Planning a trip to a new country can be exciting, but it can also be
daunting. Before you pack your bags for a trip to Rio de Janeiro, donít get
overwhelmed by all the things there are to do. If you manage to include these
fifteen ideas, you will have hit the highlights of this exciting city and you
will be sure to have an amazing time in Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is a city full of
vibrant life, beautiful buildings, spectacular nature, food, drink, beaches, and
mountains. Thereís something for everyone in Rio, whether you want to have an
outdoor adventure, experience Brazilian culture, or relax in the sand by the
waves on one of Rioís famous beaches. Brazil is also a country famous for its
soccer fans and players. If you love soccer, youíll be right at home among
the enthusiastic football fans of Rio de Janeiro. If you time your visit right,
you can also be in the city for one of the major events on this list: Carnival,
the World Cup, or the Olympics. The temperature in Rio is always warm, so the
beaches are a major attraction year-round. There are also many famous sights to
see, including beautiful buildings and one of the most iconic statues in the
So no matter what your plan is for how to have fun in Rio, youíre sure to
find some musts on this list of the top 15 things to do while in one of the most
famous cities in
15) Sao Bento Monastery
If you like to tour elaborate, beautiful buildings be sure to stop by this
church in Rio that Viator explains was founded in 1590 by Benedictine monks. The
outside is much less impressive than the inside, so if you make the trip to find
it, donít be satisfied with a superficial view. Take a tour of the building so
you can see the ornate ceilings and stained glass windows. There is an
impressive alter inside, and several works of art that were done by monks in
Guided tours are available, but if you want to see the
monastery itself, thereís a catch; only men are allowed in the monastery. And
though Rio is known for its beaches, parties, and warm weather, if you plan to
visit this attraction, be sure to pack some sort of conservative outfit.
A Look at the Ornate Ceiling Inside Sao Bento
By original: Patricia Figueira. Modified by Tetraktys [CC-BY-SA-2.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
bring a cardigan or scarf for your shoulders, and everyone should plan to skip
the shorts or short skirts that day, at least until your visit to this church is
14) Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden)
Since Rio de Janeiro is known for being a city of partying, you might like to
spend some time in a more peaceful environment. If so, soak up the beauty of
nature at the Botanical Garden, Jardim Botanico. Viator states that the garden
has more than 5,500 species of plant life and many beautiful flowers.
gardens were founded by the Prince Regent Dom Jo„o in 1808, and the gardens are
also used as a research center. One of the major features is the walkway of the
entrance, which is called the Avenue of Royal Palms.
Avenue of Royal Palms
The gardens also feature
various species of birds. At the foot of Corcovado, itís easy to find a bus to
the gardens if you want to try the public transportation. You will be awed by
the gorgeous, lush foliage and flowers while listening to the soothing sounds of
nature from the gardens birds.
13) Ilha Fiscal
On an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, you can visit the Ilha Fiscal,
a neo-Gothic castle built in 1889. The castle
is open for tours, and the boat ride there is sure to be a highlight of your
day. The palace itself is surrounded by the water of Guanabara Bay and features
a beautiful backdrop of ocean and mountain. The castle is only open Thursday
through Sunday, but if youíre there on a day when a tour is available, be sure
to check out this majestic piece of Rio de Janeiroís architecture.
The castle is
known as beautiful example of neo-Gothic architecture, and you are sure to love
your visit as you wander through the site of the last places held by the monarchy.
12) Eat Feijoada, Traditional Brazilian Food
If fine dining isnít in your plans, but youíd like to experience some real
Brazilian food, make sure you pick up at least one dish of feijoada, a stew made
of smoked meat and beans. This is a great introduction to some local cuisine. As
Rio de Janeiroís own website states, the city of Rio has its own specific way of
making the dish by using black turtle beans. The site also states that itís a
traditional lunchtime dish. It should be easy to find in the city, so make sure
you experience it at least once. In addition to feijoada, be sure to try some
local polenta, a type of porridge that can be cooked various ways.
