There’s no denying that Rio is a feast for the eyes. If art, murals, or just the ethereal nature of man captivates you, then you’re sure to find something that you like in Rio. While there’s plenty of areas in Rio that can shine in your eyes, here’s a list of our favorite colorful communities. But we’ll let you pick your favorite, because as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
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To find what is arguably the liveliest and most colorful neighborhood in Rio, the first place you’ll want to head to is Santa Teresa. The area is like honey for hipsters and artists and is filled with the kinds of bars, cafes, and restaurants you would expect to find in SoHo or Brooklyn. The area is incredibly walkable and the old tracks that belonged to trolleys from a by-gone era can serve as makeshift tour guides.
Look out for baby blue doors left slightly ajar, with old Brazilian music and the smells of homemade cooking escaping into the street.
Or try to make a friend and sit at a small table at one of the many restaurants that are tucked into all different corners. Santa Teresa is covered in some of the city’s most beautiful murals, with hues splattered all over the streets. Because the neighborhood is also one of the highest, it offers a spectacular view of the beautiful sprawling city below. Around every corner a new place, sound, or person will fit into the painting that is Santa Teresa.
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If quirks, beats, and aqueducts are your thing, then Lapa will unfold like a rainbow for you. The neighborhood is filled with thrift shops, specialty stores, and spaces for live music. It’s draped with one of a kind lights and decorations that make the murals on the streets come alive. Ramshackle pop-up stands sell caipirinhas, mojitos, and coffees.
The booze flows all night and the once distinguishable faces and flowers that dotted the streets become fuzzy and more Picasso-esque.
Paths and walls are tiled, and the entire area becomes a tribute to the people that have lived here over the year and left their mark. One of the brightest and most beautiful attractions to visit in Lapa is the Selarón steps, a tiled and bright walkway that leads visitors into the very heart of Lapa.
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For those looking to trade sand and beach for green and quiet, the scenery provided by Flamengo refreshes the eyes with cool blues and greens. It’s a welcome change from the fiery reds and oranges and yellows that ooze from the streets of the rest of Rio. Flamengo, which translates from Portuguese to mean “Flemish” has its roots from Dutch settlements that began at the end of the 16th century. The city has evaded a lot of the rapid development that many parts of Rio experienced over the last fifty years. The neighborhood has retained its rich history and rich undeveloped greenness giving it a calmness that feels absent from the rest of Rio. Flamengo is located at the tip of Guanabara Bay, making the air cool and the parks lush.
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Like most city centers, Centro is bumping. The area weaves together its past and present with historic monuments like the Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro and Paço Imperial stand between silver sky scrapers and colonial bars. Centro mainly serves as Rio’s economic powerhouse, but arresting art pieces pay homage to Rio’s turbulent past. The juxtaposition between Brazil’s wealthiest and most powerful business men and the dressed down tourists and peddlers paints a picture of a country that’s finding its legs. There’s beauty to be found in the contrast. Locals laugh that this is the only place in Rio where you’ll find Cariocas — or a person from Rio — rushing. Like a complicated contemporary painting, Centro offers tourists a chance to think and appreciate.
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One of the smaller neighborhoods in Rio, Cosme Velho still manages to draw a lot of attention because of its proximity to Christ the Redeemer and Crcovado Mountain. The neighborhood’s colorful highlight is the Largo do Boticário, a square that was designed in traditional neo-colonial style. The square features homes in bright blues, yellows, pinks and greens. It’s reminiscent of Southern Antebellum architecture, except with wilderness creeping into the edges.
While some of the homes need repair and restoration, the dilapidated sophistication of these homes makes the area truly unique.
Cosme Velho is also known for its wonderful gardens and it’s close-to-nature vibes, so the mossy homes fit right in. It’s as though mother nature gave Cosme Velho to the people of Rio herself, and though the financial richness may have left, the area continues to thrive and prosper in many other ways.
While not technically a neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden or Jardim Botânico is one of the most colorful places that you can visit in Rio. The botanical garden is home to over 6,000 species of flora and features important archeological, artistic, and historical artifacts. Its collection is vast and diverse, featuring indoor and outdoor plants across almost 350 acres. To get to the botanical garden, and bask in the glory of tropical palms and bright Mediterranean flowers, visitors will need to head to the Corcovado Mountain. The entrance to the garden is well known and very distinguishable — a half mile row of palm trees leads visitors to the main areas. What’s interesting is that all these trees originated from a single frawn — the Palma Mater — which was destroyed by a strike of lighting. The garden is filled with orchids and lush spices. The aromas themselves would be colorful enough if not complemented by the enchantment of rare flowers, trees, and bushes.
Rocinha is Rio’s most populous favela (Favelas are the slums of Brazil). What’s interesting about Rocinha, however, is that over time, this area has grown from being an urban slum into a developing community where the homes have grown to be several stories high, the area’s infrastructure has blossomed to support the 70,000 people that live there, and life does flourish. The area does continue to suffer from drug trafficking and some violent problems, but despite these obstacles, a well-planned visit to Rocinha can reveal the inner workings of a very unfamiliar area. With houses basically built on one another up the hilly edges of Rio, Rocinha is the very definition of improvisation and survival.
Because the homes are all painted vibrant colors and stacked one on top of the other, it creates a visual mural that represents one of Rio’s strongest and most complex communities.
Barra da Tijuca
As different from Rocinha as day is from night, Barra de Tijuca is Miami’s cousin in Rio. The beaches and the lifestyle of those in Barra draw the wealthy and the famous. Like lightening bugs, nightclubs glitter across the coast, inviting girls and boys to come and appreciate Brazil’s hottest hits. The colors here are on the people.
Flashy jewelry and glitzy dresses flutter around the night, creating almost a live-action portrait of what it means to be glamourous.
Here, the beaches are like the beaches you always expect to see in Rio: Long, white, and filled with beautiful men and women. It’s a sunbather’s delight and there is no shame. So take in the reds, golds, and yellows and feel the warmth of the sun, some rum, and fun fill you up.