If you need an idea of what to do while in Rio de Janeiro, I’m here to give you a summary of my 5 days in the beautiful city of Rio.
Rio is the second largest city in Brazil and filled with amazing beaches, relaxed nightlife, good cuisine, happy people and small bikinis. The tourist attractions are plentiful and the coconut water is endless. All hail Rio de Janeiro.
The Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Rio is during their summer which is from December - February. I visited in November which was just before high season so things were cheaper and less crowded however, the weather was still warm enough to lay out in the sun. The only downside is it is rainy season (springtime) so we had a few foggy/windy days. But to me that is worth it in order to beat the crowd!
5 Days in Rio
Day 1: Walk around the most popular areas: Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon.
We (myself and two girlfriends) were situated in an affordable airbnb in Ipanema which is nestled in between Copa and Leblon. The weather was quite windy but the streets of these areas are gorgeous! Cobble stone paths, palm trees, and chic buildings. I got to know my surroundings, ate some acai for a snack and a big plate of white fish and black beans for dinner.
You can visit the Botanical Gardens, but we found it overrated.
At night: around sunset (about a quarter to 8) the best spot in all of Brazil is to be at the Arpoador Rock. It’s a not-so-hidden gem of a place where you can watch the sunset illuminate the numerous hills of the city and turn the beach sky into a sunburst of colors.
Day 2: BEACH. The beaches correspond to the same areas of Ipanema, Copacabana and Leblon.
Have a smooth bowl of acai and soak up the sun all day. I wish I could do this everyday :/
Day 3: Tourist Attraction - Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
If you go during high season, you’ll want to get there as soon as it opens. We strolled in around 10am since it wasn’t high season.
How to get there: Uber/Taxi
Christ is actually located at the top of a mountain which is also a national park, so you will take a train through the jungle area to where you will see Christ the Redeemer.
Price: R$43 or about US$14
Alternatively, you can ask your taxi driver to take you up the hill (they are all used to doing this) which is about a quarter of the way up and then a bus takes you the rest of the way up. This route is much cheaper just slightly more work.
Weather: If it’s a cloudy/rainy/foggy day, you will MISS out on the spectacular view from the top but because you are so close to actual statue you will still see it and be able to take photos. The day we went it was foggy so we didn’t get the view but the next day we certainly saw a great view from Pão de Acucar (see Day 4).
Day 4: Tourist Attraction - Pão de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
A great view point to see all of Rio de Janeiro. There are two cable cars that take you up, as there are two vantage points. We didn’t feel like spending another US$15 on another foggy day...plus the little fact that I am terrified of heights i.e. cable cars with glass surroundings SUPER HIGH IN THE AIR LIKE WUT NO THANKS.
The Alternative: There is a trailhead that you can spot around the same station you purchase a cable car ticket (between Praia Vermelha and Sugarloaf). It is a medium-difficulty trail and about 35 minutes to the top of Morro de Urca, the smaller of the two hills.
Cost: The hike is free!
How to get there: Taxi/Uber to Morro de Urca or to Praia Vermelha
Day 5: Santa Teresa and Escadaria Selarón (Selaron Steps)
Take a taxi/Uber to the Escalones for some marveling at the ceramic wonderment and take a mini photo shoot. From there, take the opportunity to walk over to Santa Teresa, a cute little nearby neighborhood. We stopped by an old museum then walked to the shopping area and stopped for lunch. The famous cable trains are there and free to the public. You can hop on any time but we waited to get on for the ride back.
Either stay nearby until the sun goes down or return to Lapa for the nightlife. Every Monday night there was a street party with booths lining the streets selling beers and gigantic caipirinhas. If you get there early enough you can catch a Samba show. Lapa is famous for its clubs, nightlife and Samba.
If you get a bright sunshine-y day, make your way to the top of pão de azucar or Christo ASAP to get that beautiful view. Then you could always spend the afternoon at the beach.
I felt safe as a young female. I think they really cleaned up the streets before hosting the 2016 olympics. I know people who have been there months without any issue and I know people who have been robbed there. However, I took the same precautions I take in Buenos Aires which is always be aware of my surroundings and don’t flash my phone/jewelry/have things tucked away in my pockets. However, I will also add that I did not and would not go walking alone after dark and only walked well-lit areas with my friends.
What they wear in Rio de Janeiro is important. It is a city into their looks married to a very laid-back style. The women wear maxi dresses, maxi skirts, and slightly fancier maxi dresses. Their style is very feminine and “done-up.” It put my high-waisted shorts and tank to shame. ***Side note: Brazilians respect and admire every shape of women. Every body is a beach body and I saw women of all sizes wearing crop tops and tiny bikini bottoms.
All hail the feijao (brazilian black beans) and feijoada (brazilian black bean soup, see photo below), the inexpensive fish and sushi, the brigadeiro (chocolate truffle), the juice bars, acai bowls and endless fruit. Try it all! The Feijoada was my favorite and filled me up with a warm fuzzy feeling for the Brazilian kitchen.