The Top 16 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro
August 3, 2016
In honor of the 2016 Olympics being in Rio, here are the top 16 things to do in this amazing city!
1. Soak up the sun in Copacabana Beach!
You can’t go to Rio without spending a day lying out on the world famous Copacabana Beach! Grab a towel, sunblock, and bring some real so you can rent a chair at one of the many stands along the beach. The stands also sell beer, water, delicious coconut drinks and Caipirinhas! Expect to see women in very small bikinis (or even nude!) and enjoy watching tons of football matches on the beach! Oh, and make sure to walk the boardwalk and admire the amazing sandcastles being built!
Sandcastles on Copacabana Beach
2. Discover the Glamour of the Belmond Copacabana Palace
Belmond Copacabana Palace
Even if you can’t stay in the Copacabana Palace you should definitely stop by what has been called the premiere hotel in South America for dinner or drinks. Built in 1923, this art deco hotel has hosted many high profile guests and served as a playground for the rich and the famous. The hotel is home to an amazing pool, 3 bars and 3 restaurants- Hotel Cipriani Restaurant, MEE, and Pergula Restaurant.
Poolside at the Belmond Copacabana Hotel
3. Be Inspired by the Christ The Redeemer Statue
The Christ the Redeemer Statue is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the symbol of Rio and a must see for any visitor! Located on Corcovado Mountain this statue of Jesus Christ is 124 feet tall (98ft is the statue and 24ft is the pedestal) and considered one of the largest statues of its kind in the world. Tip- go as early as possible to beat the crowds!
4. Channel the “Girl from Ipanema” and check out the magnificent beach!
With soft white sand, picturesque views of the mountains and rolling waves it’s easy to see how Ipanema Beach is known as one of the best beaches in the world, and personally, our favorite beach in Rio. It’s not only very clean but is also in a great location. Right across the street from the beach there are many lively bars, cafes, shops, restaurants and art galleries. One of our favorite streets is Rua Farme de Amoedo. It is known for being the “boys town” of Rio and very LGBT friendly, it’s also a lot of fun!
5. Grab a Cocktail at the Hotel Fasano
Lobby Bar in Hotel Fasano
The Hotel Fasano is a posh hotel located in the heart of Ipanama Beach. This hotel is known to have some of the best cocktails in town and famous for the bar, Baretto-Londra, which has been called by some, the best hotel bar in the world. If drinking isn’t for you the hotel is still worth checking out for it’s amazing pool! You can’t beat the view of Ipanema Beach.
The Pool at Hotel Fasano
6. Have your breath taken away at Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain sits at the mouth of Guanabara Bay and is 1,300 feet tall. To visit the top of the mountain and see a breathtaking 360-degree view of Rio you will need to ride in two glass-walled cable cars. You can buy tickets for the cable car at a station located at Praia Vermelha. The trams run from 8am-9pm but they stop selling tickets around 7:45pm. I won’t lie, I am terrified of heights and didn’t want to do this at all, but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences in Rio!
First Cable Car to Urca Hill
The first cable car takes you from Avenida Pasteur in Praia Vermelha to Urca Hill. The ride is about 1KM and provides you with great views of Christ the Redeemer, Guanabara Bay and Copacabana Beach. Once you are on Urca Hill there are shops, restaurants and a bar if you need liquid courage to continue the journey up. (I did.)
View from the top of the second Cable Car
Once you reach the top of Sugarloaf be prepared to have your breath taken away. From here you can see all of Rio and will understand why Rio is one of the most unique cities in the world!
View from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain
7. Walk the Escadaria Selarón
The Escadaria Selarón are a set of world famous steps created by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. Jorge Selarón started his work on the stairs in 1990 and continued to work on them until the day he died. His body was found on his famous stairs with burn marks on it. While officials ruled his death a suicide many people have claimed he was murdered.
If these stairs look familiar to you it’s because they’ve appeared in numerous television shows, Snoop Dogg’s music video, “Beautiful Girl,” and most currently in the Olympics 2016 commercial. The stairway is made up of 250 stairs and connects the neighborhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa. It is truly incredible to see the detail in Jorge’s work and a piece of art like we had never seen before. Enjoy!
