Rio de Janeiro has long been considered one of the world’s most visually striking cities. And in 2016 much of the world got a sense of its spirit and character as well, while we all tuned in to watch the Summer Olympics take place there. It’s probably fair to say Rio is as hot a tourist destination as ever – likely making it onto many international travelers’ long-term bucket lists.
Beyond picking out a destination, however, it’s also important to plot out what you might get up to once you’re there. So given the city’s general appeal and trendiness of late, here’s our travel bucket list specifically for Rio.
See Christ the Redeemer
Chances are that when you picture Rio de Janeiro in your mind, you see Christ the Redeemer towering over the city. Built on a hill, this statue of Jesus Christ is a legitimate wonder of the world, and it draws huge numbers of tourists ever year. The statues is incredible no matter where you happen to glimpse it from, but seeing it up close is particularly special. There are three options for how to visit, which are helpful to know about when you’re in town. You can take the cog train, ride in a van, or take a hike, which is a fairly long one but not too strenuous. Whatever you decide on, the statue is something to behold up close.
Ride The Cables
The other landmarks that dominate Rio’s landscape are the high, rounded mountains that tower over the harbor. Sugarloaf is the highest of them, and you can reach the summit by taking multiple cable car rides. The first is from the Red Beach to Urca Hill, and the second takes you through the air from Urca Hill to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (which is nearly six football fields above sea level, to give you some idea of what to expect). The ride itself is a treat, and the views from the top are excellent.
Party On Copacabana
Copacabana is the most famous of Rio’s several beaches, known for its sheer size, the crowds that flock to it, and the party-like atmosphere that can dominate the landscape. Realistically the reputation is somewhat overblown; it’s not as if there’s a nonstop party happening there. Nevertheless, it’s fun to stroll on the beach, hang out for a while, and generally take part in the buzz that’s always present. It’s one of the most active and enjoyable beaches on the planet.
Dance At Rio Scenarium
One could argue that dance is Rio’s greatest export. The city (and really all of Brazil) is known for samba, and is continually spreading it to world. It’s not hard to find samba clubs in other big cities, or even samba scenes in movies or on TV. Rio’s dance scene has also served as inspiration for a video game online: “Dancing in Rio,” a slot that “encourages you to keep the party alive” by playing upbeat music and showing animated images reminiscent of a great samba club. It’s really part of the city’s culture, in other words, so why not make it a priority to see it in person? You’ll have plenty of options, but Rio Scenarium is certainly among the top samba clubs in town – a 2,000-person club with three floors, live music, and ample space to watch or participate as you desire.
Tour The Gardens
The botanical gardens in Rio, sometimes called Jardim Botanico, comprise well over 300 acres of space, and is essentially a wild collection of native plants. It’s quite something to walk through and gives you a nice taste of Brazil’s natural beauty, even in close proximity to Rio. As another general point of interest, Albert Einstein himself once toured these very same gardens.
Eat At Azur
There’s a lot of excellent food in Brazil, and particularly in bigger cities there’s multicultural influence that can keep you on your toes. In Rio for instance you’ll actually find a fair amount of Spanish preparation and paella in popular restaurants. Azur is a little bit more local, however. Located right on the beach and run by chef Pedro Artagao (who has a terrific reputation in town), Azur was written up as one of the hottest new restaurants to try just last year. It’s an a la carte bar/restaurant combining local seafood with a range of different preparations.
Drink At CoLAB
Rio is also home to a lot of excellent smaller cafés and coffee bars, so it’s worth pointing to one of these as well. CoLAB actually made it onto the same list that recommended Azur. It’s part coffee shop, part bar, and part snack shack, with menu offerings ranging from kombucha and tea to beer, with cinnamon rolls and falafel for good measure. The atmosphere is described ad “Brooklynesque,” which basically means it’s trendy and inviting without being over the top.
See The Sunset
It may sound cheesy, and it’s not a specific attraction or activity, but Rio has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Make sure you’re in a good position to see one before your trip comes to an end!
This is a collaborative post to get you some ‘updated’ travel ideas for Rio de Janeiro. My trip is already super long ago and at the time I wasn’t blogging. Definitely make sure to see the sunset and visit the Jesus statue. Also indulge in the food and cocktails and join in for some dancing! FYI, the photos are from my trip back in the day :)