Under the Carioca Sun, Cultural Tourism in Rio de Janeiro

Latin American cultural events are some of the biggest worldwide, attracting visitors passionate about music, literature, and film

Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoire Under the Tuscan Sun—which later became a hit-movie worldwide—tells the story of a San Francisco writer who decides to travel to Italy in search of a life-changing experience. The moment she takes in the sun of Tuscany, she is immediately enchanted and decides to buy a house and live there. She has no idea if things will work out, but it doesn’t matter, because the culture of that place captivates her. At a place like that, “unthinkably good things can happen.”

There is much to be said about the role of culture in attracting visitors to travel thousands of miles in search of an unforgettable experience that emerges from coming in contact with the music, art, and food of a place. Rio de Janeiro is no different in seducing tourists from across the globe to its beautiful vistas, to partake in some of the largest cultural events in the world.

“The tourists that are expected to be the trend for 2019 are families, these occupy a place of preference in the sector and also has evolved constantly and quickly. Followed by cultural tourists, people who enjoy the artistic performances, festivals and folklore of each country,” according to Axon’s Tourism Trends in Latin America for 2019.

For the past few decades, tourism has been conceived as a promoter of experiences. People buy plane tickets to experience something new and exciting. They want to eat different foods, listen to music and, why not, read about the places they visit. Axon’s report indicates that about 22% of tourism in Latin America is geared specifically towards “History and Culture.”

Rio de Janeiro is no doubt one of those key destinations for cultural tourists. The city lends itself to a cinematic experience where walking down the beach of Ipanema reminds visitors of the Bossa Nova song “Girl of Ipanema.” Everything about Rio de Janeiro is seemingly unforgettable.

This year, tourists are arriving in Rio de Janeiro to enjoy its warm sun, while taking part in the Feira Literária Internacional de Paraty (FLIP) literary event and the world-famous Rock in Rio. These two events are some of the most-visited cultural happenings in all of Latin America, events that move the hearts and wallets of visitors from all over the globe.

The literary festival FLIP attracts “approximately 26 thousand tourists” each year and is more lucrative than the celebrations for New Years Eve, explains the Municipal Secretary of Paraty. The small town of Paraty was recently recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage. Its iconic streets reach into the ocean and its colonial buildings date back hundreds of years, making it the ideal home for the literary festival which brings together some of the biggest names in literature from Brazil, as well as guests from many other countries. Two of this year’s most important guests were the American journalist David Wallace Wells and the Brazilian literary critic Walnice Nogueira Galvão, among many other writers who for a week in July are more than willing to share their passion for books.

Music and Rock in Rio

Rock in Rio Cultural Tourism in Rio de Janeiro

In 2019, the crown jewel of cultural tourism in Rio de Janeiro will be the musical event extraordinaire—Rock in Rio. Under a single roof, the event brings together some of the biggest names in music internationally. This year, it will showcase the music by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, Imagine Dragons, and even the Brazilian pop artist Anitta. Rock in Rio CEO Luis Justo explained to Rio Press Office that the event attracts “nearly 800,000 people” and generates more than USD 200,000. More than half of the tourists arrive from outside Brazil, making Rock in Rio a truly global cultural event. The volume of visitors arriving in Rio de Janeiro for the event are similar to those of Copacabana’s New Year’s festival, a fact that reveals its magnitude.

If there ever was a time to travel to Rio de Janeiro, 2019 certainly seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And although FLIP and Rock in Rio are the two main events, there are still many others taking place in the coming months: Bienal Rio, Festival do Rio, and the Copacabana New Year’s festival. With such an ample offering of events, there is something for everybody’s cultural tastes and expectations.

And who knows—some tourists might be so taken by Rio that they might decide to stay for a little while longer, under the Carioca sun.

Cultural Events in Rio de Janeiro 2019:

  • Festival Literário Internacional (FLIP): July 10th – 14th
  • Bienal Rio: August 30th – September 8th
  • Rock in Rio: September 27 – October 6th 
  • Festival do Rio: November 1st – 11th
  • Copacabana New Years: December 31st