Janeiro is also famous for the various vendors near its beaches, so there will
be numerous dishes to try while enjoying your time on Copacabana or Ipanema. Rio
is full of restaurants and cafes that will allow you to sample many types of not
only Brazilian cuisine, but also traditional Portuguese cuisine. From fine
dining to sidewalk cafes to beachfront huts, there will be many places to find
delicious new foods to you experience Brazilian culture during your stay in Rio.
11) Teatro Municipal
This is a theater in Rio de Janeiro that Frommers explains is the biggest
venue for performing arts in Brazil. Itís located in the city center, and
thereís sure to be at least one performance that captures your interest while
youíre in town. The theater, which resembles a palace, is also open for tours.
It was built in 1909, and is another beautiful building in Rio de Janeiro that
is a must-see if you want to view the cityís architecture.
Even if a concert
isnít in your plans, be sure to stop by to admire the building from the outside.
Various performances take place here, including ballet, opera, and concerts. You
can check before you leave for your trip to see what the schedule will be while
you are in Rio, or you can stop by during your trip if the desire to see a show
strikes you once you see the buildingís beautiful exterior.
gives you the perfect way to experience Rio de Janeiroís vibrant performing arts
This sandwich shop is lauded by NPR as one of the best places to eat in Rio
de Janeiro. Itís located near Copacabana beach and is also inexpensive. Rio de
Janeiro is not a cheap city, so be sure to stop in and let your wallet take a
break while your taste buds donít. The restaurant is open all night long, so you
can experience it in different ways. Stop in for lunch or wait until after a
night of dancing and grab a late night sandwich. Named for the author of Don
Quixote, the restaurant serves all its sandwiches with abacaxi, which is
Courtesy of Tripadvisor.com
As NPR notes, you can order your sandwich without pineapple, but that
doesnít lower the price. Since Cervantes is known for its affordability, go
ahead and keep your pineapple. Itís an attraction for all types of patrons, and
an NPA writer noted seeing Carnival masks and costumes on a stop to this eatery,
so no matter what your plans are in Rio, this should be on your list of places
to stop and grab a bite while experiencing the local culture.
Lapa is a neighborhood in Rio known for its nightlife and dancing. CNN
suggests stopping by Rio Scenarium, a three-story bar in Lapa. Rioís own website
calls this ďthe most popular bar in Lapa and even in Rio,Ē and boasts excellent Brazilian music. If youíre interested in experiencing a bar that is
famous both in Rio and outside Brazil, make plans to have a drink here. The neighborhood of Lapa is sure to help you find a place to samba and
experience the famous Brazilian nightlife. Itís also an excellent place to grab
This bohemian area of town offers the perfect place to experience
the culture of Rio de Janeiro after dark. Rioís tourism website points out Lapaís famous architecture, including the Arcos da Lapa, a famous monument, and
the Passeio Publico, the cityís first public park. Full of restaurants and bars,
Lapa is a great place to stroll around at night if want to go out without
planning exactly where to eat, drink, and dance. Youíll be sure to find
somewhere that interests you by just walking around.
Arcos da Lapa
The neighborhood is safe for pedestrians, though you should always use
caution when traveling in a foreign city. Lapa is also an excellent neighborhood
to experience Brazilian music, notably the chamber music at the Sala Cecilia
Meireles. Other recommended bars include Asa Branca, Carioca da Gema, and Flying
Circus. Lapa also features a variety of restaurants, so itís a good place to get
some Portuguese food. Eat, drink, dance, and party while in Lapa. Lapa is the perfect neighborhood
for a night out on the town in Rio de Janeiro.
8) Tijuca National Park
While youíre in Brazil, experience some of the rainforest. This park covers
8,300 acres, and is an excellent opportunity
to see some of Rio de Janeiroís beautiful scenery. For those who crave outdoor
adventure, this park is a must-see while in Rio. You can hike to the top of Corcovado, the mountain boasting the highest point in Brazil, as it is located
inside Tijuca. Corcovado features Cristo Redentor, which comes up later on this
list. The park, was created by Emporar Dom Pedro II after,
in 1861, he was disturbed by the deforestation of the area surrounding Rio de
The park also features waterfalls, and various types of wildlife, such
as howler monkeys and ocelots. Unfortunately, there isnít any public
transportation to Tijuca, so youíll have to find an alternate way to get there.
