I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard to tear away from the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. There’s something about sitting on the sand surrounded by beautiful people with a bustling city at your back. You can’t find that combination many other places.
I spent an inordinate amount of time behind a camera lens trying to capture forever the beauty of this unique place.
But there is more to Rio than the beach, as I found out on both my hike up Morro da Urca and the few hours I spent beforehand, exploring Rio’s centro, or downtown.
Currently functioning as the financial district, where many cariocas spend their workdays, Rio’s centro is also steeped in history with many nods to its French and Portuguese influence.
Several of the buildings, like the Royal Reading Room shown above, show their age quite a bit but still hint at their past grandeur.
There was some pretty great street art as well, though not as much as I would have expected.
Either the street artists have respect for the historical buildings, or the laws against graffiti are stricter in Rio than in other parts of Brazil.
The main hustle in centro occurs during the work week, but since I had to work during the week we visited on a Saturday when things were far more deserted.
Still, we managed to find the crowds at renowned Confeitaria Columbo, which a travel guide had informed me was one of the most elegant coffee shops in the world.
An exaggeration, I feared, but not so. The place was incredibly ornate and beautiful.
We had coffees and sandwiches to fuel us for our hike and then had to rush to meet our friend, though I wish we’d had time to try some of the sweeter treats and maybe a drink from the schmancy bar. Just another reason to go back to Rio one of these days, I suppose.
In general, we didn’t get to see nearly as much of centro as we wanted to, but it was enlightening to step away from the beach for a different look at Rio.
If you’re planning on visiting centro in Rio, it’s best to go during the week when most of the shops and restaurants are open. Our friend Anna cautioned us to avoid the area on Sunday, when stores are closed, as it could be a little dangerous.