Rio de Janeiro is definitely full of plenty of things to see and do. So much so, we struggled even with two weeks in the city! Moreover, we have provided a full guide on everything we did to help you plan your Rio trip. Share your stories and finds around the city with us too! Make the most of your travels around Rio de Janeiro and make sure you check out our full guide to Rio Carnival if you're going in February. Enjoy!
Christ the Redeemer
Without a doubt, this should be on the top of everyone’s list of things to do in Rio. Christ the Redeemer most certainly doesn't disappoint! Furthermore, we would recommend taking the funicular up the mountain. Due to being able to enjoy the views across Rio on the way up too.
However, what they don’t tell you:
- Book in advance! You can do this as late as the morning before you go. Contrastly, if you don’t, we noticed the next slot to buy on the spot was at least four hours away. Also, we struggled at times with the high sun, so maybe try to go quite early in the day or early evening.
- Be sure to look at both sides on your way up in the funicular. There are some seriously beautiful views to be enjoyed!
- Be aware there are massive flying bugs at the top of Christ the Redeemer! You can’t avoid them and you’ll see people ducking and diving around them. It’s still worth it but just be warned!
Firstly, there are three top views of Rio; Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and Vista de Chinesa. Moreover, you should make time to see them all! Following this, then choose your favourite!
With that in mind, our favourite view was Sugarloaf Mountain. Luckily, we managed to catch it at sunset and it was honestly one of the most incredible views we’ve ever seen! Hence, if you can, we would recommend doing the same. Grab a Caipirinha in the bar by Red Beach and hop on the cable car about half an hour before sunset. Subsequently, prepare to enjoy some spectacular city views!
Top tip: if you have a student card, it makes for a very cheap ride up the mountain!
Vista de Chinesa
We enjoyed this view during our Tijuca Forest tour with Jeep Tours. It is definitely worth seeing and with the forest around you, we also saw a lizard enjoying the view too!
Furthermore, Jeep Tours were a great option. Thus we didn’t feel rushed getting all our pictures and we were able to take in moments to just peacefully enjoy the experience. Also, the guide was really informative about the forest and the different structures and buildings we passed. Impressively, our guide also spoke in English, Spanish and Portuguese!
Lapa - Day and Night!
The Lapa area has some really great street art, as well as a famously fun nightlife! We definitely recommend taking the time to visit in the day time. As well as at night, so you can appreciate all that the area has to offer. We particularly liked the street art in Rua Joaquim Silva, which is also right next to the Lapa arches!
In the evening, we went to a club called Bazooka. We found this club to have one of the most affordable entry fees, at just 10 Reals. Furthermore, they also did 2-4-1 Caipirinhas all night. For the win!
We’re not sure if this is a system used throughout Rio but we were given a small card upon entry. Essentially, this was like our drinks credit card. In short, drink all the drinks you like, then pay at the end. Following this, you'll receive a receipt that will allow you to leave the club. Admittedly, it was a little odd for us but it seems to work!
Furthermore, if you’re looking for a social hostel in the area, we highly recommend Books Hostel. A truly family-like hostel like no other we’ve experienced!
Copacabana & Ipanema Beach (Or Better Yet, Red & Joatinga Beach!)
Firstly, we went to both Copacabana and Ipanema beach during carnival. Therefore, it was obviously more packed than usual. However, there was hardly a spot free on the beach! Generally, being the most popular beaches in Rio, this isn't far from the case all summer long. In addition to this, we also found food and drink to be extremely expensive in this area. Admittedly, both beaches are beautiful and worth a visit. Nonetheless, if you want a more peaceful and affordable beach day, we would recommend elsewhere.
