8 must-see things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Rio de Janeiro

Visiting Rio de Janeiro: what are the best things to see and do in Brazil’s most famous city?

For you, Rio may just be Carnival, Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer or one of the host cities for the Football World Cup and the Olympic Games… Even if you can’t detach these events and places from your image of the Cidade Maravilhosa, they are part of the Carioca landscape. But that’s not all there is to Rio. There are many things to see and do in this world-famous city. Whether they’re touristy or not, these activities are a must!

1. Rio’s Christ the Redeemer

christ redempteur rio

Flickr – David Berkowitz

It’s one of the symbols of the city. This enormous statue of Cristo Redentor is perched with outstretched arms on Corcovado mountain, 710 metres above the Carioca city. Find out more about the Christ of Rio by reading a few anecdotes. You can also find out more about visiting Christ the Redeemer in our article.

2. Rio’s beaches

Going to the beach is a must in Rio for sunbathing and swimming. You won’t want to miss Copacabana beach, of course, although it’s crowded in summer (early in the year in Brazil) and as soon as the mercury rises above 20-25°C. You only have to cross the Arpoador district to get to theIpanema page made famous by the song The Girl From Ipanema. Other interesting beaches in Rio include Leblon and Barra da Tijuca.
Copacabana Rio de Janeiro

Wikimedia – Mteixeira62

3. Sugar Loaf or Pão de Açúcar

Rising almost 400 metres above the mouth of Guanabara Bay, Sugar Loaf is a monolith visible from many parts of Rio, which you can « visit » by taking a glass-walled cable car called a  » bondinho  » or  » teleférico » to its summit. The cable car leaves every 20 minutes from the base of Morro da Babilônia (hill) and climbs to the top of Morro da Urca hill. From here, you can take a second cable car to the top of Pão, which offers a 360° view of Rio, the bay and the ocean.

4. Lapa district

Arches de Lapa Rio

Flickr – Rodrigo_Soldon

Lapa is the liveliest district in central Rio, with the most effervescent nightlife. It’s a great place to drink a caipirinha while listening to choro or samba music. It’s also a great place to explore, with many interesting sights, such as the Fundição Progresso, the Lapa arches(Arcos da Lapa) and theEscadaria Selarón (artist Jorge Selarón’s staircase, 250 colorful steps, see photo below).

5. Jardim Botânico and Parque Lage

Located to the west of the Lagoa district, Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden is home to over 8,000 plant species. Built in the early 1800s, the garden boasts many mature specimens, including avenues lined with gigantic palm trees. People also come here to see the 600 species of orchids. The garden also boasts monuments, fountains, etc., such as a Japanese garden, a pond filled with water lilies and the new Museu do Meio Ambiente, which displays exhibits focusing on the environment. One of the garden’s attractions is the Parque Lage, which showcases a beautiful mansion dating from 1840 with a unique and surprising style. The house was designed by an Italian architect and the motifs created by an English landscaper.
Parque Lage Rio de Janeiro

Flickr – Rodrigo_Soldon

6. Soccer

Rio is a city of futebol, with no fewer than seven teams in the same city. Four major clubs actually compete for the Carioca championship every year. If you come to Rio during the championship season, find out more about visiting the Maracanã stadium or attending a match in one of the city’s stadiums.

7. Churrascarias and feijoada

In Brazil, you can’t miss the local culinary specialties. Take advantage of your stay in Rio to dine in a churrascaria, a restaurant where you’ll be served delicious barbecued meat (all-you-can-eat or not). In particular, try the picanha, a local favorite. Or try a feijoada, a dish based on black beans (feijão: bean in Portuguese), rice and pork.

8. Santa Teresa district

Escadaria Selaron Rio de Janeiro

Flickr – greg.road.trip

Perched on a hill overlooking the Bay of Rio, the Santa Teresa district invites you to step back in time and discover the vanished elegance of 19th-century plantation mansions and cobblestone streets. The district escaped development until 1896, when an aqueduct was built, linking it to the city. It was a haven for 20th-century artists, musicians and writers, and although trendy clubs and boutiques have since caught up with the neighborhood, it still retains a friendly colonial ambience. Really close by, the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura library, one of the most beautiful in the world, and the São Bento monastery, are well worth a visit.

How do I get to Rio de Janeiro?

Find a cheap flight on our partner website Skyscanner.

Where to sleep in Rio de Janeiro?

Before setting off to visit Rio, it’s important to choose the right area in which to stay. To find a cheap hotel in Rio de Janeiro, use this hotel comparator.

Do you know Rio? What did you like best about the city? What else did you see?

Map of hotels and accommodations – Rio de Janeiro,br