I spent 5 days in Rio de Janeiro during the 2017 Carnival celebrations and although I didn’t get to see and do as much of Rio as I wanted because of the celebrations I did get to do some great things in this seriously vibrant city. So here are 10 things to do in Rio.
Possibly the most famous steps on the planet made famous by Snoop Dogg and Pharrel in the Beautiful video, these steps are iconic in Rio and it is not only visually appealing, it’s a great place to sit, hang out, meet people and people watch. I visited the steps several times as they were just around the corner from my hotel and each and every time there was something that kept me there. Whether it be spotting tiles I’d not seen before, a street performer or just cool people.
This great little neighbourhood near Lapa is great to spot street art and cute cafes. It also offers some pretty great views over the sprawling city. This is a good place to stop off en route or after visiting Christ the Redeemer.
If you like a party and are planning on going to Rio you almost have to go during Carnival time as the place literally comes alive for weeks on end and the celebrations are immense. You can read more about my Carnival experience here. It’s loud, it’s packed, it’s fun, it’s crazy and it’s like no other party you’ve ever attended in your life.
The views offered from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain are pretty iconic and there’s no mistaking exactly where you are once you reach the top.
To get to the top you do need to take a cable car which is an experience in itself. Luckily it doesn’t take too long but it is extremely high up and pretty rickety. You’ll have to dodge the other tourists selfie sticks though as people were taking videos and photos all the way up. Upon arrival at the top look out for these cute monkeys trying to steal your food.
Christ the Redeemer
Another thing to do in Rio is to visit the very famous Christ. It was amazing to see this iconic structure in real life but of course like most tourist attractions is was so busy I could barely enjoy it because of the crowds. Perhaps because I visited during Carnival is was extra busy but I found the whole experience a little bit much as I doubt there is any sort of control over how many people are let in at any one time.
As I am an atheist I was not there for any sort of religious reason but I did of course enjoy the views over the city. I was lucky that it was a clear enough day as I’ve heard reports that some days it’s impossible to see anything! You can spot some of the Olympic stadiums, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Copacabana and the famous favelas.
I must admit though that upon my arrival into Rio on a bus, as soon as I spotted Christ high up on the hill I felt a little giddy in knowing that I’d reached my destination. It is an icon and something to be celebrated.
You can’t go to Rio and not sample this drink which is Brazil’s national cocktail. It consists of cachaca, a lot of sugar and lime and is incredibly potent! During Carnival this drink was readily available everywhere on the street and some vendors even sold it by the pint glass.
No visit to Rio would be complete without visiting this famous beach. Although there was plenty of security and police around I still felt very on edge here because there was SO MANY PEOPLE! But if you are in the market for a new bikini, this is the place! No where else in South America compared to the beautiful bikinis on offer here.
I like Ipanema beach more than Copacabana as it was less crazy and actually more beautiful (in my opinion). It has the iconic huge stones in the distance and you just know you are in Rio as soon as you arrive at the beach. I also love the tune ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ so that song was playing in my head the whole time. It is worth climbing the rock at the end of Ipanema beach for some epic views.
This is the party town in Rio and where I found myself staying for 5 days. If you like to sleep all day and party all night this is the place for you! Huge clubs, outdoor bars and dancing on the street is the norm and it really is mental! If you are staying elsewhere it is worth coming here even just for a night out. The arches in Lapa are a great place to hang out and people watch and see where the party is heading to. Lapa is also home to some of the most beautiful old buildings in the city, just remember to look up.
Weigh your food
There are restaurants all over Rio where by you go in, grab a plate, go around the buffet and pick what you want and then judging by how much it weighs you pay whatever based on the weight. To me this was a totally weird concept but it almost became a challenge who could get their plate to weigh the least but have the best food. Restaurants like this are dotted all over Brazil but we found many of them in Rio.
Another thing you can do…
I didn’t do a favela tour whilst I was there because I personally don’t like the idea of it. I understand the money goes back into the community but I find the concept of walking around a deprived area with a local guide to see how less fortunate people live kinda strange. I’m sure there are some great tours out there but it personally didn’t appeal to me.
Is it safe?
I have to admit that after 5 days in Rio I was happy to be leaving. Absolutely nothing happened to me during my time in Rio but I was definitely on edge a lot of the time. We heard some horror stories from fellow travellers about being robbed at gun point but we made sure to take very little belongings out with us and just try to enjoy our time without brining out our phones all the time. One of the days I did bring my phone, I used it to take a photo and the guy who was serving up our drinks (a local) said put it away, don’t let anyone see that! You just have to keep your wits about you.
In saying that, we met some really lovely locals who tried their very best to speak English when our Portuguese was non existent. One afternoon my ticket wouldn’t work on the metro, a local girl helped me completely with no English. She took me back to the ticket office and explained that mine wasn’t working and to give me another one. She didn’t have to do that, she could’ve walked past me trying to get in the gate but without her help it would have been a tricky situation.