Rio De Janeiro is a crazy place but so beautifully crazy, there are so many things to do in Rio. It was never on our original travel route, it was only a month or so ago that we decided to travel South America and head to Brazil. It is somewhere I had seen on films or read about on the internet but somewhere I didn’t actually think I would one day visit. A lot of time, we really did think, “Wow”, are we actually here doing this.
Is Rio safe?
When we told people we were heading to Rio, many of them said don’t go or at least be extra careful. Don’t walk around at night, don’t carry your phone on you and leave all your jewellery at home. Well this made us feel very uneasy. The first few nights, I left my watch at the hostel and only carried the necessary money. After a while, doing this kind of fizzled out. We didn’t feel unsafe at all, everyone was so friendly. I mean we were cautious of where we walked at night and I would flash my phone or gadgets around. But we wouldn’t do that in any country so Rio wasn’t any different. We became so nervous about Rio when infact, we didn’t feel unsafe once or have any bad experience. Everyone who travel’s needs to be safe, do their research and be wary of every environment. However, never be put off why other people’s stories and let rumours put you off exploring.
What is there to do in Rio?
What isn’t there to do! There are so many things to do in Rio, it’s such a busy, vibrant place that you’ll never be bored. Even a day relaxing on the beach is exciting. There is so much going on all the time and with the copious amount of Caipirinha’s going around, you’ll definitely experience the true feelings of Rio. We spent around 2 weeks and we had plenty of things to do in Rio. Some days were more busy than other’s but we absolutely loved our time there and were sad to leave.
11 best things to do in Rio
1. Copacabana & Ipanema beach
You can’t really go to Rio without having a beach day. They probably won’t be like any other you’ve been to but one you definitely need to experience. Both beaches are pretty famous so even if its just to walk along or catch up on your tan, there both a must do in Rio. When your at either beach, expect to be interrupted by people selling mostly souvenirs, sarongs or sunglasses. Obviously don’t be rude if you don’t want anything but you’ll probably need a bit of patience as they will always come up to you or you’ll hear from them a mile off shouting their selling pitch. However, if you haven’t already, you must try and Caipirinha. A popular drink in Rio and one which is very strong and made us rather tipsy after just one cup. The prices vary around the city but they are usually sold for about 10 Reais at the beach.
A popular viewpoint over Rio is from Sugarloaf mountain. At anytime you go up, it will be busy but thats Rio for you. The way to the top is made in two stages in a cable car. The first to the top of Urca Hill which is about 220 metres above sea level and then another cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf mountain, giving you a 360 degree view of the city. Tickets can be sold with tour operators but they can also be sold at the station located at Praia Vermelha, otherwise known as The Red Beach. Tickets cost 65 Reais which is about $23. The cable car runs between 8am & 9pm, departing every 20 mins, so you really have the whole day to decide when you want to go up. There are restaurants for food and drink up the mountain but they can be a little pricey.
Our top tip; Head up Sugarloaf mountain at sunset. We went up about 17:30pm just in time and we witnessed the most incredible views. Seeing the sun set over Rio was insane and to see it come alive at night with all the lights was beautiful. We spent a good two hours up there, it was so worth it.
3. Rent a bike
One of our favourite days was renting a bike and cycling around Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. It looks like just a huge lake but its so beautiful on a sunny day. The path is a little less than 5 miles long and it took us around 45 minutes to cycle round. Now that does completely depend on the speed you cycle and if you stop off anywhere along the way.
There are lots of bike station where you can rent a bike. The most popular ones are orange and they can mostly be found along the Copacabana beach. Bare in mind that you do need an actual credit card to pay a 300 Reias deposit and 10 Reais an hour for the bike. We didn’t have a credit card on us so we chose to walk to the lagoon instead. There we found other bikes to rent which was quite handy. They were bright blue, just incase you wanted to find them and they cost 13 Reais each for an hour.
