Visiting Rio de Janeiro is an experience like no other. Entranced by the sounds of samba, the city pulses with energy and life. From the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city to the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio is a place where culture, nature, and history come together to create an unforgettable adventure. With its lively atmosphere and stunning setting, it’s no wonder that Rio is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Brazil. Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s museums and architecture or just soak up the atmosphere, Rio de Janeiro will leave you enchanted.
Why Visit Rio and When’s The Best Time To Go
This gleaming Brazilian metropolis, dubbed Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), has certainly earned its moniker. The city boasts stunning views from nearly every vantage point, allowing visitors and Cariocas (native Brazilians born in Rio de Janeiro) alike to take in the picture-perfect backdrop. Rio has much more to offer than beautiful views, exotic rainforests, and blue seas. Glamor, high fashion, and a laid-back attitude define the city’s personality. Rio is also well-known for its love affair with football. The Maracana Stadium (home to both the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Olympic Games) has been a favorite venue among football fans from all over Brazil as well as those living abroad.
From capoeira to samba dance lessons, there is no shortage of activities in Rio. If you plan your visit during Carnival, the colorful Portuguese masquerade is a sight to behold, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Visas are no longer required for American citizens traveling to Brazil as of June 2019. This was great news for anyone who had been considering visiting the South American country but had been put off by the hassle and cost of obtaining a visa.
Brazil’s seasons are the polar opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere, with summer lasting from December to March and winter taking place from June to September. The months of July and August, when most Europeans and North Americans visit for their summer vacations, are also popular times of the year. Rio de Janeiro
Where To Stay
Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) is a popular area for visitors. The neighborhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon are the best for those looking to take full advantage of the beaches. Rio de Janeiro
Copacabana is a lively neighborhood that is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And, of course, Copacabana beach is just a short walk away. If you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, then Ipanema might be more your style. This chic neighborhood has a more laid-back atmosphere, but there are still plenty of great places to eat and drink. Rio de Janeiro
The neighborhood of Botafogo is another option if you want to be near the nightlife. It’s a prominent neighborhood that has an alternative, hipster ambiance while still keeping a casual, friendly vibe, with many restaurants and bars. If you’re looking to get away from it all and enjoy a bohemian ambiance, the artsy district of Santa Teresa is your best bet. Rio de Janeiro
For those who want to be in the trenches and experience Rio’s legendary party scene, Lapa is the place to be. This historic neighborhood is home to some of the best samba clubs in the city. Rio de Janeiro
What To Eat
Rio is a foodie’s paradise, with a diverse range of culinary dishes to explore. From Brazilian staples like churrasco to fresh seafood dishes, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. For those looking for a quick bite, Rio’s many street vendors offer delicious snacks like pastéis (empanadas) and coxinhas (chicken croquettes). For a sit-down meal, try one of the city’s many traditional restaurants. One of the most popular spots for tourists is the churrascaria or Brazilian steakhouse. You can sample a variety of meats that have been cooked over an open fire. When it comes to national foods, feijoada, a hearty black bean stew served with rice and sausage, is a must-try. Also, save room for dessert – Rio is home to some of the best brigadeiros (chocolate truffle), quindim (egg custard), bolos de rolo (roll cake) amongst other treats. And of course, no visit to Rio would be complete without trying a Caipirinha, the national cocktail made with cachaça, lime, and sugar.
How To Get Around
Walking or taking a taxi is the best method to get around Rio. Neighborhoods like Lapa and Santa Teresa are easily accessible by foot. Other popular attractions and beaches are easily accessible by taxi. Rio de Janeiro
The metro is a great way to get around the city, and it’s cheap, too. It’s also one of the fastest ways to get around; however, it has limited reach throughout the city. Rio de Janeiro
Taxis are more expensive than the metro, but they’re more convenient. You can hail a taxi anywhere in the city. While most taxis are metered, some drivers may quote a fixed price for certain destinations. It’s important to agree on a price before getting in the cab. It’s also worth noting that most drivers are not likely to speak English, so it’s best to have your destination address written down. Rio de Janeiro
Uber is also available in Rio and is generally deemed to be safer than taxis. The cost is roughly the same as taxis, or sometimes cheaper.
Buses are a cheap way to get around, but they can be slow. During the day, buses are generally safe; however, be on the lookout for pickpockets when the bus becomes congested. In the evening, it is advisable to take a taxi or Uber. Rio de Janeiro
Renting a car is the most expensive option, but they’re also the most convenient. You can go anywhere you want at any time, and you don’t have to worry about public transportation schedules. Rio de Janeiro
What To See & Do
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açucar)- is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The granite peak stands at approximately 1200 feet tall. Visitors can take the cable car to the top of the mountain, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
Christ the Redeemer- also known as Cristo Redentor in Portuguese, is a massive monument of Jesus Christ that stands atop the Corcovado mountain.
- Parque Lage- a former mansion turned into an art school and public park located in the Jardim Botanico district at the base of the Corcovado mountain.
Jardim Botânico- is one of the largest and most diverse botanical gardens in the world. It’s home to more than 6,000 different species of plants and contains a wide variety of different gardens, including a Japanese and rose garden.
Lapa District- is known for its bohemian atmosphere and its nightlife. The streets are lined with bars and clubs, and live music can be heard late into the night. The district is also home to Arcos da Lapa, an eye-catching aqueduct. It’s a popular gathering spot and gateway to Lapa’s vibrant nightlife. The best street parties are held here with stalls selling mega-sized caipirinhas and other cocktails.
Selarón’s Staircase- the brainchild of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, the staircase began as a simple renovation project but quickly turned into a labor of love. Selarón started by covering the steps in blue and green tiles, two colors that are widely associated with Brazil. As he continued to work on the staircase, he began to incorporate tiles from all over the world, creating a colorful and truly unique piece of art.
Paço Imperial or Imperial palace- a cultural center with contemporary art exhibits and events. Previously it served as a residence for governors.
Praça Quinze de Novembro (15th of November Square)- a public square named for the date of Brazil’s declaration of independence from Portugal is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The park is home to several statues and monuments. It’s also a great place to people-watch, as it’s not unusual to see musicians performing or couples dancing in the square.
Arco do Teles- a picturesque archway leading into Travessa do Comércio, an alleyway lined with fine examples of colonial architecture.