What to do and what to see in Rio de Janeiro? That’s a good question when you only have 3 days available, you are a curious soul like me, who would like to run around and stick in the schedule as many things as possible, and you are visiting a city so rich in places to see, with such an intense nightlife and an as much as interesting beach life. Once again, I decided to go for quality over quantity; yes, I might have left something behind like museums and a tour of a favela, and maybe much more but, at the end of the day, I ended up enjoying my time in the Cidade Maralvihosa anyway and I fully appreciated what I saw.
This is my list of favorite things to do in Rio!
Pão de Açúcar at night
To see a city from the top is the best way to understand its geography, its architecture and its urban map, which is something that I love to do. It is in fact always important to me to understand how a city is overall, and see all the little elements composing it as a whole picture. A ride on the bondinho, up to the Pão de Açúcar was just perfect. It was just a random coincidence that made me take the bondinho at night and, yes, it was amazing to see a bright Rio, looking even more bustling and alive than during the day. We could see the full coastline of Copacabana Beach all the way to the Fort of Copacabana, the small Praia Vermelha, and even the bridge linking Rio to Niteroi. I especially enjoyed the reverberation of the moon light on the Enseada do Botafogo full or sailboats.
Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon
These are Rio’s most popular urban beaches, with the iconic black and white promenade By Roberto Burle Marx, several chiringuito where to stop for a bottle of Brahma and some fried tapioca. Each beach has its own style and each posto takes you on a short demographic journey to understand how the Carioca society is. You will be surprised by the amount of people jogging and doing exercises, whether it’s day or night, whether they are young or more mature.
To walk along the waterfront in the neighborhood of Urca up to the Fortaleza João Luís was one of the sweetest discoveries of this trip to Rio (this is what happens when you travel with locals!). This district of Rio faces the Enseada of Botafogo and is full of traditional art deco, and faux Spanish style houses. I had a peaceful feeling while strolling along the waterfront which fantastically ended up with a pastel and a bottle of Original on Mureta da Urca, possibly one of Rio’s best spots for sunsets, and some Stroganoff squid with rice at the “Bar e Restaurante Urca”.
Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
When I first put my hands on a map of Rio, I wasn’t expecting to find a lagoon right in city center. Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is the perfect place if you want to hire a bike and cycle along the 7-Km walk and bike lane, running around the lagoon. There are also green areas with trees, benches, food stands; it’s a nice option to relax a bit, hire a swan shaped boat and just enjoy the view around. You can enjoy a full view of the Lago also from the Christ the Redeemer.
Santa Teresa and Lapa
The idea to check out Santa Teresa and Lapa was in my to do list since the very beginning. Lapa is the heart of Rio’s night-life: at night it is so crowded of people going to bars and clubs that you can’t even walk on the street. Its landmark is the Aqueduto da Carioca: at night, the nearby square turns into an open-air food market with stands serving any type of food. Just a few minutes away, you get to the world famous Escadaria Selarón, a staircase covered in artistic tiles and colorful ceramics by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. The 200 steps composing the Selarón’s Steps and the side walks are so full of details that you could spend hours there. If you walk up the stairs you get to Santa Teresa, a bohemian Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhood, full of urban and street art. We stopped in a typical Rio de Janeiro’s botequim, called Bar do Mineiro, famous for its feijoada. Before leaving Santa Teresa make sure you jump on the historical Santa Teresa tram. Make sure you check the timetable as the last ride is at around 4pm and we missed it for 1 minute!
The statue of Christ the Redeemer and the Corcovado
What to say, it might feel a bit touristy, but how could I have possibly been in Rio without doing the Christ Redeemer? No, that was out of question. There are different options to get to the Corcovado (which is the name of the mountain where the Christ Redeemer is standing on). We got the funicular at the Estação de Ferro do Corcovado, in the district of Cosme Velho which took us up, through the Tijuca rainforest. Nice and relaxing. Cost: around 50 BRL as I write. Once you get there you can opt for the lift or the stairs (we went for the stairs, as we wanted to enjoy the view). The other 2 options are to get a minibus or to enjoy a 1.5-hour walk through the forest from Parque Lage.
Pedra do Arpoador
I was taken to the Arpoador by surprise, without exactly knowing what I was going to see. It was just the right way to get prepared to such an unexpected and amazing view of the sunset on Ipanema and Leblon, right in front of Vidigal. Make sure you check at exactly what time the sun goes down and then get ready to get a nice spot on one of the rocks and then just enjoy such a wonder of Mother Nature for free.
There are of course much more to see and to experience in Rio, but you know, my life is made up by small things that are so powerful and meaningful to make up for what I miss out from the rest. Also, my blog is about small zingy thingies that are making this life worth exploring and living it. I like writing about what leaves a positive mark in my everyday life and anything you read about here, surely did the job.
Are you planning to visit Rio any soon? Do you need tips? I’m alway happy to share my experience.