Want to visit the most exciting city on the planet? Rio de Janeiro has a lot going on. The host of the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, Rio got the world’s attention and everyone is watching. If you want to maximize your time in Rio, make sure to follow our top picks of the most excellent things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
Top things to do in Rio de Janeiro
Book your airport transfer from Galeão International Airport (GIG). Your driver will greet you with a name sign, and take you to your downtown hotel in safety and privacy taking the hassle out of looking for a taxi or other transportation.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most intoxicating cities on the planet. The landscape alone makes it worthy of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Don’t believe me? Check out all the things to do in Rio de Janeiro.
1. Christ the Redeemer
One of the most iconic things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to visit Christ the Redeemer. It’s one of the most recognized in the world. When picturing Rio, this is what everyone envisions. Christo Redentor stands proudly over the city at the top of Corcovado Mountain. Traveling to Rio this summer? Pick up your Lonely Planet Travel Guide
To visit you can hike up the mountain, take a minibus or enjoy a scenic train ride. Standing at 38 meters high, this is one imposing statue that is not to be missed. We highly recommend going in the morning or at sunset. Midday is extremely busy with tours. Watch our complete video here to see our experience.
For a complete overview of Rio’s most famous attractions, book this full-day city tour with a local guide. Travel through the Tijuca National Park and forest as you travel to Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer. You’ll also take the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain, eat one of the best steakhouses in Rio, and visit the Maracanã Stadium and the Sambadrome. It’s a fast tour, but you’ll see a lot in a short time getting a taste of the best of Rio.
2. Copacabana Beach
Copacabana Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and a trip to Rio wouldn’t be complete without spending a day at Copacabana.
This 4 km iconic beach is filled with energy and excitement. Vendors and restaurants line the sand and a wide paved pathway along the road makes for an easy stroll.
What we love about Copacabana Beach is that there are no hotels on the beach, they are all located across the road leaving the entire beach open to the public and free to walk on the sand.
The most luxurious hotel is the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel and we were lucky enough to spend 4 nights at this luxurious location. This was a great place to make a base and enjoy the beaches of Rio. (Fun Fact: Arnold Schwarzenegger was staying there at the same time we were)
This hotel was the first in the area dating back to 1923 and has been a staple ever since. It’s almost as if the beach life is built up around the Copacabana Palace. The art deco building takes up an entire city block and is the epitome of old-world luxury mixed with urban chic. See rates and availability
You don’t need to stay here to visit. Go inside by booking a meal or drink at one of its restaurants. If you go into one hotel at Copacabana, this is where you’ll be a part of a little slice of history.
3. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain rises 396 m over the Rio Harbour and really contributes to the aesthetic of the city’s spectacular skyline. It is named so because it resembles a Sugarloaf; a hard-packed bunch of sugar that looks like a cone.
Sugarloaf Mountain is an excellent spot to watch the sunset and take in the panoramic views of the city. Getting to the top involves taking two cable car rides dangling over the gap between two mountains. The ride is a thrill as it takes you to the top of the city. Watch our video for an in-depth guide to Sugarloaf Mountain.
It’s easy to visit Sugarloaf on your own, but you can book guided tours as well. This city tour takes you to many of the city’s highlights including Sugarloaf Mountain. You’ll take the cable car from Urca to Sugar Loaf Mountain and make 12 other stops on a full day tour including the Sambadrome, Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer, The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian and more. Details here.
4. Ipanema Beach
“Tall and tan and young and lovely the Girl from Ipanema goes walking…” Oh, how I love that song. And here’s a fun fact, It is the second most recorded pop song in history after “Yesterday” by the Beatles. See more Fun and Interesting Facts about Brazil
Ipanema Beach is essentially attached to Copacabana Beach located just around a pier. This is another long stretch of Rio sand where people play beach volleyball and bask under sun umbrellas.
Just a block up from the beach, you can visit the Girl From Ipanema Cafe where the famous song was penned. Make sure to go inside and enjoy a refreshing Caipharina and check out the photographs and nostalgia on the walls.
Ipanema is more of a residential area than Copacabana Beach so there aren’t as many hotel choices, but there are three beach hotels. We stayed at The Sol Ipanema which offered some great views from its small rooftop pool and patio.
