7 Interesting Facts About Rio de Janeiro

The second-most populous city in Brazil and the sixth-most populous in the whole of the Americas, Rio de Janeiro is, quite possibly, the country’s most famous city. Famed for its golden beaches, like the iconic Coccocabana, tropical landscapes and rollicking rhythms, millions of tourists visit the city every year. But how much do you know about this captivating city? From the world’s largest rock concert to an incredibly famous grooming treatment, here are a few interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro.

Interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro

1. Rio de Janeiro is named after a made-up river

When Portuguese explorers “discovered” Rio in 1502, legend tells that they mistook the Guanabara Bay for the mouth of a river. They named the area Rio de Janeiro – River of January – despite the error. While historians continue to dispute this theory, no one has ever managed to come up with an alternative…

2. Rio de Janeiro hosted the biggest music concert of all time

Rod Stewart played to an estimated 3.5 million people on Copacabana Beach in 1994. That’s even more than the Rolling Stones, who mustered up a comparatively paltry 1.5 million at the same location in 2006.

The city has also hosted the world’s biggest-ever football match. The 1950 World Cup Final, played between Brazil and Uraguay, is still the highest attended match ever. On record, there were 173,850 spectators crammed into the Maracana Stadium, though unofficially there were thousands more. Brazil lost the match 2-1.

interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro
Editorial credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

3. Rio de Janeiro boasts the world’s largest carnival

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Rio Carnival is the biggest in the world. In 2004, it attracted a record 400,000 tourists, in addition to at least five million people from Rio. The event kicks off 40 days before lent and sees people take over the streets to participate in street parties, known as “blocos”. You can also pay to watch the competitive parades, run by Rio’s best samba schools.

During Carnival, the mayor hands over the keys of the city to a jester. Known as King Momo, this legendary party animal runs the city for the duration of the festival.

interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro

4. Rio de Janeiro was once the capital of the Portuguese Empire

The Portuguese founded Rio de Janeiro in 1565. In 1763 it became the capital of the State of Brazil, a state of the Portuguese Empire. When the Portuguese Royal Court was excited by Napoleon in 1808, they moved to Rio de Janeiro and it became the seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal. It remained the capital of the Portuguese Empire until 1822.

Rio de Janeiro was also the capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960.

interesting facts about Rio de Janeiro

5. The French held Rio de Janeiro to ransom

The Battle of Rio de Janeiro was a raid that took place in 1711 during the War of Spanish Succession. The French squadron, under Rene Duguay-Trouin attacked the city and held the gold-rich city to ransom. The Portuguese were forced to pay 612,000 gold cruzados and 100 chests of sugar in negotiations for its return.

6. Rio de Janeiro is home to one of the New Seven Wonders in the World

In 2007, Christ the Redeemer became one of the New Seven Wonders in the World. Construction on the mammoth monument began in 1922 and was completed in 1931. The Catholic community of Brazil funded the sculpture, which cost around US $ 250,000 (around US $3.2 million today). The soaring statue reaches 38 metres (x ft) and due to its height, it’s been struck by lightning quite a few times. These incidents usually go unnoticed but in 2014, it lost a thumb in a particularly bad storm.

Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue and the fifth largest Jesus statue in the world. At least 5,000 visit the monument every day.

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7. “The Brazilian” was invented in Rio de Janeiro

The Brazilian bikini wax was invented in Rio de Janeiro. It started on the city’s beaches during the 1970s when thong bikinis became all the rage. It made its way to the United States in the late 1980s, likely via the J Sisters – a mysterious pair of Brazilian siblings who owned a salon in New York. The term “Brazilian bikini wax” was first coined in a Manhatten salon. In the 1990s it became the definitive grooming trend of the decade and, even today, it’s still one of the most popular grooming treatments in many parts of the world.

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Allie D'Almo

Allie is a passionate traveller with a hearty interest in great food and stories. She likes to travel slowly, particularly to underrated and underloved places. She’s lived in Italy and is now based in London, where she spends most of her time either plotting her next trip or writing about her last one.

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