Throughout its history, Rio has seemed aware of its physical assets - the soaring mountains behind it, Sugar Loaf towering above its harbor, and its long crescent beaches that are its prime tourist attractions - and has enhanced that landscape with distinguished buildings from each era of its history and with a generous supply of urban parks and open spaces.
Rio de Janeiro's best-known landmark is the rock peak of Sugar Loaf, towering 394 meters above the harbor.
While not the largest city in the 190 million-resident behemoth that is Brazil -- that honor goes to Sao Paulo -- Rio's six million diverse residents (called "Cariocas") are keenly proud of their city's stature.
They are the most outspoken, lively and just plain fun people you'll probably ever encounter.
Like its more dressed-up cousin to the south, Buenos Aires, Rio offers the opportunity to live grandly for a day or a week on a much smaller budget than in comparable cities like Paris or Rome, with reasonable prices for five-star accommodations, good bargain prices for world-class cuisine and wine, and the ability to shop until you drop when searching out the latest trendy fashion items and jewelry.
That's probably why the Olympic Committee chose it to host the 2016 Summer Games.
From here, you can see the entire mountainous coast that rings the bay and its islands.
Below, the 100-meter Praia da Urca beach is near the location of Rio's original nucleus, between the Morro Cara de Cão and the Sugar Loaf.
Rio de Janeiro is the second major city in Brazil and was its capital from 1763 to 1960, when Brasília was created.
The city was founded by Portuguese colonists in the mid 1500s and became the port for the shipment of gold from the inland mining areas.