The Sambadrome Carnival
While this is not really a tourist site, it is definitely one of the best things to do in Rio. You have to visit during the month of February when prices can be through the roof, but it is a once in a lifetime experience. Witness one of the largest street parades in the world at The Sambadrome and party on the streets and beaches with the locals.
The Christ Redeemer/Corcovado
The Christ Redeemer is the most iconic image of Rio and well worth the trip. The statue is huge and the views at the top are spectacular. This place would easily win the title of the busiest tourist attraction in Rio, but if you’re a bit savvy, you can avoid the worst of it. We went early in the morning and took an Uber to the entrance, which ended up being the cheapest option anyway. This meant we arrived before anyone else and secured a spot on the first shuttle bus to the top. Sharing the space with 8 or so other tourists was much nicer than sharing it with 400.
We decided to walk down Corcovado Mountain via the hiking trail, which was amazing, but maybe not recommended. We didn’t realise this when we started the walk, but there had been daily reports of robberies on the trail during the month of February and the security guard at the bottom seemed surprised that we didn’t get robbed. Seek some advice before going and make up your own mind about taking the risk. If we had known this before, we probably wouldn’t have walked down. The trail is very isolated and takes a good 1 1/2 hours to descend. You will end up at Parque Lage, which is also nice for a visit.
Ipanema was our favourite beach in Rio and is also a great suburb to explore. Any of the many beaches in Rio could be in the running for the title, but we just happened to like this one the most. Not only is the sand and water great, the view of the surrounding mountains is superb. There is plenty of space for everyone to spread out and loads of places to eat and have a drink. Make sure to visit Gatora de Ipanema, the famous cafe where the song Girl From Ipanema was penned and visit the local market on Sunday.
Offering more amazing views of Rio, this site is also a must do. Much easier to reach than The Christ Redeemer and less crowded, The Sugarloaf or Pão de Açúcar cuts across the skyline of Rio and is great to visit in the morning or for the sunset. The cable car ride to the top is fun and the stunning views of the ocean and mountains are fantastic.
The Olympic Boulevard Mural
Rio is not renowned for its museums, and even though there are a few in the area, this one is the stand out. Giving you a real perspective on the planet we live in and what the future holds, the displays are engaging and interactive. Built on a newly re-claimed section of the city for the Olympics, there are also the gigantic and very colourful Eduardo Kobra murals to see down the road. Dwarfing many of the other street art paintings we have seen, this homage to Indigenous culture will leave you wondering how a painting on this scale is even possible to contemplate.
Sunset at Pedro do Arpoador
Situated on the point between Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, find your spot amongst the other travellers and locals. Drink a beer (or a juice!) and watch the sun sink into the ocean or over the mountains, depending on the time of the year.
Escaladeria Selarón & Santa Teresa
A beautiful spot attached to a sad story. Jorge Selarón made this is life project and the colourful mosaic staircase is another iconic image of Rio. Join the thousands of those before you, who have had their photo taken on the famous steps, but also take your time and explore each of the intricate designs.
Selarón was sadly found dead one morning on the very same steps he created, but his legacy of colour and positivity lives on. Be sure to continue up the hill and wonder around Santa Teresa. A tram ride will take you back in time and the wonderful street art, bars and cafes are a real treat in this bohemian neighbourhood.
Once you are here, there is no mistaking that you are in Rio. This famous stretch of sand is a beach lover’s paradise. Soak up the sun for a day or two and experience all that this diverse city puts on show. Wander the back streets of this beach side suburb and you will also find interesting stores along with cute cafes and bars.
Rio is a party town and Lapa is the place to experience it at its best. Condensed into about 4 blocks, this place pulsates to the sound of everything from Samba to Salsa to Rock’n’Roll. Cachaça and Caipirinha are the drink of choice and the party lasts well into the early hours of the morning.
Very different to all the other tourist sites in Rio, Parque Lage is an oasis at the foot of Corcovado Mountain. Retaining all of its colonial charm, this former residential mansion is now a public park and an ideal place to have a coffee before exploring the surrounding waterfalls, gardens and rainforest. Be sure to keep a keen eye out for Monkeys and Tucans whilst exploring.