Rio de Janeiro – the name of the city alone evokes images of pristine beaches, lush forests and exciting festivities. Sitting on top of the Corcovado Mountain, Christ the Redeemer watches over Latin America’s two-faced party capital, split between a bustling urban landscape and an exceptional natural setting.
Rio is a city like no other, renowned all over the world for its spectacular New Year fireworks show on Copacabana beach, its unforgettable carnival, its happy people, and its exquisite multicultural cuisine.
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s loveliest city, surrounded by stunning hills and beaches. With its popular beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, many people fly to Rio de Janeiro. Besides that, one can see the most beautiful view of Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara Bay from the top of the Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Along with numerous attractions, the city of Rio is also known for its lively nightlife, which offers a wide variety of bars, pubs, nightclubs, lounges, and nightly live music events. Ultimately the city is a great holiday destination full of timeless sights, long beaches, and the world’s most wild nightlife. Here are the Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro for first-time tourists.
A Trip through History
Rio de Janeiro is renowned for its water, sea, and samba, but there’s little to forget about its vibrant cultural underbelly. The museum scene of Rio combines impressive heritage and innovative contemporary talent through a wide variety of exhibition rooms. Take some time out with these must-visit local museums for a little indoor history.
1. Museu de Republica
From 1897 to 1960, the Catete Palace, which was the seat of the Brazilian government, witnessed some important political and historical events. When Brasilia became the capital, it was officially converted into the ‘Museu de Republica.’ Brazil’s twice-president was at the palace; in 1951 Getulio Vargas committed suicide owing to growing opposition pressure.
The museum contains a display of various artworks and Republican objects like the Vargas gun used to kill himself and the shirt he was wearing at the time. It also houses a bookshop and a film club depicting pieces by famous artists.
2. Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
The National Museum of Fine Arts, (local name Museu Nacional de Belas Artes) is a magnificent museum that houses one of Brazilian art’s most important and extensive collections, with a total of about 20,000 different types of painting, sculpture, and prints on display.
The bulk of the collection is made up of Brazilian paintings and sculptures from the 1800s, while smaller exhibits are devoted to Brazilian folk art and African Art.
3. Museu Histórico Nacional
Museu Histórico Nacional is among Brazil’s most significant museums. The museum is spread over an area of 50,000 square feet and exhibits over 257,000 pieces of art. Aside from permanent exhibits, the museum frequently tells about new and temporary shows when entertaining. For history buffs everywhere, this one is a must-visit.
Know Thy Food
Rio has historically been described as a paradise for meat lovers, but vegetarians are best served these days, as are contemporary Michelin starred gourmets seeking fine dining. In addition to cheap international cuisine and fast food, some of Brazil’s most famous and traditional dishes, such as feijoada and the legendary Brazilian barbecue, are also available to try.
In other words, food is a gateway to a city known both for its staggering deprivation and for its special brand of integration, from its favelas and north and west working-class areas to the Port Zone.
1. Oro Restaurante
Chef Felipe Bronze agreed, after seven years, to reopen his renowned restaurant Oro as something completely different. He left behind the molecular techniques that made him a popular TV host focusing on hearty, rustic, live fire-cooked dishes.
His new kitchen in Leblon is the highlight in the wood-burning oven and a grill that brings out a nightly lineup of shared, eat-with-your-hands dishes on his whimsical tasting menu. The new approach succeeded, Oro became the one and only two-starred restaurant in the area.
2. Feira Nordestina São Cristóvão
The São Cristóvão Feira Nordestina is a huge fair that embraces everything to do with Bahian culture. It is a wonderland for souvenir buying, with hundreds of stalls selling Bahian goods and food, and provides a peek into northeastern Brazil’s life. For those trying to eat on a budget, this is also an excellent option.
Hundreds of food and drink stalls make this a great place to sample authentic, spicy regional cuisine including many seafood options. If you get your chops around the chili peppers and pepper sauces offered here, you’ll forget the accusation that Brazilian food can be bland.
Alberto Landgraf moved to Rio after winning recognition as one of São Paulo’s best chefs and took his time to find out his next move. Finally, the answer is Oteque where Landgraf takes his commitment to quality ingredients to an even higher level.
Landgraf is a very careful cook and his degustation menus show that, with imaginative dishes, detailed techniques, flavor layers, and purposeful textures. The restaurant also provides excellent service and one of the country’s best drinking programs, based on natural wines.
4. Bar Astor
Most of Rio’s beachside bars are a wet-bathing suit and sandy-feet affair, but in the plush booths and cool lighting at Bar Astor, you’ll find diners in both spy movie apparel and breezy beachwear.
Astor has established a citywide reputation for its cocktails, oysters, and mussels in a prime position at the tail end of Ipanema. Oxtail with polenta and pork-and-black-bean stew is more decadent at its weekend specials. Travel next door to the dim lights of Barreto-Londra bar in the trendy Fasano hotel to complete the Carmen Sandiego vibe.
A Night to Remember
Rio nightlife is usually very relaxed. Most Cariocas are going out in shorts and Havaianas. There’s no need to dress up too much so mostly. Lapa is the most well-known party district, and it gets busy on weekends.
