Santa Teresa offers stunning views over Rio — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Rio de Janeiro's cruise port is the gateway to one of the world's most stunning and invigorating cities. Currently at the heart of a major regeneration project, this once run-down part of downtown is soon to be a hot spot for museums, galleries and restaurants.
At the moment, it is still a work in progress, but take time to check out the impressive Museu de Arte do Rio. This 2013 opening is at the focal point of the area's revamp.
After checking out the works - many of which depict the city and its residents - grab a cab to the historic area known as Lapa. Here, you can admire some of the oldest buildings in the city before checking out the vast, iconic Lapa Arches - a former water aqueduct that latterly served to ferry passengers from Lapa to Santa Teresa via the famous (but currently out of service) bonde ("street car").
From here, it's just a couple of minutes' walk to the colorful Escadaria Selaron - known as "Lapa Steps" to English speakers.
This unique open-air artwork was a lifelong labor of love by Chilean (and honorary Brazilian) artist Jorge Selaron, whose untimely death in 2013 at his home close by has lent an extra poignancy to the impressive work.
Street art in Santa Teresa — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
A word to the wise: Once a virtual no-go zone, safety in Lapa has improved greatly thanks to an increased police presence, but don't wear flashy jewelry, and keep cameras hidden when not in use. Try to visit in a group if possible, and don't dawdle on the streets.
Climbing the stairs (again, this is best done in a group) will take you up to the historic, bucolic neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Known as the artistic heart of Rio, this neighborhood is famous for its bohemian atmosphere as well as the many arts and crafts stores and rambling colonial mansions that line its steep, cobbled streets.
Its lofty location makes for some dramatic views over this most scenic of cities, too. Stop for a cappuccino and a bite to eat at Cafecito, where you can take a seat at an outdoor terrace and people watch as you sip on one of the best-made coffees in town.
Nearby, Bar do Mineiro is a legendary Rio watering hole. It's well worth stopping to enjoy a cool beer here to meet friendly locals or swap travelers' tales with other visitors. Take the time to browse the artsy stores and vintage clothes shops nearby before taking a cab back to the port.
With such a short time in Rio, you're likely to be planning a return visit as soon as you step aboard.