Visitors planning to visit Rio de Janeiro by cruise ship are often disappointed to learn that their vessels will not be docking close to the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, but instead in a rather less celebrated district of downtown.
Things are looking up for the area though - although Rio de Janeiro's docklands were left neglected in recent decades, they are currently the focus of a major regeneration project by the city council, and the gentrification of the area is well underway.
The opening of Rio Art Museum (Museu de Arte do Rio, or MAR) in 2013 was overseen by Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff and is being followed by a steady stream of new cultural centers, bars and restaurants as the area is spruced up for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Close by, Cidade da Samba (Samba City) is a purpose-built venue offering visitors the chance to see colorful samba parades year-round. A quick cab ride will take you to Centro, the business heart of the city, and to Lapa, where it is possible to see some of Rio's oldest buildings, as well as to appreciate the colorful Escadaria Selaron (also known as the 'Lapa Steps') and the iconic Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Aqueduct). From here, it is a quick bus ride or steep climb on foot to Santa Teresa, a breezily beautiful hilltop neighborhood whose historic bars - such as the inviting Bar do Gomes - are tourist attractions in their own rights.