Rio De Janeiro Brazil

By Alexandra de Vries

Although hardly a secret destination, Rio de Janeiro is shedding its image as a sun, sea and samba town and going for glamour and sophistication. Join the friendly Cariocas for a bite of contemporary Brazilian cuisine. How about an innovative 10-course Amazonian dinner at Rio's top Le Pré Catelan restaurant or some delectable "brapas" (Brazilian tapas) at hip eatery Oui Oui? Even the caipirinha, Brazil's signature lime-cachaça cocktail that has conquered the world, has undergone a hip make-over and is served in a dazzling variety of tropical fruit flavors, mixed with rum, vodka, or even sake.

Work off the calories with one of Rio's many outdoor activities; hike through the lush Tijuca rainforest, climb to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, swim off Ipanema's Arpoador Rock, kayak in Guanabara Bay or cycle around the Lagoa. Of course samba's contagious syncopated beat still reigns supreme in the revitalized former red light district of Lapa or the spectacular Carnival celebrations, but music lovers can also groove to modern Brazilian hip hop and funk at the Circo Voador, or enjoy an elegant evening of classical music or ballet at the recently restored neo-classic Theatro Municipal.

Even Rio's magnificent beaches are better than ever before; from Leme to Leblon, new outdoor cafés boast fabulous seaside patios with comfortable bathroom facilities, some with wheel-chair access. As host of the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, the city is abuzz with exciting developments that will be sure to attract huge crowds. Beat the rush and see how the Girl from Ipanema is all grown up.

Alexandra de Vries is a writer and translator/interpreter based in Rio de Janeiro. She is the author of the forthcoming Frommer's Rio de Janeiro Day by Day and Frommer's Brazil. She has translated her books about Brazilian icons such as Oscar Niemeyer and Burle Marx and has interpreted for presidential summits and international sporting events. Her website is