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Things to do in Rio de Janeiro | Brazil

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

In this article, I will offer you the top things to do in Rio de Janeiro!

Also, I will comment a bit on the different areas so you can pick the best one for you to stay in.

  1. Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

  2. Different areas in Rio de Janeiro explained

  3. Best time to visit Rio de Janeiro

  4. Video

Moving forward we will refer to Rio de Janeiro like locals and just use Rio!

Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Here are some of the things I did in Rio and absolutely loved! If you prefer to watch this in a video format then scroll to the bottom of this article!

Take a cable car to Sugarloaf mountain

This was my absolute personal favorite thing to do in Rio. First, you take a cable car to Morro da Urca and then to the Sugarloaf. You can spend some time at the top of Morro da Urca before going up to Sugarloaf. Views from both tops are absolutely incredible.

It is quite expensive activity compared to other things in Rio but so worth it! One normal adult ticket is 120 BRL (~21.50 EUR / 18.50 GBP / 22 USD)

I recommend avoiding 'sunset time' because that is when there are the biggest queues. Also, allocate at least 2 hours for the whole process.

Check out Downtown

The best way to explore the downtown is with a walking tour. You can book your own personal one but I did mine with Rio Free Walking Tour and I really enjoyed it. The local guides of these tours always add a special value to the experience.

The best day to explore downtown I believe is Saturday. The downtown has turned into a business center so weekends are less busy. Saturday is an extra special day because then Ouvidor street becomes the top place to be! Live music, dancers and just a wonderful atmosphere where to have lunch at.

Climb colorful stairs 'Escadaria Selarón'

If you don't know about this place, maybe you have seen Snoop Dogg and Pharell Williams' music video shot there?!

These stairs were created by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón's tribute to the Brazilian people.

This is also the best place to get the cheapest Caipirinhas in Rio! Only 7 BRL (~1.26 EUR / 1.08 GBP / 1.29 USD) for a massive cocktail!

Try Caipirinhas

Caipirinha is Brazil's national drink! I know that in Europe a lot of places tend to make it with white Rum but here in Brazil, you will get the real original stuff made with cachaça, alcohol made from sugarcane.

Relax on some of the amazing beaches in Rio

Rio has a few stunning beaches where to catch some sun, go for a swim, play ball games or drink cocktails because yes, all of that is at your fingertips on all the beaches! Rio beaches are really good because the water is clear, the sand is white, almost every beach has a ton of volleyball nets and there will be always someone selling drinks on the beach!

Here are my favorite beaches in Rio:

Hike up 'Two Brothers' mountain

If you want to do something more active, like hiking then a great trail is the one that leads to the top of Two Brothers Mountain. The trail is extra exciting because you are going through a favela. Do not worry, it is a safe favela.

First, you need to get to Praça do Vidigal, which is a square, like the main entrance to the favela. IMPORTANT: Order Uber there, because on the Uber app you can order to further points, but Ubers can't go into the favela so you will lose money. Then from there, you make your way up to the entrance of the rainforest trail - Trilha ecológica do Vidigal. You can walk up like I did or take the moto-taxi. If you walk, just follow the main road up.

The beginning of the trail is a bit hard to see, but when you see a little football stadium, go through it. The trail is on the other side.

Here is the map with all the points mentioned above:

The hike through the rainforest takes around an hour and is quite tough so be ready! But I promise the views are worth it! The trail is very straight forward and you can't get lost.

Do not do the hike on a rainy day! Some parts were hard to do even when it was dry.

Visit Christ statue

This is a must-do so I have included it in the list but as the last one because it was a bit disappointing. It was amazing to be there and cross it off the list but it was so crowded up there it was impossible to enjoy. They should create some kind of time slot system.

Different areas in Rio de Janeiro explained

The best area to stay in is Copacabana. It is relatively safe and also a great place where to be based in Rio. You have a long nice beach, as well as a promenade full of seaside restaurants. The area is full of shops, pharmacies, basically, everything you need. There are also 3 metro stations to choose from.

On the maps, you will see a little small Leme area next to Copacabana. The area near the beach is fine but avoid booking further in. There is a favela and it is not very safe.

Every location is quite convenient because Rio has a great metro system and you can get everywhere easily. Rio is quite big so either way, you couldn't possibly be close to everything worth visiting and enjoying.

A bit cheaper alternatives to Copacabana are Ipanema and Leblon. They are two areas and beaches near Copacabana and are also safe and popular among tourists.

Botafogo is a new upcoming area full of shopping centers, cafes, and lively nightlife. It doesn't have a beach next to it, but within a 10-minute drive, you can reach Copacabana beach or Flamengo beach. The area is supposedly safe.

The Flamengo area is good too, but try to stick to the side closer to Botafogo. Flamengo is a very popular beach among locals.

Why I am being cautious about commenting on safety? Because although the locals and tourists are saying this or that area is safer, in the end, you always need to remember that you are in a big city in Brazil and pickpockets are everywhere so you always have to be aware of your belongings. The above-mentioned places do not have horrible crimes or serious robberies but pickpockets are common everywhere.

Areas to avoid in Rio de Janeiro?

Apart from favelas that you will straight away recognize, they usually are somewhere higher up where illegal construction is 'allowed', I want to highlight the downtown area. During the day it is fine and I do recommend you to visit as many historical sights are located there, but I do not recommend wandering around there during late hours.

Downtown also has a big homeless people problem and a lot of them are heavy drug addicts, so you do not want to be in their way when they might not be adequate.

Also to more dangerous areas during late hours I would add Lapa and Santa Teresa. Both are appealing as there is good nightlife and some bohemian areas but I would recommend being extra cautious there during evenings and nights.

Best time to visit Rio de Janeiro

I personally think it is February and the period from June to September! Why?

February purely because the world's most famous and best carnival is held in Rio and everyone at least once needs to experience it!

September because one of the biggest and best music festivals is happening in Rio - 'Rock in Rio'.

From June to September Brazil is having winter which I personally love because of the weather. It is warm enough for the beach but it doesn't get too hot. I genuinely do not know how people can bear Brazil summer. +40 is a normal temperature and it is so humid in places because the rainforest type of climate is common even around the cities.

My perfect Brazil winter you can see in this video:


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