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Rio de Janeiro boasts one of the most unique and gorgeous cityscapes in the world. Flanked by perfect crescent-shaped white-sand beaches, verdant green hills and dotted with a picturesque lake, time must be spent outside to fully appreciate the spectacular beauty of this city.
1. Relax on Ipanema beach. Though you may be more familiar with Copacabana beach (at least in name), Ipanema's view of the Dois Irmãos mountains on its southern end can't be beat. If you go at sunset, the view of the sun sinking behind the distant hills evokes a round of applause from beachgoers because, after all, a good show deserves praise.
2. Ride the cable car up to the top of Pão de Açucar mountain. Apart from being one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, this little stone mountain provides a spectacular view of the city, especially at sunset. Plan to arrive an hour before the sun goes down, and enjoy a coffee at the café at the top. Then relax (or snap pictures and take video) as you watch the city's lights begin to twinkle in the pink and orange glow of dusk.
3. Rent a bike and take a ride around the Lagoa. A great activity for couples or families, riding bikes around the Lagoa (lake) in the middle of the city provides a superb view of Cristo Redentor (the city’s famed statue), and makes for a very pleasant afternoon outing.
4. Take the cog-wheel train to the top of Corcovado. Recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue sits watch over the city at the top of Corcovado mountain. Though very heavily visited, as far as world-famous tourist attractions go, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. And the views are simply incredible.
5. Catch a lift up to Santa Teresa on the bonde trolley. Rio is a city built on hills, and this quaint artists' enclave boasts some of the city's best colonial architecture and restaurants. Check out the Parque das Ruinas, an old repurposed mansion that has sweeping views (do you detect a trend here?) of downtown Rio and Guanabara Bay. Then walk through the winding cobblestone streets to enjoy traditional bar bites and feijoada, a black-bean stew, at Bar do Mineiro. Wash it down with Brahma beer—or better yet, choose from several different kinds of cachaça, a sugarcane liquor.