How and why has Rio de Janeiro grown and what are the main land uses?

Rio de Janeiro is one of Brazil’s largest cities. Located on the eastern coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It came in to being on 1st January 1502 when the Portuguese landed on the Guanabara Bay.

Physical Geography

Rio has a predominantly tropical climate with warm and humid weather throughout the year. Temperatures are often around 30C although on occasions has known to rise above 40C if you are at altitude or close to the ocean temperatures may be cooler. On average it rains around 1,200 to 2,800mm a year. The main river Cabucu or Piraque flows through Rio. There also many lagoons such as the Jacarepaguá Lagoon, Marapendi Lagoon, Lagoinha and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

Human Geography

Rio’s population today is around 6.3 million and is the second largest city in Brazil after Sao Paulo. It had been the capital of Brazil from 1889 to April 21, 1960, when Brasilia became the Federal capital. One of the reasons for the move was of the increasing overcrowding of Rio itself; however, Rio’s population has continued to grow over the decades through natural increase as well as in migration.

Today there are four main districts; The North Zone, The West Zone, Centro and The South Zone. The North Zone houses the main industrial and port areas, the International Airport and the world-famous Maracana Stadium. There are also areas of low-quality housing and favelas alongside the Tijuca National Park. The West Zone has been gentrified over time and has become a wealthy coastal suburb with luxury apartments, shopping malls, recreational and tourist facilities. The main Olympic stadiums and competitor villages are also located in this area. The Centro district is the oldest part of the city and houses many historic buildings. It is the city’s central business district with the main shopping area. Furthermore, it is a financial centre with the headquarters of Petrobras and CVBB, Brazils largest oil and mining companies located here. The South Zone was developed after tunnels were bored through the mountains. Here Rio’s main tourist hotels and beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema can be found. The wealthiest district in the whole of South America can be found here, while in the backdrop overlooked by Rocinha, the biggest favela in Latin America, home to around 70,000 people (though some put the number much higher). In its way, the view is just as spectacular as from the famous tourist sights.


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