Take a winter break in Rio de Janeiro.

If you’re looking to escape the winter weather, what better place to go to than Rio de Janeiro? Apart from the famed sunshine, sea and partying, Rio has a lot more to boast about these days. With the World Cup happening here in 2014, followed by the Olympic Games two years later, Rio is smartening up. The historic port area is undergoing an extreme makeover, reports the New York Times and new museums by exciting architects Santiago Calatrava and Diller Scofidio are planned. Attempts are also being made to improve the city's notorious favelas.

A must stop visit is Casa das Canoas in São Conrado, about a 20-minute drive from the city centre. This is the house that Oscar Niemeyer, who designed the capital of Brasília, built for himself in 1953. It is now home to the Niemeyer Foundation, open Tuesdays to Fridays, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Excellent exhibitions are held in the 18th-century Paço Imperial in the town’s historic Centro. The area is home to a growing number of galleries, such as A Gentil Carioca, an experimental space run by three artists including the Brazilian art star Ernesto Neto. Take a moment to browse the nearby flee market for bargain craftwork and other local curiosities.

The best view of the city is arguably now from a newly unveiled gleaming elevator tower that rises more than 20 stories to connect upscale Ipanema with the favela of Cantagalo above. It has an observation deck with views across Ipanema and Copacabana. A second set of elevators, not for tourists, links with the actual favela.

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