Rio de Janeiro has always been Brazil’s greatest attraction: a city of gorgeous, gregarious, athletically blessed people that is almost impossibly draped over dramatic green hills along a coastline indented with beautiful beaches. It’s also a city of crime, chronic poverty, and deep-seated corruption. Like Brazil itself (whose stock market shot up more than 350 percent from 2000 to 2010), Rio is percolating right now; commercial rents, according to one assessment, are now higher here than in New York. Inflation’s on the rise too—but with the World Cup arriving in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, the long-neglected port area being overhauled, three new museums going up, and even the crime-ridden favelas slowly coming under state control, the city’s feeling pretty good. It’s still no paradise, though it comes as close as any complicated metropolis of 12 million inhabitants ever could.
• The Top Three Beach Scenes
• Top Five Boutiques
• Is Rio Safe?
• The Downtown Circuit
• Where to Party Like a Soap Star
• Botecos—for Drinks and Snacks
• Rio’s Changing Architecture
• Where Locals Would Stay If They Weren’t Locals
• Top Chefs
Reported by Seth Kugel; Additional Reporting by Nicholas Gill.