One idea is to book a private guided tour. This will not only help you get to
the park, but will also enable you to see more of the rainforest, or help you
with equipment if you want to have a more active day in the park. When youíve
had enough of the urban experience of Rio, head to Tijuca for a real rainforest
adventure and some spectacular scenery.
7) Drink a Caipirinha
This Brazilian cocktail is made from cachaca, a type of sugarcane liquor,
with muddled lime, sugar, and ice. The New York Times suggests trying one at
Academia da Cachaca, a bar in Leblon, a neighborhood of Rio. If you want to have
a drink that is a favorite of Brazilians, make sure you try one of these.
Sometimes called the national drink of Brazil, this is a must-have if cocktail
hour is in your plans. Another great place to try a caipirinha, is Quiosque do Portugues. This place, like Academic da
Cachaca, offers the basic, standard drink but also offers patrons a chance to
try some twists on the Brazilian classic.
They use different fruits and
ingredients, so if for some reason you donít like the first one you try, thereís
likely to be something that you do like. Youíre in Brazil; be adventurous. It
has also become popular in the United States recently, so the next time you hear
people back home mention cachaca, youíll be able to tell them that youíve had
the real thing in its home country. Caipirinhas are the best way to try cachaca,
so enjoy one on the beach or in one of Rioís famous bars.
6) Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
If youíre going to visit Rio, make sure you dedicate some time to viewing the
mountains of the city. Pao de Acucar, which means Sugar Loaf Mountain, has two
cable cars that travel to its summit, so donít worry if hiking wasnít on your
list of vacation things to do for this trip.
Air Tram to the Top of Sugar Loaf Mountain
The top of the mountain, as well as
the trip up its slopes, offers amazing views of the Rio sunset. If youíre interested in getting a great view of the city,
plan some time to travel to its top and take in the scenery.
View from Atop Sugar Loaf Mountain Inside Air Tram
You can travel up
in the late afternoon to see the sunset, then stick around to see views of the
night lights of Rio. If you plan to be in Rio in the summer, check out the
schedule of concerts that take place on Pao de Acucar.
5) Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, 2016
Rio de Janeiro will host the summer Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games in
2016. The Rio 2016 website dedicated to the Olympics in the city boasts that
over 10,500 athletes from all over the globe will be in the city for the summer
games. The games dates are August 5-21 for the Olympic Games, and
September 7-18 for the Paralympic Games.
If your visit coincides with any of
these dates, prepare to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of national pride
as many countries arrive to compete. From archery to swimming, whatever your
favorite summer Olympic sport is, you can see it in Rio in 2016. Book your
tickets early to make sure you get a seat.
4) World Cup 2014
If youíre traveling to Brazil during the summer of 2014, be prepared to
encounter the biggest sporting event on the globe: the World Cup. Occurring
every four years, this is the pinnacle of global competition and the worldís
best teams will be gathering in various cities around Brazil to compete for the
biggest prize in soccer (or football, depending on what country you call home).
Rio de Janeiro will be a host city to some of the games, so from June 12 to July
13 of 2014, be prepared for big crowds and enthusiastic fans.
Rio de Janeiro is the birthplace of famous Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo, and Brazilian culture is known for its love of the game. If youíre a
fan of soccer, make sure to buy any tickets ahead of him to ensure you get into
the game. If you prefer to skip the games, the World Cup will still certainly
ensure that you experience the lively atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro during your
It is, of course, imperative that you visit the beach at least once while in
Rio de Janeiro. You may have planned your entire trip around beach visits and,
if so, there are plenty to choose from. Each has its own attractions and
reasons for drawing tourists to their locations. But if you only plan to visit one beach while in Rio,
spend some time in Ipanema. This beach, the subject of the famous jazz number
sung by Astrid Gilberto (a Brazilian herself), is good not only for strolling
but also for lots of activity such as surfing, wakeboarding, volleyball, and
Whether you want to relax and take in
the sights or have a more active day, Ipanema is a beach definitely worth a few
hours of your time in Rio. The New York Times also suggests itís a great place
to see futevolei, a sport that is a cross between soccer and volleyball. Another
feature of Ipanema is the area that surrounds the beach. The Travel Channel
lists, among the areaís many attractions, shopping, restaurants, and bars.
