Former political capital of Brazil, Rio’s nicknamed is the “cidade maravilhosa” (the marvelous city).
In Brazil, we always say: “Bem vindo ao Rio de Janeiro, a cidade maravilhosa!” …
I was lucky enough to live in Rio for almost a year and whenever I have the chance, I go back. I love this city so much…
How many times in your life have you visited a megalopolis by the sea?
Located between the ocean and the mountains, Rio is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Here we indulge in pleasures like nowhere else: beach, samba, football, cachaça and so much more …
You will discover a bustling city full of surprises, animated by the rhythm of the cariocas (inhabitants of Rio). It will amaze you! You will not be ready to forget it, every traveler I have known immediately fell in love with it…
The city center and its surroundings are full of tourist attractions, monuments to visit, parks to walk, beaches to relax, caipirinhas to sip…
I’m going to give you here a list of the must-see/do in Rio, there are obviously many others…
The Corcovado (or Cristo redentor or just « Cristo »)
This huge statue perched on the highest point of the city offers you a breathtaking 360 ° view of all of Rio. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Christ the Redeemer is one of the main symbols of the city and the country. This granite peak of 710 meters above sea level offers a privileged view of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf Mountain, Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, as well as several favelas.
The Sugarloaf Mountain (or Pão de Açúcar)
The name SugarLoaf was given by the Portuguese because of its very particular shape.
It evokes the blocks of refined sugar placed in clay molds to be transported by boat during the time of the sugar cane trade.
This is a “must see in Rio”! Before making this excursion, I strongly recommend that you go for lunch (or have a drink) on the praia Vermelha.
Take the opportunity to go for a swim. The water is cool and the beach is much quieter than Copacabana or Ipanema.
The trip to the summit of Sugar Loaf is done in 2 stages via the cable car :
- First stage: from the foot of the mountain in Praia Vermelha to Morro da Urca, at a height of 220 meters. This course offers you a 360 ° panoramic view of the city and the surroundings of Guanabara Bay.
- Second stage: from Morro da Urca to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain which is 396 meters above sea level.
The best time to get there is at the end of the day, when the sunlight sets the landscape ablaze and the city slowly lights up.
It is then that you will understand that Rio deserves its nickname of “cidade maravilhosa” more than ever.
Morro dos Dois Irmãos
Much less frequented than the two emblems mentioned above, the Morro dos Dois Irmãos nonetheless offers an equally (if not more) exceptional view of the Cidade Maravilhosa.
It is one of the most spectacular views! At the top, you have a superb panorama of the whole of Rio.
At the end of Leblon beach stands a hill (morro in Portuguese) well known to the Cariocas: the Morro dos Dois Irmãos (hill of the two brothers).
To make this unforgettable hike, cross the favela of Vidigal located at its base, continue to climb while soaking up the magnificent view.
You will overlook the infamous Rocinha favela (known as one of the biggest of the country).
The botanical garden
It is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
It is divided into several sections (Japanese, sensory, tropical, cactus). The trees are gigantic, the water lilies giant, the orchids splendid!
Lapa and Santa Teresa
Strolling through the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa: quite an experience …
Lapa is one of Rio’s most authentic neighborhoods. At night, it is the epicenter of nightlife. You will find a number of bars and restaurants here.
You can also discover the very famous colorful Selaron stairs covered with mosaics.
Then go for a walk in the picturesque streets of Santa Teresa with the air of a village.
A good number of artists exhibit their works, it is a bit like “Brazilian Montmartre” …
I recommend you to go to the heights of Santa Teresa to see another glimpse of the city!
For lovers of hiking and nature, this park is ideal. It is considered the largest urban forest in the world.
In this dense and lush vegetation, you will see waterfalls as well as a wide variety of species of plants, mammals, birds and reptiles.
Admire a sunset
The sunsets might be a bit ‘cliché’, but let’s be honest, I find those in Rio to be really fabulous…
You have different points of view to admire them:
Arpoador Point is really nice because you have a full view of Ipanema Beach.
Often guitar players and shows make the moment a little more magical. You can taste caipirinhas, local beers or coconuts…
Ipanema beach itself is a great place to experience the sunset in Rio.
I also advise you to see at least one on the Sugar Loaf and if you have the possibility from the heights of Santa Teresa.
Take a helicopter ride
Departures are from LAGOA which is a superb place. If the budget for a helicopter tour is too high, I recommend taking a short bike ride around the lake.
The helicopter tour is just CRAZY !! There are 8 different tours, from a few minutes for the shortest (around Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado and Copacabana) to more than an hour for the most complete (almost the whole city overflown, from the beach of Grumari in the south to Niteroi in the east and the Maracanã in the north).
Watch a football match at the Maracanã
Temple of Brazilian football, this colossal-sized stadium even brought together more than 200,000 people during events such as the 1950 World Cup final or Pelé’s last match.
If you love sports and want to soak up the Brazilian atmosphere or just have a unique and intense experience, you absolutely must attend a match at the Maracanã.
Carnival is a must in all Brazilian cities, but Rio carnival remains symbolic.
If you are lucky enough to be there during the right period (it is celebrated every year on the four days before Lent, around February-March) then you will experience one of the most festive atmospheres that can be exist in the world.
And you? What is your favorite city?