Happy hour (after-work drinks) around the Arco do Teles is a fine way to experience carioca culture in the historic centre of the city, as well as being a Rio de Janeiro tradition. The arch itself is on the northwestern side of Praça XV de Novembro and leads through the charming cobbled street known as Travessa do Comércio to Rua Ouvidor and Rua Mercado. You'll find a vibrant atmosphere amongst the tables of cafés, bars and restaurants that fill these narrow streets, particularly towards the end of the working week, as cariocas relax with a glass of beer and traditional finger foods. The area offers many historical, cultural and gastronomic highlights.
Rio de Janeiro's natural beauty and astonishing views invite residents and visitors to take part in outdoor exercise throughout the city. Frescobol, first played on Copacabana beach during the 1950s, and now considered a traditional pastime, is a popular activity for cariocas on sunny days, both in summer and winter.
The carioca beachfronts are excellent for a sunset bike ride, while the beaches themselves are perfect for a game of volleyball or footvolley. The latter has some characteristics of football – the player may touch the ball with any part of the body except the arms, forearms and hands, as well as those of volleyball – the match is divided into sets, and each team may only touch the ball three times.
There are activities which are even more original, such as slackline, in which players walk across a nylon tightrope fixed between two anchor points. It is common to see people practising slackline on nylon roping fastened between coconut trees on Rio's beaches. Another example is wakeboarding on Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, with its stunning views of Christ the Redeemer, the mountains of Tijuca forest, and Pedra da Gávea.
Known for its rocks abutting the ocean, Arpoador beach is about 500 metres long, and is located between Fort Copacabana and Ipanema Beach. It offers one of the most breathtaking views of Rio: the sunset behind Dois Irmãos hill, framed by the Ipanema and Leblon beaches. This amazing moment is part of the carioca daily routine. Between October and February, when the city observes summer time, you often see locals leaving work in the evening and going straight to the beach simply to admire this natural spectacle.
A great deal of Brazilian history is still alive in Rio de Janeiro. Beautiful buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries house museums, churches and cultural centres that are part of the city’s history and Brazilian culture. Several artistic spaces cater for temporary exhibitions, cinema festivals and music, theatre and dance presentations.
The Museum of Modern Art, for example, is a milestone in Brazilian architecture. The work of architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy and a landscaping project of Roberto Burle Marx resulted in one of Rio’s most renowned cultural spaces. Inaugurated in 1958 and reopened in 1990, the museum hosts major national and international exhibitions.
Among churches and spaces for religious practice, the Catedral Metropolitana, inaugurated in 1979, stands out for the grandiosity and modernity of the cone-shaped architectural design. The cathedral is 75 metres high and has an external diameter of 106 metres, with standing capacity for 20,000 people. Outside the cathedral, visitors are dazzled by the colourful church windows.
Another of Rio de Janeiro historic sites is the Ilha Fiscal. The location, which was a customs clearance office until 1913, became famous for hosting the last ball of the Brazilian empire in November 1889, held in the island’s palace. The neo-gothic palace is open for visits and may be accessed via schooners which leave the Espaço Cultural da Marinha, in Rio’s central district.
An unmissable site for lovers of contemporary art, the building that served as the headquarters and branch agency of the Banco do Brasil until 1989 has been renovated to host one of the city’s most popular cultural and artistic spaces. Located on Avenida Presidente Vargas, near the famous Candelária church, the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil (CCBB) includes a library, cinema, theatre, bookstore, shop, tearoom and restaurant, in addition to spaces for temporary exhibitions.