5. Santa Marta Favela Tour
If you want to learn more about Rio culture, take a favela tour to visit local communities. There are 800 favelas in Rio and nearly 1.5 million people inhabit these shanty towns.
Favelas used to be overrun by drug lords and gangs, but they are slowly being “pacified” and now there are a handful of favelas that are safe for tourists to visit.
We visited the Santa Marta Favela with Rio’s Urban Adventures and saw where Michael Jackson filmed his music video “They Don’t Care About Us.” More importantly, we saw how the community has changed from crime to community. There are businesses, community centers, and outdoor gathering squares.
Favelas are coming around with proper electricity, garbage pick up and a trolley has been installed to transport passengers and goods up the steep hills. Read more about our time in the Santa Marta Favela at: Pacifying Rio’s Favelas
6. Climb the Escadaria Selaron
The Escadaria Selaron (formerly the Lapa Steps) is a popular attraction where visitors can climb the 215 colorful tiled steps that lead from the Lapa neighborhood to the Santa Teresa neighborhood.
Chilean Artist Escadaria Selarón started laying tiles on the dilapidated steps that ran in front of his house. He laid colorful tiles from around the world until his death in 2013. The tiles depict a variety of images, from famous Brazilian athletes and musicians to famous landmarks and political figures.
There are more than 2000 tiles from more than 60 countries from around the world, We even saw a Canadian. The steps have turned into a masterpiece and are one of the most popular attractions in Rio. They are truly a work of art brought to life by a passionate artist.
7. Helicopter Scenic Flight
If there is one city you should take a scenic flight on earth, it is Rio de Janeiro. Rio’s landscape is spectacular with huge mountains framing the city.
With a blend of urban sprawl, colorful hillside favelas, jungle, ocean, and beaches, this is one of the most beautiful cities on earth. A helicopter tour lets you truly take in the scope and scale of Rio’s landscape and better yet, a doors-off helicopter tour lets you truly capture its beauty.
Long white sandy beaches stretch between Sugarloaf and Two Brothers mountains. We booked our tour with Helisul in Rio which was outstanding. We flew around Christ the Redeemer seeing with from a different perspective and even landed on Sugarloaf Mountain (to fill up – this isn’t a normal part of the trip, but we can say we landed on Sugarloaf).
8. Downtown Rio
Downtown Rio is definitely worth spending a day exploring. The alleyways are charming mazes filled with cafés and stores. There are markets, cathedrals, museums, and monasteries. If you get a chance, be sure to take a Rio City tour of downtown if you can pull yourself away from the beach.
This city tour of Rio takes you to many Rio attractions including the downtown area. You’ll stop at Corcovado – Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain, Escadaria Selaron, The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, lunch at the Copacabana to enjoy a bit of time at Copacabana Beach, and more.
9. Museum of Tomorrow
One of the best places to visit downtown is The Museum of Tomorrow which is located on the waterfront in Rio.
Opening in December 2015, it is one of the world’s most extraordinary architectural designs by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.
This futuristic building focuses on science, art, and technology while exploring the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, such as climate change, sustainability, and the impact of technology on society.
The museum’s exhibits are divided into five main areas: Cosmos, Earth, Anthropocene, Tomorrow, and Us. Each area features interactive displays, multimedia installations, and immersive experiences that encourage visitors to explore the complex relationships between humans and the environment.
One of the highlights of the museum is its central atrium, which features a large screen that displays a 360-degree video projection that takes visitors on a journey through the history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the present day.
10. The Monastery of St. Benedict
There are several historic churches and monasteries that you can visit on a city tour of Rio. As is the case with many churches in Latin America, they are beautiful and ornate creating a lovely respite from the heat. Let’s take a look at the cathedrals, churches, and monasteries of Rio.
The Monastery of St. Benedict (Mosteiro de São Bento) is worth going inside to marvel at the walls and sculptures covered in gold leaf. Founded in 1590, the monastery is one of the oldest and most important religious institutions in the city, and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Baroque architecture.
