Rio is truly a magical city; known for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mt. Corcovado, Sugarloaf Mountain, and its Carnival festival, the seaside city is lively, to say the least!
I didn’t get to spend too much time in Rio after ending my Brazilian Holiday with Crystal Cruises, and the time that I did get to spend there was met with gloomy weather. While I’m counting down the days until I can return, I’ve compiled a guide based off the things I loved, and suggestions I got from readers all over the world.
Don’t miss the ultimate guide to Rio in a weekend!
– Stay at Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro –
Hotel Fasano is located in the heart of it all, smack-dab on Avenida Vieira Souto on Ipanema Beach. A sophisticated hotel in the city’s most charming neighborhood, Hotel Fasano is both classy and modern, with a touch of nostalgia from the Bossa Nova era of the 1950s.
You can enjoy evening meals at the Fasano al Mare or take a dip in the infinity pool while sipping a cocktail. The hotel is just steps away from both the beach and Leblon where there’s an endless supply of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops.
– Visit Christ the Redeemer –
Christ the Redeemer is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Built in 1931 on Mt. Corcovado’s peak, it’s become the cultural icon for both Rio and Brazil.
The best time to check out the statue is before 10:00 a.m. so hop in a taxi and avoid the lines and crowds. Have the driver drop you at the bottom, if you want to save some money, because rides to the top are more expensive.
You have the option to take the tram up the mountain to Cristo. If the line is too long, take one of the vans that offers group rides to the last stop before taking an official van to the top!
Either way, you will need to take one of the official vans for the final leg to Cristo Redentor. There’s a nice and inexpensive cafe at the top, which offers snacks and drinks!
Helpful Tip: The tram does accept credit cards, but the vans do require cash—so make sure to have some handy!
– Enjoy a Cafezinho –
The cafezinho (little espresso) is a popular welcome drink in Brazil that is often imbibed at work, at home, and at sophisticated boutiques.
The minute you walk through any door, don’t be surprised if someone asks you “você quer um cafezinho?”
…when in Rome!
Do as the Brazilians do and pair a cafezinho with a pão de queijo (cheese bread). A highly recommend café in Leblon is called Cafeína, so be sure to check that out!
– Caipirinha! –
The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail. Cachaça, hard liquor distilled from sugarcane, is blended with sugar and lime to create the masterful and succulent Caipirinha.
By some accounts it was first created to combat the Spanish flu, and the name originates from the word caipira, or “hillbilly.”
– Explore Sugar Loaf –
The Sugar Loaf Cable Car will take you from Praia Vermelha to Sugarloaf Mountain. It reaches the summit of 1,300 feet with a stop at Morro da Urca along the way.
Opened in 1912, the Sugar Loaf Cable Car has been in continual use and was even the site for the 1979 James Bond film, Moonraker. The cars run every 30 minutes and have a total of 2,500 visitors each day—so come early to avoid the lines!
At the Urca station, you’ll find a credit card-friendly cafe, snack bar, and restaurant as well as some souvenir stands and a children’s area.
– Explore the Neighborhoods –
Rio is home to various colorful and distinct neighborhoods. It’s nearly impossible to explore them all. The city is divided into three zones—the Zona Norte, the older Centro, and the beach-lined Zona Sul. Take a few days to check out funky, picturesque Lapa, the bohemian Santa Teresa, music– and movie-laden Botafogo, or the trendy Leblon.
In the North, you’ll find a few monuments of note, like the Rio Zoo, the National Museum of Brazil, and the National Observatory. In the Center, you’ll find historic churches, monuments, and squares at the city’s old waterfront.
The south tells the story of Rio’s transition into a new, high-rise metropolis. Always end the day in the Zona Sul, home to many of Rio’s upscale neighborhoods and the bulk of its famous beaches, including Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.
– Hit the Waves –
Rio’s beaches are world-renowned for their clean, soft sand and their convenient accessibility from most hotels and hostels. Along the beach you’ll also find a plethora of rental tents and chairs, wet trails, free showers, and bars and cafes.
Soak in the sun at Copacabana and Ipanema, the more popular of the beaches.
You can practice your surfing skills or down a sanduíche natural, a cold sandwich with vegetables and mayo. Prefer to avoid the crowd? Opt for Leblon, the quieter, but equally beautiful sister beach.
– Snack on an Açai Bowl on the Beach –
A favorite lunch on the beach is the Açaí bowl. Açaí, a purple, iron- and antioxidant-rich berry is usually blended with honey, granola, bananas, and guaraná (a natural Amazonian relative of caffeine) to make a refreshing, über-Brazilian treat.
And there’s no better bowl than what you’ll find at Polis Sucos. This little eatery’s Ipanema location makes it popular with locals and tourists alike. Arrive early to grab your fresh fruit juice, smoothie, or açaí blend.
– Photo Opp in the Botanical Gardens –
The Jardim Botanico is a great place to take your camera. The garden is huge and has hundreds of plants from all over the world.
Founded in 1808, the gardens now house around 6,500 species, including orchids, cacti, and carnivorous plants. You’ll spot a lot of animals too—squirrels, monkeys, hummingbirds, toucans, and marmosets, just to name a few.
– Live it Up in Lapa –
Lapa is an excellent nightlife district. It was once a seedy area of crime and dive bars but after an influx of nightclubs and hip hangouts, Lapa has revamped into Rio’s most fun option for nightlife.
Located in Rio’s historic center, it’s become a favorite locale for many clubbers dancing the night away. Head over to Lapa and pretty soon you’ll find that you danced the night away!