17 things you must do in Rio de Janeiro

Where do you want to travel?

Your journey will lead you to famous domestic and foreign beauty spots.

17 things you must do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is known by Brazilians as ‘a cidade maravilhosa’ (the wonderful city) and when you go there, you realize why. I had the pleasure of working there for a couple of months and I can only say that I fell for that city, it has absolutely everything you could imagine and here I tell you 17 essential things you must do when you go there.

1) See the sunset in Arpoador or Ipanema

Rio de Janeiro - puesta de sol desde Arpoador

Sunsets are always beautiful and if we can combine them with an amazing beach and some gorgeous mountains with crazy shapes in the background, then they are even better.

2) Drink a caipirinha in Lapa

Rio de Janeiro - Lapa

¡Oh Lapa! People say you either love Lapa or you hate it, I couldn’t love it more. You can go at night to have a caipirinha (or a few), dance and enjoy the good vibes on the street.

3) Watching a football match in the Maracanã

Rio de Janeiro - Maracanã

If there is something Brazilians are characterized by is its passion for football, imagine a live match in the world’s largest stadium where the final of the last World Cup was played, it’s such a unique experience!

4) Do the free walking tour in the city center

Rio de Janeiro - Escadaria Selaron

A 3 hour tour where you’ll go to the most important sites of downtown Rio and you learn about the Brazilian history. The good thing is that you don’t pay the tour at the beggining, but when it finish you can give the guide a tip depending on how much you liked it, that’s why the guides are pretty good.

5) Go to a favela

Rio de Janeiro - favela Santa Marta

There are some tours called “favela tours” which I personally would never do because they are like going to a zoo to see poverty and in some cases the drug dealers get the money you pay for the tour, although now it is supposed to be given to the community. Anyway, I went alone to the favela Santa Marta, a pacified favela in the neighborhood of Botafogo and people were super friendly, a woman even invited me to her house to show me a video clip of Michael Jackson in which she appeared as he had recorded it over there. You can see the video here.

6) Have a coconut water in Copacabana beach

Rio de Janeiro - Copacabana

You can have a coconut water, a cold beer or just go sunbathing, but of course you can’t leave Rio without visiting the legendary Copacabana beach.

7) Visit a samba school

Rio de Janeiro - Ensayo carnavales

If you feel like sambing, enjoying the carioca night and seeing a little bit about carnival without being carnival, I recommend you to go to a samba school, you can go with an organized tour or on your own.

8) Eat a feijoada

Feijoada - Rio de Janeiro

This is the typical Brazilian dish par excellence, the basic ingredients are black beans, pork and rice and often sprinkled with manioc (cassava). It’s a pretty strong dish so I recommend you have it for lunch, rather than for dinner.

9) Go for a walk around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

Rio de Janeiro - Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

The lagoa is a lagoon in the middle of the city with a contour of 7,500 meters, perfect for jogging or going for a walk, with a little luck you can find some capybaras along the way.

10) Chill in the Parque Lage

Rio de Janeiro - Parque Lage

This is my favorite spot in Rio de Janeiro, what I like the most about it is that there is always very few people there. It is a beautiful park, full of little charming nooks and an old palace in the middle which is an art school.

11) Climb Pão de Açúcar

Rio de Janeiro - Pão de Açúcar

This is one of the most emblematic mountains of the city of Rio de Janeiro. You can climb it or if you are not so brave, you can go to the top with the bondinho. If you don’t want to pay, you can hike the mountain next to it, the Morro de Urca, the views are very similar and you will find lots of little monkeys in the way up.

12) See the street art in Santa Teresa

Rio de Janeiro - Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is the most bohemian neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. It has a distinctly colonial style which gives you the feeling that time stopped there and is full of street art. It has a mythical bondinho which is not working at the moment.

13) Go hiking to the National Park of Tijuca

Rio de Janiro - Parque nacional de Tijuca

One of the things I like the most about Rio de Janeiro is that besides having all the good things that a big city can offer you, it is surrounded by jungle, mountains and waterfalls. If you are a nature lover like me, I recommend you to go hiking to the National Park of Tijuca, you’ll love it!

14) Visit Christ the Redeemer in the Corcovado

Rio de Janeiro - Cristo Redentor

Christ the Redeemer is one of the “seven wonders of the modern world”, the statue of the Christ is quite impressive because is huge, but in my opinion, the privileged views of the city are even better.

15) Go for a walk to the Botanic Garden

Rio de Janeiro - Jardín Botánico

The Botanic Garden is a huge park with all kind of vegetation. You’ll need at least an afternoon to wander among. Try to relax walking around there and watching the monkeys you will find.

16) Go shopping to the Uruguaiana market

RIo de Janeiro

You’ll find over 1500 stalls where you can buy all sorts of items, from clothes to food, furniture or electronic items and all at a very low price.

17) Go to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi

Rio de Janeiro - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo

This building was designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the building itself looks like a UFO and is situated in a lookout with a fantastic view. Inside you can always find interesting exhibitions of contemporary art

I hope these tips make you enjoy this dream city. And if you are lucky enough to go on Carnivals, get ready for one of the craziest parties you can imagine in which you won’t stop dancing samba (or like me, pretend that you dance samba) during 24h. When I left Rio de Janeiro I promised myself that someday I will be back there, I don’t know if it will be in 3 years or 30, but for sure I’ll be back.

Now tell us about you, what is you favourite spot in this amazing city?

Ana Marco