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Top 5 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

Street art in Rio de Janeiro (photo: Craig Martin)

Colorful street art in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the planet's top places to party, but there's something here for everyone — not just those who like to stay up all night.

A Rio de Janeiro travel guide will have a lot more detail, but here's some of my favorite things to get you started.

Drinking from a coconut on Copacabana (photo: Craig Martin)

Drinking from a coconut on Copacabana

1. Beaches

Might as well just put that out there to begin! The city's odd geography means that there are plenty to choose from, including the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

In summer, you'll want to have more than just one drink at one of the many beach bars — though it's a good idea to limit the alcohol.

Coconut juice drunk straight out of a chilled green coconut is the prefect choice for a hydrating drink on a sweltering day — it's cheap, refreshing, and naturally packaged!

Each beach has its own strictly delimited neighborhoods – so if you don't like where you are, walk 200 meters and the people will change.

It's also refreshing to see that people of all body types are welcome on Rio's beaches; you'll see people of every size and shape sunbathing, swimming, or playing beach volleyball. So if you have a bit of a hang up about your body, this might be a good place for you to come.

2. Sugar Loaf

One of Rio's iconic symbols, the Sugar Loaf Brazil rock formation dominates the skyline.

It's possible to hike to the top, or — as most people do — take the cable car.

Completely renovated at the turn of the century, the anti-glare windows provide spectacular views during the two stages of the ride.

After you reach the top, you'll find a stunning 360 degree panorama of the city and ocean.

The Selarón Steps (photo: Craig Martin)

The Selarón Steps

3. Selarón Steps

In the suburb of Lapa, you will find one of the city's most interesting sites: The Selarón Steps.

A Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón, who lived in one of the houses off the steps, started decorating them with tiles and bits of broken crockery in 1990.

Today almost every square centimeter of the steps and their surrounding walls are decorated in a striking mosaic, and until recently the artist himself was a common feature of any visit there.

He was found dead in rather mysterious circumstances on the steps in January 2013: a sad end to a life dedicated to art.

Christ the Redeemer statue (photo: Craig Martin)

Christ the Redeemer statue

4. Christ the Redeemer

Perched on the top of Rio's highest hill, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is unmissable, whether you visit it or not — except in terrible weather, Jesus is visible from most parts of the city.

It's worth the effort of getting to the top, whether you go by foot, public transport, or private tour. The views are amazing and you can get the almost-obligatory photo of yourself with your arms out like the Rio de Janeiro Jesus.

If you fancy a slightly different view of the statue and the city, helicopter trips take off from about a kilometer south of the summit… Definitely not suitable for a backpacker's budget.

5. Santa Teresa

After the beaches (yes, all of the beaches!) my favorite spot to relax with a drink is Santa Teresa. Street art, cafes, galleries and the remains of a tram system that's been shut down since 2011.

The narrow streets are perfect for exploring though — head uphill until you find a café you like the look of, recuperate with a beverage of choice, then take your time heading back down.

I'm hoping to head back to Rio de Janeiro one day… What else should I see next visit?


This post was written by Craig Martin, and brought to you by

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Thursday 8th of January 2015

I have never been to your beautiful country and city. I am a gay man looking for friends in foreign countrys and hoping there are others our there that are interested in meeting a fellow Canadian.

Please touch base if you can forward me to an appropriate web site. I am not looking for a date, rather friendship.

Kind Regards, Wayne


Wednesday 8th of July 2015

Hey Wayne! How are you doing? It will be a pleasure to show you around Rio. Please make contact: [email protected]. Take care.

Gareth Leonard

Wednesday 26th of March 2014

If you time it correctly, you can hit all of these attractions up in one day too. You start with Christ the Redeemer in the morning and then make your way from Copacabana to Ipanema beach to enjoy the sun, eat lunch and relax. At around 4pm you head to Sugar Loaf mountain to watch the amazing sunset over Rio and then you head up to Santa Teresa for dinner. From there you can walk down to the Selarón Steps where locals play music and drink. That's one great day in Rio!


Wednesday 26th of March 2014

Sounds like an excellent way to spend my first day in Rio! Looking ahead to 2015...hoping to squeeze it in between the World Cup and Olympics.


Monday 23rd of September 2013

I had been robbed at Santa Teresa during my last visit to Rio. But it never replace my faith and love to Rio, such a lovely city, with lovely peoples! =)

Ivan Taptrip

Thursday 19th of September 2013

Great list! I agree with the five points and would add Lapa as a good option for nightlife! ;)

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

Thursday 5th of September 2013

I agree with all 5! :)

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