Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the nation's second largest city and the capital of Rio de Janeiro state. It was the capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960, when the seat of government was moved inland to Brasília. Often, the city is simply called Rio.
Rio de Janeiro fronts on Guanabara Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and lies at the base of numerous boldly rising mountains. On Corcovado, which reaches an elevation of 2,310 feet (704 m), stands the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of Rio's leading landmarks. Sugar Loaf, also a landmark, rises abruptly 1,296 feet (395 m) above the entrance of the bay. The climate of Rio resembles that of Miami, Florida. The seasons, however, are reversed, with winter from June to September.
Rio de Janeiro is a major commercial and financial center. Numerous corporate headquarters and domestic and foreign banks are located there. An excellent harbor has helped make the city a major port. Tourism is extremely important. Manufacturing is also a significant economic activity. Products made here include iron and steel, chemicals, and textiles. Rio is one of Brazil's main railway and highway hubs and is served by two airports, a subway, and a 9-mile (14.5-km) bridge over the bay to Niterói.
The downtown business district faces Guanabara Bay. It has both modern highrise buildings and low ornate structures, some dating to colonial times. Main thoroughfares, such as the Avenida Rio Branco and the Avenida Presidente Vargas, are wide and impressive. Some streets are lined by palm trees and sidewalks of colorful tile. There are also attractive parks and squares. The chief tourist areas center on the sandy beaches, hotels, and resorts that line the Atlantic coast. Among the most celebrated of these areas are Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema, and Leblon.
On the Avenida Rio Branco are the National Museum of Fine Art and the Municipal Theater, home of opera and symphony performances. The National Museum, housed in Brazil's former imperial palace, has ethnographic and natural-history exhibits. South America's largest collection of books is housed in the National Library. Foremost among the city's many churches are the Candelária, begun in 1755, and the modernistic cone-shaped New Cathedral, dedicated in 1976. Maracanã Stadium, with a capacity of 200,000 persons, is one of the largest sports arenas in the world. Institutions of higher learning include the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of Rio de Janeiro State.
Scattered along many of the city's hilltops are numerous favelas, or shantytowns. Crime is a serious problem throughout the favelas.
Rio's pre-Lenten carnival is one of the great festivals of the world. For four days masqueraders, bands, dancers, and floats fill the streets.
According to Brazilian tradition, Rio was founded by the Portuguese in 1565. The first settlers, however, were French Huguenots, who lived in the area from 1555 until 1567, when they were driven out by the Portuguese. Rio's first major period of growth came in the early 18th century, when it became the only city through which gold from the interior could legally be exported.
In 1763 Rio replaced Salvador (Bahai) as the seat of the governor general of Brazil. It became the capital of the exiled royal court of Portugal in 1808 and the capital of the Brazilian empire in 1822. It was the capital of the federal republic from 1889 until 1960, when Bras$iAlia became the new capital. Rio was made the capital of the newly enlarged state of Rio de Janeiro in 1975. Since then, Rio annexed many suburbs, greatly increasing its size and population. Air pollution and housing for the poor are current problems facing the government of Rio.
In July 2007 Rio de Janeiro hosted the Pan American Games. In October 2009 the International Olympic Committee chose the city to host the 2016 Olympic Games. It was the first time a South American city had been chosen as an Olympic site.