Explore Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

Mention Rio to anybody and immediately the name evokes images of sultry street parades, the Sugar Loaf cable car, the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain, and the 'itsy-bitsy teeny weeny' bikinis on the beach at Ipanema. The exuberant cultural capital of Brazil is tucked between the mountains and the sea and is endowed with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Rio's beaches, including the famous Ipanema and Copacabana, are a main attraction due to the city's warm climate. The city also contains the biggest urban forest in the world, the Tijuca Forest, which was completely replanted during the second half of the 19th century.<br /><br /> The city pulses to the infectious beat of Brazilian music, and Rio's annual carnival draws together the city's inhabitants (known as <em>Cariocas</em>), from the very rich to the very poor, who take to the streets for the world's largest samba parade.<br /><br /> Rio is a sprawling city made up of 150 districts, each characterised by unique features. One of the most intriguing, Santa Teresa, is a winding maze of streets populated by artists and musicians, which is reached by taking an old tram across an ancient aqueduct called Arcos da Lapa. In the heart of Rio there are historic monuments and public buildings like the Municipal Theatre, the National Museum of Fine Art, the Itamaraty Palace, the National History Museum, and the National Library. There are also beautiful examples of religious architecture, such as the Sao Bento Monastery. No matter how long you spend exploring the city, it will always deliver new surprises.<br /><br /> To the north of the city is the Lakes region, which has more than 62 miles (100km) of beaches and salt-water lagoons, and is the site of the main tourist resorts of Búzios, Cabo Frio, Arrial do Cabo, Rio das Ostras, Marica and Saquarema. Many other stunning natural areas and fun man-made attractions in Brazil are easily reached from Rio, which makes a fabulous travel base.<br /><br />


Address: Corcovado Railroad Station. Rua Cosme Velho 513, Cosme Velho Rio de Janeiro

Admission: BRL 68 (adults - weekends and high season), BRL 56 (adults - low season), BRL 44 (children) for a round-trip and entry to the Christ the Redeemer Statue. Open daily, from 8am to 7pm. Train departs every 30 minutes.

Telephone: +55 21 2461 2700

The distinctive statue of Christ the Redeemer, arms spread to welcome the world, is the symbol of Rio de Janeiro and one of the seven New Wonders of the Modern World. It rests on top of Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado Mountain, 2,330 feet (710m) above the beaches below, and is accessed via a miniature train that runs from the Cosme Vehlo District through the Atlantic rainforest to the foot of the statue. The train ride offers stunning vistas of Rio, and the view from the summit is breathtaking.<br /><br /> Spread out beneath the statue is the Tijuca Forest, resplendent with attractions to enchant visitors beneath the cooling canopy among natural pools and waterfalls. There is, for example, the Mayrink chapel, which features murals painted by Candido Portinari, one of Brazil's most well-known modern artists, and the Museu do Acude, housing colonial furniture and a collection of china from the East India Company.<br /><br />

Sugar Loaf

Address: Avenue Pasteur 520, Praia Vermelha Rio de Janeiro

Admission: Cable Car: BRL 76 (adults), BRL 38 (youths aged 6-21), free for children under 6. Open daily, from 8am to 7.50pm

The summit of Rio's unique 1,299 foot high (396m) belvedere, named Sugar Loaf because of its resemblance to the loaves of sugar used by the Portuguese colonists, can be reached by a two-stage cable car ride. The first stage takes visitors up 722 feet (220m) to the Morro da Urca, where there is a restaurant, amphitheatre, heliport and spectacular view of the Yacht Club and Botafogo Bay. The second stage ascends to the summit for a panoramic view of the city, and the whole of Copacabana beach. The Sugar Loaf cable car is a major icon of Rio's tourism and a trip up the Sugar Loaf is a must for visitors to the city.<br /><br />


Address: Avenida Vieira Souto Rio de Janeiro

Immortalised in a popular song, 'The girl from Ipanema', this part of Rio offers not only a legendary beach, but numerous excellent hotels, a bustling nightlife, sophisticated shopping opportunities and quality restaurants, all within walking distance of each other. Ipanema (the name, incongruously, means 'bad water') is famous for setting fashion trends, particularly in the line of skimpy swimwear, and fashion fundis should look out for the famous bikini boutiques like Salinas, Blue Man and Bum-Bum Also do not miss exploring the Rua Garcia D'Avila to shop for designer fashion, jewellery and furniture. Visit the Amsterdam Sauer Museum of Gems for an interesting workshop tour. There are numerous other streets in Ipanema to explore as well, including the attractive commercial street Visconde de Piraja that is lined with speciality shops, bars, restaurants and some of Rio's best boutiques. Visit the bohemian fair at General Osorio Square on Sundays for wooden sculptures, handcrafts, exotic musical instruments and artworks.<br /><br />