It was established by a group of Benedictine monks who arrived in Rio de Janeiro from Bahia, Brazil, in the late 16th century. Over the years, the monastery has played an important role cultural life of the city and has been the site of many important events, including the coronation of King Pedro I of Brazil in 1822.
11. Church of our Lady of Lapa
Church of Our Lady of Lapa is a small church built by sea merchants in 1743. In 1893 a bomb landed in the building, but it didn’t explode. It is believed to be a miracle and the unexploded bomb is still in the wall in the back of the church.
Located in the Lapa neighborhood, the church is famous for its weekly mass and procession, which take place every Thursday and attract large crowds of local worshipers and visitors alike. During the procession, the statue of Our Lady of Lapa is carried through the streets of the neighborhood, accompanied by music and prayer.
Built in the 18th century, the church is considered one of the city’s most important cultural and religious landmarks and is a popular destination for visitors from around the world.
12. Metropolitan Cathedral
A stark contrast is the modern Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião). It looks like something out of the Egyptian desert creating a pyramid in the centre of the city.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was designed by Brazilian architect Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca and completed in 1979. The cathedral’s unique conical shape and towering stained glass windows are some of its most recognizable features with its four large concrete arches that soar to a height of 75 meters. They are said to represent the arms of Christ embracing the people of Rio de Janeiro.
Inside the cathedral, we were surprised by the minimalist design which evokes the feeling of a natural cave with huge stained glass windows filtering light while creating a magical atmosphere. It felt serene, and yet it holds 20,000 people.
13. Dona Marta Lookout
Many people feel that the best view of Rio de Janeiro is from Christ the Redeemer, but you actually get a far more stunning view from just part way up Corcovado at the Dona Marta Lookout.
Standing at 275 meters high, it definitely gives you the best view of the city and the bonus is there aren’t any crowds. Unlike Christo, this lookout is rarely shrouded in clouds. Hire a car and head there for sunset.
Now that you know so many things to do in Rio de Janeiro, check out where to stay in Rio.
14. Samba Culture at Sambadrome
When visiting Rio de Janeiro, you can’t leave without learning of its Samba culture. Every year Rio hosts the biggest party on earth. The Rio Carnival is legendary. It’s all about the samba culture and if you visit a favela you will learn a bit about it. Not everyone can visit Rio during Carnival, so the Sambadrome is the next best thing.
It is home to the city’s famous Carnival celebrations where samba schools compete with each other through performances and parades. The competition is fierce, and the samba schools spend months preparing for their parades, creating intricate costumes, and designing elaborate floats that are designed to tell a story or convey a theme.
What is the Sambadrome?
The Sambadrome is the place to stop to see the parade route where schools compete for the title of best samba troupe.
The Sambadrome was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1984 and is a long, straight avenue that is lined with grandstands accommodating up to 90,000 spectators. The avenue is divided into sections, each of which is reserved for one of the city’s samba schools. During Carnival, each samba school puts on a spectacular parade.
15. Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is an artist community located at the top of Santa Teresa Hill. It is yet another place that offers fantastic views of Rio.
Santa Teresa is a historic neighborhood located in the hills above Rio de Janeiro’s city center. Known for its colonial-era architecture and bohemian vibe. Stroll through its winding narrow streets and you never know what you will find. The neighborhood’s narrow streets are adorned with street art, art galleries, restaurants, and cafes. At night, it comes alive with a thriving bar and live music scene.
In the center of Parque das Ruinas is the beautiful old mansion turned into a museum, the Museu da Chácara do Céu. It displays art by the likes of Matisse and Jean Metzinger. There are also public performances and artists at work.
Santa Teresa has one of the city’s most vibrant cultural scenes, which includes art galleries, music venues, and street art. The neighborhood is home to numerous artist studios and creative spaces, making it a hub for the city’s art and culture.
One of the main attractions of Santa Teresa is the famous Santa Teresa Tram, also known as the “Bondinho de Santa Teresa.” The tram was originally built in 1896 and is one of the oldest streetcar lines in Brazil. It runs along a narrow, winding track connecting the community of Santa Teresa to the city center.
