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About Rio de Janeiro

Sinuous, insinuating, beautiful and intriguing, the landscape of Rio de Janeiro has delighted visitors com have come to its shores for five centuries. A few years after the announcement of the discovery of the new land of Brazil, the hills of Urca, the Sugar Loaf and Pedra da Gávea had already been included in Italian, Dutch, English and, of course, Portuguese maps.

One of the Portuguese expeditions sent to explore the coast mistook the huge bay that opened to the sea for a river mouth (Rio means river in Portuguese). Thus began the history of Rio de Janeiro.

But the French were the first ones to settle the region, building fortifications in the islands in the middle of the bay. Later, they took some positions on the banks of a river, which was later channeled and covered, located at what is now the Flamengo neighborhood. Native Brazilians used to call this river Kari Oka. Therefore, people living in the city started being called cariocas, including those who arrived later, under the orders of the Portuguese Crown, to expel the French with the swords and cannons of Mem de Sá.

During one of the decisive battles waged to expel the French, Saint Sebastian was invoked – and seen by many – and would become the Patron Saint of the city since its foundation. The defense base was set up on a hill, known as Morro do Castelo (the Castle Hill).

The fortress built on this site dominated the entrance to the bay and had some cannon batteries set up close to the sea on Villegagnon Island. Part of this area was reclaimed from the sea and today this is where the Santos Dumont Airport is located.

An urban center grew and flourished around the Morro do Castelo, supported by the defense structure, the establishment of an administration system for the region and the development of local trade.

Rio de Janeiro was the seat of the viceroyalty, became the capital city of the colony and in the 19th century it became the seat of the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves with the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family. In 1822, with the Independence of Brazil and the coronation of Pedro I, Rio became the first and only capital city of an empire in the Southern Hemisphere.

All this political and economic movement left for those who visit the city a number of well-known landscapes in the city Center. Even before the arrival of the Prince regent, the aqueduct, known today as the Lapa Arches, the
St. Lucy Church, the Monastery of St. Benedict, the City Palace, Convent of St. Anthony and the Imperial Palace had all been already built. With the arrival of the Portuguese Court and later of the French cultural missions,
the city witnessed the emergence of new buildings and public spaces that are must visits for all those interested in the history of Rio: the Botanical Garden, the National Museum (former residence of the emperor), the
Candelaria Church, the neoclassical buildings in the city Center. In the first decades of the 20th century, the Center was still the place where the political, economic and social elites used to meet.

Thus, the area underwent major transformations, such as those that opened new avenues, such as Rio Branco Avenue, the flattening of the Morro do Castelo, the Presidente Vargas Avenue, the tearing down of houses that
proliferated with the development of the harbor area and construction of the railroad. In the wake of these major transformations we have solid evidence of this time that became cultural landmarks, such as the Bank of Brasil Cultural Center, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the France-Brasil House and the Municipal Theater.

Major construction works also marked the era of post-War administrations. Modernism set the tone for monuments such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, in the former site of the Morro de Santo Antônio (St. Anthony Hill), the Modern Art Museum, at Aterro do Flamengo, in the 1950’s. But the beginning of the century also marked the development of other areas of the city that would turn it into a travel destination: the emergence of Copacabana and Ipanema, previously isolated by the hills spread throughout the city, the construction of two icons of Rio, the Sugar Loaf cable car and the Christ the Redeemer statue, which contributed to the city being named the Wonderful City.

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Source: RIO CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU


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