With its soaring mountains, lush forests, picturesque shorelines and endless sunshine, Rio de Janeiro is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream destination. Sprawling shanty towns stand alongside an impressive skyline, adding to this Brazilian city’s distinct character.
On your visit, expect plenty of welcome distractions, including a rich food scene, abundant cultural attractions and vibrant nightlife. Laze around one of the Atlantic Ocean-facing beaches or absorb the city’s mesmerising art scene. If you’re looking for much-needed rest and recreation, Rio de Janeiro’s urban charm will melt your stress away.
Discover a tropical paradise with a laid-back ambiance that will leave you recharged.
There are two attractions that define Rio de Janeiro. One is the iconic Christ the Redeemer, a 38m-tall Art Deco statue that took nine years to build. Located at the top of Corcovado Mountain, it can be reached via a vertical cog train. Visitors who make the effort to trek around the statue will be rewarded with dazzling vistas of the city.
Another crowd magnet is Sugarloaf Mountain, a towering, granite monolith that is one of Rio de Janeiro’s natural wonders. Rising to 396 metres above sea level, it can be found at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. Like Christ the Redeemer, the mountain offers stunning views of the city.
Take the bondhino, a glass-encased cable car, to reach the peak. You can catch the ride every 20 minutes from Babilonia Hill, taking you up to Morro da Urca Hill. From here, you have to take a second cable car to the top of the mountain.
In addition, the city has Ipanema Beach, enshrined forever in the 1960s bossa nova song. An arcing stretch of golden sands and rolling waves, it features regularly on the list of world’s best beaches. It is also lined with theatres, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Vibrant Copacabana, next to the surfers’ favourite Arpoador Beach, has a real vibe about it. Stroll along the famous promenade or indulge in one of the many water-based sports on offer.
If you’re into cycling and jogging, the best place to indulge your passion is the Lagoa area. Here you can find the city’s famous lagoon, Rodrigo de Freitas, which is surrounded by a four-mile path. If you’d rather people-watch than jog, the area is also studded with open-air cafés and restaurants.
Football is all the rage in Brazil, and the most important sporting landmark in Rio de Janeiro is the vast Maracanã Stadium. Opened in 1950, it was, for a long time, the biggest in the world. Partially renovated for the 2014 World Cup, the stadium can seat 80,000 spectators and is still the largest in South America.
For a bit of green space, explore the massive Tijuca National Park, one of the largest urban forests in the world. Hike the trail leading to Pico da Tijuca, the park’s summit, and soak up the area’s best views.
For a colourful nightlife, nothing beats the Lapa neighbourhood. Lined with choro and samba entertainment hotspots, and with dancing and music spilling onto the streets, the atmosphere here is highly energetic. It is an experience not to be missed.
Eating in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro offers a bewildering spectrum of superb and varied gastronomic experiences. Its culinary repertoire derives inspiration from Italian and Portuguese influences. Seafood dishes are abundant, but if you want to eat like the locals, visit any of the city’s churrascaria, or barbecue restaurants. Brazilians are meat lovers, so barbecues and picanha (steaks) are menu mainstays.
For starters, try the pão de queijo (cheese bread) and for dessert, don’t miss the brigadeiros (similar to chocolate truffle). Wash your meal down with a glass of açaí juice, made from açaí berries, which are believed to have health benefits.
The best Portuguese restaurants can be found in Leblon, which is frequented by professionals and bankers. Most eateries offer at least one or two seafood options, especially around the seafront, while most of the grills can be found in the downtown area.
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro
When travelling to Rio de Janeiro for shopping, you’ll find plenty of retail opportunities and a range of goods on offer. A big flea market and numerous stores are located in the city centre. Copacabana has more upmarket stores, as well as shops that sell souvenirs and football memorabilia.
The Copacabana Night Market and Hippie Fair are great for finding clothing bargains, arts and crafts, and local produce.