Namely, the gorgeous Red or Joatinga beaches. Red Beach is right by the entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain. Thus, you can enjoy a more scenic beach day and like us, saunter onto the cable cars ready for the sunset! On the other hand, Joatinga Beach is a lovely beach located a bit further out. Therefore, it feels more secluded and private in comparison to the infamous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
Tijuca forest is the largest urban forest in the world. Furthermore, it is home to many animals including sloths, lizards, and toucans, to name a few. It is also home to the Vista de Chinesa viewpoint, mentioned earlier. Additionally, there is a beautiful waterfall, an information centre and some lovely walking trails for all abilities to enjoy.
It’s definitely worth seeing, and we would recommend using the tour operator ‘Jeep Tours’. We had a guide who spoke English, Spanish and Portuguese taking us around, explaining a lot of interesting facts about the forest and Brazilian culture. You may also get to see Pele, the famous football players home too!
Uruguaiana – The Market For Everything
Uruguaiana Market has everything from bikinis and clothes to electronics, mobile phones and everything in between. Also, it should be noted that if you’re in Rio for Carnival, this is your one-stop-shop for carnival costumes. With that in mind, check out the streets off of Rua Uruguaiana and our essential guide for Rio Carnival to make the most of it!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, you’ll need to head over to the classy Village Mall in the Tijuca region. Along with Rio Sul, which is nestled between Downtown and Copacabana Beach.
Moreover, Uruguaiana Market is also located in a central area. Hence it is easy to walk to many of the attractions in the Downtown area.
If you enjoy meandering around cities, you will easily be able to walk around most of the Downtown area. In this case, you'll get to see many attractions. such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, which houses the tallest glass stained windows in the world! Additionally, The Imperial Palace, Chafariz da Pyramide, The Church of Carmon convent and Arco de Teles. Furthermore, Arco de Teles leads to Travessa do Comercio, which is a beautiful pedestrianised street full of original buildings and lovely restaurants, which also comes alive at night! You're also likely to fall onto the infamous Lapa arches, as well as the Escadaria Selarón stairs. In addition to some great street art sprinkled in too!
We went with Brazil Expedition for our favela tour. Undoubtedly, it felt like one of the most authentic tours. Due to us being taken to the very top of Rio’s largest favela and then making our way down through the favela by foot. In contrast, this is not an experience given by most other tour operators. As a result, we were fully immersed in the harsh surroundings of the most impoverished communities in Rio. Sadly, these conditions are less than sanitary and the size of some homes are no bigger than our wardrobes!
Furthermore, the guides we had, Wellington and Carlos were both really informative and had lived in the favela themselves. In addition, we learnt about social politics and general day to day living surrounding the favelas. It should be noted that they are much safer than the media would have us believe!
It truly is an experience not to be missed. Moreover, you can read more about our frustrations on the media image of Rio here.
If like us, you know and love the Pharrell and Snoop song – Beautiful, you’ll know these stairs well. Hence, you'll want the obligatory photo sitting on them. Admittedly, we even played the song whilst walking up the stairs too!
In fact, the stairs are actually made out of tiles collected from most countries around the world. London was hard to find but eventually, we found two! See if you can spot your home country and share it with us.
The stairs also lead up to some beautiful views of Rio. Once you reach the very top, turn left, and keep climbing up. It should be noted that it's a steep incline, so we’d recommend you have some water and plenty of sun cream at the ready! You'll also be able to check out the museum, Museu da Chácara do Céu and Parque das Ruinas, meaning park ruins.
Ilha Grande is a paradise island around 3 and a half hours away from Rio. No vehicles are allowed to drive anywhere on the island, so a boat trip is necessary from one of the main ports. Generally, the port in Angra Dois.
If you have a spare few days, we would definitely recommend going to enjoy the Island Hopping excursions available. In addition to enjoying all the Happy Hour Caiprihinajs in the evening!
For the more adventurous travellers, Ilha Grande has many trekking trails. For instance, there are simple 20-minute hikes to Lopes Mendes beach all the way to a 9-day hike around the entire island. As well as many in between.
Full more information on this beautiful island, read our full guide here.
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