With many major holidays falling during the height of Brazilian summer, visitors to Rio will often be able to spend Christmas and New Year's basking in tropical heat rather than shivering in the clutches of winter. Brazilians celebrate Christmas on the night of the 24th, and cariocas (Rio natives) typically spend the 25th relaxing on the beach. Lagoa, the city's lake, is one of the biggest attractions during the holiday season, when an enormous floating tree, decked with millions of sparkling lights, twinkles away at its center.
Rio Carnival needs virtually no introduction - and the whole city takes practically a whole week off in February (or occasionally March, depending on the date of Easter) to take part in the biggest party on the planet.
New Year's is celebrated in grand form, with the biggest and best firework displays held on Copacabana beach, and the party hub of Lapa throngs with a mix of locals and visitors right through the party season.
When given a few days off, many locals escape the city and head for the beach destinations to the east and west of the city - the Costa Verde, a stretch of beautiful green coast dotted with beaches and islands, is home to many of the state's best attractions and is well worth a few days' exploring.
Those looking to escape the holiday crowds can find shade and spectacular flora and fauna at the impressive Botanical Gardens, and there's some good last-minute Christmas shopping at Ipanema's Hippy Fair and Centro's Feira do Rio Antigo.