom João VI, following the arrival of the Royal Family in Brazil. The prince regent believed that oriental spices, in abundance at the time, could adapt to that soil. For the better or for the worse, the 540,000 square metres have not become a profitable plantation, but instead a nursery for more than 3,400 plant species and therefore an important research institute, a national heritage site and an Atlantic Forest biosphere reserve.
We recommend you get lost among the symbolic imperial palm trees, whose height is the same as a 15-storey building, or in the orchidariums. Seek out waterfalls, lakes, bridges, little wild animals. Spend hours on end in this immense natural area.

14:00 . Just as giant is Xian (R. Almirante Silvio de Noronha, 365, Rooftop, Centro, tel.: 21/2303-7080), covering more than 3,000 square metres. It may sound like a mistake, but it's not: it is inside theshopping centre Bossa Nova Mall, attached to Santos Dumont Airport. It is a complex that brings together a bar, lounge, living room, restaurant and nightclub, surrounded by mandalas, a carp pond, grape trees, exclusive engravings, plenty of glass, wood and mirrors and is strategically positioned in front of the Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, Flamengo Park and Christ the Redeemer.
The main room, with beautiful female panelling by Silvia Girão, is one of the city's most impressive. It is a gorgeous venue for Asia-inspired dishes, that can be washed down with special sakes. 

Photo: Tomás Rangel
16:30 . Unmissable: only on Mondays, from 16:00, is the Samba do Trabalhador, at the Clube Renascença (R. Barão de São Francisco, 54, Andaraí, tel.: 21/3253-2322). Under the command of singer and composer Moacyr Luz, the authentic samba circle is the best way to start the weekend with on a happy note.
When your legs can't take any more sambaing, have one for the road at Momo (R. Gen. Espírito Santo Cardoso, 50, Tijuca, tel.: 21/2570-9389), another pride of this place frequented by few tourists. The double rice dumpling with a passion fruit shake is hard to beat, but there are other flavour-packed recipes, such as the jiló (scarlet eggplant) stuffed with cheese in a roast meat sauce and the Aldir Blanc, a small gizzard, silky sweet potato mash, fried quinoa, and Asian spices.


9:30 . The yellow trams connecting central Rio to Santa Teresa are not just postcard images - they actually operate as a mode of transport for the residents of the neighbourhood formed in the seventeenth century. So, yes, it's worth taking a trip on one. From the initial station, next to Carioca metro station on Rua Lélio Gama, there are departures every 30 minutes. 
Ride up to Largo dos Guimarães, then start exploring the cobbled streets, the handicraft shops the Church and Convent of Santa Teresa (belonging to the Order of the Discalced Carmelites), the workshops of visual artists, the Museu da Chácara do Céu, with its modernist paintings, and the neighbouring Parque das Ruínas, with vestiges of a small palace and a beautiful view, it is a work of art in itself, but it also has an exhibition hall. 

Photo : Pedro Kirilos/Riotur
13:00 . By the time hunger starts knocking - start, okay? If not, the hills will be an immense obstacle! – start the ascent to Aprazível (R. Aprazível, 62, Santa Teresa, tel.: 21/ 2508-9174), a land surrounded by green and sweeping views - the local house, the Guanabara Bay, the Sambódromo, the Church of Penha, the Central clock to the Serra dos Órgãos.
There, the cuisine blends family heritage with the culinary traditions from different Brazilian regions. Among the classics on the menu are the pães de queijo (cheese breads, a recipe from the owner's grandmother, stuffed with artisanal sausage or with top sirloin and spicy pineapple jelly and arroz carioca (Rio-style rice) with extra large king prawns with saffron, white wine, coconut milk and ginger.

Photo: Tomás Rangel
16:00 . Finish your excursion by going down the iconic Selarón steps. Once you reach the bottom. admire the 250 steps covered in 2,000 tiles collected from more than 60 countries. Walk through the city's historic centre, full of beautiful buildings, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Imperial Palace, the Royal Portuguese Reading Office, the National Library and the Tiradentes Palace. Then rest with a coffee at the Confeitaria Colombo. 

Photo: Pedro Kirilos/Riotur
20:00 . Since the 1970s, the Frenchman Claude Troisgros has been one of Brazil's best loved chefs. He had barely opened Chez Claude, when he found a way to open the laid-back Le Blond (R. Ataufo de Paiva, 1321, Leblon, 21/3322-1440). Leblon was the chef's first neighbourhood, and opening there was a form of tribute to its centenary. The restaurant attracts attention with the arrival of dishes by Paul Bocuse, such as his poached egg on brioche, mushroom purée, asparagus, raw ham and Bearnaise sauce, the pumpkin ravioli with sage, almonds and Grana Padano cheese or French-style moqueca (fish stew).

For a sweet ending, the petit gateau is made with caramelised condensed milk topped with cream cheese and Serra da Canastra cheese.
As there are just 60 places and it is newly opened, we recommend you to arrive early. Or in no hurry. If you have to wait, have some fun in the queue with a glass of wine and start planning your next stay in Rio do Janeiro, you'll already be longing to return!

Photo: Ana Cecilia Brignol
Like Share Subscribe