My 28th birthday celebration will always be kept in my memory because it was the first time I celebrated it very far away from family and friends. I celebrated it in the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro, which also happened to be the very first city I visited in South America.
What is so special about Rio de Janeiro?
Rio de Janeiro is described as one of most beautiful cities in the world. And I can confirm it really is a Cidade Maravilhosa – the natural beauty, the ideal location by the seaside, the fantastic climate, warm people are all factors which make this city one of the most preferred destinations in several Bucket lists.
Beyond the long walks in the promenades of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, I had also the chance of interacting with cariocas and found out so many other aspects of Rio which make it such an unique place in the world:
– Easy-going culture: from casual clothing in many kinds of events to naturally approaching an unknown group of friends at the beach to play beach volleyball together, cariocas are warm-hearted and have a genuine interest in getting to know everything about you and engaging with you.
– Sports and natural beauty: The natural beauty of this city makes it a great excuse to practise sports in all ocasions: be it jogging at the beach promenade, Lagoa, or doing sports at the gym or dance academies, you name it. And that also means starting as early as 6 a.m, because you do not want to miss any moment!!
– Relationship with the sea: Even though I live at the seaside and I am completely used to it, in Rio de Janeiro I felt the people and the sea had a really strong symbiosis. It does not matter if it is jogging along Ipanema, having açaí at the beach bar or watching the sunset in Arpoador, the sea is in the air of the city and the perfect meeting point for any occasion! (And do not forget the coconut water: I got addicted to it!).
– Nightlife: The nighlife in Rio de Janeiro is amazing, you will struggle to choose everyday from a wide variety of concerts, nightclubs, parties or exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed a fair – Feira de São Cristóvão. The entrance fee is 5 reais and in this fair you will be able to taste and drink typical Northeastern Brazilian products, listening and dancing to typical music. I enjoyed banana cachaça and I was even taught how to dance forró!
– Gastronomic variety: Brazil’s gastronomy encompasses the country’s ethnical and cultural diversity: from juicy Picanha steaks with farofa/mandioca/black beans to mouth-watering fish/seafood moqueca, Italian and Japanese fusion cuisines are also very popular!
Sunset spot at Arpoador
Copacabana Beach Panorama
And what about safety?
Like any other large city, when we are abroad we follow a set of safety recommendations. Rio de Janeiro is no different, it is not more dangerous than New York or Barcelona. I have always felt safe even when I was on my own and felt I could always rely on locals’s help if needed. My recommendation for you: Do not freak out, do not get obsessed with it! Rio de Janeiro is an amazing city, there is constant police supervision in the major touristic areas, the “problematic” favelas are actually quite far away from any touristic place, so just relax and enjoy the most using your common sense: if something looks unsafe to you or you are not comfortable with it, do not risk it (you probably would not do it either at home, right?). Moreover, do not forget there are situations you will never be able to control or avoid, such as busjackers (happened while I was there) or possible carjackers. Some safety tips I used:
– No matter how hard it can be, dress low-profile: no ostentative jewellery, flashy logos, etc. and ideally wear no-name clothes.
– Take a belly waist bag only to carry an ID document or copy of it, some cash and a credit card. I like this one by Samsonite.
– Do not walk alone in the evening, always take Uber and wait until your Uber arrives!
– If you get lost, do not open Google Maps or a standard map in public. Wait to enter the next store and ask for directions or enter a place with proper Wifi connection.
- Take quick and occasional pictures with your cell phone.
The fancy side of Rio de Janeiro – My birthday’s gastronomical choices
Moving to the fancy side of Rio and my birthday gastronomical choices, first of all let me share with you Brazil has given me some of the most extraordinary breakfasts/brunches in my entire life! Drinking natural fresh tropical juices, eating fresh açaí with yoghurt and granola are just some of the most common and incredibly tasty options for breakfast. And if you can enjoy breakfast contemplating the beach promenade, it is pure heaven!
Breakfast at Café do Forte – Confeitaria Colombo
You probably have heard of Confeitaria Colombo and have seen the iconic picture of it located in the historic center of Rio with its emblematic architecture and very crowded. It is one of the oldest coffeehouses in the world – since 1894 and an ex-libris of Rio de Janeiro.
Did you also know it is possible to enjoy a seat overlooking the sea in Confeitaria Colombo and have such an amazing brunch? I am indeed talking about Confeitaria Colombo, however the one located in Copacabana – Forte de Copacabana.
If you do not want to visit the Forte, just say you will go to Confeitaria Colombo and you won’t have to pay any entrance fee.
For my birthday breakfast menu I chose – Chá do Forte Light for 51 reais and it included (check the picture below):
– Fresh orange juice
– A hot beverage
– A mix of different kinds of bread and pastries
– Cheese/Ham, honey, jam
– Natural Yoghurt
– Panoramic seaview!
Breakfast menu Chá do Forte Light at Confeitaria Colombo
Dinner at Zaza Bistro Tropical – Ipanema
Picking the right restaurant is something to which I dedicate quite a lot of time and which deserves careful planning, especially when it is for our birthday dinner.
I knew I wanted to try something exotic and extraordinary, which led me to Zaza Bistro Tropical, where I probably had one of the very best meals in my entire life.
Zaza Bistro Tropical has a unique decoration style (oriental-inspiration): very strong colours and oriental elements, however with a great sense of personality. When you enter it, you immediately travel to North Africa or the Middle East. There are 3 rooms to choose from: outside (balcony), main indoor room and one other indoor room on the last floor. I chose the main indoor room and I liked it.
Appetizer: I shared with my brother the set of cold appetizers composed of ceviche, gazpacho and smoked tuna. It was a pure palate treat!!
Main dish: I chose the wild shrimp with risotto, cauliflower and chestnut. The unlikely combination of flavours, both acidic and crunchy elements, made it an unforgettable dish – exotic ingredients which together were in perfect harmony!
Dessert: A very hard choice and after struggling I opted for the organic chocolate cake. My favourite chocolate is the dark one and this one contained a high percentage of cacao, which made it absolutely perfect.
Curiosity: Did you know that in Brazil when it is your birthday, some restaurants offer you a special dessert for this occasion? It is called sobremesa do aniversariante (birthday boy’s/birthday girl’s dessert) and is something which you have to ask specifically for ideally at the beginning of your meal.
If you fancy exotic flavours, when in Rio do not miss Zaza Bistro Tropical, it is an absolute must and will take you in an unforgettable gastronomic trip! And do not forget to make a reservation!
After Zaza, I went to a Bossa Nova concert at Bar Vinicius in Ipanema. It was a marvellous birthday day and I thank both Confeitaria Colombo and Zaza Bistro Tropical for turning it so special!
Let me know what you think of my choices in Rio de Janeiro.
Feel free to write me any questions or comments!
See you fancy travellers!