To visit Rio de Janeiro was always my dream. And because I am from Ukraine and didn’t really have the chance to travel when I was a kid, Rio de Janeiro was something magical and unreachable to me. The exotic place that people don’t really go to or even thinking about going to. That is what surprised me the most, when my friends talked about going to Paris or New York for example, I thought of how amazing it must be going to South America and exploring the jungles. Well, dreams come true and when I turned 26 Cody and I traveled to Rio de Janeiro. After two weeks in Brazil I prepared a list of 12 fun things to do in Rio de Janeiro that every tourist has to experience.
Christ the Redeemer is one of the most iconic places you’ve got to visit while traveling in Rio. It is located on the top of Corcovado mountain and you can see the monument from everywhere.
To get to Christ the Redeemer you can by bus, taxi, train or helicopter. To read more about how to visit Christ the Redeemer and what to expect from this sight click here!
Price: R$24 ($5) in the high season and R$12 ($2,5) in the low season;
Hours: everyday: 8 AM to 7 PM;
Sugarloaf Mountain is another place in Rio that is known worldwide. This is a 396 meters mountain that is located on a small peninsula in Guanabara Bay.
Do you know why this mountain is called sugarloaf? When Portuguese ships first arrived in Rio de Janeiro the people on the ships started shouting “sugarloaf”. All that because at that time the refined sugar loaf had a similar shape. Since then the name stuck now this mountain is called Sugarloaf Mountain.
You can get to the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain using the cable car and enjoy the amazing panoramic view of the city and the harbour. There are two cable ways actually, the first will take you from the ground level to Urca mountain and from there you will need to walk for a bit and use the second cable way that takes you to the top of Sugarloaf. Be prepared to see a huge crowd and wait in a line to get in the cable car. Although the capacity of the cable cars is pretty big. We didn’t count but it felt like around twenty people fit in it at once. At the top of both mountains there are some stores where you can get water and snacks. The best time to visit Sugarloaf Mountain is the golden hour around sunset.
Price: R$110 ($30); You can buy tickets at the ticket centers next to Praia Vermelha beach till 7:50 PM;
Hours: everyday: 8 AM to 9 PM;
Sugarloaf Cable Car Location: Av. Pasteur, 520 – Urca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22290-240, Brazil;
One of the most famous beaches in the whole of Brazil (if not the world) is Copacabana. It is a great place to relax after long trip to Rio de Janeiro. Cody and I spent our first few days just laying on the beach before starting to explore the city.
Copacabana beach is very long and quite wide with soft white sand and palm trees along the sidewalk. There you will find lots of vendors offering beach umbrellas and chairs. You usually can get beers or fresh coconuts from the same vendors. There are also a great number of vendors who are constantly on the move offering people on the beach different snacks. You can check my article about the best Copacabana beach food here.
Price: free of charge;
And the second most popular beach in Rio and Brazil is of course Ipanema beach. And you probably know why. The world learned about this wonderful place thanks to the jazz song “The Girl From Ipanema”. Cody and I were listening to this song on the way from Europe to Rio de Janeiro (I think it’s the theme song for Aigle Azur) and couldn’t wait to see this place.
Ipanema beach is a fantastic place for relaxing and it is less crowded than Copacabana. There you can find some good places to get lunch or a nice dinner.
Price: free of charge;
The mosaic steps of Selaron is a must visit place and of course, it made my list of fun things to do in Rio de Janeiro. This place is a good example of street art that accidently became known around the globe.
It is a fantastic colorful place that represents the soul of Rio de Janeiro and the love of its people. The mosaics were created by Jorge Selaron, who just wanted to make his neighbourhood livelier.
Nowadays the place is full of tourists and some of them even bring colorful tiles from their countries to add to the Selaron collection. I even found a tile from Ukraine, which surprised me because not a lot of people are going from Ukraine to Rio de Janeiro.
If you are lucky you might see the famous painter himself sitting on the mosaic steps and chatting with tourists or putting on more tiles.
Price: free of charge;
The Carioca Aqueduct was built as an aqueduct for Rio de Janeiro to bring fresh water from the Carioca river to the centre of the city. The Carioca Aqueduct was built in the 18th century and it is a beautiful example of colonial architecture.
