Zona Norte (the north zone of Rio) comprises several of Rio’s neighbourhoods, starting from Tijuca and extending inland for miles. It is an area rarely visited by tourists who are lured in instead by the golden beaches and bucket-list landmarks in the south. The region contains most of the city’s favelas, many that have yet to fully pacified, which is the reason why it tends to be off the traveller itinerary. However, the mass stretch of land contains significant features worth checking out such as Maracanã stadium, several samba schools that prepare months on end for the Carnival, and Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, Rio’s largest indoor market.
WHY WE NORTH ZONE?
Its gritty complexity is intriguing and offers a more balanced perspective of the realities of many Brazilians, something the south zone tends to distort by making the wealthy few appear a mainstream actuality. Among its raw image lives some of the city’s nicest people who are curious about foreigners and will welcome you like family. Dig a little deeper and you can discover authentic Brazilian bars, shops and entertainment, and see less-visited attractions that will enrich any trip to Rio.
Take a day trip to Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, Rio’s largest fair with over 600 stalls dedicated to selling products that come from the Northeast of the country. The fair embraces the traditions of Bahia, Pernambuco and other northern states with an incredible choice of foods, souvenirs, and typical regional music. The fair is open Tuesday through to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm, and is free to get in. On Friday it opens at 10 am then continues non-stop until Sunday 9 pm. Entrance on the weekends is R$4.
The Maracanã Stadium is the largest stadium in Brazil with a capacity of just over 80,000. A sacred place for football lovers, Maracanã has hosted World Cups, huge music concerts and more recently, the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics in addition to several of the games. The tour around the stadium is no longer running, but better still is going to watch a game. A Fla-Flu match (Flamengo vs Fluminense) is between two of Rio’s biggest rivals and the atmosphere of the crowd pulsates with energy, making an exciting excursion for those that are not even so keen on football.
Head to Viaduto de Madureira for one of the oldest street parties in Rio, with plenty of hip hop and the best DJs from the black Carioca (born in Rio) scene. The party is every Saturday at Viaduto Negrão de Lima, Madureira, from 10 pm with an entry fee of R$10.
The city’s best samba schools, such as Salgueiro and Unidos da Tijuca, are found in the north zone. These schools prepare for months on end to get ready to give the best performance of their lives at the next Carnival parades. They are open on the weekends for roda de samba sessions (improvised samba shows) and set the scene for one of Rio’s most authentic samba experiences.
It’s true that the south zone of Rio de Janeiro has it all - great restaurants, chic bars and golden beaches. Yet, that doesn’t mean the rest of the city has nothing else to offer. Far from it, in fact. Those in the know head to edgy nightclubs behind concealed doors,...