While no longer the capital of Brazil, the city of Rio de Janeiro remains one of the most popular (and populous) in the country - not to mention all of Latin America. The name Rio is synonymous the world over with spectacular beaches, thanks to a legendary song about a certain girl from Ipanema - and boisterous Carnival celebrations. Thankfully, although many will tell you that a visit to Rio at any time other than Carnival means you're missing out, it's possible to find a bit of that celebratory flare in Rio throughout the year.
As is the case of any large, sprawling city, the first order of business for a traveller is figuring out where to stay. There are hotels in Rio closer to the business district which can sometimes offer better deals on weekends (when business travellers have gone home), but these neighbourhoods lack many tourist conveniences like restaurants and shops. Around the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, as well as Rio's other beaches, there is no shortage of tourist hotels. These aren't cheap, so if your budget is tighter you might consider a smaller hotel in the centre instead of a big chain hotel on the beach.
The main draw to Rio de Janeiro for many is its famous Carnival celebration, when the city's samba schools perform elaborate dances on huge floats, parading through different parts of the city. This is, naturally, when the city's population grows exponentially with all the visitors flocking to enjoy the parties - which means prices on everything from airfare to hotels skyrocket. Carnival lasts for a short two weeks each year, however, and those samba schools have to rehearse during the rest of the year, so if you want to avoid the crowds and highest prices you can seek out samba school practices or even the tourist shows that go on year-round.
Rio's 80km of beaches and near-constant good weather means spending time on the beach is almost always a good idea. Looking for other things to do in Rio? Make your way up to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city from Corcovado Mountain, or to the adjacent Sugarloaf Mountain via cable car, and hope for a clear view. Catch a soccer game (the national sport) at one of Rio's enormous stadiums. Learn to appreciate the colonial architecture in the historic centre. And should you get caught in one of the rainy season's downpours, head indoors to any number of Rio's many churches and museums.