Welcome to the Marvellous City
Rio is the city that never sleeps I’ll tell you that. You can spend a few days in the city or even a month and still have something to do almost every day.
I would recommend spending at least 4 nights to get the most out of your visit.
While you’re in Rio it’s highly recommended you take a trip to Ilha Grande or Buzios which are a few hours away from the city and provide the best getaway.
Is it safe to travel to Rio and Brazil? The short answer is yes, with some precautions. For the long answer- “Is it safe to travel in Brazil” click here.
Here’s the ultimate list of things to do in Rio de Janeiro:
Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)
The famous Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the best places to get a panoramic view of Rio.
This touristic attraction is suitable for all, including people with physical disabilities, since you can go all the way to the top with the cable car.
Another way to get to the top is by a short hike.
To read more about the Sugar Loaf and other Places that will allow you to see Rio from above click here.
Opening hours: 8-19:50. You can verify the hours on the official website.
Time: The cable car ride is about 5 minutes. 1-2 hours to enjoy the place.
Level of difficulty: Not difficult at all. Suitable for everyone.
Price: adult: R$ 85,00. Children up to 5 years old – Free. ages 6 to 21 years old – R$ 42,00. Students – R$ 42,00. Seniors above 60 years old – R$ 42,00. People with disabilities – R$ 42,00.
How to get there: This place is conveniently close to the touristic areas of Rio so an Uber should be pretty cheap from Copacabana or Botafogo. You can also take a bus to Urca.
Lapa has the best nightlife in Rio. During the day the yellow tram (bondinho) passes on top of them and during the night they echo the sounds of street musicians playing beneath them. In front of the white arches, you will find street vendors with booze and snacks. behind them, you will find bars and clubs with music bursting out to the streets.
You will find all types of music and dancing- from Brazilian funk to samba and live shows.
The most important thing to know is that Lapa is not the safest area. Here are some warnings and safety tips.
For more about Rio’s Nightlife click here.
When to go: on the weekends. Friday is generally the best day.
Address: Arcos de Lapa
Hike to Pedra Bonita
Pedra Bonita, or the beautiful stone, offers a bird’s eye view over Barra neighborhood as well as Leblon and Ipanema and Tijuca Forest. To its sides, you will see Dois irmãos (Twin Hills) and Pedra da Gávea.
I love this hike since it’s a relatively easy one (even kids can do it) and the view from the top is absolutely stunning.
For more about Pedra Bonita and other hikes click here.
Apart from hiking to the top and enjoining the bird’s eye view of the city, Pedra Bonita is also known as the takeoff-point for hand gliding (parapentes or asadelta in Portuguese, in the former you sit and in the latter, you lay). More info below.
Time: 30 minutes hike + time to enjoy the view at the top.
Level of difficulty: Easy
How to get to Pedra Bonita: get to São Conrado, go up by car or bus to the trailhead and look for the sign at the paved road.
Handglide off Pedra Bonita
Another way to see Rio from a birds-eye view is by flying above it, or paragliding/hand gliding.
The departure point is in the area of Pedra Bonita, in São Conrado and will allow flying above the hills and the bach for about 10 minutes.
The whole flight will be captured in video and pictures in the go pro and will be given to you on a small hard drive.
Price: from 400-600R$ (try to negotiate prices if you’re coming with a group)
Who to book with:
Admire the largest mural in the wrold
Mural das Etnias is the largest graffiti in the world! It was created by Brazilian artist, Cobra in preparation for the Olympics games in 2016 and is located in the port area of Rio. Next to it, you will find RioStar Ferris Wheel.
Where: Centro district, downtown.
The colorful Salaron Steps (Escadaria Selarón)
The steps of Lapa is a place I always go back to. Each time you find something new written or drawn!
In Portuguese, the steps are known as Escadaria Selarón, named after the Chilean artist that created them piece by piece.
The steps became famous after appearing in a Fanta commercial and a U2 video (among others) and eventually gained the artist the title of Honorary Carioca (as the residents of Rio are named)
You should visit these steps during the day but keep in mind Lapa is a risky area also during the day so watch your belongings.
Where: Lapa neighborhood
Hang down from Pedra do Telégrafo
This rock is famous for giving the illusion that those who stand on top of it are above a cliff and can fall when in reality there’s another rock beneath it.
