Rio is huge. If you are new to the city and have no idea where to start, I have an idea. It’s free. A great bunch of guys dedicate their time to show foreigners around the city. Free Walker Tours is a place to turn to. In just 2 hours they can show you the best spots in the city, not only in Rio but also in São Paulo. Not only day tours, but also night tours – best bars, best samba places and best cachaca.

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And if you are lucky, you will meet awesome storytellers. Mariana is all the way from Spain.

History of Brazil is just like a history of any other colony. Once the truth is unveiled it is interesting to see how puzzles come together. In order to find out more about Rio and become closer to Brazilian culture, I joined a free walking tour organized by enthusiasts who are in love with Brazil and want to share a lot of facts with newcomers. And indeed it is so hard not to fall I love with the city. I am sitting in the hostel in the heart of Stockholm and my heart right now is in Rio.

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Travessa do Comerio. Graffiti *love!

We walked back and forth around Lapa neighborhood. Lapa is a majestic neighborhood, a bohemian place where people dance the samba on crutches and party seven days a week, despite the rain. Brazilians, Cariocas, are the happiest people I have ever met in my life. Despite the problems and poverty, they continue to dance, to celebrate life and to charge everyone around with a crazy energy that lives you burning even in chilly Stockholm. Lapa is located in the heart of Rio; it is famous for its historical monuments and busy nightlife.

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Lapa Barrio / Arcos da Lapa

Lapa was a home for famous samba singer, famous for wearing a fruit hat. Carmen Miranda (check her out) was the one who broke through to the American audience and raised an interest to Latin American and Brazil. Her house, where she used to live and perform is located in the midst of historical monuments of the city. Throughout the city, you can find a lot of graffiti depicting numerous events in the history of Brazil, one of such places is Paco Imperial – i.e. Imperial Palace. It was built in the 18th century and served as a residence for King John VI, who came from Portugal. The building does not look like a palace. Simple, white, two-storey building built in a square shape was the only good place to host royalty at the time when King John VI in a hurry decided to leave Portugal. Indeed, that turned into a palace and was not renovated or changed. Brazil was the last country in America to abolish slavery in 1888, with the help of Princess Isabel. You can find a statue of hers on the main street leading to Copacabana beach.

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A very famous cafe, where all incoming presidents have their cup of coffee on the 2nd floor. This is the best place to try brigadeiro. A heaven for chocolate lovers.

Lapa is famous not only for the largest concentration of cafes, restaurants, bars but also for beautiful buildings, located one after another one. Another aspect is the Arcos known as the Arcos da Lapa, constructed to act as a conduit in the days of colonial Brazil and now serve as a signal for the cable cars that climb the hill of Santa Teresa.

Another aspect, that center of Lapa was reconstructed from a hilly area into a square during the industrialization period. The center was turned into a business center, filled with skyscrapers and horrific buildings.  One of such buildings, the headquarters of the famous for money laundering Brazilian oil company – Petrobras, tops the list of the ugliest buildings on the Earth. Just around the corner, one may find buildings referring to absolutely different era, like the 18th century. One of such buildings is Teatro municipal, very similar to the opera house in Vienna.

The eclectic style was a combination of projects from two architects, one who won the competition and another one, a protégé of the minister, who secured his place through connections. Thus, the municipality decided to combine two projects and create one building that clearly stands out from the rest buildings in the city.

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Another famous place in Lapa is Escadaria Selaron, designed by Jorge Selaron, who built the famous stairs to worship his wife who passed away as well as a tribute to Brazilian people. He started the project in 1990 however, was always running out of materials. First people criticized him for the colors that he chose, very bright ones, resembling Brazilian flag. After he runs out of the money to support his project, people from all over the world started to send him mirrors, tiles, ceramics with different pictures. Today, you can find tiles from all over the world. However, there is another legend that has not been published anywhere in the magazines. It is known among people of Brazil. The project started on the night his wife died at home when he was not there to help her. Chilean-born artists, Jorge Selron passed away in 2013 on his own stairs, but the police still had not finished the investigation, as there are claims that he was killed, as numerous burn marks were found on his body. A sad and at the same time nice story which is a tribute to his people made this crazy idea famous, admired and acceptable around the world, moreover, it set an example and you may find colored stairs in many parts of the world.

Rio de Janeiro has so much to offer, but I believe that cariocas themselves enjoy every moment spent in their city.

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