Rio de Janeiro boasts some serious bucket list credentials – after all, there’s a reason that it’s inspired countless artists and musicians.
The second largest city in Brazil offers up a break unlike any other thanks to its mix of historic landmarks, vibrant neighbourhoods, and of course those incredible beaches.
Then there are icons not to be missed from the Christ the Redeemer statue to natural highlights like Sugarloaf Mountain, which keep drawing in millions of visitors every year.
There’s so much to see and do which can make planning a holiday feel somewhat daunting, so to give you a helping hand we’ve put together a guide on some of the best things to see and do in Rio de Janeiro.
Check out our top 10 picks below…
Oh, and if you are on a budget at the bottom of the guide we also have some top tips on where to find cheap holidays, hotels and flights. Happy holiday hunting!
Best things to see and do in Rio de Janeiro
1. The buildings
There’s a reason Rio has been named the world’s Capital of Architecture for 2020, the first city to receive the accolade.
It’s filled with some impressive architectural feats from historic landmarks that have stood the test of time, to modern additions to the skyline.
Check out our top pick of 10 incredible buildings we think you won’t want to miss if you visit.
2. Christ the Redeemer
One of the Brazilian city’s most famous landmarks, no trip to Rio is complete without visiting Christ the Redeemer.
Located atop Mount Corcovado, the trek alone is worth it for the incredible views you’ll enjoy of the city, although it’s worth noting that during peak seasons it can be quite busy and you may face some long queues.
Not just a hit song by Barry Manilow, Copacabana needs to be on your radar if you’re heading to Rio.
Copacabana beach itself boasts fine sandy shores and swim-friendly waters, so it’s here that you’ll find a vibrant atmosphere thanks to the crowds which flock here for sun, sea and sand. Oh, and the bustling promenade with heaps of restaurants and bars doesn’t hurt either.
No wonder it’s such a hit with the A-list too, who often flock to luxury hotel the Belmond Copacabana which sits right on the beachfront.
4. Tijuca National Park
Intrepid explorers won’t be disappointed with a trek around this breathtaking national park.
Home to the breathtaking rainforest in the city, it’s one of the world’s largest urban forests.
You can take jeep tours or trek along the trails, and expect to see plenty of waterfalls, mountains, caves and exotic animals.
The park is also the setting for iconic landmarks such as the Christ the Redeemer statue.
5. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sitting right by Guanabara Bay on a peninsula, the mountain rises an impressive 396m above the nearby harbour.
If you want to take in views from the top of the mountain you won’t need to don some hiking gear, as there is a cable car service that takes you there, and offers up some seriously scenic views along the way.
You can still take in some pretty incredible panoramics of the mountain from other hotspots such as a visit to Christ the Redeemer or Ipanema beach.
6. Escadaria Selaron
The Selaron Steps are pretty eye-catching with their colourful mosaic patterns and artwork, so it’s no surprise they’re a hit with the Instagram crowd.
Artist Jorge Selarón is behind the world-famous staircase.
Located in downtown Rio, it can get quite crowded during peak seasons so it’s worth going with a guide who’ll know the best times as part of a wider tour.
7. Santa Teresa
This eclectic neighbourhood is renowned for its boutiques, quirky cocktail bars and elegant restaurants, not to mention the countless art galleries and studios to be found.
Be warned that it does sit on top of a hill so wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for a bit of a workout if you want to go by foot – although most people opt for the tram which takes you directly to the top and requires a lot less effort!
8. Largo do Boticario
De Agostini/Getty Images)
This square in the Cosme Velho neighbourhood houses colourful, neo-colonial buildings, and tends to be a hit with visitors.
It’s surrounded by a host of historic sites and has plenty of brilliant vantage points for views of the Carioca River.
9. The museums
Whether you’re unlucky and get some rainy weather, or you’re looking to soak up some extra culture, Rio de Janeiro has plenty of museums that make for a brilliant day out.
Highlights include the Museum of Tomorrow, built in 2015, which has five ‘zones’ dedicated to a range of scientific topics, as well as the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum overlooking Guanabara Bay.
10. Ipanema beach
With its sandy shores, turquoise swim-friendly waters and breathtaking views of Sugarloaf Mountain, it’s no surprise that Ipanema beach continues to be a hit with visitors.
There are plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars nearby too so it’s great if you’re after a beach break with a brilliant atmosphere.
TripAdvisor has a handy round-up of the best hotels near Ipanema beach if you are feeling tempted!
Cheap Rio de Janeiro holidays
For package holidays it’s worth keeping an eye out on websites like Expedia and Lastminute.com which offer flight and hotel deal, not to mention they regularly host sales and late deals if you are in search of a bargain.
If it’s cheap hotels specifically that you’re after, then you may want to check out Booking.com’s round-up of the 10 best cheap hotels in Rio , while TripAdvisor has flagged the city’s best hotels to suit a wide array of budgets.
As for getting there?
Norwegian can be a good source for cheap flights to Rio with fares from starting from £240 each way, but the carrier has also been known to slash prices in sales on the route with prices around £159.90pp each way so it’s worth keeping an eye out for the deals.
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