View from morro Corcovado with Hipódromo da Gávea

Rio de Janeiro, named Cidade Maravilhosa by its proud inhabitants, is built in one of the great natural settings for a city – an excellent natural harbour, broad beaches, thickly wooded hills almost to the water’s edge, a lagoon, a warm-to-temperate climate, and abundant flora and fauna.

Flora on the ascent to the summit of Corcovado

A troupe of monkeys in residence in an abandoned hotel on the way to Corcovado

Rio cloudscape from the Corcovado summit

Rio pushes right up to the hills

Rio’s Centro is a poignant mix of grandeur and decay, reminding us that it was once the sophisticated capital of a wealthy country.

Centro street lighting of breath-taking splendour

Facade awaiting restoration, Centro

Plannned in 1602 as an aqueduct, Arcos da Lapa became a viaduct for bondes tram in 1896

Centro Art Deco cinema with tiled capitals

Rio’s great institutions are still in place, albeit with their roles adapted to this century.

Ex-Imperial chapel on Praça Quinze de Novembre, now a Carmelite church

Still a Carmelite hospital, with sculpture in courtyard, Centro

Other institutions adapt too – Scotland never saw a ‘kirk’ like this.

Presbyterian church at night, Rio Centro 

You may wonder where the famous sights of Rio are  – Cristo Redentor, Sugarloaf, the beaches. There are many images of them, and they ARE spectacular, but in this cidade linda (beautiful city), even the everyday and the decayed catch your eye.

One Rio institution which has resisted change is the Bar Luiz. Founded in 1887, the original building is more or less intact – only the name and the address have changed, resisting war, demolition, and renovation. (See its history at

A long day of sight-seeing draws to a memorable close in these surroundings. When we dined there, the waiter told us that the original off-white geometric floor tiles were not replaced as planned, ‘because the customers wouldn’t hear of it’. It is said to serve “o melhor chope do Rio de Janeiro”, the best glass of beer in town. Saúde!

Rua da Carioca, 39, Centro