Rio de Janeiro has an unrivaled nightlife reputation, but discovering it is not as straightforward as it seems. Rio has everything from underground samba shows to multi-floor nightclubs-you just need to know where to look.
Easy to miss but worth checking out, this artsy cultural center is where cool children mingle, dance, and share ice-cold beer bottles. It combines a studiously informal hipster aesthetic with an impressive roster of DJ sets with an art gallery, outside terrace and regular themed music and art nights.
This trendy spot is also known as the place for really good burgers-local food and beverage magazines rates it as the best in town, and customers seem to agree with Comuna. If you want to try them for yourself, get here early in the evening after 11 pm things get too crowded for a quick meal.
2. Bar Astor
Bar Astor is a casual beach bar, based on typical botecos (local bars), they’re moving it up a little bit. Glass walls offer a stunning view of Ipanema Bay. Their staple, including five versions of it, is the gin and tonic, and they deliver a modern take on Brazilian cuisine.
Originally a brand called São Paulo, the bar came to Rio and set high expectations for elegant, fashionable bars. Head there to enjoy a new version of the award-winning beer chopps and classic Brazilian snacks.
3. Bar do Mineiro
Set in the heart of bohemian Santa Teresa, Bar do Mineiro is one of the most popular hangouts in the neighborhood. Its black and white photographs lined up behind the counter on the walls and the rows of spirits, the venue makes you feel at home easily. Go to their popular feijoada for lunch and feast before spending a fun afternoon sipping cold beers and chatting with locals.
Built on two levels, the club has one with a dance floor and the other with a wide VIP area, including a smoking balcony with a clear view of the imposing Christ statue. Every night, Rio’s biggest DJs serve an affluent and glamorous audience with heart-beating electronic soundtracks, which often include well-dressed carioca’s.
5. The Week Rio
Centro is the home of Rio de Janeiro’s biggest and most LGBT oriented venues. One of these nightlife locations is Week Rio, and it has two dance floors with space for 2,000 people.
The Week Rio is the ideal place to wear your fanciest outfit and tackle the night in a warm, liberal city, full of color and riddled with fancy dress. With parties never-ending before 9 am, it’s one of the craziest nightclubs in town, anything-goes.
Don’t Miss A Spot!
There’s no shortage of iconic and exciting sights in Rio de Janeiro between its giddy blend of busy urban life and natural wonders, from majestic monuments to long stretches of world-famous beaches.
During its existence, Rio seemed to be conscious of its physical assets – the steep mountains behind it, Sugarloaf soaring over its harbor and distinguishing buildings from every age in its past, with a large supply in urban parks and spaces. Explore the best the city has to give in Rio de Janeiro with these top attractions one shouldn’t miss.
1. Christ the Redeemer
Christ’s colossal statue overlooking the city from Corcovado’s 709-meter summit is almost as commonly recognized as an emblem of Rio as Sugarloaf’s distinctive form. Between 1922 and 1931 the world-famous icon was erected, funded almost entirely by Brazilian Catholic donations.
The Art Deco statue was created by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski and built-in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. The figure itself, made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, is 30 meters tall with arms stretching 28 meters- it weighs 635 metric tons.
You would see this monument on a guided Early Access to Christ Redeemer Statue with Optional Sugarloaf Mountain Tour without the regular crowds and by the early morning sun. For more amazing views, a tour upgrade includes a cable car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain.
2. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is perhaps the most famous natural phenomenon of Rio, a peak that rises 296 meters at the mouth of Guanabara Bay and faces the vast Atlantic Ocean. Among a few of the several monolithic granite and quartz mountains in the area, this one is known for its panoramic city views.
A glass cablecar runs every 20 minutes along a 1400-meter path between the peaks of Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca, offering a stunning 360-degree view of the cityscape surrounding it. Take notice that tickets are being sold at the Praia Vermehla station and that one of the most beautiful times of the day is at sunset to visit this magnificent creation.
Few towns are blessed with a beautiful sandy beach at their center, let alone one that stretches for four kilometers along one side of their city. Only a few steps from its golden sands are Avenida Atlântica, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, and the smaller neighboring streets where you can find beautiful century-old houses, fine hotels, and famous restaurants and cafés.
Copacabana Beach remains a firm favorite among today’s travelers. During the day, the beach is busy with action, as sports fans, beachgoers, live bands and beach vendors all jostle at peak hours for space.
4. Escadaria Selarón
Escadaria Selarón is one of the city’s most frequented attractions and it’s easy to see why. The eye-popping mosaics are Jorge Selarón’s touching tribute to the Brazilian people, consisting of 215 colorful steps leading up from the Rua Joaquim Silva. As an excentric side-project, the Chilean-born artist started renovating the ravaged steps in front of his house back in 1990.
Yet then it became an obsession to cover the steps with pieces of blue, green, and yellow tiles and ceramics. These are still a work in progress today and bear roots from more than 60 countries around the world.
Visiting Rio makes you feel like returning somewhere. A home that looks different than normal, but they didn’t realize it existed where anyone could reunite with a part of themselves.
Among the multitude of activities available, the places to be explored, and the people to meet, the throbbing Rio de Janeiro is capable of fulfilling the needs and expectations of all, providing inadvertently a tailor-made experience.
Which are your favorite Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro? Let us know in the comments.