This a guide to some of the neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro. I have included the ones that are most interesting to you as a visitor. From this page I have links going to pages where they are explained more in detail. Further down is a brief history of the city.

The Neighbourhoods in Rio

Click on the links to get more detailed info on the neighbourhoods:

Copacabana & Leme
Leblon & Gávea
Jardim Botânico/Lagoa
Botafogo, Humaitá & Urca
Catete, Flamengo, Laranjeiras & Glória
Santa Teresa
Barra de Tijuca

Neighbourhoods in Rio - Docks in Centro

Commerce in the docks in Rio 19th century.

History of Rio de Janeiro

Various tribes of Indians occupied the area before the colonization, they were the Temiminós on the Rio side and over on the Niterói side Tamoios. Even if it was discovered by the Portuguese it was only the first of March 1565 the Portuguese finally took over the land currently held by French colonialists and founded Rio de Janeiro, credited for this is the military Estácio de Sá. In the 17th century, production of livestock and refinaries for sugar cane assured the importance of the port. In the 18th century the very lucrative mining of gold in Minas Gerais started to ship their gold from Rio and the city grew even more. In 1763 Salvador in Bahia lost its status as colonial capital to Rio. From now on the history of Rio became intertwined with the history of Brazil for almost two centuries.

The Monarchy
In 1808 the Portuguese king João VI landed in Rio declaring it the new capital of the Portuguese Empire, Napoleon had occupied the motherland. This was the start of the emancipation. The National Library, a gunpowder factory, The Botanical Gardens, The Bank of Brazil, a military academy, a large administrative system and freedom for trade was all instituted during the thirteen years of his exile from Europe. When he finally could return to Portugal (with the defeat of Napoleon in 1821) his son Pedro stayed as vice-king. One year later, the 7th of September 1822 he declared Brazil independent. And in December he was named Dom Pedro I, the first emperor of independent Brazil. The monarchy was shortlived and his son Dom Pedro II had to abdicate the 15th November 1889 following a military coup led by a general Deodoro da Fonseca, who also became the new republics first president.

Paço Imperial Rio

Paço Imperial (The Royal Palace) 1910, today open for visitors.

The Old Republic
During the time of the first republic, Rio was the capital. The country was growing richer and industrialized and so was Rio. There was another military coup in 1930 and the country was run by a Getúlio Vargas for many years. With the election of Juscelino Kubitschek as president 1956 many new reforms started. Inspired by the fast progress in the Eastern Block he adapted some of their ideas of planned economy and centralization. He ordered the construction of a new capital that would be located in the core of Brazil. 1960 Rio de Janeiro lost its status as capital to Brasilia and an era was ended.

The Decline
During the late 1960’s and the 1970’s (it started 1964) a military dictatatorship and its politics slowly brought Brazil down. The bright and shiny future wasn’t so bright anymore. In the 1970’s a growing stream of people from the Northeast had started to come to the city. The favelas grew, homeless people on the street as a result. With the final end of the dictatorship in 1985 citizens regained freedom of speach and political refugees could return. But what was also lost was the control of the police, the corruption of the police together with easy access to fire arms and a growing drug trade created enormous violence and security problems. Problems that still has had no efficient solutions. Some neighbourhoods in Rio are so bad that people hardly go out after sundown. A recent pacification process have made the situation better in many neighbourhoods in Rio, although big problems still exist.

Avenida Presidente Vargas 1950's

Avenida Presidente Vargas 1950’s; the look of the new Brasil.

Migration In the City
At first Rio de Janeiro was where Centro is today, it slowly expanded to neighbouring areas. Tunnels and new housing projects first populated areas like Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, this started in the 1950’s. The second wave was to Barra de Tijuca starting in the 1970’s. The result is that Centro today has virtually no residents apart from people living on the street, because of this it is one of the neighbourhoods in Rio you shouldn’t be at night.

Ethnic mix
The population of Rio is in majority mixed (or mestiços), many of them with roots in Portugal but its really just a big mix. Due to the huge import of slaves from Africa that was used in the sugar cane plantations there is also a large black population. There are few pure Indians from Rio left but the big migration from the Northeast have led to a large portion of inhabitants with more or less Indian heritage. Other than that there are many Lebanese, Germans, Italians, French and so on. Rio de Janeiro has one of the worlds biggest racial mixes. Depending on what neighbourhoods in Rio you are in the dominant racial mix varies quite a lot.

Go from Neighbourhoods in Rio to Home for

Follow Gringo-Rio

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.