In 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Court transferred itself from Portugal to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the chosen seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal. This is one of the few instances in history that the capital of a colonising country officially shifted to a city in one of its colonies.
Rio de Janeiro subsequently served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasília. Many historic churches, such as the *Candelária Church (the former cathedral, map).
Around the *Cinelândia square (map), there are several landmarks of the Belle Époque of Rio, such as the *Municipal Theatre (map) and the *National Library building (map).
Among its several museums, the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts, map) and the Museu Histórico Nacional (National Historical Museum, map) are the most important.
*Centro (map) or Downtown is the historic core of the city, as well as its financial centre. Sites of interest include the *Paço Imperial (map), built during colonial times
The city has parks and ecological reserves such as the Tijuca National Park (map), the world’s first urban forest and UNESCO Environmental Heritage and Biosphere Reserve. Pedra Branca State Park (map), which houses the highest point of Rio de Janeiro, the peak of Pedra Branca; Parque Lage (map); and the *Passeio Público (map), the first public park in the Americas.
In addition the *Flamengo Park (map) is the largest landfill in the city, extending from the center to the south zone, and containing museums and monuments, in addition to much vegetation.
Every 31 December, 2.5 million people gather at Copacabana Beach (map) to celebrate New Year’s in Rio de Janeiro. The crowd, mostly dressed in white, celebrates all night at the hundreds of different shows and events along the beach. It is the second largest celebration only next to the Carnival.
According to the amount of rainfall, there are two seasons: a hot and rainy season, which runs from September to April, and a dry season, which runs from June to August.