Rio. Home of the Carnival, of Christ the Redeemer, a place fit for silent contemplation, adventurous getaways, and everything in between. It's a place that probably the vast majority of travellers want to visit at least once in their lifetime, preferably during the carnival season so they'll have all the pictures to show and all the stories to tell their friends. For such a bustling city and tourist destination, though, Rio is surrounded by a lot of mystery. There are many telling tall tales and rolling misconceptions about the city, some of which we'll try to bust below.
First and foremost, it's not the capital of Brasil
While many think of Rio de Janeiro as the capital city of Brasil, this is not the case - not de jure, anyway. Rio was the capital of the country for centuries before losing this status in 1960, with the capital city being moved to the purpose-built city Brasilia. Brasilia is the city where all three branches of the federal government - executive, legislative, and judiciary - are centred, along with more than 120 foreign embassies. It is one of the two planned cities in Brazil - it was built in 41 months based on the plans of urban planner Lúcio Costa.
Nudist beaches all around
One popular myth about Rio de Janeiro is that its seaside is filled with nudist beaches. Actually, it's quite the opposite: although there are places on its seaside where naturism and nudism are practised unofficially, nudism outside designated areas is considered a misdemeanour according to the applicable laws. Those of you who love to enjoy the sun and the water au naturel should head to Praia do Abricó in Grumari, currently, the only beach that permits the practice of naturism in the city (officially affiliated with the Brazilian Federation of Naturism).
Samba all day and night
While Samba is to be heard everywhere in the city during the carnival season, it's by far not the only musical style you'll encounter in Rio. Of course, it is perhaps the most popular style in Brazil, and it is definitely the signature music of the country. But Brazil is vast, and so is its musical scene, with local flavours like Axé, Bossa Nova, and Música Popular Brasileira (MPB) coexisting with an eclectic selection of styles ranging from rock and hip-hop to opera and jazz.
If all your information about Rio's low-standard living areas comes from movies and video games, you might be under the impression that these areas are nothing but slums illegally occupied by people. Actually, this is not exactly right - under the applicable laws, a number of favelas have become legal dwellings for their occupants. Many of the proverbial huts made of gleaned wood, metal sheets, and road signs are gradually being replaced by houses built using proper materials, and many favelas have developed into "normal" neighbourhoods over time.
Last but not least, let us mention a misconception that is still around despite it being utter nonsense: the language. Many people think that the language spoken in Brazil is Spanish, considering that it is the official language in the vast majority of the other South American countries. Actually, only a tiny percentage of locals speak it. The official language in Brazil is Portuguese - pretty different from what is spoken in Portugal, but still. While the two languages do have their similarities, Portuguese has a completely different pronunciation. So, before visiting Rio, make sure to learn a few local expressions and familiarize with the accent so that you'll be able to make do - and perhaps even learn a few surprising idioms.