16 Excellent Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

There are many things that put Rio de Janeiro a coveted destination on the world map. The 2014 Football World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics, Christ the Redeemer and the colorful festival are only a few among the popular aspects of this Brazilian city.


But if and when you visit, the city’s intoxicating energy could sweep you off the feet. The landscape is rich, diverse and magical and then there are a few impressive man-made elements too. To give you a better picture, here is the ultimate list of best things to do in Rio de Janeiro coming first hand from our travel experts.

1. Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

The Christ the Redeemer Statue unquestionably deserves to be in the Wonders of the World list. It is an icon of Brazil and definitely one to tower the world from the top of Corcovado mountain. The sheer size itself is an overwhelming sight and one that will leave you in awe.


To reach the destination, travelers can choose to take the minibus, a train route or go a bit adventurous by hiking the mountain. This 38-meter imposing statue has to go to the top of the list on your things to do in the city.

2. Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain is a major contributor to the city’s gorgeous landscape. Rising above the Rio harbor, the mountain reaches a height of 396 meters and owes its name to its curious shape, much like a sugarloaf itself.


It goes without saying that the mountain is one of the top places in the city to get a panoramic view. The journey to the top is also exciting with two cable car rides in between the mountains.

3. Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

Let’s be honest here; Copacabana beach might be the reason you wanted to get cheap flights to Rio de Janeiro in the first place. This world famous beach stretches for four kilometers of uninterrupted sand, and an invigorating enthusiasm.


The beach is flanked by restaurants, bars cafes and a paved pathway making it perfect to enjoy the vibe without getting sand on your feet. One thing you would notice is the absences of any hotels taking up any of the beach space. Thankfully, they all are across the road. You might want to take a look at the impressive facades of some, especially the art deco style of the historic Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel.

4. Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema beach has got enough attention from the famous bossa nova, the Girl from Ipanema. Right next to the Copacabana Beach, just around the pier, the Ipanema Beach is a very busy stretch of sand with travelers and locals indulging in all kinds of beach activities. Ideal for basking under the Rio sun or playing volleyball, it is worth checking on one of your dedicated beach days, a little away from the commercial buzz of Copacabana.

5. Selaron Steps

Selaron Steps

The colorful setting of the Selaron Steps is one of the most photographed locations in the city. The Lapa Steps comprises of 215 tiles steps that starts from the Lapa neighborhood to Santa Teresa. These tiles were laid out by Artist Escadaria Selaron when he decided to simply spur up the steps in front of his house. The artist continued to do this till his death, making this beautiful stairway with more than 2000 tiles he collected from 60 countries.

6. Downtown Rio

Downtown Rio

Walking through the alleyways of Downtown Rio is an undeniably amazing experience. What might feel like a labyrinth of streets is shadowed with old buildings,  their colorful facades, cafes, and stores. Occasionally you would also be treated with cathedrals, museums, monasteries, all worth popping in for a visit and then some interesting markets too. If you want to know more about the local history, it is best to take a Rio city tour.

7. Favela Tour

Favela Tour

For a country like Brazil, the cultural attributes are an integral part of a visit, And to complete the trip, it is highly recommended to venture outside the city and get to the outer areas. Favelas are shanty towns of Brazil and there are around 800 favelas in Rio with a population of around 1.5 million inhabitants.


Today, the favelas are much safer and a few among them are safe enough for tourists to visit. It is best to go to these favelas with a tour company, as there would be guides to show you around. A few of the best favelas to visit are Santa Marta, Pereira de Silva, Vidigal, and Tavares Bastos.

8. Museum of Tomorrow

Museum of Tomorrow

Located on the waterfront of downtown Rio, the Museum of Tomorrow is a very recent addition to the city’s gems. Opened only in 2015, the museum's structure itself will remind you of the possibilities of tomorrow. Housed inside the extraordinary architecture, the museum talks about dealing with climate changes, address issues of environment and the social system.

9. Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa

The neighborhood of Santa Teresa is known as the artistic hub of Rio. Sitting on top of the Santa Teresa Hill, strolling the meandering streets are much like having a treasure hunt. You will come across public performances, art displays and can even watch artists at work.


There is also a beautiful old mansion that is now a museum, the Museu da Chácara do Céu in the center of Parque das Ruinas, has works of famous artists like Jean Metzinger and Matisse.

10. Churches of Rio

Churches of Rio

The streets of downtown Rio are adorned with many historic churches and monasteries. The Monastery of St. Benedict is architecturally beautiful for its walls and sculptures covered with golden leaves.


The Church of Our Lady of Lapa has a very interesting story too. In was built in 1793, and still has an unexploded bomb in its wall that miraculously did not go off during an attack in 1893. The structure of the modern Metropolitan Cathedral is one that stands out from the rest and looks like a pyramid with stained glass windows.

11. Parque Lage

Parque Lage

Parque Lage is a green public park in the city of Rio. What makes it even more beautiful is the mansion located in its center. There is a pool around which you can sit around with the Christ statue as the backdrop amidst the clouds. The park also has cafes, walking trails, and is a wonderful spot to have a picnic.

12. Dona Marta Lookout

Dona Marta Lookout

The landscape of Rio offers a few lookout points. However, most of them are very crowded and you would be struggling to get a proper view for yourself. The Dona Marta Lookout is located at a height of  275 meters and offers unparalleled views without any clouds or crowd. To get the best, hire a car to watch the sunset.

13. Scenic Flight on a Helicopter

Scenic Flight on a Helicopter

Views from a hill are pretty great, but if you do want to take it up a notch, then there are plenty of helicopter tours available from the city. It is definitely worth it, to get a better frame of the city tucked between the Sugarloaf and two Brother’s Mountains, the sandy beaches lining the shores and the colorful hillsides dotted with the favelas.

14. Do a little Samba

Do a little Samba

One of the first thing that comes to your mind about Rio de Janeiro is its famous Rio Carnival and then some of the exotic Latin dance steps. Samba is an integral part of the Brazilian culture and is obvious when you visit the city.


If you are not visiting during the carnival time, make sure to head to some of the samba clubs and enjoy the true spirit of the art form.

15. Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place spanning for 130 acres of green heaven, The garden houses more than 8000 plant species, has beautifully carved pathways under the canopies of trees, and weaving through tropical plants.


The garden also has a number of greenhouses, few monuments, and bridges accentuating the ponds making a very pretty picture.

16. Food and Shopping in Rio

Food and Shopping in Rio

Rio has a few classic places that make you feel like you stepped back in time. The Churrascaria palace and the Confeitaria Colombo are two places that you do not want to miss, both for its ambiance and food.


For shopping, head to the Mercado Popular to get great deals on the same items you will find from vendors on the beaches.


Rio has so much to offer and you would need a minimum of two days to explore the city. Even with the initial cultural shock, you will surely enjoy the amazing culture and the noisy setting. But first, it is time to look for cheap international flights to get you there.


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