With its golden sandy beaches, lush tropical scenery, buzzing nightlife, and rich culture, it won’t take you long to see how the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) got its name. We’ve created a quick Rio de Janeiro city guide infographic to show you the best sights and travel tips along with our top recommendations. Rio is packed with activities for […]
With its golden sandy beaches, lush tropical scenery, buzzing nightlife, and rich culture, it won’t take you long to see how the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City) got its name. We’ve created a quick Rio de Janeiro city guide infographic to show you the best sights and travel tips along with our top recommendations.
Rio is packed with activities for every kind of traveler. Whether you’re after fascinating history, exotic nature, or non-stop nightlife, you’ll find it here, and with its endless sunshine, you’ll never want to leave. Spend at least 5 days here to see all the city’s top attractions without rushing. Make sure you don’t miss out on our top 6 top things to do:
|Hike Pedra da Gávea
This huge monolithic structure in Tijuca Forest is the most difficult hike in Rio and rewards you with incredible views, as well as some rare photo opportunities! It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the top via the infamous Carrasqueira: a 115-foot (35-m) rock wall which you’ll have to scale without any equipment. The trail is only open from 8:00 am to 17:00 pm (18:00 pm in the summer), so make sure you leave early and give yourself plenty of time to relax and enjoy a picnic at the peak.
|Dance Samba in Lapa
February isn’t the only time to experience Rio’s carnival vibes and iconic samba dance. Lapa, the city’s main nightlife district, is full of bars and clubs, making it the perfect place to experience Brazilian music and dance throughout the year. On the weekend, head to the Arcos da Lapa to find street parties and hundreds of people dancing to live samba music. Grab a classic caipirinha from one of the street stalls and dance the night away.
|Watch a soccer match
Even if you’re not a massive soccer fan, it’s worth spending an evening to experience a match in Brazil, where soccer is a vital part of the national identity. The iconic Maracanã stadium in Rio was built to host the FIFA World Cup in 1950, and drastically renovated for the 2014 World Cup. It’s now used to host local soccer matches between teams such as Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco de Gama. Get to the stadium early to buy your tickets. You’ll find street vendors selling all sorts of merchandise, food, and beer, while soccer fans get riled up for the match by partying in the streets.
|Shop for souvenirs at the “Hippie Fair”
Actually called the Feira de Arte (Art Fair) in Portuguese, this quirky market is more commonly referred to as the “hippie fair,” thanks to the hippies who set it up in the ’60s. The stalls sell all kinds of original artwork, wooden crafts, furniture, clothes, and jewelry, making it the perfect place to find souvenirs from your trip. You’ll find the market in Ipanema on a Sunday from 10:00 am until 17:00 pm or 18:00 pm.
|Explore Tijuca National Park
Just outside of the city lies the world’s largest urban rainforest with incredible biodiversity of exotic plants and animals. The park offers visitors hiking, bird-watching and over 30 waterfalls, making it the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Make sure you book a guided tour as it’s easy to get lost on the trails.
|Enjoy a beach day
Beaches in Rio have a life all their own; you can easily spend a whole day here sunbathing, sipping fresh coconut water or cocktails, playing volleyball, and walking along the promenades. The 8km stretch of beach is divided up roughly by the 12 Postos, and although Copacabana may be the most famous, don’t neglect the others! From Posto 1 known as Leme to Posto 12 in Leblon, each has its own unique personality and atmosphere. Away from the main stretch find Praia Vermelha tucked away next to Sugarloaf Mountain, where you can relax before taking the cable car to see the sunset.
Popular local specialties include:
For cheap dining options in Rio, look no further than buffet-style por kilo restaurants. These are hugely popular in Brazil and do what they advertise: diners pay per kilo for their food, no matter what it is. They’re a great way to sample typical dishes and local specialties, and there is usually a variety of meat and fish. You’ll find feijoada (bean stew; Brazil’s national dish), rice, pasta, pizza, sushi, salads, and desserts. We recommend Frontera in Ipanema. While it isn’t the cheapest option, you get what you pay for with a wider range of dishes and higher quality. Expect to pay around $60 reales (16 USD) per kilo, with the price rising slightly on weekends.
If you’re after a finer dining experience, try Aprazível, hidden in the hills of the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Candle-lit, timber dining tables are surrounded by a lush tropical garden with spectacular views over the city. The food matches the setting, as the menu features a stunning selection of Brazilian dishes to satisfy your appetite. Taxis are the easiest and safest way to get there, just make sure you reserve your table well in advance.
Finally, don’t miss Confeitaria Colombo, the gold-standard in Rio’s eateries and a tourist attraction in its own right. This 120-year-old café was opened in 1894 and is still decked out with the original belle epoque-style interior – a step back in time to a more glamorous and grander Rio. If you fancy a coffee and cake then go there to soak up the atmosphere and indulge in typical Brazilian delicacies. Make sure to try the traditional pastel de nata (sweet custard tart).
Christ the Redeemer
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, a visit to the 98-foot-high (30 meter) statue of Christ is non-negotiable when in Rio. Located at the top of the Corcovado, it has unrivaled views over the city and Guanabara Bay. Try to visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds and make sure to check the visibility at the ticket office before you buy your ticket.
This monolithic peak rising majestically out of the ocean is another of Rio’s iconic attractions and offers spectacular, panoramic views from Copacabana, all the way over the harbor and out into Guanabara Bay. At the top, you’ll find a complex with bars and small eateries, as well as souvenirs and even a Havaianas shop. For the best experience, take the cable car up in the afternoon and spend a couple of hours at the peak to see, quite possibly the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen.
The Royal Portuguese Reading Room
We know what you’re thinking, a visit to a library when in Rio? Yes, we’re serious. This cultural institution houses one of the largest and most beautiful book collections in the world with hundreds of antique books from the colonial era. The architecture itself is spectacular with old wooden beams and stained glass windows. A visit here is a fantastic way to get a feel for Brazil’s colonial past. The library is located downtown and is free to enter – make a detour as you explore downtown and the nearby Confeitaria Colombo.
Rio’s botanical garden has been open to the public since 1822 and is home to more than 8,000 plant species as well as a variety of mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, and insects. There is an entrance fee of R$10 ($2.70 USD), but you get what you pay for as it is far from just a garden. The 1-mile (1.5-km) complex also includes museums, collections, cultural centers, and visitor facilities. Spend a day here exploring the beautiful surroundings and even enjoy a coffee and a croissant at the on-site, traditional French café, La Bicyclette.