Address: Rio de Janeiro

This famous Rio beach neighbourhood was just a small fishing village until a new highway changed the face of it sometime in the 1900s. The Copacabana Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1923, and since then the area mushroomed with Neoclassical and Art Nouveau skyscrapers, penthouses and apartments. Visitors still flock, as they have always done, to the glamorous Palace Hotel, which is the place to be seen; although, often only to have tea or a meal at the famed Cipriani restaurant.<br /><br /> The beach itself boasts white sand and calm water and is festooned with kiosks. It is a popular spot for beach sports like soccer and volleyball, and a good place to sunbathe. Copacabana beach is particularly popular on New Year's Day. According to tradition, visitors dress in white and congregate here to celebrate in their droves, with more than 2 million people crowding the beach.<br /><br />

Angra dos Reis

Address: Rio de Janeiro

This peninsula and group of 365 islands (one for each day of the year!) is a holiday playground that boasts 2,000 beautiful beaches and a natural wonderland of mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes and secret coves. Visitors can take trips by schooner, yacht or motor launch to explore the delights of the area, particularly the main island, Ilha Grande. Fishing and scuba diving are the favoured activities for tourists, and on land there are hundreds of walking trails giving access to some of the less frequented beaches like Canto, Abraaozinho, Morcego and Grande das Palmas. The beaches of Aventureiro and Lopes Mendes are also popular with surfers.<br /><br /> The islands can easily be reached from Rio by road in just over two hours, or accessed by bus with daily departures every hour from the Novo Rio Bus Station.<br /><br />

Buzios Peninsula

Address: Rio de Janeiro

Once the preserve of pirates and slave traders, the peninsula of Buzios, 105 miles (169km) northeast of Rio de Janeiro, is today the haunt of the rich and famous who flock to the city (once a fishing village) to enjoy the twenty or so beaches in the vicinity. The peninsula was popularised by legendary movie star Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, and her statue still graces the main street of Buzios, the Rua des Pedras. The peninsula is a sophisticated beach resort with a very active nightlife and fine restaurants. The west coast beaches offer calm, clear waters while the east coast ones, facing the open sea, are a little wilder and draw the surfers and water sports enthusiasts. Among the most popular beaches are Azeda Beach, Joao Fernandinho Beach (with several bars and known for its good seafood), Ferradura Beach, and Geriba beach, which is popular for surfing.<br /><br /> Buzios can be reached by road from Rio via the Rio-Niteroi toll bridge, or by bus from the Novo Rio Bus Station.<br /><br />

Iguaçu Falls

Address: Rio de Janeiro

The Rio Iguaçu begins its journey in the coastal mountains of Paraná and Santa Catarina and snakes west for 370 miles (600km) before it widens majestically, plunging and crashing through the jungle in tiered falls at the border with Argentina and Paraguay. The Foz do Iguaçu (Iguaçu Falls) are more than two miles (3km) wide and 262ft (80m) high (almost twice the height of Niagara Falls), and their beauty is unsurpassed. Their name, fittingly, comes from the Guarani Indian word meaning 'great waters'. The deep flowing waters of the river tumble down 275 falls, the most famous of which is Devil's Throat on the Argentinian border, with a drop of 230ft (70m).<br /><br /> As well as taking in the stunning views, visitors can enjoy kayaking and other water sports in the river. The best time of year to visit is August to November, when there is least risk of floodwaters hindering the approach to the boardwalks. The falls are surrounded by the Iguaçu National Park, a huge sub-tropical rainforest covering 135,000 acres that is home to thousands of different species of animals and birds including parrots and hummingbirds.<br /><br />

Estádio do Maracanã

Address: Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo Rio de Janeiro

Admission: Basic tour costs BRL 36 (Monday to Thursday), or BRL 40 (Friday to Sunday) Open daily, from 9am to 5pm

Proudly hosting the opening and closing matches of the 2014 Soccer World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games ceremonies, and still the largest soccer stadium on the continent with a capacity of more than 78,000, Rio's Maracana has seen many records set. The stadium hosts local soccer league games, and is the home of the Brazillian soccer team, but the Maracana is also often used by international acts visiting Brazil as a performance venue, with Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney among the big names who have played here. Inside the ground is a Hall of Fame honouring soccer greats such as Pele, Roberto Dinamite, Romário, Valdo and Bebeto, all of whom have been honoured by having their footprints cast in the sidewalk. A guided tour will take you through the hall, where you can enjoy a display of historical photographs and a great panoramic view of the city, among other things.<br /><br />

Santa Teresa

Address: On the top of Santa Teresa Hill, near the centre of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro

Having had their fill of the beach, tourists seeking the 'real Rio de Janeiro' should make a beeline for one of its most iconic neighbourhoods, Santa Teresa. Located at the top of Santa Teresa Hill, the neighbourhood is famous for its winding, narrow streets, its 19th century architecture, and its amazing array of restaurants, bars, art galleries and eclectic shops. A popular area for local artists and tourists alike, Santa Teresa is best reached using its historic tram service, which runs up the hill from the centro (departing from Largo da Carioca square). The tram line - the only one of its kind in Rio - runs right through Santa Teresa's picturesque streets, offering magnificent views of the city below. By all accounts, no visit to Rio de Janeiro would be complete without spending at least a few hours in Santa Teresa.<br /><br />


Address: Túnel Zuzu Angel‎, west of the Ipanema area Rio de Janeiro

Even though Rio de Janeiro is one of the world's foremost holiday destinations, boasting great beaches, vibrant night-life, and significant tourist attractions, the hard fact is that it remains a city of gross economic inequality, as typified by its sprawling urban slums (favelas), the largest of which, Rocinha, is home to nearly a quarter of a million people. For tourists looking to get to grips with this social reality, a local named Zezinho runs widely-celebrated tours of Rocinha, the favela in which he grew up.<br /><br /> Those worrying that it will be a typical, voyeuristic, seen-from-the-back-of-a-Jeep experience can lay those fears to rest: the great strength of Zezinho's tours is that they are conducted out of love for Rocinha, and a desire to share its culture with foreigners. As Zezinho says, 'It is easy to see poverty or poorly built houses, but what I love about Rocinha is the spirit of the people' - and all who partake in his tour of Rocinha agree that it's a valuable, important, and humanising touristic experience. There are also other guides and companies offering good tours of the various favelas. It is important to book in advance.<br /><br />

Rio Carnival

Where: Samba Parade: Sambadrome. Street carnival takes place in different neighbourhoods,Rio de Janeiro

When: 9 - 14 February 2018

Brazil's tradition of starting the year with a wild carnival began with the colonial Portuguese, adopted and streamlined into today's world-famous Brazilian event of the year. Carnival stems from a Catholic spring thanksgiving celebration dating from the Middle Ages in Europe. Carnival is always held four or five days before Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. When the fun-loving Portuguese colonised Brazil they instituted Carnival as a period of merriment and street pranks. In 1840, the Italian wife of a Rio de Janeiro hotelier formalised the carnival celebration by hiring musicians and giving a lavish masked ball.<br /><br /> Today, each city in Brazil celebrates Carnival in its own style, but the crème de la crème of Carnival celebrations is the one held in Rio. The colourful parade of samba schools is accompanied by extravagant floats, brilliant costumes, magical music and amazingly energetic dancers. The action takes place along the Sambodromo, a half-mile long path built specifically for the event in 1984. At the end of the parade, the samba schools perform for an hour each in front of stands packed with spectators, vying for the judges' favour and the championship title. Carnival time is also a time for street parties and elaborate night-long costume balls, which are usually held in the top hotels.<br /><br />

June Bonfire Festivals

Where: Various,Rio de Janeiro

When: 13 - 29 June 2018

This integral part of Brazilian folklore and culture is a New World twist on an old European tradition; coinciding with the feasts of St Anthony, St John and St Peter, bonfire festivals are held in Rio's squares, clubs, schools and churches in the month of June.<br /><br /> Warmly illuminated by bonfires, the events feature mock country weddings, where couples leap over crackling flames, and stalls decorated with streamers and lanterns are set up to resemble village markets. Spectacular fireworks, as well as a good deal of dancing, drinking and eating, accompany this scene. Although travellers seldom visit Brazil exclusively for these charming bonfire festivals, it would be a great pity not to seek them out if travelling to Brazil in June.<br /><br />

