Rio De Janeiro is on top of the travel bucket list for so many. And it’s very easy to see why. Indeed, La Cidade Maravilhosa offers an incredible variety of activities. From classical sightseeing to more adventurous excursions. Here is your final guide to the best things to do in Rio De Janeiro, considering a 4 days itinerary.
Note: when going through the guide, consider half a day to do each activity that is listed
1. Take the gondola ride up to the Sugarloaf Mountain
When I visited Rio the first time there was only one thing, I was sure I wanted to do. To visit the Sugarloaf Mountain. It wasn’t disappointing! The Pao de Açucar has one of the most breathtaking views of the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro. Situated in the heart of the city you can enjoy many different views of the surrounding hills, beaches, and Niteroi.
As one of the main attractions in Rio de Janeiro, the line to buy the tickets is very long and may take even a few hours. You can buy the ticket online at no extra cost. Although, if you are willing to take the fast line you can buy the ticket for about double the price.
If you are willing to go at sunset (the view and colors are beautiful!), don’t forget to check the hours of the gondola. These are the official hours, but they may change:
LAST RIDE UP: Praia Vermelha / Urca Hill at 8 pm. Urca Hill / Sugar Loaf at 8:20 pm.
LAST RIDE DOWN: Sugar Loaf / Urca Hill at 8:40 pm. Urca Hill / Praia Vermelha at 9 pm.
2. Wander in Jardim Botanico (the botanical gardens)
These beautiful gardens name a whole southwestern area and run on many kilometers. The most interesting thing about Jardim Botanico is the number of species it has. Not only species from the state of Rio de Janeiro but also from many other regions of the world.
House to over 6,500 species of plants it is one of the lushest places in Rio! You can take a guided tour or have a walk through the many sections including the Orchid House, Amazon Garden, Sensory Garden, Japanese Garden, and also a series of small exhibits and museum spaces to enjoy.
3. Relax on Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches
I bet that when you booked your Rio trip (or if you’re still planning it), you were already dreaming of sunbathing on two of the most famous Brazilian beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema. With the white sand, skyscrapers on the beach, and coconut water kiosks, the beaches are one of the main touristic attractions in Rio attiring millions every year.
One of the coolest things to do in Rio is rent a beach chair and an umbrella, and simply sunbathe or dive in the blue water. But watch out for waves as the shore break may be dangerous. Otherwise, enjoy your time and don’t be shy to ask people if you can join their soccer or volley match, they are very friendly in general.
4. Visit Christ the Redeemer
Did you know that Christ the Redeemer is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World? This impressive statue is a must-see attraction in Rio de Janeiro and one of South America’s most famous landmarks.
The statue is situated on the Corcovado one of the hills surrounding Rio. To conquer the top, you can book a bus ticket, or you can choose the Train which climbs to the top in about 20 minutes. I took the train both time I have visited, and the view is great even long before you reach the top!
Are you a hiker? There is a trek that crosses the forest on Corcovado Mountain and goes up to the Christ the Redeemer statue. The hiking starts in Parque Lage and takes about 2 hours to complete. If you are lucky, you may even see monkeys while walking in the forest. Just don’t forget to bring water! The walk is quite long and depending on the temperatures you may dehydrate very fast.
Weather transport you choose once arrived, the entrance is between 20 and 25 € depending on the season. Once you get your ticket you can finally get the access to the observation deck, after climbing the last 223 steps.
Enjoy the view!
5. Visit Santa Teresa neighborhood
One of the most known neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro is Santa Teresa. Home to many art galleries and studios, this area adds a chic and bohemian touch to the already wonderful Cidade Maravilhosa.
When visiting you can take a ride on the typical Santa Teresa Tram which is a modern replica of the old tramcars. Otherwise, get lost in the narrow roads but don’t forget to visit the amazing Selaron stairs from Chilean-born artist José Selaron.
6. Get off the beaten path at Praia Vermelha
Praia Vermelha (or the Red Beach) is situated on the foothills of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain.) It is a small and quiet beach that has access to an exclusive sporting club. The view is great and there aren’t many tourists. The Red Beach gets its name from the reddish rocks that surround the shore.
You can have a glimpse of Praia Vermelha when you are on the Sugarloaf. It’s the second beach on the left when you are facing the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Little Extra: Celebrate New Year’s Eve
One of the most exciting things to do in Rio de Janeiro and a bucket list experience as well, is to enjoy the festive celebrations of Copacabana New Year’s Eve. The prices skyrocket and the city is very crowded but if you are in the mood for a big party, you should definitely plan your stay this time of the year!
Don’t forget to wear white, as it brings good luck! You can also complete your outfit with an accessory depending on what are your wishes for the New Year. Put a red flower in your hair for romance, braid a green leaf crown for a healthy year or wear a yellow belt if you are hoping for money and success.
Start the evening by doing a flower offering to the sea goddess Lemanja in the less crowded beach of Leblon.
After you have left your hopes and resolutions in the hands of the Ocean, you can reach Copacabana beach and the 2 million tourists joining the legendary party every year. The fireworks last about 20 minutes and are one of the best and most known pyrotechnic shows in the world. Completing the beautiful and shiny picture the many cruise boats get close to the coast to enjoy the fireworks within the bay.
Rio de Janeiro isn’t on your bucket list yet?
Add it to your list now! It’s one of the most spectacular cities in the world. In number of attractions, atmosphere, and natural wonders.
I mean have you ever seen the pictures of Guanabara Bay?!
Last but not least, if you are an architecture lover you may be interested in our 1-day itinerary, discovering architectural hidden gems in Rio de Janeiro city center.
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