It’s hard not to fall for a city like Rio de Janeiro. Famous for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, dazzling views of Sugarloaf Mountain, world wonder Christ the Redeemer, Carnival and dancing the samba: this city will sweep you off your feet in no time!
Last year I spent three months in São Paulo, the most populous city in South America. As you can imagine, it was great to escape this enormous city and catch my breath in Rio de Janeiro. And I’m not the only one! With a flight of only 45 minutes, many paulistanos -residents of São Paulo- go to Rio for a weekend getaway: “people make their money in São Paulo but spend it in Rio…”
I visited Rio twice and fell completely and utterly in love with the beauty of this magical city. And I’m guessing this guide, including things I loved to do, see and experience while being in Rio, will do the same to you!
» Stay at Hotel Porto Bay Rio Internacional «
Hotel Porto Bay Rio Internacional is located only ten steps from the world famous Copacabana beach and enjoys views of both the Sugarloaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer. The hotel has it all: from the necessary security and both stylish and clean hotel rooms to a gym and rooftop swimming pool including a lounge bar (and all of this with breathtaking views of the Copacabana). While it may not precisely fit your “Rio on a shoestring” plan, it is definitely worth it!
» Visit Sugarloaf Mountain «
Undoubtedly my favorite sight in Rio: the Sugarloaf Mountain, owing its name to the 16th-century sugar cane trade in Brazil. A cable car will take you to the top of the so-called Pão de Açúcar (396m), with a stop at Morro da Urca (220m). While you’ll already be astonished by the views at the intermediate station (thinking it can’t get any better), it is best to directly take the second cable car to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain (because it can get better!). The panoramic views of the world famous city make you feel like not just Rio is at your feet, but the entire world!
❥ Tip: enjoy the view while sipping a caipirinha at the Clássico Beach Club.
» Scratch a world wonder of your bucket list «
One of the seven world wonders and a must-see when visiting Rio: Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). The open-armed statue stands on top of the Corcovado (710m) and watches over Rio. While the Statue of Liberty is known for its disappointing height, the Cristo Redentor will have you amazed (and make you do the one thing you said you never would: lay on the ground to get the perfect picture)! On top of the Corcovado, you will also enjoy beautiful views of the city and the Sugarloaf Mountain.
❥ Tip: afraid of heights? Look for a spot on the left-side of the train when going uphill.
» Walk the Escadaria Selarón «
Another sight to tick off your list: Escadara Selarón. The colorful steps are designed by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón and named it his tribute to the Brazilian people. The iconic tourist attraction is situated in Rio’s vibrant neighborhood Lapa. And there is much more to do than just visit the famous steps: Lapa is known as the center of the city’s nightlife! (are you ready for some samba?)
» Hit the beach «
Ocean air, salty hair: I’m talking about hitting the beach. Spend an hour at the Copacabana or Ipanema beach and you have undeniably seen some tanned, fit bodies parade around on the beach in their tiny bikinis or swimshorts. Both tourists as cariocas -residents of Rio- come here to enjoy the sun, take a dive, sip a refreshing coconut or play some beach ball.
❥ Tip: have some drinks and snacks while enjoying the live music at one of the lively restaurants at the Copacabana beach during the evening.
All that’s left for me to add to this guide are some useful, last-minute tips:
❥ If possible, fly to Santos-Dumont. This airport is situated in the city and will spare you a long taxi ride from the international airport to the city (and an additional benefit: you’ll have great views of Rio from the plane).
❥ Taking a Uber is very common in Brazil (and also quite cheap). However, be aware when taking the Uber pool. In Rio, the favela’s are literally just around the corner of a good neighborhood and before you know it your co-traveller lives there (yes, this actually happened to us!).
❥ Hoping my last note didn’t scare you… I experienced that Brazil is not as dangerous as often described. Just be aware, do your homework and always keep your wits!