Walking Tours of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, presents an image which is one of the most recognized in the world — Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach, closed in by skyscrapers, with Sugarloaf Mountain looming overhead, and, behind and looking over the city at the Corcovado, the outstretched arms of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor). What an incredible panorama!
This calm, magnificent setting is juxtaposed with a scary reputation for lawlessness and crime, especially directed at tourists. What is a potential visitor to think? Actually, the consolation seems to be that the crime aspect is being addressed, although no one should think the problem has been solved. Also there are things a tourist can do to minimize the danger. For instance, take taxis instead of buses, try not to look affluent (wearing expensive jewelry), and certainly stick to places where there is a police presence, if possible.
Walk 1 – Centro
My first walk begins at Praca XV de Novembre, located on the waterfront, near the ferry terminal. As a matter of fact, before embarking on your pedestrian ramble, you should check into a ferry ride to the islands of the bay or a Navy tour boat, both of which will allow you to at least approach Ihla Fiscal and its unique castle-like Custom House.
When you return from the boat ride, begin with an examination of the buildings that surround the square. In particular, check out the Paco Imperial and the Palacio Tiradentes, and then walk through the Arco do Teles and onto one of the few remaining vestiges of Colonial-era Rio, Travessa do Commercio. Walk north along the charming cobblestone street, browsing through the numerous shops, to its end, and then turn left to reach Rua Primiero de Marco. Cross the street and onto the traffic island to visit Nossa Senhora de Candelaria.
After your visit, walk west on Avenida Presidente Vargas. Walk several blocks before taking any right turn and then turn left onto Avenida Marechal Floriano, which leads to two impressive buildings. The Centro Cultural Light, built in 1911, and the Palacio Itamaraty, a bit further west, are both worth a look.
From here, walk south across the square to the Avenida Presidente Vargas and turn left. When you reach Avenida Passos, turn right, and then turn left on Rua da Carioca, and then right onto Avenida Republic de Paraguai. At Avenida de Chile, turn right to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral, an unusual and very appealing, modern-style church.
Now, reverse direction on Avenida Chile, heading east, and then turn right on Avenida Rio Branco. As you approach Praca Floriano, or Cinelandia, as it is called by the locals, you will see several elegant buildings, the Museu de Belas Artes, the Neo-classical Biblioteca Nacional, and the Teatro Municipal, the opera house, built to resemble the famous one in Paris. The square itself feels Parisienne and is a great place to relax for a while.
Next, walk east on Rua Arauja Porto-Alegre, and then turn right onto Rua da Imprensa, to visit, perhaps the most modern of Rio’s palaces, Palacio Gustavo Capenema. Keep in mind that this home dates to the 1930’s, when it was decidedly radical.
Return to Arauja Porto-Alegre and turn right, then turn left onto Avenida Presidente Antonio Carlos, which leads back to the Praca XV Novembre, where the walk began.
Walk 2 – Rio’s Beaches (note that this walk is basically one-way, due to the large distances involved – my suggestion is to take a taxi back to the origin, once you reach the end)
The concept of this walk is to enable a visitor to experience the beach scene in Rio. Feel free to stop at anytime, to swim, play volleyball, sunbathe, etc, or to suspend the walking tour and return to the beginning.
Begin this walk at the Cable Car Station, in the district known as Urca. Be sure to take the Cable Car to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain either before or after the walk.
Walk north on Avenida Pasteur and turn left on Avenida Venceslau Bras, and then bear right onto Rua General Severia (which changes names several times). Turn left on Rua Real Grandeza, and then right to Laderia dos Tabajeras, which winds its way toward the beach and then becomes Rua Siqueira Campos. Turn right when you reach Avenida Atlantica, a broad thoroughfare which parallels beautiful Copacabana Beach. As you negotiate the 2.5 mile stretch, you may alternate between walking along the beach itself, continuing along Avenida Atlantica, or spending some time browsing in the shops on Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, two blocks inland.
When you reach the end of Avenida Atlantica, bear left to visit Forte de Copacabana, a huge complex which occupies the peninsula overlooking the beach.
When you are finished at the fort, exit by bearing left on Rua F Ottaviano, which leads to the other world-famous ribbon of sand, Ipanema Beach. Walk along the black-and-white beach-sidewalk or on Avenida Vieira Souto (closed to traffic on Sundays). When you reach Leblon Beach, if you would like to extend the walk, turn right onto Avenida B Mitre, and then right onto Rua Jardin Botanico, which leads to Rio’s Botanical Gardens, a welcome respite from the beach scene, with many pleasant paths and greenhouses to explore. This concludes the walk. To return, on foot, to the starting point, continue northeast on Rua Jardin Botanico, which becomes Rua Humanaita and then Rue San Clemente. When you reach the beach, turn right onto Avenida Rep. Nestor Moreira, which becomes Avenida Pasteur, and leads back to the Cable Car Station, where you began.