16. Pedra do Sal
Pedra do Sal is a historic neighborhood located in the port area of Rio where you’ll experience a vibrant street art scene and lively samba music while enjoying street food or cocktails.
The neighborhood is named after a large rock formation known as Pedra do Sal, which is believed to have been used by African slaves in the 19th century as a place to gather and practice their traditional music and dance. Today, the area is still a hub of samba music and culture, with many bars and clubs offering live music and dance performances.
Pedra do Sal is also known for its stunning views of the city and the bay where visitors can climb up to the top of the rock formation to enjoy panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding mountains.
The neighborhood is also home to several historic landmarks, including the Valongo Wharf, which was once the main port for African slaves brought to Brazil, and the Cais do Valongo Museum, which tells the story of the African diaspora in Rio de Janeiro.
17. Jardim Botânico
Another quiet retreat is Jardim Botânico (The Botanical Garden of Rio). There are 8000 plant species in the park spanning 130 acres of land. Pathways weave through tropical plants, ponds and trees. There are greenhouses, monuments, and bridges decorating the picturesque setting.
Located in the south zone of Rio de Janeiro it was established in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal and features several historic structures and landmarks including the Palace of the Emperor, which was built in the early 19th century and served as the residence of Brazil’s emperors for many years. Other notable landmarks include the Japanese Garden, the Victoria Regia Water Lily Pond, and the Fernery, which houses a diverse collection of ferns.
18. Parque Lage
For a quiet escape visit the public park of Parque Lage. A mansion stands in the center of the park surrounding a pool where you can sit in a cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee as you take in the view of Christo above. There are walking trails and many families choose to picnic here on the weekend.
It is located near the Botanical Garden of Brazil and has its own beautiful garden and historic mansion. The park was originally the residence of a wealthy Brazilian coffee merchant, Enrique Lage, in the early 20th century. In 1960, the mansion and gardens were donated to the Brazilian government and turned into a public park.
Naturally, the main attraction of Parque Lage is the mansion itself. Visitors can explore the interior of the mansion, which has been restored and turned into an art school and cultural center. The park is also home to several art exhibits and installations, which are on display throughout the year.
19. Shop at the Mercado Popular da Uruguaiana
If you want some deals, the Mercado Popular is a great way to spend the afternoon. The vendors from Copacabana and Ipanema shop for their wares at this market so you can be sure you’ll get a great deal.
There are Haviana flip-flop shops everywhere but you can also sample some Brazilian street food, grab your souvenirs and pick up some traditional handcrafts. This market is awesome, and you’ll find some great deals.
20. Rio Scenerium
Rio Scenerium is just the coolest nightclub in town located in the heart of Rio. Enjoy live bands playing Brazilian music while Samba dancers show off their talents as you walk from room to room.
With three floors of memorabilia, private rooms, and quiet corners, it’s the perfect spot to spend an evening. Take some samba lessons and hit the dance floor. Everyone is very welcoming and you’ll soon find yourself with a partner showing you the ropes. But if you aren’t up for dancing, don’t worry, listening to the talented band play is worth entering alone.
21. Gabinete Portugues de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Room)
If you are looking for unique things to do in Rio, check out the Royal Portuguese Reading Room. The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, is a beautiful and historic library located in the heart of Rio. Founded in 1837 by a group of Portuguese immigrants, the library is dedicated to preserving the Portuguese language and culture and is home to one of the largest collections of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal.
Just visiting the building is worth it. The Gabinete Portugues de Leitura is housed in stunning neoclassical building, which was completed in 1887. The exterior of the building features carvings and sculptures, including a statue of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Inside, the library is even more impressive, with soaring ceilings, intricate woodwork, and an enormous stained glass skylight that floods the reading room with natural light.
The library’s collection includes over 350,000 books, manuscripts, maps, and other rare documents. The collection is particularly strong in works by Portuguese authors, including many first editions and rare volumes. The library also has an extensive collection of periodicals, as well as a large collection of works by Brazilian authors.
22. Hike to the top of Pedra da Gavea
The hike to the top of Pedra da Gavea is one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in Rio de Janeiro. Rising to a height of 842 meters (2,762 feet) above sea level, Pedra da Gavea is one of the highest peaks in the city, and offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscape.