The Carioca Aqueduct is located in the centre of Rio de Janeiro in the beautiful neighborhood of Lapa. The locals often call this bridge Arcos de Lapa. Of course, nowadays the Carioca Aqueduct is not used for water transportation, it was turned into a tram track in the 19th century. Arcos de Lapa serves as a bridge for the Santa Teresa tramway.
Around this area you can find lots of bars and pubs but be cautious. Although the neighbourhood is very beautiful it is also very dangerous. There are many homeless people that can attack and rob you. The best way to visit the Carioca Aqueduct is during the daytime and with a group.
Price: free of charge;
Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro is one of the majestic places you can’t skip while traveling in Rio. Jardim Botanico is a beautiful botanical garden in Rio de Janeiro. There more than 2500 species of plants and over 900 different palm trees.
To explore the botanical garden, you will need around three hours. Often you can see lots of birds and some animals like sloths, monkeys, and others in here due to the closeness of Tijuca National park.
Price: Adults R$15 (≈ $3,35) (Cash only!) Students and elders R$7,5 (≈ $1,68); Children under 5-years free of charge ;
Hours: Monday: 12PM to 5PM; Tuesday – Sunday: 8 AM to 5PM ;
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro is another must-see place. It is a Roman Catholic church that was built in a very specific way. And if you have ever seen this church chances are you asked yourself why it looks like a cone. The reason is that the architect tried to combine two cultures together. The traditional Catholic style church with a Mayan pyramid. And that is what came out.
The interior is even more impressive. The stained glass is absolutely fantastic, and it will take your breath away.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro is located in the center of the city and you can visit it the same time as the Carioca Aqueduct and Escadaria Selarón. Although be aware that the neighborhood is dangerous and better to visit these places during the daytime.
Hours: everyday: 7 AM to 5 PM;
Have you seen crazy Instagram photos of people hanging at the end of a high cliff? And did you know that this cliff is in Rio de Janeiro and it is called Telegraph Stone.
To get to this iconic Instagram spot you will need to hike up for about 40 minutes, so prepare water and comfortable shoes. Once you are at the top you can take a rest before taking your pictures. A long, long unwanted rest in a long, long line of everyone who wants to get the famous shot. In high season you will have to wait for more than an hour to get your photo. Although I think it is still worth it. The view from the Telegraph Stone is amazing and while you are waiting to take a picture just enjoy the fantastic view of the city.
Price: free of charge;
Hours: 24/7 (better to visit during daytime);
The national drink of Brazil is a punishingly strong drink of Cachaca and muddled lime. You can get them pretty much everywhere and they are not expensive. Just be aware that you are pretty much drinking straight hard alcohol since the only thing diluting it is lime juice.
These are perfect while sitting on Copacabana on a hot day and pair well with some fried cheese.
Price: ≈ R$10 (≈ $2,5);
If you are a foodie, one of the most special and fun things to do in Rio de Janeiro is a Brazilian steakhouse. Almost all of them are all you can eat, and the waiters will come around the tables with large skewers of meat and they will cut some off for you directly on your plate.
Make sure not to fill up at the salad bar because you should be saving your appetite for the delicious meat. The Brazilian specialty is picanha, which is a little bit of a tough piece of meat but it has a succulent fat strip which has such great flavour.
Price: ≈R$120 (≈ $25) per person;
I know it may be a little kitschy but when we travel we usually only bring back one souvenir from each place. In Rio de Janeiro the one thing we decided to bring back was a carved stone bird. Brazilian people use different types of stones combining the colours and making the prettiest souvenirs ever. Cody and I got two of the big ones because we couldn’t decide which one is better.
There are lots of stores with these types of souvenirs but the best place to buy them is next to Copacabana. Every evening along Copacabana beach lots of vendors open their stalls with fantastic stone birds and other stuff. The price there is way cheaper than in the proper stores (one third of the store price or even less). And the quality is the same as everywhere else.
If you afraid that the stone birds will get damaged just put around them lots of clothes and try to place it in the middle of your luggage. We carried our souvenirs in checked luggage from Rio to Sao Paolo to Paris to Rome to Lviv, Ukraine and they were just fine.
Price: from $5 to $50, depends on the size;
Hours: everyday: 5 PM till around 9 PM;