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Secret Rio: Alternative experiences in the Marvelous City
June 5, 2018, 12:24 pm
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Rio de Janeiro, the ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (Marvelous City), is a city true to its namesake. Its famous landmarks and beaches draw the masses every year, but these must-sees can sometimes eclipse the rich essence of what makes this a unique destination.

There is indeed much more Rio de Janeiro than Cristo, carnival and caipirinhas – it is a dazzling flux of color and movement, reserved for the most adventurous of travelers. Keep this intrepid spirit as you explore the secret side of the Marvelous City.

Pedra do Sal: Samba’s old town: Just beyond Centro’s shiny office blocks hides historic neighborhood Pedra do Sal. This is the birthplace of samba and one of the most important cultural sites in Brazil’s history. On Mondays and Fridays after sundown, the normally sleepy Pedra do Sal awakens to celebrate its samba history as hundreds of locals with a passion for Brazil’s best-known genre of music gather where it all began.

Grumari: Rio’s best secret beach: Beyond the bustle of Copacabana and Ipanema are a group of secluded beaches well worth seeking out. Rent a car for the day and head towards the city’s western wilderness to Rio’s most secret beach, Grumari. On the way, the coastal road from Barra de Tijuca provides beautiful views of the ocean and passes some of the most secret beaches in Rio. There are a variety of options to choose from: the California glamour of Barra, the laid-back surf vibe of Prainha, and finally Grumari’s pocket of paradise.

Set alongside a cobbled road, the beach is not towered over by the usual condominiums that dominate most of Rio’s seaside – Grumari’s only neighbors are the lush green mountains. The ideal time to enjoy this little-known stretch of lusciously warm, rolling waves is early on a weekday morning, when the beach is almost deserted.

Explore Rio by skateboard: With miles of coastline and smooth asphalt, Rio de Janeiro is the prime city for anyone to find their inner ‘radness’. Unbeknownst to many, skateboarding is the second most popular sport in Brazil after football. This becomes obvious with a stroll alongside Ipanema’s cycle path, where longboard skaters stylishly whiz their way towards Copacabana, past the leisurely bicycles, street food carts and muscle-bound runners.

Street art spotting and graffiti workshops: Street art was legalized in Rio de Janeiro in 2014 when the city’s public spaces were officially opened up to carioca creative types and professional street artists. Whether it is stencils on stairways or adventurous tags on towering buildings, Rio has become one of the most dynamic urban art galleries in the world.

Modern architecture by Oscar Niemeyer: The words ‘architecture’ and ‘Rio’ in the same sentence may generally conjure up images of sprawling favela shacks or grand colonial building, but Rio de Janeiro is in fact home to a handful of world class modern architecture sites, thanks to legendary local architect, the late Oscar Niemeyer.

Niteroí city is just a thirty-minute ferry ride from the center of Rio de Janeiro and is home to some of Niemeyer's greatest structures. There is also an entire road featuring his works – the aptly-named Caminho Niemeyer welcomes visitors with the curving domes of Teatro Popular and continues for 11km, making it the second largest architectural complex made by the architect.

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