Rio de Janeiro also called “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Wonderful City) by locals is one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Extraordinary nature, amazing skyline, beautiful beaches, fine architecture, old capital of Brazil, Olympic city, the city of the most thrilling carnival of the world and the world’s largest urban forest… these are just some attributes of this unique city.
There are so many things to do in and interesting points of interest in Rio that you can easily get overwhelmed and will need at least four days to do most of them.
I’m going to list just few places and try to include others that are not known worldwide.
Some of the attractions are:
- Downtown: only in very few cities in Brazil you can see the European influence in the architecture. Because Rio was the second capital of Brazil and the Portuguese Royal family lived in the city, there are treasures in downtown that you could not miss. Visiting the downtown is a really good way to learn about the Brazilian history and appreciate beautiful architecture. I love this part of the city!
- Lapa: located in the city center this neighborhood is very trendy and the favorite one for young people to enjoy its eccentric, energetic and diverse nightlife. There is a historic tram line, Bondinho de Santa Teresa, running from downtown to Santa Teresa and crossing the famous Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches). The architecture is also really nice here.
- Selarón steps: a public landmark stairway adorned by the Chilean painter and ceramist Jorge Selarón who received tiles from all over the world and made this “Tribute do the Brazilian people.” The place was featured in some videoclips of pop artists such as: U2, Snoop Doog and Pharrell Williams.
- Christ the Redeemer: the one of the New 7 Wonders provides a breathtaking view of the city and you will understand why Rio is called “Wonderful city”.
- Sugar Loaf: just in case that you are not convinced yet… For me this is the best view of the city!!
- Copacabana: this internationally known beach is on the heart of the city and the one with the easiest access (by metro or buses). However the beach seems too busy, touristy and crowded the view is magnificent and the sidewalk very nice for a long walk from Copacabana to Ipanema and Leblon.
- Ipanema: another great beach in the heart of the city and the favorite one of tourists and locals. Besides the girls from Ipanema the skyline created here by the Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hills) is also beautiful, specially during the sunset.
- Reserva: a little bit far from the city, this beach is much less crowded than Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon. During the week if you’re lucky you can have the beach just to “yourself.”
- Wild Beaches: the three wild beaches, Grumari, Prainha and Abricó, are some of the most beautiful beaches in Rio. It has the perfection combination of crystal-clear water, powdery white sand and mountains with lush vegetation, all in a protect environmental area. I love that! In Abricó there is even a clothing optional part during the week and it becomes a nude beach on the weekends in case that you’re a naturist.
- Rio Botanical Garden: A worldclass Botanical Garden, which is a UNESCO site, will enchant you with its huge and beautiful trees.
- Parque Laje: Another great parque close to the Botanical Garden with exuberant vegetation, an old mansion and a cozy coffee place good for brunch. Temporary art exhibitions are also held here.
- Museu do Amanhã: the brand-new museum designed by the talented Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is located on the new port zone and it’s part of the project Porto Maravilha (Wonderful Port) which has ben built for the Olympic Games in 2016.
- Morro Dois Irmãos: Another point to admire Rio’s skyline. The hill overlooking Leblon, Ipanema, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas e Corcovado (where Christ the Redeemer is spotted) is located on the Vidigal favela and the hike takes around 40 to 50min.
- Vidigal Favela: Believe or not, favela became trendy now. Can you imagine? There is even celebrities buying houses there… You might be kidding me?? I’m not. Vidigal is one of the nicest favelas to visit. After the implementation of the UPP project (Police Pacification Unit) Vidigal became very popular and has some nice bars with great views. If you want to do the Morro Dois Irmãos hike, you have to go through Vidigal to get there. But no worries, you will be fine even if you decide to walk all the way to the start point… you may bump into David Beckham leaving his property there.
- For more information about the tour to the Wild Beaches in Rio visit the page of the portal Trilhas e Aventuras.
- To get more information about Rio visit this page.
- Book Your Flight Find deals on airlines on my favorite search engine: Skyscanner. Be sure to read my How to find cheap flights article.
- Rent A Car Rental Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal.
- Book Accommodation Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. But Hotels.com and Hilton Hotels have very interesting reward programs. If you prefer to rent locals’ apartment, the best option is undoubtedly Airbnb. Here is US$ 30 credit towards your fist booking.
- Protect Your Trip Don’t forget travel insurance! I always use World Nomads for short-term trips and SafetyWing for long-term ones. Find out why Travel Insurance: Much More Than a Precaution, a Necessity.
- Book Tours in Advance Book unforgettable experiences and skip-the-line tickets with GetYourGuide or Viator .
- Book Ground Transportation BookaWay offers a stress-free experience with secure payments and no hidden fees. You pay online and receive your itinerary by email.
- Luggage Solutions Rent your luggage with Cargo or if you need to drop off your own luggage and enjoy your time without dragging it all over a city, find a LuggageHero shop here.
- Get a Travel Card Revolut Card is a pre-paid debit card that enables cash machine withdrawals in 120 countries. I’ve been using my Revolut Card for over a year and never paid foreign-transaction fees again. Get your Revolut Card with free shipping here.
- Packing Guide Check out my How to Pack a Carry-on Luggage For a Five-month Trip to help you start packing for your trip. Don’t forget your camera, chargers and other useful travel accessories.