Barra da Tijuca is one of the hottest neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, if not the hottest. Located approximately ten miles west of Copacabana, Barra, as the locals call their home, is a Brazilian beach neighborhood that has a decidedly American feel. It's actually been labeled Brazil's Miami Beach. Regardless of how you choose to label Barra da Tijuca, this is a fine neighborhood to be in if you enjoy hanging out at the beach. Barra's prime strip of sand is almost eleven miles long and can be a great place to both play and people watch.
The more than 200,000 people that call Barra da Tijuca home have access to one of the best beaches in the Rio de Janeiro area, and the longest of the Rio beaches. Backing part of the beach in Barra is a small lagoon, while another portion gives way to city buildings, hotels, and upscale apartment buildings. Gorgeous white sand meets equally gorgeous blue-green water at the beach in Barra da Tijuca, and often times, the waves kick up to the delight of surfers. The waves can get pretty big when the conditions are right, and if you're not up for surfing, there's always bodyboarding. Another of the best things to do in Barra includes windsurfing. Every year, a few windsurfing championships are held on the beach, as are a variety of surfing competitions. On land, playing some beach volleyball or enjoying a stroll or jog on the beachfront promenade are among the options for keeping busy.
Barra da Tijuca is full of restaurants, and many of them are good. This is a city with a very international feel, and the restaurants definitely reflect that with their range of cuisines. When you need a break from the sun and the sand, the first mile or so of the beach features a collection of restaurants and bars. As you might imagine, some of the Barra da Tijuca restaurants specialize in seafood, and many of the best seafood eateries are close to the water. Also found along parts of the beach in Barra are food and drink stalls that are known as barracas. These barracas are most prevalent between the peak December to March season. On warm summer weekends, the beach in Barra da Tijuca can get crowded, while weekdays tend to be relatively quiet.
Spending time at the beach and seeing what the local restaurants have to offer are just two of the options for things to do in Barra. This is also an excellent shopping destination. On a Barra da Tijuca shopping spree, you can hit the largest shopping mall in Latin America, visit any number of smaller shopping malls, and check out the goods at a variety of upscale boutiques or specialty stores. The main mall in town is known as BarraShopping. This Barra da Tijuca shopping mecca boasts more than 600 stores, a variety of restaurants, movie theaters, and a bowling alley. Among the smaller, yet still relatively large shopping malls is the New York City Center. This mall is very Americanized, and even has a replica Statue of Liberty out front.
Between the Barra da Tijuca shopping opportunities, the neighborhood's diverse dining scene, and its excellent beach, it's not hard to see why tourists are flooding in. This is one of the safest upscale neighborhoods in Rio, and the upscale appeal is bolstered by the presence of mansions and luxury condos. Many Brazilian celebrities call the neighborhood home, helping to make it one of the richest in the country, and it can definitely make a good alternative or complement to Copacabana or Ipanema when a Rio de Janeiro beach vacation is the aim.
For cultural enthusiasts who are looking for things to do in Barra, it is worth noting that the neighborhood features an excellent concert hall to go with its other attractions. Called the Cidade da Musica (Music City), this large and modern concert hall serves as the base of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. The neighborhood is also home to the largest convention center in Latin America, making it a popular destination for business travelers. As for where to stay while in town, there are some good hotels to choose from. Among the best for both business and leisure travelers is the upscale Windsor Barra, which is just steps from the sand.