As the Brazilian city buzzes in preparation for August’s Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is certainly one of today’s most talked about destinations. But perhaps you’re not keen on seeing the latest developments while jostling with the event’s anticipated 380,000 foreign visitors -- which is why we suggest sneaking a trip before (or after) the Games. You'll be able to enjoy the new openings planned in tandem with the big event, sans the classic Olympic crowds. Here's what to look forward to:
1. Pier Mauá
The month-old promenade brings new life to the once industrial Puerto Maravilha neighborhood, a new waterfront park just a stone’s throw from historic downtown. Massive cruise ships anchor along its perimeter in Guanabara Bay while locals meander with tourists, enjoying artisan food trucks catering to new crowds.
2. The Museum of Tomorrow
The newly opened museum, which looks like a spaceship preparing for liftoff and juts out from Pier Mauá’s edge, houses a primarily digital exhibition that explores humanity’s past, present, and future. Here, the agenda is sustainability; among the trippy exhibits, one calculates your carbon footprint, offering ways to reduce your impact.
3. The Museum of Image and Sound
The Museum of Image and Sound aims to put local culture on display on Copacabana Beach, designed to look as if the famous Copacabana sidewalk had been folded vertically into eight floors. One level alone will feature media surrounding Carmen Miranda, the famous Portuguese performer whose iconic fruit-studded headdresses is impossible to forget. Meanwhile, a nightclub is planned for the basement and an outdoor cinema is planned for the roof.
4. More Hotels
A rush of new hotels are opening in Rio to accommodate Olympic guests, broadening options for travelers. Budgeters can now go beachfront at newly affordable spots like Sheraton Barra Rio de Janeiro (from $130 per night), while the hospitality boomlet also brings a focus on alternative lodging. Airbnb, which launched in Brazil in 2012, takes the lead; it’s been named the official alternative accommodation supplier for the Olympics.
5. Spending Less
A handful of years ago, Brazil’s booming economy placed Rio de Janeiro in the same costly ranks as New York and London. But as the country’s currency, the real, has lost over 30 percent against the U.S. dollar this year alone, travelers need not be as savvy. Iconic sites like Christ the Redeemer -- the world’s largest Art Deco statue -- are more affordable considering dollar-adjusted prices, and even flights to the destination are decreasing in cost. And while the $160 tourist visa will set you back before you embark, remember that Rio’s most beloved urban beaches, which many travelers come exclusively to see, are all free.