The hike begins in the Tijuca Forest of Tijuca National Park, a lush tropical rainforest located just a short distance from the city center. The trail starts off relatively easy, following a gentle incline through the forest. However, as you approach the base of the mountain, the trail becomes steeper and more challenging, with rocky terrain and steep inclines.
As you climb higher you’ll pass several scenic overlooks and rock formations, including a large stone arch known as the “Carrasqueira”.
The final stretch of the hike is perhaps the most challenging, as you ascend a steep rock face to reach the summit where you’re greeted with an unobstructed view of Rio de Janeiro, including Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
23. Tijuca National Park
We have mentioned this national park a few times throughout the post, but it is worth its own section. Covering more than 32 square kilometers, Tijuca National Park is the second largest urban forest in the world and a popular destination for both locals and tourists seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Besides Corcovado Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, and the Pedra da Gavea, the park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including endangered species such as the golden lion tamarin monkey and the southern muriqui, the largest primate in the Americas.
A great way to see it is to book a Jeep tour to see the vast rainforest in the city. You’ll see Cachoeira dos macacos (monkey’s waterfall), Mesa do Imperador (Emperor’s table), Cascatinha (Taunay’s waterfall), and Capela Mayrink (Mayrink Chapel) and take a 1 hour hike through the jungle.
Visitors traveling independently can explore the park’s lush rainforest’s towering trees, winding streams, and picturesque waterfalls with activities like hiking and cycling. It’s also popular for bird watching, and let me tell you when bird watching in Brazil, you are going to see some beauties.
24. Maracanã Stadium
Maracanã Stadium is a beloved symbol of Brazilian soccer and a must-visit destination for sports locals and tourists alike. Originally built to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, Maracanã Stadium has become a cultural landmark in its own right. With a seating capacity of over 78,000 spectators, it is one of the largest football stadiums in the world.
If you are going to see one football match in your life, this is the place to do it! It was designed by a team of Brazilian architects, and its oval shape was inspired by the ancient Roman Colosseum. Get your entry ticket in advance
Book a safe guided match experience for Maracanã Stadium Football Match Tickets with an expert bilingual guide. When visiting South America this is a bucket list item, so take the stress out of booking and getting to a match and instead, follow your guide from Ipanema to the stadium.
Named after the Maracanã River, which runs beside it the Maracanã Stadium has hosted numerous important football matches, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
25. Banco Do Brasil Cultural Center
The Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, or CCBB) is one of the most important cultural centers in the country, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Located in the former headquarters of Banco do Brazil, it has been restored to its original grandeur to house its exhibitions, cultural events, and performances.
The center’s permanent collection includes works of art from Brazil and around the world, as well as artifacts and documents related to the history of Banco do Brasil, one of the largest banks in Brazil.
In addition to its permanent collection, the CCBB hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions, featuring works by both established and emerging artists from Brazil and around the world. These exhibitions cover a wide range of mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, video art, and installation.
26. Museum of Modern Art (MAM)
The Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Rio de Janeiro is one of the city’s premier cultural centers. Founded in 1948, the museum is located in Flamengo Park, a beautiful public park overlooking Guanabara Bay.
The MAM’s collection focuses primarily on Brazilian and international modern and contemporary art and includes works by some of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The museum has a particularly strong collection of Brazilian art, with works by such luminaries as Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, and Tarsila do Amaral, among others.
One of the highlights of the museum is its architecture, which was designed by Brazilian architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy in the 1950s. The building’s clean lines and sweeping curves are a testament to the modernist aesthetic that was so influential in Brazil during this period. The museum’s open-air terrace, which offers stunning views of Guanabara Bay and the surrounding mountains, is also a popular spot for visitors.
27. Have a Brazilian Barbecue
When visiting Brazil, you must try Brazilian Barbeque. In Rio, the place to do this is the Churrascaria Palace. When you walk into this famous eatery, you feel as if you have stepped back in time.
Waiters in black and white bring cuts of prime meat around to your table and slice off top cuts with skill and ease. The meal begins at the salad bar that is filled with delicious treats like sushi, fresh fruits, and vegetables, endless salads, and bread.