8. Have dinner by Guanabara Bay
Fogo de Chão Guanabara Bay
I know what you’re thinking, “you went to Fogo de Chão, in Brazil!” It’s kind of a funny story but yes, we did. We asked our concierge to send us to the best steak house in Brazil and this is where he sent us! Lesson learned, I need to learn to speak Portuguese. But, it was actually a wonderful experience to watch the sunset on Guanabara Bay, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. And, when in Brazil, you have to eat churrascaria (Portuguese BBQ)! I recommend trying it at a few different places but it’s pretty delicious at Fogo de Chão too!
9. Hike Tijuaca National Park
Tijuaca National Park
Tijuaca National Park is 8,330 acres and known as the largest urban rainforest in the world. The beauty of this park can’t be put in to words but expect to see a variety of plants, animals and even waterfalls! Make sure to bring water, and research, which hike you want to pick, as some of them are very challenging. Pico da Tijuca is known as Rio’s best hike and takes about 2 hours to complete. It can be fairly steep in some parts but the view from the top is well worth it!
10. Check out the Street Art
Street Art seen in Lapa
One of my favorite things about Rio is the street art! In March 2009, the city decriminalized street art and made it legal with consent of building owners. Since then, beautiful artwork has popped up on buildings all over Rio and made the city almost like an outdoor museum.
11. Samba the night away in Lapa!
Lapa is a former red-light district that has reinvented itself as the heart of Samba dancing in Rio. When you walk through Lapa the party atmosphere is contagious! Music fills the streets and so does dancing until dawn! Lapa quickly became our favorite place in Rio to party. Be sure to check out Rio Scenarium, a three-floor club with live music. We had a blast attempting to do the Samba with some of the locals.
Tip: In Lapa when you enter a club you will be given a paper ticket. Throughout the night the staff will write down what you order as you go on the ticket. Make sure not to lose the ticket because you have to turn it in and pay at the exit or you can’t leave!
12. Behold the beauty of Jardim Botânico
Jardim Botânico is one of Rio’s wealthier neighborhoods and home to the cities Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1808 by Dom João VI, the Botanical Gardens are truly an oasis in the center of Rio de Janeiro and well worth exploring. With over 5,000 tropical species including royal palms, massive water lilies, and orchids it’s no surprise that these gardens are considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world.
Also, located in Jardim Botânico is Parque Lage, a mansion that is now a public park and a lovely spot to grab a cup of coffee. You may recognize Parque Lage as it was also featured in Snoop Dogg’s, “Beautiful Girl” music video.
13. Explore Santa Teresa
The charming streets of Santa Teresa
The hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa is famous for its winding cobblestone streets, aging 19th century mansions, art galleries, and bohemian spirit. It is also well known for it’s historic tram line that connects the city center with Santa Teresea. The tram line was started in 1877 and still runs today making it one of the oldest street railway lines in the world.
After enjoying a ride on the Santa Teresa tram head over to Restaurante Aprazível for lunch and a view that will take your breath away! This restaurant is built like a tree house so you’ll need to take an elevator to get to the top. Make sure to make a reservation because Restaurante Aprazível is popular and fills up fast. The pao de queijo is to die for!
14. Go for a jog around Rodrigo de Freitas Lake
Rodrigo de Freitas Lake
Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, in Lagoa, is actually a saltwater lagoon and is one of the cities’ most picturesque parks with a walking/biking path that’s about 4.5 miles long. It’s the perfect place to get in a morning run before starting your day in Rio. There are also many nice shops, cafes and restaurants in Lagoa where you can grab breakfast or lunch.
15. Spend the afternoon in Leblon
Neighboring Ipanema, Leblon is considered the most affluent part of Rio and one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Latin America. The beaches in Leblon are quieter than the rest of Rio but there is so much to do in this neighborhood. There are tons of posh restaurants, see and be seen type bars, chic boutiques and a huge mall that has over 200 stores. The mall is a lot like an American mall if you forget anything for your trip and they have a Starbucks if you need a caffeine fix! Overall, Leblon is a great place to explore day or night and it’s no wonder why the rich and famous live in this part of Rio!
16. Watch a Football match at Maracanã Stadium!
Maracanã Stadium (Photo Credit Rio.com)
The recently renovated Maracanã Stadium is about to go down in history for hosting the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2016 Olympics. The stadium is already famous for hosting the World Cup in 1950 and being the location of numerous football matches in Rio. In Rio, football is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life, so grab a ticket and enjoy what is sure to be a fun day watching a match!