4. Two brothers hill
The best view point we have experienced on our travels. It was absolutely incredible and something you think you’ll only see on a postcard. The hike is really popular so if you order an Uber to Vidigal Favela which is located near Leblon Beach Steps, the driver will know exactly where your going so will drop you off in the right spot. Then grab a Moto taxi for 3 Reais, which will take you to the start of the path. The hike takes only around an hour and it isn’t very difficult. Some area’s are quite steep and you will need to climb over rocks and tree stumps but you don’t need to be massively fit to complete it. Once you reach the top, it will all feel so worth it and you will witness the most breathtaking view!
5. Escadaria Seleron- The famous Rio Steps.
A definite must see in Rio is the famous steps. The Escadaria Seralon steps are really beautiful. Have a little research into the background of how the steps were created as it makes the visit way more special. I would recommend heading there in the week if you can as anywhere at the weekend gets busy. People literally queue up for photos, so if you are looking for that perfect photo opportunity, I would recommend getting there very early like 8am or late in the evening. We ended up staying there for a while and just sat on the steps. Time sort of passed us by and it was nice just sitting there.
6. Graffiti Wall
The graffiti wall is the biggest in the world and was created for the Rio olympics in 2016. It’s pretty incredible. The colours and magnitude of the masterpiece make it such a spectacle. The wall is situated right next to a tram station and round the corner from a lot of bars and restaurants. So it is nice to have a walk around, grab some food and go to see graffiti masterpiece.
7. Botanical gardens
If your into your nature or just want a peaceful relaxing walk, head to the botanic gardens. It’s 15 Reais for the entrance fee which is about £3. The gardens are pretty huge so you might want to have a look at the map and see where you want to go. Or if you fancy it, just enjoy getting lost and maybe stop for a picnic along the way. Although there is food on site but it is a bit pricey so your better off taking some snacks in to keep you going.
8. Ipenema beach & Copacabana beach sunset
Unfortunately for us, we weren’t graced with the perfect sunset in Rio. Every time we waited for one, the clouds were covering it, or the weather just wasn’t how we wanted it. However, regardless, Rio offers some incredible spots not only watch the sunset but chill in the evening with some drinks.
Just in-between the beaches of Ipanema & Copacabana, is a large peak of rocks where a lot of people go to sit. Throughout the day people will go up there with drinks or for photos and it really is the best spot for sunset. You get a great view of Ipanema beach and you have the waves crashing underneath you. There really isn’t a better place.
9. Ride the tram
We did this on our last day of Rio and it actually was really fun. It costs just 20 Reais for a ticket and it runs from the bonde station in Centro and travels over the scenic areas of Lapa and along Rua Joaquim Murtinho only as far as Largo dos Guimarães before turning around and heading back to the station. A lot of people catch the tram as you would do a train, as it stops off along the way dropping off and picking people up. However, you can just ride it to the end and back again. It really is a great way to see Rio and probably bits you didn’t get to see.
10. Christ the Redeemer
You can’t really go to Rio without visiting the Christ the Redeemer. It is the most popular tourist site in Rio. It is situated over 700 metres above sea level and gives the best panoramic view of Rio.
We decided to get an Uber to the site simply for convenience but you can get a train there if you wish. The entrance ticket costs 30 Reais and it also includes the transport up to the top of the mountain by minivan. You get driven straight to the top where you’ll find lifts, stairs and elevators that take you to the Christ the Redeemer. We went on a Wednesday around midday and surprisingly wasn’t very busy at all. Everyone is there trying to get the best shot at the best angle, it’s quite funny to watch. It’s quite incredible once your up there and it’s kind of a pinch yourself moment thinking “I can’t believe I’m actually here”. We spent about 2 hours up there but be wary it does get very hot so definitely take sun protection and water with you.
11. Samba night
A night we knew nothing about, turned into one of our best nights in Rio. Situated in Pedra do Sol, streets coming alive with Samba. At about 8:30pm, head towards the square you won’t miss it. We went too early and the streets look rather questionable and we had no idea what was going on. Then just an hour later, there were vendors selling bbq food & caipirinha’s and the streets were filling up. There are steps just around the corner where you can sit and listen to the percussion samba band. Everyone stands dancing and it such an incredible experience. A proper Brazilian feel! Everyone is so chilled out listing to music having some drinks. It’s only every Monday, so if you are in Rio on a Monday, head to Pedra Do Sal as you definitely don’t want to miss it!