1. Watch the sunset from the rocks at Arpoador
At the end of a beautiful day, join the Cariocas on the rocks as the sun sets over the mountains. You’ll usually be joined by many others who will clap as the sun disappears over the mountain. What a better way to celebrate the beauty than clapping, right? Although many people leave after this, the most beautiful colors come in the 30 minutes afterwards. Arpoador is located near the General Osorio metro station.
2. Visit Vila Autódromo, the favela evicted for the Olympic Games
Once a vibrant community of 700 families to the right side of the Olympic Park, Vila Autódromo now has just 20 families left. While visiting the games, don’t shy away from the realities and side effects of what has happened because of the Olympics. Visit this incredibly strong and resistant community to learn their history and appreciate the incredible struggle they went through. To learn more about what happened, check out the lengthy history on RioOnWatch.org or the many other articles written about it, or this really great Vox explainer video. To get to Vila Autódromo, just walk right to the very end of the Olympic park. You won’t see much since it was basically destroyed, but you can still visit and respect the history of what was lost.
3. See the view from the wall at Urca while drinking a beer from the Bar da Urca
A great and highly underrated view of the city that is *almost* as good as Sugarloaf, but much less crowded. Try the local beers of Antartica or Skol. To get to Urca, you’re best bet will be taking the metro to Botafogo station and walking or taking an Uber.
4. Take a walking tour to learn about the Port Region’s deep history
Did you know Rio was the biggest slave port in world history? Use this self-guided walking tour to explore the often-silenced history of Rio. Currently, there are projects being built like the Museum of Tomorrow, the Museum of Rio Art and a large aquarium that are looking forward without quite paying respect to Rio’s past. Visit the Pedra do Sal, the Institute of the New Blacks, the Valongo and the Praça XV to learn about Rio’s complicated story. To get to the Port Region, take the Metro to Uruguaiana or Presidente Vargas.
5. Eat Açai and cheese bread at Cultivar, and a “cafezinho” (little coffee) at Cafecito after spending an afternoon strolling around Santa Teresa
Rio’s “Bohemian” neighborhood is full of cute shops and great restaurants that are perfect for spending a relaxing afternoon and early evening exploring. Cultivar, a small local restaurant, has arguably the best Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) in town. To get there, head to the Gloria metro stop and walk or take a moto-taxi for a more *memorable* experience.
6. Learn the rich history of Rio’s favelas by taking a community led tour
Rio has over 1000 favelas that are extremely different and unique. Often times, “Favela” is translated into “slum”, however this translation does not accurately represent the diversity, innovation, and creativity that exists in these neighborhoods, some of which are over 100 years old! Don’t be an idiot and take a jeep tour through them. Rather, find a local, community-led option to learn about the real history and realities of what goes on in these places. For a quick overview of what a favela is, read here. For a general list of community-led tours, check out this page, or go directly to tours in Tourano, Santa Marta, Cabritos, or Vale Encantado.
7. On Monday, head to Samba at Pedra do Sal in Centro
This is a great spot to see Samba. It will give you another opportunity to appreciate the Port Region and see how the space has been reclaimed from a place of misery, when millions of slaves traversed the steps, to celebration, with the cultural Samba music.
8. Choose a “barraca” in Lapa to have a tapioca and caipirinha at night
For your night out in Lapa, you have many choices of “barracas” (stands) to choose from. Your choice is important! The key is to find the stands that give you a 500ml caipirinha for R$5 ($1.25), which will surely knock you on your butt after two of them. Also, try the stuffed tapiocas, which can be either sweet or savory, to experience something new (and that will probably help your inevitable hangover). To get to Lapa, take the metro to the Cinelandia station and then walk.
9. Take a stroll through Parque Lage
A very famous tourist attraction in Rio, but definitely a recommended excursion with a significant other. On a sunny day you get amazing views of Cristo, but the lush forested grounds are also fun to explore. Don’t forget to see the duck pond, the small cavern, and the aquarium. To get there, the only really viable way is by taxi or Uber. Best of all, it’s free!
10. Hike up to Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) for the best view in Rio
This is arguably the best view in Rio. Although TripAdvisor says it is only a “moderate” hike, be prepared with appropriate clothes and shoes because it is harder than it looks. If you are REALLY adventurous, try and get here for sunrise. To get here, take a taxi to the community of Vidigal. From the public square at the base of the community, you can take a moto-taxi or a kombi (white Volkswagen van) to the top. From there, just follow the people or ask a resident. If you don’t know Portuguese, just pop into a local store and point at the massive rock above you. On your way down, walk through the community and get a snack or an açai!
12. Search for events on Facebook to see what is going on around you
A major pro-tip in Brazil is that everyone uses Facebook to find events. From small events to large concerts or demonstrations, start perusing the “events near you” option and seeing what you discover. It will be worth your time.
13. Visit the Fair of the Paraíbas in São Cristóvão to experience the food and music of the Northeast of Brazil
For those of you who haven’t been to Brazil before, well, it’s HUGE. This means there is a huge amount of regional diversity as well. The fair in São Cristóvão represents the culture of the Northeast of Brazil, which has significantly different food, customs and dance. Be prepared to hear some of their typical music: forró! Additionally, this is a great place to try snacks and get souvenirs as well. To get here, either take a taxi/Uber or take the green line of the metro to the São Cristóvão station and then take a taxi/Uber.
14. Watch the sunset from Sugarloaf mountain
Although Cristo is great, Sugarloaf is one of the best places to view the city. Since it is not THAT tall, there is still a sense of scope. The first hill is more relaxed and has places to eat and sit. The taller hill has a better view and is a great place to watch the sunset. However, it is currently under renovations so the space is limited.
15. Visit Grumari beach to escape Rio’s hustle and bustle
Though it is a little far from Copacabana and Ipanema, this beach is actually not far from the Olympic park. It is beautiful and relatively easy to get to and probably won’t have the craziness of the other beaches (and probably cleaner water).
16. Take a new profile picture at the Selaron steps in Lapa
It will probably get a lot of likes. You can also find cool tiles to take pictures with. It connects Lapa with Santa Teresa, so to get there you can take the metro to Cinelandia and walk or get a taxi/Uber to Lapa.
17. Walk around the Lagoa
To be honest, the Lagoa doesn’t have many interesting attractions except that it is beautiful. You can get there from the General Osorio metro or by a taxi. It is close to the botanical gardens, Parque Lage, Leblon, Ipanema, Gavea and Copacabana.
18. Of course, visit Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
It is going to be madness. There are going to be thousands of people trying to go. You will have to wait in crazy lines to get up. However, you have to at least try. As one of the 7 New Wonders of the World, you can’t miss seeing Cristo. With all the craziness that is Rio de Janeiro, he seems to be constantly watching. He is part of the reason everyone seems to fall a little bit in love with Rio every time they visit. Bem-vindo à Cidade Maravilhosa!
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