New Years Eve

Where: Various,Rio de Janeiro

When: 31 December annually

Brazilians know how to party and Rio's New Year ( ) celebrations are ranked among the world's biggest extravaganzas. This jovial city hosts musical shows in several districts to bring in the New Year, and on Copacabana beach a crowd of more than two million people is expected annually.<br /><br /> Partygoers dress in white to bid farewell to the year that is ending and celebrate the arrival of the next. A fabulous display of fireworks illuminates the sky at midnight, amid much festivity, dancing and happiness. Hotels, clubs and restaurants also offer a variety of party options with formal balls, diverse menus and tropical buffets.<br /><br />

Copacabana Palace Hotel Restaurants

Address: Avenida Atlântica 1702 Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: International

The Copacabana Palace Hotel houses three of Rio de Janeiro's most elegant restaurants. The Hotel Cipriani Restaurant serves excellent north Italian cuisine, while the poolside Pérgula Restaurant offers a buffet breakfast and delicious South American meals. Serving exotic pan-Asian cuisine, MEE is one of the first restaurants in South America to be awarded a prestigious Michelin star. Cipriani is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, while MEE is open daily from 7pm, and Pérgula is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday with a buffet lunch on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm. Reservations required.<br /><br />


Address: Rua General Urquiza 104 Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: International

Not only does Fellini offer a variety of international cuisine, with everything from Japanese to Mexican food available, but it's all sold 'by the pound' allowing diners a choice of exactly how big their portions should be. Fellini has a funky, laid-back atmosphere and look to match. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Confeitaria Colombo

Address: 32 Rua Gonçalves Dias Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: Brazilian

The Confeitaria Colombo acts as an homage to an age long passed. Established in the late 1800s, this Victorian style hall-turned-restaurant hasn't changed much in over 100 years, so they must be doing something right. This is considered to be a perfect lunch spot for executives doing business in the city. Tea service is complemented by breads and condiments, while the meals are filling and appetising.<br /><br />


Address: 226 Rua Uruguaiana Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: Brazilian

Revel in merriment with the locals at this affordable eatery, where authentic Brazilian cuisine is served in generous portions. Sardine sandwiches are a good bet for your taste buds. Have a plate or platter depending on how hungry you are, the price difference is negligible. The Paladino is always popular and beer flows steadily from the taps. Open Monday to Friday from 7am to 8.30pm, and Saturday from 8am till 12pm. Reservations and credit cards are not accepted.<br /><br />

Palaphita Kitch

Address: Avenida Epitacio Pessoa S/N, Quiosque 20 Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: Local

With its rustic, eco-friendly décor (couches, wooden tables, lots of palm trees) and its candlelit dining area, Palaphita Kitch has a romantic atmosphere, backed by excellent views of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The menu offers a selection of exotic Amazonian cuisine, with its carpaccio being a favourite. Open every night for dinner, reservations recommended.<br /><br />


Address: Rua Custodio Serrao 62 Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: French

Originally from France, celebrity chef Claude Troisgros and his son Thomas blend French cuisine with Brazilian ingredients at one of Rio's top restaurants. Intimate and sophisticated, Olympe offers guests seasonal tasting menus and creative à la carte dishes such as scallops with tucupi and caviar, water yam and coconut purée, or açai crusted lamb loin, yucca gnocchi, and sumac butter solids. Open Tuesday to Friday and Sunday for lunch, and Monday to Saturday for dinner. Reservations essential.<br /><br />


