Whether you are planning to go to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, or just as a trip on your own, there is so much to do in this city. From breathtaking natural scenery to interesting monuments and relaxing beaches, here are the best places to go and things to do in the city.
8 Best Things To Do In Rio De Janeiro
1. Visit Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
It’s good to get your bearings when traveling someplace new, and the best way to do that in Rio is by heading up to Sugarloaf Mountain. While getting the lay of the land a little over a thousand feet above the city, you’ll have incredible views of the Guanabara Bay area (plan it so you catch the views at sunset), including the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the Corcovado mountains (home of the statue of Christ the Redeemer), and downtown Rio. The cable car station can be reached by cab or any bus marked “Urca.”
2. See Christ the Redeemer
On top of Corcovado Mountain, the statue of Jesus (125 feet tall!) stands at an elevation of 2,330 feet. Completed in 1931 and composed of concrete and soapstone mosaic tiles, the statue lies within Tijuca National Park and is visited by nearly 2 million people each year. For those looking to pilgrimage on foot, a strenuous 8-mile hiking trail from Parque Lage is available for a discounted price. Those looking for less Olympian feats have public transportation available in the form of buses from Copacabana and Ipanema to Cosme Welho where you can catch an electric train to the top of the mountain.
3. Walk through Tijuca National Park
Like the idea of visiting a gorgeous rainforest but hate the idea of having to schlep many hours to one? Lucky for you, Tijuca National Park is the largest urban rainforest on the planet! The park covers an area of 8,300 acres and is home to more than 1,600 plant species and over 350 different species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The park is comprised of three sectors: Forest, the Carioca Hill and Pedra Bonita, and Gavea. If you enjoy hiking, head to the forested section. Prefer something more adventurous like hang gliding or rock climbing? Pedra Bonita and Gavea is for you. The aforementioned Christ the Redeemer resides within Carioca Hill so you can knock out two sights at the same time if efficiency is your game. The park is open every day from 8AM until 5PM and admission is free.
4. See the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden)
Are you a big fan of flora and feel like 1,600 plant species aren’t going to be enough? Jardim Botanico offers visitors more than 6,000 indigenous and exotic species, all within 340 acres. Originally created to acclimatize exotic species, it has blossomed into a tourist attraction as well as a renowned botany and ecology research center. There’s even a restaurant located in the park, La Bicyclette, so you can maximize your time trying to see all the beauty that’s offered. To get there take one of the many bus lines that stop at 1009, Jardim Botanico Street.
5. Relax on Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches
These beaches are great for people watching and taking in breathtaking views of mountains and the pristine water. There are also lots of local eats, shops, and art galleries nearby. Located in the Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods in Zona Sul, the beaches are 2.5 and 2 miles long (respectively) and are divided into postos (life guard stands), with each stand offering, for a fee, restrooms and changing rooms. Copacabana beach runs from Posto 1 to Posto 6 and Ipanema beach runs from Posto 8 to Posto 12. If you’re trying to find some spot on the sand, this might be the best way to do it, since the beaches are so crowded.
6. Spend the day at Barra da Tijuca
Like beaches but prefer them to be more low-key? Barra de Tijuca (“Barra”) is popular among locals and since it’s less busy, it’s more ideal for water sports. Barra runs 11 miles long and is full of inexpensive shops, restaurants, and clubs. The adjacent shopping complex, Barra Shopping, is Brazil’s largest commerce complex, featuring over 700 stores, in case the options along the shore aren’t enough for you. It should be noted that Barra will be one of the home bases for the Olympic games so the “low-key”ness might be less than usual if you’re here during the games.
7. Go dancing in Lapa
This neighborhood is a must for those who plan on bringing their dancing shoes (specifically, their samba dancing shoes). A short cab ride away if you’re staying near Copacabana and Ipanema Beach, find yourself immersed in a world of Brazillian clubs, tapas bars, live music venues, and tasty libations. Be sure to make homage to Lapa 40 Graus and Clube Dos Democraticos, the self described home to Brazilian music and dancing since 1867. As always when visiting a touristy night scene, keep your wits about you and avoid walking down unpopulated streets.
8. Santa Teresa
Spend time away from the noisy, touristy spots and walk along quiet, cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Located southwest of Lapa, this hilly bohemian district offers delicious Brazilian restaurants, art galleries, and craft stores. Since it’s on a hill, you can score great views of the rest of Rio while imbibing on a beverage of your choice at an outdoor café. Travelers say that Santa Teresa feels quieter compared to the rest of Rio, making it an ideal locale to recharge your batteries (especially your samba batteries.)
This article was written by Eric Dressel.