Sunshine, samba, and sports: these three words are pretty perfect when it comes to describing one of the most popular cities in South America – Rio de Janeiro! Though, if I’m honest, these are only the tip of the iceberg of all the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a city that has something for everyone.
Rio is famed for its beautiful beaches, annual carnival and stunning natural vistas which intertwine with the city. This all means that there’s more than enough reason to find yourself wanting to visit.
This is why I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro when you visit next. Though, as with all destinations, always listen to local advice on safety and don’t wear anything too overt or mountains of bling.
Take a look below, at the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro. Have the best trip.
1.) Christ the Redeemer
Probably the most iconic statue in the world, Christ the Redeemer stands at 98 feet (30 m) tall. Looming over Rio de Janeiro at a staggering total height of 2,300 feet, it’s easily one of the best things to see. Plus, talk about a view!
Now, located on the summit of Mount Corcovado, the statue is the result of the combined efforts of three individuals: French sculptor Paul Landowski, Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, and French engineer Albert Caquot.
This all kinda keeps with Rio’s diverse people and cultures.
Now, the statue is accessible by a train that leaves every 30 minutes, from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm. Though, for the best views, sit on the right side of the train as it makes its way up the mountain (plus, it’s the safest way to get there).
Just make sure to book your tickets online before arriving as tickets can sell out for popular times.
2.) Sugarloaf Mountain
The 1,300 foot (396 m) tall Sugarloaf Mountain is a rather popular sight to visit in Rio…and one that (understandably) always makes me think food!
A two-part cable car trip to the top offers 360-degree views of the city, as well as the surrounding ocean and lush green forests.
Several fast-food restaurants are located on the top of the mountain,so you can grab a bite to eat up there while taking in the gorgeous views. If you’d rather walk, there is a trail that wraps around the mountain.
3.) Copacabana Beach
Even the name of the beach alone conjures up images of partying, dancing and cocktails! 🙂 Copacabana Beach is without a doubt one of the most iconic beaches in the world.
Located in the Zona Sul area of Rio, the beach has stunning views of both Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana Fort.
Beach-goers here can either just chill and soak up those rays, or spend their time enjoying doing one of the many sports located right on the beach (e.g. volleyball)… you’ll probably find me doing the former – cocktail in hand!
4.) Samba City Tour
While being in Rio for its famous Carnival would be AMAZING, Samba-season fun can be had year-round with a Samba City Tour! The tour has visitors explore the venue where the floats for Carnival are prepared, as well as where the dancers can practice their Samba routines.
Visitors will also get to experience a musical performance, and then be able to try playing instruments used during Carnival. Costume making is also on display, allowing visitors to see the beautiful costumes getting prepped for next year’s Carnival. Tours are every day except for Tuesdays and are available in English and Portuguese.
5.) Santa Teresa
For a real treat, wander the picturesque streets of Santa Teresa – one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Rio. The colourful streets are full of charm and are famed for being particularly artsy.
Be sure to see the Escadaria Selaron, an ongoing staircase art project that uses ceramics, tiles, and mirror pieces from around the world. The Convent is also a top sight in the neighbourhood, as well as the only working streetcar remaining in the city, known as the Bonde de Santa Teresa.
Only five minutes from downtown Rio, Santa Teresa has lots of food options, live music, and a lively night-scene (so you know where to find me when I’m in Rio).
Again, with some of the neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro, it’s best to always stay as safe as possible and watch out for crime that can be dangerous in certain areas of the city.
6.) Tijuca Forest
Tijuca Forest is to Rio what Central Park is to New York… except, Tijuca is a tropical rainforest.
This 8,300 acre (3,358 hectares) park is home to waterfalls, varying terrain, 1,600 plant species, and over 350 different animal species. Admission is free, and it is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (6:00 pm in the winter).
7.) Feira Hippie de Ipanema
The ‘Hippie Market of Ipanema’ is perhaps the best place in Rio to find authentic souvenirs.
What started as a fairly small market (formed by hippies) in 1968 has grown into a 700 stall mini-city. Folk and contemporary art, jewellery, clothing, and crafts can all be bought here, as well as some really delicious food. *licks lips*
This is also a great place to practise your haggling skills while trying to get the best deal possible for your gifts. Plus, the whole beach area is gorgeous and easily up there as one of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to stop by the famous Ipanema Beach. The Hippie Market is open every Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Thanks to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, this stadium in Rio has become well known to people all over the world. Built in 1950, the stadium has 78,000 seats and is a popular venue for lots of sporting events.
For the best experience, visit the stadium during a game, when the place comes alive with the energy of the fans.
If you can’t make it for a game, one-hour long tours are also available, ranging in price from R$40 to R$100 depending on which sort of tour package you want.
9.) Jardim Botânico
The Botanical Garden in Rio, called Jardim Botânico, is perfect for plant-lovers travelling to the city. Actually, that being said, even if you’re not into plants, it’s still a beautiful place worth seeing and spending a few hours in.
With over 8,000 species of plants, it is hard not to be amazed as you explore Jardim Botânico.
Designed in 1808, the garden includes a row of palm trees that were planted in that same year (if you’re looking for ‘that‘ Instagram photo – this is where you need to be 😉 ). There is also the Orquidário: an area with 600 species of orchids.
The Garden is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, except for Mondays which open at 12:00pm. It really is one of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro on a relaxing afternoon.
10.) Rio’s Museums
With so much culture and history in one place, there are bound to be museums everywhere, right? 🙂
Now although you might not think of museums straight away when you think of Rio, it’s definitely worth spending some time exploring the city’s varied museums.
For amazing art, check out the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, or maybe the Museum of Modern Art.
For a look into the fascinating history of Brazil, head to the National Historical Museum or the National Museum of Brazil.
For a really beautiful experience, try the Imperial Museum of Brazil, which used to be the summer palace of Emperor Pedro II.