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Romantic Rio de Janeiro

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Romantic Rio de Janeiro
You can’t describe Rio without using the word “sexy.” Soulful people, body-covered beaches, steamy dance clubs, and a stunning natural landscape make the city ideal for a romantic getaway.
Photo by Sávio Martins
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    The Samba Schools
    Though it officially lasts a mere four days, Rio lives and breathes Carnival year-round. Starting in June, you really feel it in so-called “samba schools,” the groups that parade the city’s Sambadrome every February in the hopes of being judged best of all. The schools’ spaces, open to the public, play host to rehearsals where participants prepare for the following year’s spectacle. Those who come will get an in-the-flesh look at both samba as well as carnival’s sensuality and exciting power. Schools abound but two are especially visitor-friendly—Salgueiro and Mangueira—and at most, those who wish can let loose on the dance floor at the same time they enjoy the music.
    Photo by Sávio Martins
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    Whoever visits Arpoador Rock will never forget it. Right at the start of Ipanema, at posto 7, a boulder juts out from the sea to become a natural amphitheater for anyone looking to enjoy an unforgettable sunset. At the end of the beach, now Leblon, the peaks known as Dois Irmãos rise; their rounded summits stand out against a sky that changes color as the sun disappears behind them. In summer, it goes down over the ocean, expanding dusk’s palette from brilliant blue to fiery orange. That’s when the people of Arpoador applaud in simple tribute. The next day it happens all over again.
    Photo by Diego Berruecos
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    Forte de Copacabana
    At the end of Rio’s most famous beach rises a fortification from the early twentieth century. Built atop a rock formation, the fort now evinces a triple-attraction: its extraordinary placement, offering unparalleled views of Copacabana’s four-kilometer sand-and-surf strip; the fort itself, with its historical exhibits and military museum circuit; and its two cafés offering breakfast and all-day snacks along a leafy walkway stirred by tropical breezes. Perfect for a post-beach afternoon chill.  
    Photo courtesy of Forte de Copacabana
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    Romantic Rio Restaurants
    Influenced by African, Amazonian, and European flavors and well stocked with fresh seafood, Rio’s restaurants are top-notch. The most famous chefs cook in the kitchens of Ipanema and Leblon. Share artfully-arranged platters of the morning’s catch at Sushi Leblon, or toast champagne glasses over plates of rock lobster at the elegant Fasano Al Mare. In the eclectic Santa Teresa neighborhood, Térèze serves more than 200 varieties of wine and provides sweeping views of the city. Get close with your loved one at a table that looks out at red-tiled roofs and the sea in the distance. Hachiko is a good option for Asian fusion food downtown; go at night for a more relaxed, candlelit vibe.
    Photo by Leandro Ciuffo
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    Only in Rio can you happen on to a tropical paradise without leaving city limits. 35 kilometers west of Copacabana lies Prainha. The name calls up a small beach that’s in fact a sand formation in an ecological reserve surrounded by the Atlantic Rainforest’s complete variety of plant and animal life. Known as one of the city’s surfing meccas, it’s a gem for anyone keen on sun and waves. Eat fresh seafood right on the beach, and if you brought your board, there’s a “surf-bus” that connects to the city’s most popular tourist areas.
    Photo by Ana Schlimovich
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    Pão De Açucar
    Among all the odd-shaped mountains that adorn the Rio horizon, “Sugarloaf” (i.e., Pão de Açucar) stands apart for its majesty and fortuitous placement. It is in fact part of a single landmark alongside sister peak Urca, to which it connects via a now-century-old cable car locals call the bondinho. When you reach the top of the rounded outcropping, 396 meters up, it’s hard to decide what to look at: you’ve got 360 degrees of Rio from on high. The recommended (and most sought after) visiting hour—is sunset. Yet there’s no hurry to descend before night falls. Seeing the lights come up in the cidade maravilhosa is well worth a tarry.
    Photo by Diego Berruecos
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    Lapa Nights
    Rio has changed considerably in recent years, but its bohemian quarter par excellence is as hip as ever. Lapa is home to the city’s greatest concentration of bars and concert halls, beneath the quaint arches of the namesake aqueduct soaring high above as well as along Avenida Mem de Sá. Samba stalwarts like Carioca da Gema or Semente bump up against more touristy watering holes, like Rio Scenarium; or a thousand other barrooms where beer and the local firewater, cachaça, flow as freely as music wafts through the streets. A true, authentic, after-dark urban pageant.
    Photo by Sávio Martins
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    Parque Lage
    Perhaps the Jardim Botânico’s perfect go-along is found on the same street at a park that transports visitors to another age. A former sugar mill belonging to an elite family, the property also is home to a diminutive, architecturally eclectic palace from the early-twentieth century that today serves as a fine-arts academy. Its interior features a cloister and pool that are stunningly photogenic, with the jungle in the background and Cristo Redentor high above. You’ll even find a path there that leads to the Corcovado summit, suitable only for the heartiest adventurers. Mere mortals content themselves with a coffee on the patio or a leisurely garden stroll.
    Photo by Ana Schlimovich
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    The Maze
    No one can’t help noticing Brazil’s stark social contrasts, especially visible in Rio thanks to rich neighborhoods that often sit tooth by jowl next to some of its poorest, the city’s world-famous favelas. High up in the slum called Tavares Bastos, visitors can take in an evening that includes some of the city’s best jazz, yet in a setting like few others: a boîte called The Maze, where the owner, a British-born artist, now a long-term Rio resident, first decided to mount a show in 2005 (on the first Friday of every month) and that has now become a citywide musical landmark. Those that journey up—aboard a minibus or in a taxi—will get breathtaking vistas to go with the great entertainment.
    Photo by Sávio Martins