Included among those is Garota de Ipanema Bar, which the site explains was the
place where the lyrics to ďThe Girl from IpanemaĒ were written.
You have to time your trip well to make it to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival,
but if you want to go to a huge party and experience one of the most iconic
things about this Brazilian city, visit during the week before Lent. Like Mardi
Gras in New Orleans, this yearly festival takes place on different days each
year, depending on when Lent falls. Photographs of Carnival-goers in elaborate
masks are some of the most recognizable images of Rio de Janeiro. USA Today
claims that the festival is a huge attraction for tourists, with half a million
arriving each year. So if you plan to party with the citizens of Rio, make sure
you book your trip in advance! This is one of the most famous festivals in the
world, so if you donít plan to center your trip on partying, donít visit Rio
during Carnival! But if you do want to be a part of Carnival, get ready for the
famous masks, floats, music, dancing, food, and drink that fill the streets of
Rio each year.
If you do decide to go to Carnival, one of the things to do that you
absolutely canít miss the parade at the Sambadrome, an area in downtown Rio de
Janeiro built specifically for Carnival and described by Rioís own website as
ďundoubtedly the biggest stage on earth.Ē This is where the samba schools
compete each year in the Carnival parades. The parades feature dancing, of
course, but also huge, elaborate floats. The parades begin in the evening and go
until morning. As Rioís site explains, the different samba schools each select a
theme and then parade through the Sambadrome with their floats and dancers.
parades are a competition, so each school is judged. You do need tickets to the
parades, so grab them in advance and get ready to see some amazing sights. Even
if you donít get tickets to the Sambadrome during Carnival, there will be plenty
of dancing in the streets of Rio throughout this huge festival.
1) Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
If you look for photographs of Rio de Janeiro, youíre likely to see a photo
of the amazing and iconic Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer. This statue
is probably the most famous of the sights of Rio de Janeiro and youíre sure to
come away with not only a breathtaking experience, but also some great photos to
show off after you get home from your trip. Itís a white statue of Christ with
outstretched arms that stands on top of Mount Corcovado.
The statue, built in 1931, is 98 feet tall and stands on top of
Mount Corcovado. The spot was chosen so that the statue could be seen from
anywhere in Rio de Janeiro. It is made of concrete in the Art Deco style and the
first stone of the statue was laid on April 4, 1922, the one hundredth
anniversary of Brazilís independence from Portugal. The designer of the statue,
Heitor da Silva Costa, an engineer from Brazil, was chosen through a
competition, and his original design was altered with the help of Brazilian
artist Carlos Oswald. Visitors to Cristo Redentor previously had to climb more
than two hundred stairs.
Aerial View of Christ the Redeemer
Never fear, though; the statue now features an
elevator, so thereís no need to plan for a long hike. You can take a trip by
train to the top of the mountain and enjoy the beautiful views that culminate in
the spectacle of Cristo Redentor at the top. Donít forget your camera when you
are at one of the most famous places to visit in Rio.
Now that you have a great list of things to do, you can start planning your
trip to Rio de Janeiro. The city is not only one of the most famous places in
the world to party and go to the beach, but itís an excellent place to introduce
yourself to Brazilian culture and see some of the most spectacular sights in the
world. You donít have to choose between the beach and the mountains, since Rio
has them both, and its warm climate will make for a great visit no matter the
time of year. If youíre interested in outdoor adventures, Rio de Janeiro gives
you the opportunity to participate in lots of activities. From volleyball on the
beach to a hike through the rainforest, Rio de Janeiro has tons of things for
visitors to keep themselves busy for their entire stay. If youíre most interested in food and
culture, there are plenty of places to try authentic Brazilian and Portuguese
cuisine or take in some of the local nightlife. If you want to plan your trip
around a particular event, the upcoming World Cup and summer Olympics will add a
great amount of excitement to your trip while also allowing you to cheer on your
country in the biggest competitions in the world. Then thereís always Carnival,
the yearly celebration that is unique in its elaborate methods of celebration.
Whatever you decide to do, Rio de Janeiro will be the perfect spot for a
vacation that can be relaxing and exciting at the same time.