The rock looks over the beautiful Praias Salvagens (wild beaches), Barra da Tijuca neighborhood and Pedra da Gávea.
Word of warning: this place went viral a few years back and since then it became overly crowded to the point that you might have to wait for over an hour under the burning sun to in line to take your pictures. And that’s after hiking for an hour. So be aware.
If you made it to Pedra do Telegrafo you might as well visit the beaches that are found in the area like Praia do Perigoso (the dangerous beach) and many others. To get to one of those beaches you will have to either go all the way down and enjoy the beaches at the bottom of the mountain (like we did) or go halfway down on the trail and then you will see the trail splits and you can turn to get to the beaches.
For more about this hike click here.
Time: 1-hour hike +time that you will wait in line to take some pictures.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
How to get there: go by Uber to Praia Grande at Barra de Guaratiba. Getting there by bus is a bit more tricky.
Ride Rio Star Ferris Wheel
Located in the port area of Rio, Rio Star is the biggest Ferris Wheel in Latin America. From its top, you’ll be able to see the port area, Guanabara Bay and Christ the Redeemer. Next to it is Mural das Etnias and Museu de Amanha.
Price: $R 59
Where: Centro district, downtown.
Flee market ipanema sunuday
Sundays are the best time to visit Ipanema since it’s when the flee market takes place.
In the market, you will find art stands, souvenirs, food and more.
When to go: Sunday from 10am until 4-5pm
How to get there: take the metro to General Osório station and walk to Praça General Osório.
Visit a Favela hiking to Morro Dois Iramãos
A favela tour is one of the most popular yet controversial touristic activities in Rio. I understand people wanting to get to know the favela but I would recommend no taking a favela tour.
For all the info about favela tours- the Good Bad and the Ugly click here
Another way to see the favela is with a hike t the top of Morro Dois Irmãos (twin hills).
From the top of the rock, you will have an amazing view of the favelas perched on the hillside as well as Ipanema beach and Leblon. You will also see the iconic Corcovado, the Jesus statue.
The departure point is at the top of the favela of Vidigal, one of the most famous favelas in Rio. At the entrance to the favela take a moto-taxi and then hike for about an hour to the top.
The favela was pacified by the Pacification Police Units of Rio in preparation for the World Cup and is generally considered to be a safe favela. Many favela tours take place there and Airbnb’s are rented out all over the favela.
Once you descend, feel free to have some lunch at the favela, talk to the locals, and then you can walk down to the beach beneath the Sheraton Hotel.
For more about this hike click here.
Time: 1-hour hike (1.5 km)
Level of difficulty: Moderate.
How to get there: this hike starts at the top of Vidigal. Get to the favela enrance with an Uber and then take either a moto taxi for 3-5 R$ or a van for 1-2 R$ to the trailhead.
Christ the Redeemer
One of the most iconic symbols of Rio is Christ the Redeemer statue on Mount Corcovado.
It’s one of the seven wonders of the world and its imitations are spread around the world (in cities like Cusco and more).
Since this attraction is one of the famous ones it’s also one of the busiest. You should arrive super early in order to avoid the crowds but don’t expect to get a clear shot.
For more info on how to get to the top and prices go to the official website.
Rio is famous for its beaches. Beaches like Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are the ones you’ll probably visit.
Celebrate Carnival in Rio
Carnaval is the biggest event in Brazil and takes place around February-March.
In Rio, there are actually 2 carnival celebrations: the formal (commercial) Carnaval os the samba schools and the carnival of the streets.
The traditional Carnaval is the huge parade of samba schools that were preparing for this event all year long. Their goal is to have the prestigious title of inner of Carnaval.
The Carnaval that takes place in the streets is the Carnaval of the people and basically includes different tracks with bands playing on them.
Do you want to watch the formal carnival parade for the only 5R$? Want to learn about Carnaval in other cities?
Click here for Carnival in Brazil.
Have an Açai bwol
Pronounced asa-i, this unique dish is made of acai berries and mixed with other fruits and juices to create the divine acai bowl.
Acai gets better the norther you go since it’s origin is in the north of brazil.
Apart from being delicious Acai is known as a superfood rich with anti-oxidants.
Make sure you try it in Brazil