Virtual Vacation: How to Spend the Perfect Day in Rio de Janeiro at Home

By Rosunnara Roth
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Photo Courtesy: João Pedro Vergara/Unsplash

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s most marvelous cities. It’s a buzzing metropolis full of mixed cultures, including Portuguese, African, European and South American. More than 2 million visitors travel there to experience all the great things Rio has to offer each year, such as its famous beaches, rich nightlife and lush mountains.

Sadly, all travel to Rio has paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The city’s favelas — poor, shanty-like neighborhoods — have been hit the hardest.

Although many of us are under shelter-in-place orders, we can still escape on a grand virtual adventure from inside our homes. Come along with us to Rio as we roam through vibrant destinations, devour traditional food, watch great movies and read thrilling books.

Virtually Wander Through Rio’s Most Breathtaking Places

First stop: the iconic Ipanema beach. It’s easy to see why Cariocas (residents of Rio) and tourists flock here. With jaw-dropping views of blue waters and mountains, Ipanema beach offers the picture-perfect backdrop. It’s also the best place to meet friendly Cariocas and watch athletes play football and volleyball in the sand during the day. At night, the beach turns into a huge party, where people socialize and dance all night long.

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Photo Courtesy: MAURO PIMENTEL//Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

Now, it's time to take a trip up Corcovado Mountain to admire the Christ the Redeemer statue. Symbolizing love and redemption, the legendary landmark is an attraction you don’t want to miss. The 98-foot masterpiece was built between 1922 and 1931 on top of a 2,330-foot mountain. Christ the Redeemer stands with open arms, which also represents the welcoming nature of Brazilians.

Another major reason millions of travelers visit Rio is to celebrate Carnival, a colorful street festival with music, dancing and elaborate costumes. Many of the dance routines actually tell a short story. Rio’s celebration is considered the biggest carnival in the world and dates back to the 1640s. Every year, the massive festival takes place before Lent. However, it’s always possible to relive the magic at home. We’re sure these tours must have built up an appetite by now.

Get in a Good Mood with Good Food

There’s nothing like getting to know a city through its food. It’s time to check out traditional Brazilian specialties. The popular coxinha (croquette) is made of shredded chicken meat covered in dough. It’s then deep-fried to golden perfection. Coxinha is a street food that’s easy to eat on the go, and, thankfully, they are also easy to make.

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Photo Courtesy: Kansas City Star/Contributor/Tribune News Service/Getty Images

Galinhada is another tasty Brazilian dish. Combining chicken, rice and all the best spices, you can create the mouthwatering Galinhada yourself at home. Your stomach will be happy, and your taste buds will be even happier. Watch Elisabete cook the meal and easily translate and grab the recipe from the video’s description. Try not to drool!

A couple of Brazilian drinks you must try are caipirinha and coffee. Caipirinha is the national cocktail that’s made with brown sugar, lime, ice and cachaça (a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice). Brazilian coffee is also a sweet treat, which mixes black coffee (made from freshly ground coffee beans) and tablespoons of sugar. Now that you’re full, let’s explore great films and shows about Rio.

See Life in Rio Through Movies

Watching a movie that takes place in a famous city often gives us the travel bug. There’s no doubt that Central Station makes us more curious about Rio. Even better, it gives us a closer look into the lives of Cariocas. The film follows the heartwarming friendship between a young boy, who is searching for his father, and a middle-aged woman, whose life is full of bad luck. Rio landscapes are featured in the 1998 drama film, but, most importantly, it shows the real interactions of Brazilians.

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Photo Courtesy: Audiovisual Development Bureau/IMDb

Favelas have a bad reputation for being dangerous. Some travel guides suggest avoiding these areas at all costs. However, others recommend visiting safe favelas to learn about the complex and rich history of the poor communities that make up 25% of Rio. Vox takes us inside favelas and discusses how they were formed. The documentary also covers how art and creativity are growing within these vibrant areas.

Some popular movies have also been filmed in Rio, including the 11th James Bond film, Moonraker (1979). The spy film boasts the city’s incredible Sugarloaf Cable Car in an intense fight scene with Agent 007 and bad guy Jaws. The amazing clip shows the scenic views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay, which millions of people come to see each year. It’s easy to see that Hollywood also appreciates the city’s beauty.

Now, let’s add some tunes to our trip by listening to Brazil’s top hits.

Create an Epic Playlist Filled with Brazil’s World-Famous Music

Brazil is widely known for its samba and bossa nova. These styles will easily transport you to a romantic, tropical night. For samba, listen to the legendary Chico Buarque. One of his most popular songs is "A Banda." Another famous samba singer to check out is Clara Nunes, a.k.a. the "Queen of Samba."

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Photo Courtesy: Mauricio Santana/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment

One song that put Rio in the spotlight is "Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema"). The bossa nova and jazz tune was so popular that it won the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year. Many folks worldwide recognize the musical style of bossa nova, which means "new trend."

Have you ever heard of funk carioca (favela funk)? It’s Rio’s version of hip hop. When people think of funk carioca, they often associate it with Brazilian singer Ludmilla, formerly known as MC Beyoncé. She went viral in 2012 with the song "Fala Mal de Mim," which mixes funk melodies with pop.

Get Cozy with a Book

Warning: You may accidentally stay up all night reading these addictive books. David Goldblatt’s Futebol Nation depicts how important football — a.k.a. soccer — is in Brazil. The sport is all fun and games, but the story also reveals its dark side, which involves both corruption and money. Many readers say it’s impossible to put this book down.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

If you’re looking for a wild story of romance, pick up Brazil by John Updike, which combines magical realism elements. It’s a version of the ancient tale of Tristan and Isolde. However, Brazil takes place in a Rio slum and follows a poor black boy who falls in love with a wealthy white girl at the beach. Their families try to tear them apart, but the two young lovers do everything they can to be together. The story also takes an important look at how violence and poverty have affected neighborhoods.

Important Charities to Support

We’ve traveled to Rio’s legendary destinations, tried the city’s most mouthwatering dishes and discovered captivating movies and books. The virtual trip is almost over, but there are some worthy organizations to know and support. The Favela Foundation creates educational projects in Brazil's favelas, providing tools and resources to residents to help them reach their goals.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheFavelaFndn/Twitter

Another amazing organization that serves the people is Community in Action. According to its website, the group offers "education, job training, women’s empowerment, youth programming and manual labor support." Donating to this cause will provide the community with books, training services and funds for volunteer programs.

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