Don’t fill up though, because the perfectly seasoned meats will keep coming to your table until you can’t eat another bite. Check out our guide to Brazilian Food for more great suggestions.
28. Lunch at the Confeitaria Colombo
Another iconic stop for food is the Confeitaria Colombo. Built in the late 1800s, this Parisian-style cafe serves pastries and desserts mixed with high tea. Many people stop in and browse the delectable treats downstairs.
There is an upstairs dining experience as well where you can eat fresh food from the buffet while the piano man plays popular classic tunes throughout your meal.
Take a ride on Rio’s oldest elevator and peek over the balcony let around a large oval looking into the chaos below.
Where to Stay in Rio
There are plenty of neighborhoods to stay in Rio de Janeiro, but we recommend staying somewhere near Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches. Especially for first-time visitors.
We stayed at Copacabana Beach, Ipanema, and Leblon beaches and loved them all. You can also stay in Santa Teresa and if you are looking for a quieter more residential feel, Flamengo is a good option with easy public transportation.
Copacabana Beach is probably the most famous beach in the world and the place to stay when visiting Rio is definitely the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel. While we were visiting Rio, Arnold Schwarzenegger was staying at the hotel.
Leblon Beach is the quietest of Rio’s famous beaches and the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Resort is the place to stay. This was our favorite hotel in Rio. It is the only hotel with direct beach access, it has outstanding views from its rooftop bar and it has recently been completely renovated.
The Sol Ipanema is all about its location. Located across the street from the beach. (Note all Rio hotels are located across the street from the beach – None except the Sheraton are located directly on the beach) it is also just around the corner from the famed Girl from Ipanema Cafe where the famous tune was penned.
How to Get to Rio De Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most popular destinations in Brazil, (and in South America for that matter) and is easily accessible by air, land, and sea.
By Air: International travelers will fly to Rio de Janeiro which is served by Galeão International Airport (GIG). It located about 20km north of the city and you can easily hire taxis to take you to the city center. Or book a transfer in advance to take the stress out of finding a cab
Santos Dumont Airport (SDU is located in the city center and serves mostly domestic flights.
By Sea: Rio de Janeiro is a popular port of call for many cruise lines, and several major cruise companies offer itineraries that include stops in the city. Cruise ships typically dock at the city’s port, which is located in the downtown area. You can book a private transfer from the cruise port to your Rio accommodation stress free.
By Land: Rio de Janeiro can also be reached by bus or car from other parts of Brazil. The city has several bus terminals, including Novo Rio Bus Terminal, which serves buses from major cities throughout Brazil. Traveling by bus can be a cost-effective way to get to Rio de Janeiro, but it can also be a long journey depending on where you’re coming from.
If you’re driving to Rio de Janeiro, there are several highways that connect the city to other parts of Brazil. However, it’s important to note that driving in Brazil can be challenging, and traffic can be heavy in Rio de Janeiro, especially during rush hour.
Getting Around Rio de Janeiro
Once you arrive in Rio de Janeiro, there are several transportation options to get around the city, including taxis, buses, and the metro. Taxis are plentiful and relatively affordable, while the metro is a fast and efficient way to get around the city. Buses are also available but can be crowded and confusing for first-time visitors.
Rio is spread out and congested with traffic, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time for sightseeing. When driving or taking taxis you will be sitting in traffic.
Private guides are an excellent way to get around as they can navigate through traffic, give you insider tips, and keep you out of the more questionable neighborhoods. We book tours through GetYourGuide and Viator. Both offer easy bookings, free refunds on cancellations (24 hours before activity), and last-minute bookings.
Having finally traveled through more of South America than we had in the past, we can honestly say that Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities to visit in Latin America. Brazil takes up more than half of the continent in land mass so if you are planning any travels through South America, chances are Rio de Janerio will be on your itinerary! Read more: 12 Fun and Interesting Facts about Brazil
There are so many things to do in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll never have much more than a day or two to explore the city. Rio is a city in progress, so be sure to stick on the beaten path.
Did I miss anything? What are your favorite things to do in Rio de Janeiro?