Address: Rua Jangadeiros 10 Rio de Janeiro

Food Type: Local

Near the beach, this small and comfortable restaurant has an idyllic, rural atmosphere and its décor features handmade arts and crafts. The menu offers authentic, homemade Brazilian cuisine such as a plate of rice, beans, (toasted manioc flour), steak and French fries, or the traditional soup, with beans and bacon. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Home to Carnival, samba and Copacabana, it's not surprising that the nightlife in Rio de Janeiro is one of a kind, and Cariocas (Rio's residents) will make a party out of just about any social gathering. Whether you're looking for a relaxing bar or lounge to sip on a couple of chopps (draught beer), or in the mood for a big night out at a hip and happening dance club, Rio de Janeiro has it all.<br /><br /> A popular way to warm things up is to start at one of the numerous beach bars with a coconut juice or cocktail in the cooler early evening. Head off to one of Rio de Janeiro's trendy beach communities, such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon and explore the bars and clubs; but be warned, some of these places may not grant entry to people wearing shorts and T-shirts or flip-flops.<br /><br /> Pop in at a trendy restaurant for a late dinner with friends, and then at around 11pm, when most clubs open, check out who's playing at the Rio Scenarium, Comuna da Semente or Carioca da Gema. Lapa is a popular area for revellers, as is Gamba. Rio also has a vibrant gay clubbing scene, with many bars and clubs in Copacabana and Ipanema.<br /><br /> Clubbing in Rio can be expensive, but one can have a cheaper night out by sticking to local drinks. Many clubs will charge you for drinks and entry only when you leave, so keep track of what you spend. Most clubs have a dress code, and some will only allow men when accompanied by women, while most will require an ID or passport to enter.<br /><br /> An alternative to clubs and bars in Rio are the street parties. Lapa hosts a street party every Friday and Saturday night near the aqueduct on Avenida Mem de Sá; and Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays are the best nights to head to Gávea, where you'll find music, cheap beer, and many university students on the street in front of the bar Hipódromo.<br /><br /> Live music and dancing is also big in Rio de Janeiro and there is a wide variety, such as samba, bossa nova, rock, MBP (Brazilian pop), blues, jazz and much more. If you search hard enough, there is sure to be a gig happening somewhere in this vibrant city on any given night. You can also watch samba school rehearsal parties, where local drummers and dancers showcase their skills in warehouses for thousands of people. It's a great way to get a taste of the Carnival atmosphere at other times of the year.<br /><br /> Pick up a copy of a Friday edition of a local newspaper for nightlife and entertainment listings in Rio de Janeiro.<br /><br />
Shopping in Rio de Janeiro can be a rewarding experience for tourists on the hunt for bargains, whether they're seeking cheap souvenirs or designer goods. While it isn't considered a major shopping destination, there are numerous shopping centres, boutiques, street stalls and markets offering a wide selection of mementos.<br /><br /> Rio's main shopping destinations are concentrated in areas like Rio Sul in the city centre. There are also numerous shopping districts near the beaches, including Avenida Nossa Senhora and Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva in Leblon, and Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema.<br /><br /> Religious antiques, soapstone carvings, leather goods and gemstone jewellery are Rio's most popular souvenirs, offered by various shops throughout the city. You can also find local gemstones carved into shapes like toucans, jaguars, and other wild figures that make good gifts, alongside tacky options like plastic replicas of Christ the Redeemer.<br /><br /> Good-quality beachwear and Brazilian soccer jerseys are also popular, though you'll need to choose between cheap imitations at market stalls and more expensive official merchandise. Rio is the birthplace of Havaianas (flip-flops), so they're available in any number of styles, and colours. One of the best things to buy in Rio de Janeiro though, is music, particularly Brazil's distinctive local music. Modern Sound on Barata Ribeiro has an impressive collection, or for a good selection of jazz music and books, head to the artsy Livraria da Travessa.<br /><br /> The gift shop at the Museu do Índio has a selection of pots, woven baskets, and wooden artefacts made by indigenous tribes. Another unique souvenir is the cachaça, or sugar cane brandy, brewed at Petisco da Vila. Try a bottle after watching the production process right in the brewery.<br /><br /> Good-quality local arts and crafts can be found at outdoor weekend markets, the best of which include the Hippie Fair, the Babilônia Hype Fair, and the enormous Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão, which has more than 700 stalls. For flowers and food, including fruit, vegetables and cheeses, Praca General Osorio in Ipanema and Rua Domingos Ferreira in Copacabana are also worth a visit.<br /><br /> Most items are reasonably priced, as long as you stay away from the obvious tourist traps around the major hotels. Bartering is acceptable, and visitors can often earn up to a 10 percent discount in shops if paying cash, though most shops and even some markets will accept major credit cards. Shops tend to stay open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and shopping centres stay open daily from 10am to 10pm. Sales tax is 18 percent, and there is no tax refund scheme for departing tourists in Brazil.<br /><br />
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