Rio de Janiero was a life-changing experience, and not just because of the Olympics. The vibrant city has so much to offer and everyone should visit if they have the chance. While the media certainly discussed at length their concern for the city, I could not have felt more differently. The friendly people, the beautiful skylines – where beach meets mountains – and the amazing food and drinks at every corner made the city the perfect host. Before you go, check out my packing list for Brazil! Below are the top 10 things to do when in Rio:
Climb the Escadaria Selarón Steps
The steps were made by artist Jorge Selarón for the Brazilian people. There are nearly 215 steps and 2,000 tiles, which come from all over the world. The steps are located between the Lapa and Santa Theresa neighborhoods. We took the subway to Gloria stop and walked to the bottom of the steps. It was a safe-enough walk, but make sure to keep track of your personal belongings.
Once you walk to the top of the steps, you can head back down or walk to the Santa Theresa neighborhood. It was a strenuous walk, but for a break, you can stop at the Parque das Ruinas. There is a museum on the site – with air conditioning! Plus, there are beautiful views and architecture to look at during the walk.
Visit the Santa Theresa Neighborhood
Within walking distance from the Escadaria Selarón Steps (it’s quite the walk believe me), the Santa Theresa neighborhood was my absolute favorite! Full of art and food, it was different from all the other areas we visited. We had lunch at Cafecito Cafe but there are numerous other restaurants in the area that are worth checking out. Stop in Bar do Mineiro for a pastry or cachaça. The bar is set in a home and is a local favorite. You can also find souvenirs and unique trinkets to buy.
Take a Trip up to Christ the Redeemer
A wonder of the world, Christ the Redeemer is a must see in Rio de Janiero. If it’s possible, book the earliest time slot to go up. Lines get long and believe me, the site gets busier and busier as the day goes on. Viator offers an “early-access tour,” which was well worth it. You will be with other tourists, but there will be significantly less than normal at the top.
Located 2,300 feet above the city, you will take a shuttle to the top and then you have the option to climb a couple flights of stairs or use the elevator. The views from the top are breathtaking. Definitely check the weather before heading up though. When we first arrived at the top, fog covered everything. As the hour passed, the clouds parted and the views opened up.
Hike Dos Irmois Mountain
You won’t get these views anywhere else! The hike takes about an hour and a half to get to the top and down. It’s not that challenging but make sure to bring lots of water and bug spray! This option is also perfect for those on a budget. It’s free! However, take note that you do need to go through the Vidigal favela to get there. It is relatively safe, and many of the locals will offer to drive you to the beginning of the hike.
Hit the Beaches
Rio de Janiero is famous for their beaches! Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches are the most popular and you can find all sorts of people tanning, drinking or playing foot volleyball. My favorite of the three was Ipanema. It was a little less crowded than Copacabana and with the mountain backdrop, made for a beautiful scene. It’s on the safer side as the Ipanema area is generally more upscale and expensive.
Travel to the top of Sugarloaf
Sugarloaf offers more stunning views of the city. If you have to choose between Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer, I would choose Christ the Redeemer – it is a world wonder after all! But if you have time for both, definitely make your way up to Sugarloaf.
Walk through the Lapa and Centro Districts
The center of the city, these districts are bumping. Lapa is great for nightlife and eating. Head to Confeitaria Colombo – it was ranked one of the 10 most beautiful cafes in the world. The architecture inside is truly unique. The Rio “Ethnicites” mural is located nearby (Av. Rodrigues Alves, 241 – Gambôa) and is definitely a site to see!
Go on a Half-Day Trip
There are many other towns and areas that you can explore outside of Rio de Janiero. One of the easiest to get to is Ilha Grande. It’s covered with forests and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It takes a van, a ferry and a water taxi to get to the island but it’s worth it. You can stay overnight, as well. The island is cash only; so, plan accordingly.
Explore the Jardim Botânico
Peaceful and serene, the botanic gardens are a great escape from the non-stop energy of the city. I could spend a whole day here but make sure to block off a couple hours to see it all and wander around. It costs 10 reais (or $3) to get in and is cash only.
Take a Bike Ride around the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
Views from every side! I loved going around this lagoon. Host to the rowing events during the Olympics, the lagoon is large and is best toured by bike. You can rent the bikes around the lagoon. Make detours to the Jardim Botanico, Parque Lage or the Parque Municipal Catacumba when circling the water.
Eat, Drink and Samba!
Rio de Janiero is known for it’s vibrant nightlife and delicious food! Make sure to try as much as you can. Just beware of your surrounding if you do decide to check out the bars and clubs. Lapa area is a great area to go out, and there are often organized bar crawls for tourists. Join up with other tourists and samba the night away!
What are you top things to do in Rio?
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