Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro
With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, lots of athletes, spectators and volunteers from across de globe travelled to Rio. It was the first city in South America to host the Summer Olympics so it was a big deal for the Latin continent.
Despite all the political and economical controversies that have been occurring, Rio still remains the most visited capital city in South America and there are so many amazing things to see, from long stretches of beautiful beaches to iconic monuments all with a tropical vegetation and climate. So don’t be put off by these latest events as Brazilians are very lively, happy, and welcoming and I can guarantee you that you will have a great time in their country - I sure did when I visited back in 2012 for over a month, a wonderful trip that will be remembered for a lifetime.
Here is my list of the best things to do in Rio:
Christ the Redeemer
This statue, located on the top of the Corcovado mountain, is probably the most emblematic monument in Rio, just as the Eiffel Tower is in Paris. You can see it form nearly every point in Rio and it is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This was one of the first things I visited in Rio and it’s a great way to get an understanding of the layout of the whole city upon your arrival. In addition to being such an impressive monument (30 meters tall on top of an 8-meter pedestal and with its arms stretching 28 meters wide), the panoramic views over the city are just spectacular.
There are several ways (by foot, train or van) to reach the top so click here to plan your visit.
This neighbourhood is worldwide famous for its Copacabana beach which stretches over 4km and which I’m sure you've all heard about. Along the promenade you have the famous Copacabana Palace hotel and many restaurants, bars and nightclubs making Copacabana one of the liveliest areas in Rio. Remember that the small kiosks along the beach sell the most delicious Caipirinhas…
This peak that sticks out of the Atlantic Ocean is one of the other popular landmarks of Rio. Its name comes from the 16th century when the sugar cane trade was booming in Brazil as it has the same form as a sugar loaf (refined sugar was produced in this shape before the use of cubes and granulated sugar in the late 19th centrury).
You need to take two cable cars to get all the way to the top (nearly 400 meters) and admire the amazing 360° panoramic views (no need to book your tickets in advance).
I first spotted the “Red Beach” from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain. The sea is mostly calm here and it’s where you will get some beautiful views of the rocky coastline.
This public park is one of my favourite places in Rio and should not be missed out on. You will find it just below the Corcovado Mountain and it’s full of lush green tropical plants and palm trees. You feel as though you’ve gotten lost in a tropical jungle. There’s also a lovely little cafe for an afternoon tea or coffee. I’m sure this mansion seems familiar to you from Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” music video back in the day…
This tropical rainforest located in the centre of Rio is one of the largest urban forest in the world. You could just spend hours strolling around the pathways and admiring the waterfalls, lakes and the vast green vegetation.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
This lovely picturesque lagoon located in the South Zone neighbourhood of Rio is connected to the Atlantic sea. You can rent a bike on the east side of the lake and cycle along the pathway around the lake (7.2km) or simply walk. You can even rent a paddle boat if you prefer rowing. Finish off your activities with a Caipirinha or two at one of the lakeside kiosks and some good music...
Also known as the Lapa Steps, this famous colourful stairway was made by a Chilean artist named Jorge Selarón, hence the name. He lived in front of the isolated stairway connecting the areas of Lapa and Santa Teresa and decided to renovate the steps with tiles, ceramics and mirrors of a variety of colours (particularly those of the Brazilian flag). There are 215 steps and over 2000 tiles, many of which have been donated from visitors from around the world. These steps also featured on Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” music video. The area of Lapa is full of lively restaurants and bars so do head down there for an exciting evening.
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
At the foot of the Corcovado Mountain, this outstanding Botanical Garden hosts an incredible variety of birds, tropical plants and trees, palm trees and archaeological monuments. It was originally created to acclimatise spices imported from the West Indies and first opened to the public in 1822.
This is definitely one of the most beautiful botanical gardens I've visited in the world and I would recommend it to any one going to Rio.
There is a greenhouse that has the most impressive collection of orchids I've ever seen.
Praia de Barra da Tijuca
Barra de Tijuca, located on the western side of the city, is one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Rio and is home to many Brazilian celebrities and famous football players. It’s considered to be one of the safest parts of Rio and is where most of the Olympic venues are located.
The beach of Barra stretches over 18km and is one of the largest beaches in Rio. The sand is very fine and the water is turquoise blue. You will see many people jogging, cycling or doing other sport activities along the beach so why not join them? Due to its optimal wind conditions, it’s is also an ideal spot for surfing and kitesurfing.
Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre
This wonderful opera house, located in the centre downtown area of the city, is definitely one of the most beautiful buildings in Rio. Unfortunately I didn’t see any performances as tickets were sold out but if you plan in advance you may be able to find an interesting ballet or classical music concert to see. I’ve been told that the inside is even more luxurious than its facade. Find out what’s going on at the Municipal Theatre here.
Have you ever been to Rio de Janeiro?