22 thoughts on “28 Best Things to Do in Rio De Janeiro in 2023”
This is an amazing article! I recently visited Rio de Janeiro and had the best time. My favorite things to do were visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue, exploring the beaches, and taking a tour of the city. I highly recommend anyone visiting Rio to check out these activities!
+ Sunset at Mureta da Urca
+ Visit the Feira de São Cristóvão (Cultural Center of Northeastern Traditions)
I really enjoyed the pictures in this post! Brazil looks so colourful and so fun. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time there and can’t wait to see more of your adventures.. ??
Hello Dave and Deb!
Thanks for the read (and pics!) – really took me back on my last and only trip to Rio back in 2015. The only thing that really made me uneasy was safety as I had my bag stolen… pictures lost and everything 🙁
Guess I have a reason to go back!
Ipanema beach and Christ the redeemer are what I’m looking forward to. Nice list though.
Rio is the most beautiful city in the world . They have beautiful ladies, amazing beaches and also is a paradise in the earth, ( with incredible mountains and also the Christ the Redemmer statue )! If you don’t know about Rio, don’t make comments . I went there several times and I felt safe.
The city has problems like other big metropolies in the world . But is an awsome city . They have the most happy and friendly people that I ever seen in my life . The carnival , the samba and also the beaches make the difference ! That’s why Rio is a great city .
They have “Bossa Nova”
And their music is really good. You have to listen “Garota de Ipanema” .
Rio de Janeiro you are a beautiful place to visit 😉
Great post, thanks! I’d recommend as well hiking up Pedra da Gavea – challenging, but you get the absolute best view of Rio!
It’s such an amazing and unique place. I haven’t been to Rio yet, but half of my family lives in Sao Paolo.
Sao Paolo might not be the prettiest of all the places you can go (it’s a very urban town), but the people are the ones that paint the city with beautiful colours. Everyone is smiling, joking, having a beer and a barbecue. Everything is a reason for a party and after spending 2 months in Brazil to meet everyone from the family, I came back to home with 10 extra kilos!
Excellent post and I hope to visit Rio soon. I’m happy that you enjoyed your trip Dave and Deb 😀
Don’t go “mercado popular”
Why is that? We had a great time there and bought a few items.
This is a great information to plan my next vacations to this destination. Amazing places and great things to do in Rio.
Nice Post about things to do in Rio. Amazing Pictures especially Rio night club picture looks soo beautiful…
I always heard that Brazil is a very dangerous place to go. I know you have to be careful of course and I hope to find a local there to guide me. But still a lot of people are going there, which is amazing. Just the Christo, the colors, the buildings and your article makes it look really good! And the music of course, can’t wait to go to a music cafe there! Thanks for the beautiful pictures
Very Nice Article..
I must say, just an amazing place! I loved this post. Every time you brings something new to read & plan. Thank for sharing such a great post.
This is awesome to get me plan me tour through Rio. Thanks for this post.
If you’re staying in one area, I’d agree with someone below suggesting Rio, Paraty, and Ilha Grande. SP is great if you like huge cosmopolitan cities, lots of great restaurants, museums, art galleries, and mind-numbing traffic jams. Well Rio has that too, but you can always say fuck it and head down to the beach…
Something that has been on my bucket list for forever is Carnival in Rio. I’ve never really looked into what else you can do in there though, it’s safe to say that there are at least five more items added to my bucket list now, I’ll start planning my trip!
Rio is one of those places that always catches my attention, but never quite enough to push me to book the trip. How long would you recommend staying for a first-time visitor?
The last picture by night is amazing http://www.fpga.red
Hi Dave and Deb..You both ROCK!…Great YouTube video on Rio de Janeiro. Inspiring to watch. Really enjoyed this comprehensive guide for awesome things to do in Rio.
Great pictures, the views are absolutely amazing….Envious!. This post makes me want to start packing.
Christ the Redeemer is top on my list. I bet the mountain hike is killer… Did you contemplate the trek?….Great post..I’m gonna have to share this..
Hi Riley, thanks for the kind words. Sadly we took the train. We were on assignment so had a very busy schedule. If we go back, we’ll definitely do more hikes. We hear the Two Brothers hike is awesome as well.