Apart from being Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro has gorgeous beaches and stunning landscapes, like Impanema Beach and Sugar Loaf Mountain. And now that the city is gearing up for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, new hotels, restaurants and boutiques are cropping up nearly every month.
The city is divided into the coastal centre and northern, eastern and western districts, with the coastal centre being the hotbed for toned bodies and glamorous hotels.
The best beaches here are Arpoador, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Leme (Abricó is the only nudist beach) and they are always teaming with locals, even on a Monday afternoon.
People from Rio live their lives by the sea. Their beaches have fantastic vendors that walk around selling fruits, juices and empanadas all day long.
Do hit up all the iconic tourist destinations, like the Christo Redentor, but avoid them on weekends or during high tourist seasons like carnival. That said, don’t neglect places like Niteroi, a nearby city that has just as many beautiful beaches yet is often overlooked.
Rio’s food scene is incredible too, but mainly meat based. Find the nearest Churrascaria to your hotel and get ready to gorge on dozens of unctuous grilled and sliced meats.
Rio Travel Tips
- Should you find yourself hungry and in Rio’s Lapa neighbourhood, try to find a table at Ernesto. This typical Brazilian restaurant, like most, is known for its grilled steaks and sausages. They also serve good seafood, like baked cod, and vegetarian options like slow cooked lentils. Weekend evenings here are packed out with people having cocktails and listening to live Samba music.
- For cutting edge apparel and accessories, check out Teargas in Impanema. Handcrafted jewellery made from Amazonian wood and stones and plant fibres, is sold at the very popular Maria Oiticica on the Rua Visconde de Pirajá; and for antique silverwares, art deco collectibles and more check out the Saturday morning Praça Do Mercado Feira de Antiguidades, an antiques market near the Niterói ferry terminal.
If crowds, festivals, and endless steak lunches and dinners rack your nerves, consider embarking on a Tangará Ecological Hike. The Saturday and Sunday hikes explore hidden waterfalls near Jardim Botanico or journey into the thick of the rainforest to the top of Corcovado.
- Day-long tours in Rio are well worth it, especially for those that want to knock out all the tourist sights at once, to have more time on the beach. If you just want to catch a few of the highlights, at least visit the Christo Redentor and Sugarloaf Mountain. There are usually good half-day tours for hire at the entrances of both, and they are best to visit after the rainy season in April.
- If you must visit Rio during its famous, and crowded, carnival, know that you have to pay to get into certain venues like the Samba Parade and the Carnival Ball. It’s a good idea to pick and choose a day or two of parades to view because tickets sell out quickly. Some of the most famous samba schools that locals come to see are the Saol Clemente, Villa Isabel, and Salgueiro.