Tiny, sheltered Urca is home to one of Rio's most famous attractions, the Pão de Açúcar morro. As tranquil and bucolic as the rest of Rio is fast-paced and frenetic, Urca is a wonderful place for an afternoon's wandering. Fishing boats bob on a bay set against a spectacular view of Christ the Redeemer on his mountaintop perch, and the neighborhood contains some wonderful colonial architecture. The Pão de Açúcar separates Urca's tree-lined streets from Praia Vermelha, its small, coarse-sand beach. This beach is, in turn, blocked by the Urubu and Leme mountains from the 1-km (½-mile) Leme Beach at the start of the Zona Sul.

Urca is a little tricky to reach by public transport, so take a cab from Botafogo metro station. Come here in the morning and spend some time on the beaches. Take the pleasant 30-minute nature walk around the base of Sugar Loaf, and aim to be at the cable car station late afternoon to appreciate the stunning sunset views from the peak. Round off a perfect day by sipping a caipirinha by the harbor wall at Bar e Restaurante Urca.

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