Golden sandy beaches, stunning landscapes, beautiful people, heart pumping music, Rio de Janeiro is a dream for many people. We spent 4 days in this vibrant city and rounded up the Top 7 Things to Do in Rio.
1.) Go Beach Hopping
Definitely no shortage of beautiful beaches in Rio. The best way to explore is on foot. Start in Copacabana or Leblon and walk along the strip to explore the various beaches while observing their many differences and similarities.
Sand castles, sun bathing, grand dame hotels and restaurants, Copacabana beach is as iconic as it gets. A night market thrives daily on this beach (except for Sundays), the perfect place to shop for souvenirs. In need of some caffeine to hit the night life scene? The perfect coffee shop right off the strip called Cafeina serves up the best chocolate laden cappuccino in town.
*As iconic as Copacabana is known to be, take note that since the beach is known to attract many tourists, it also attracts being a target so keep your belongings close and out of sight. We were a victim of a common trick where someone walks by and sneakily sprays gunk on you, offering to clean it but instead pick-pockets and runs away. This occured in the middle of the day so keep this in mind while strolling the beach.
Ipanema and Leblon
Though Copacabana is iconic, its neighboring beach neighborhoods, Ipanema and Leblon, have a more fresh, polished and trendier appeal. One of the most stunning mountain views is from Ipanema beach. This is also a perfect place to grab a coconut or a drink and watch the sunset. Leblon is the place to go if you’re looking for trendy nightlife and chic restaurants.
2.) Get lost in the Tijuca Forest
Equipped with exotic plants, lush forests and waterfalls, Tijuca forest is a refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of Rio. It surrounds Corcovado and makes for a great stop before heading up to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. The forest also provides stunning views, especially from Dona Marta. One of the must-sees in this lush forest is the Taunay Waterfall just steps away from a mini pink chapel known as Mayrink Chapel.
3.) Visit The Christ the Redeemer Himself
You simply cannot visit Rio and miss the seeing the famous Christ the Redeemer, one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. While the statue itself is quite impressive, the view that Christ Redeemer overlooks is just as impressive. Stunning 360 views including an epic photo op of Sugarloaf mountain will leave you speechless.
Insider tip: try to visit the statue in late afternoon for better visibility and photos.
4.) Take in the view from Sugarloaf Mountain at Dusk
We took the cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf mountain during dusk and the views were magnificent as we watched the sun go down. On a clear day, the light is just beautiful. The travel up to the top by cable car was quiet and peaceful and the view of Christ the Redeemer is even more incredible from afar.
There are restrooms, coffee shops, wifi and a restaurant at the top. The food was okay but its a great place to sit for drinks and to take it all in.
Insider tip: The tickets are 75 R (US$19.75) for adults but show your student ID for a discount!
5.) Spend a Rainy Afternoon at Parque Lage
Find yourself in Rio on a rainy day? Don’t panic! Our 3rd day in Rio was my favorite and it just so happened to be pouring all day so we decided to check out Parque Lage, a lush park with beautiful architecture and a hidden cafe that will make you want to spend the entire day there.
The mansion in the middle of the park is the staple with it’s hallways filled with highly concentrated and passionate artists painting away their afternoon away and a small cafe tucked away in the corner. Here, you will find beautiful locals sipping on crisp white wine, savoring each moment that passes by. You can feel the romance throughout this magnificent palace that was built by Mr. Henrique Lage who gifted the palace to a woman he fell in love with, Italian singer Gabriela Bezanzoni.
6.) Stroll Through the Incredible Jardim Botânico
Just a short 15 minute walk down from Parque Lage, you will discover the magical Jardim Botânico, a 340 acre botanical garden. Here, you will find the Avenue of Palms containing over 900 varieties of palm trees and and giant, symmetrical streets lining the garden’s outer areas, making for beautiful photo ops.
We spent our rainy day wandering the garden and it was magical. Nothing an umbrella can’t fix! Or just skip the umbrella all together and embrace the rain.
7.) Hang out with the Local Artists in Santa Teresa and Escadaria Selaron
The Santa Teresa neighborhood is one of my favorites with its colorful doors and homes of artists, cobblestone streets and street art. I especially loved visiting the Lapa steps, the creation of artist Jorge Selarón. The steps are full of colorful mosaics of tiles donated from people from all over the world. The project initially started with the use of garbage collected from the city. The artist claimed it as “my tribute to the Brazilian people”. Just goes to show the good old saying, ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Insider tip: Snoop Dogg and Pharell Williams shot the video for their song “Beautiful” here!
How to Get There: TAM Airlines
There’s no better way to travel to South America than with TAM/LAN Airlines. We boarded our flight from JFK en route to RIO and the experience was smooth from start to finish. You can also purchase the “Brazil Pass”, offering decent discounts.
Where to Stay: Windsor Atlantica Hotel
Towering high in the heart of Copacabana is the Windsor Atlantica Hotel. It seemed as if no matter where I was in Rio, I could easily spot this high rise hotel! The beach is right across the street and the hotel is equipped with two stunning swimming pools: One facing the beach and the other on the very top of the hotel, offering stunning views from the rooftop.
Windsor Atlantica also offers 2 restaurants: An Italian one on the first floor and a buffet style restaurant on the 4th floor with views of the beach. An awesome spread and wide selection for breakfast is usually included in the price of your rate.
Windsor Atlantica Hotel is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Visit their website for more stunning and independently owned hotels all over the globe.
*Photos courtesy of Windsor Hotels
Tours Tour with Brazil Expedition
The city of Rio de Janiero is HUGE. One of the best ways to see as much as you can is to take a guided tour. We spent an entire day with Brazil Expeditions and they efficiently took us around majority of the city. If you have a few days to spare in Rio, I recommend booking a tour at the beginning (maybe the 1st or 2nd day) so you have a better idea of the lay of the land and can take note of the places you’d like to revisit and spend more time in later on.