Portuguese explorers discovered Rio in 1502. They named it Rio de Janeiro, meaning River of January, thinking they had stumbled upon the mouth of a river. However, what they found was actually a bay, and today it is known as the Guanabara Bay.
Thanks to a gold boom, around 1711 Rio was overtaken by the French and held for ransom from the Portuguese.
Rio was the Brazil capital from 1763 to 1960, a title that now belongs to Brasilia.
The Maracana Stadium opened in 1950 and in the same year hosted the FIFA World Cup where Brazil lost to Uruguay. During that game, the stadium held almost 200,000 attendees! Currently under renovation, it now seats around 80,000, but is still considered the largest stadium in Brazil and the second largest in South America.
Rio’s Carnival, which began in 1793, kicks off 40 days prior to Lent. During the annual festivities, the keys to the city are given to a jester known as King Momo.
The Christ the Redeemer Statue was named one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and is a magnet for lightning, getting struck several times every year.
Street art is legal in Brazil and can be found on walls and the columns of multi-story buildings, as long as structures are not designated as historical. Rio even celebrates Graffiti Day every March 27!