Brazil: City Breaks

The world's largest country in the tropics

Brazil City Breaks

If you are after a unique city break bathed in glorious sunshine, Brazil has a host of excellent options. The city is capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro, which encompasses most of Brazil's major tourist attractions. Rio is a never-ending story made up of 150 districts each characterised by unique features, like Santa Teresa, which is reached by taking an old tram across an ancient aqueduct called Arcos da Lapa. In the central city area Rio boasts historic monuments and public buildings like the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National History Museum and the National Library. There are also beautiful examples of religious architecture such as the Sao Bento Monastery. No matter how long you spend exploring the city, it will always deliver new surprises. To the north of the city is the Lakes region, which has more than 100km of beaches and sea-water lagoons and is the site of the main tourist resorts of Búzios, Cabo Frio, Arrial do Cabo, Rio das Ostras, Maricá and Saquarema.

Originally a mission station set up in 1554 by Jesuit priests on the banks of the Rio Tiete, the city of Sao Paulo is today an awesome megalopolis, the industrial and commercial powerhouse of Brazil. The city grew wealthy on coffee cultivation in the mid-19th century, thanks to the rich soil of the region, and the plantation owners took up residence in the bustling regional centre. Gradually the coffee barons diversified their interests and invested some of their wealth in local industry, resulting in a demand for labour and a resultant surge in immigrant population. Today 16-million proud 'Paulistanos' live in the congested, chaotic and cosmopolitan city centre and its sprawling surrounds. Lacking in natural attractions, the city's leisure pursuits are mainly cultural, and there are some impressive public buildings to delight sightseers.

Salvador de Bahia is Bahia state's capital city (locals generally abbreviate its name to Salvador or simply Bahia). Salvador was founded in 1549 and quickly became the premier city in Brazil, and the second most important city in the Portuguese Empire after Lisbon. Salvador prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was the country's major port and a significant portion of the sugar from the northeast and gold and diamonds from the mines in the southeast passed through the city. Today the wealth of impressive colonial architecture is evidence of the city's rich history. Between the modern tower blocks, well-restored enclaves of the old city remain with cobblestone streets, colourful mansions and dozens of ornate Baroque churches. The spicy atmosphere of this delightfully decadent city is best soaked up on foot, within the narrow streets and in the markets, the best of which is the Mercado Modelo arts and crafts market. Most churches are open to the public and many have been turned into museums. One of the city's more unusual experiences is to ride the Elevador Lacerda, an Art Deco structure housing old electric elevators that carry passengers between the port and the old historic part of the town, on the hill. Salvador is Brazil's most Africanised state, a result of the thousands of slaves that were brought here 400 years ago to work in the sugarcane plantations, and there is even a museum, the Museu Afro-Brasileira, which is dedicated to Black culture. The fusion of African and Latin cultures had given Salvador a unique brand of magic that is particularly evident at city's many festivals, most notably the massive 'Carnival' in mid-November which attracts two million revellers from all over the world and is said to rival the famous Rio Carnival. Whenever you visit and whatever you do, Brazil has a host of amazing locations for an excellent city break.