Rio de Janeiro Facts and History

Learn a little before you visit !

On this page we provide notable Rio de Janeiro Facts and a brief history. Guanabara Bay was "discovered" by Amerigo Vespucci in January 1502, who mistook the bay for a river and named it "The River January". It was the capital of Brazil until 1960, when the government moved to the planned interior city, Brasilia.



Rio is undoubtedly Brazil's main tourist destination, and the epicenter of it's music, film, and entertainment industry. It's also the undisputed king of Carnaval, which is the world's largest party.

Rio de Janeiro facts include it being the second largest city in Brazil, behind Sao Paulo and has a metropolitan area population of about 12 million. Demographically, it's about 50% Caucasian, 33% "Brown", 15% Black (Moreno), with the balance being Asiatic.

Rio natives proudly refer to themselves as being "Carioca", and the term embodies more than just the city of residence, but also an attitude and zest for life in a manner only possible in this city.

The many Cariocas, who are "Brown", have a heritage that includes a mix of European, Indigenous Brazilian peoples, and African ancestries. Given the tropical climate, mountainous terrain, fierce Indians, and other factors, Brazil was a pretty tough place for the first arriving European settlers to live. Very few European women were amongst the early settlers, and a lot of mixing of these three races occurred. The result today is a distinct Carioca population of generally very beautiful brown people. This mixing of three races has also resulted in a unique blending of food, culture, and music.

Rio is blessed with having fantastic city beaches, lush verdant mountains, that rise quickly from the Atlantic Ocean, and the Tijuca Forest, which is reported to be the world's largest urban rain forest.

The tourist destinations of Ipanema and Copacabana Beach are located in the city's South Zone (Zona Sul) and are some distance from the worst of Rio's notorious Favelas (slums). However, a few smaller Favelas are located on the steep hillsides adjacent to the beaches, and this gives rise to the somewhat frequent petty crimes and occasionally violent crimes that occur in this area. When planning your Rio de Janeiro vacation, read our information about Staying Safe in Rio


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