Whether you’ve got your heart set on lazing in the sun or are looking for high-adrenaline fun, Rio de Janeiro won’t disappoint. The city is awash with so many ‘must-dos’ that it can be hard to know where to start, and even a longer stay in the city is likely to leave you wanting more.
Along with two of the world’s most iconic tourist attractions – the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain, the city is also home to some more off-the-beaten track sights that are equally worthy of your time.
To help you make the most of every minute in the Cidade Maravilhosa, here’s our guide to the top 10 things to do and see in Rio de Janeiro.
1. Christ the Redeemer. It’s awash with tourists, yes, but don’t let snobbery put you off making a trip to what is one of the most famous statues anywhere in the world. From his lofty perch atop Corcovado Mountain, the highest of Rio de Janeiro’s many towering peaks, the statue enjoys breathtaking views across this most beautiful of cities.
2. Sugar Loaf mountain. It’s a close call as to whether Sugar Loaf or Christ the Redeemer should be top of the Must Do list, and Sugar Loaf misses out only because its views are marginally less dramatic than those from the feet of the Christ. Taking the cable car ride up to the top of Sugar Loaf is an experience to remember forever, and if you time your visit with the sunset over the city you will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views.
3.Copacabana Beach. It’s lost out to Ipanema in the glamour stakes recently, but with its backdrop of Sugar Loaf mountain and the fabulous Copacabana Palace hotel, it’s still the beach that Rio is best known for. To escape the crowds, make your base at Leme, the quieter end of the beach.
4.Ipanema Beach. The top spot for anyone looking to meet their own girl from Ipanema (or indeed, boy from Ipanema), this beach is populated with quite staggeringly beautiful people. The beach itself is no less attractive, with the towering ‘Dois Irmaos’ (Two Brothers) mountains making a dramatic backdrop to the crashing waves.
5. Lapa Street Party. Rio nightlife is legendary, and Lapa is the city’s party central. Head to the street party here on a Friday night and watch the madness unfold. Just don’t expect to get an early night.
6.Santa Teresa. This historic neighborhood in the hills above Centro feels a world removed from the bustling streets below, and is awash with historic mansions, friendly bars, artists studios and some great restaurants.
7. Escadaria Selaron – the ‘Lapa Steps’. Made famous by Snoop Dogg and Pharell in the music video for Beautiful, this attraction is truly one of a kind. The kooky Chilean artist Selaron has made the stairwell between Lapa and Santa Teresa into an ever-evolving art installation, decorated with colorful tiles from across the world along with his own distinctive artworks.
8. Lagoa. A vast lagoon flanked by mountains, Lagoa is another of Rio’s picture-perfect locations. Take a walk, run or cycle the 7km perimeter, or just relax at one of the bars or restaurants on the shores of the lagoon. Over the Christmas period, a giant tree in the center of the lake is lit with millions of twinkling lights.
9. Rua do Lavradio. The heart of Rio’s historic center, this street is home to some of the oldest buildings in Rio. Many of them now function as bars, restaurants and antiques stores, and really comes to life on the first Saturday of each month, when a lively arts, fashion and antiques fair attracts hordes of locals and visitors alike.
10. Parque Nacional da Tijuca. The world’s largest stretch of urban forest, the Tijuca Nacional park is dotted with natural pools and waterfalls, along with some stunning vistas from viewpoints such as the Mirante da Dona Marta.
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson