City meets beach town all with the Brasilian culture mixed in? Yes please. Rio quickly exceeded all of my expectations. I arrived to the view below and immediately felt like l needed someone to pinch me (or maybe even slap me). It felt so unreal to get to really experience the view I’d seen countless times in pictures.
I’ve been to Rio three separate times so far during my time in Brasil. The first was with my best friend when she was visiting. The second was with my boyfriend and another couple that came to visit us. The most recent was just for a day with my boyfriend on our way to Buzios. If it was up to me, I would have stayed several weeks in this stunning city. The enthusiasm of the Cariocas, aka Rio residents, is contagious. From the bikers and joggers lining the beach all day to the locals on the streets outside of bars, I loved the energy in Rio. The difference of Rio’s economic classes is dramatic and is very evident throughout the city. In the photo above you can see a favela (or a Brasilian slum) in the distance. Almost any view in the city will contain a reminder of the difference in lifestyles that exist in Rio.
Rio has been high on my list of places to visit for some time and I will undoubtedly want to visit again. Whether you’re planning a trip for the upcoming Olympic games or just for travel and fun, Rio is a wonderful destination. Continue reading for my Rio recap and travel guide. It will ensure you have a wonderful time and get a great mix of the local and tourist attractions.
Let’s start by breaking down Rio.
- Centro: Rio’s financial district that has both modern high-rises and older but beautiful architecture.
- Catete & Gloria: two largely residential areas, which house some beautiful palaces and older residences.
- Flamengo & Botafogo: middle class neighborhoods known for their rival soccer teams. Parque de Flamengo is a big attraction for outdoor exercisers. Botafogo has some of the city’s best independently owned restaurants & bars.
- Santa Teresa: many of the older mansions that line Santa Teresa have been transformed into guest houses or boutique hotels. There are also a number of restaurants, galleries, and stores.
- Lapa: the transformation of this area from a no-go to a must-go has been dramatic. We’re lucky it’s changed because Lapa has some of the best nightlife in the city.
- Urca: mainly residential, but also contains the famous Sugar Loaf mountain and a good beach for sunbathing.
- Sao Conrado & Barra da Tijuca: full of mansions, high rises, and shopping. Also has some calmer beaches.
- Jardim Botanico, Gavea, Lagoa, Cosme Velho: beautiful scenery in middle class residential neighborhoods.
- Ipanema: streets lined with trees, restaurants, condos, boutiques, and bars. Gorgeous beaches perfect for sunbathing and people watching with an amazing view of Dois Irmaos mountains.
- Leblon: an affluent neighborhood filled with some of the city’s most popular restaurants and trendy spots. Leblon’s beaches are popular with families.
- Copacabana: the largest tourist attraction and most crowded beaches.
You will likely be traveling between the neighborhoods to see all of Rio’s attractions, so it’s important to know your options for getting around the city.
My preferred method of travel around city was walking the beaches or close distances during the day. Otherwise, I took cabs. I always took cabs at night to ensure safety.
Cars are available to rent, but traffic jams are common Rio. Plus, driving in the city of Rio would be very scary. Drivers don’t always stop at red lights, drive extremely close to one another, swerve between lanes, and cut others off. Not to mention parking would be difficult.
Public transportation is available in Rio including the growing shuttle system, the subway, and buses. Local buses have a fixed price and can take you anywhere you want to go. If using public transportation, be especially aware of your surroundings.
I am always overly cautious when traveling and try to stay aware of my surroundings, but a few tips include:
- Don’t wear nice jewelry or watches.
- Watch out for children who may get very close to you (especially when in groups) and offer you shoe shining or items to buy. One may try to distract you while another steals your belongings and then disappears into a crowd.
- Leave your passport & large sums of money in a safe where you are staying. You can use a copy of your passport or other form of picture ID when out in the city as needed. Most business take credit and debit cards. We brought cash primarily for taxi rides, as not all drivers accept cards.
- Take cabs at night.
- If you haven’t negotiated a flat rate with a cab driver, ensure the meter is on.
- Put your camera and cell phones out of site when you aren’t using them. When you are, always keep a tight grip on them when in busy public places.
THINGS TO DO
A lot of the tourist attractions are best seen when the sky is clear, as the views are a large part of the experience. If the sky is clear and the sun is shining, plan to spend some time visiting the major attractions. If you are short on time in Rio, there are a few city tours that will allow you to easily see a number of attractions in one day. If you have a little more time in Rio, you can take a more relaxed approach. There were a few cloudy or rainy days when I was in Rio and I still had a wonderful time. Don’t let the weather get you down even if it is not perfect. You can still experience a number of things that make Rio wonderful on rainy days!
- Sugarloaf Mountain: take the cable car up to see the beautiful views from this mountain in Urca. The first stop is Morro da Urca, a smaller mountain. After spending some time here continue up to Pao de Acucar. The cable cars hold about 75 people and each trip takes about three minutes. You can buy tickets online first or you can take your chances with waiting in line. Rides occur daily from 8:00 in the morning until 7:50 in the evening.
- I would recommend going to Sugarloaf before Corcovado. Sugarloaf is not as high and the view may not be as dramatic if you experience it second to Corcovado. Sugarloaf has some shops, bars, and small kiosks with food, as well as a restaurant. I think the best time to go would be to see the sunset on your first evening in the city.
- Corcovado: The amazing Christ the Reedemer statue, which is one of the new seven world wonders, sits on top of this 2,300 foot-high mountain. There are three ways to reach the top to see the over 700 ton statue: by train, by minibus, or by foot. However, the latter is not recommended without a guide. We chose the train and bought our tickets online here.
- The hours are listed as 8:00 in the morning to 7:00 in the evening each day with trains running every 30 minutes. The first available time online to buy a ticket is listed as 9:00. However, if you arrive early to where the train departs, you’ll learn that one leaves earlier around 8:40. Board the train by getting in the first possible car and sitting on the left side closest to the door you entered. This will 1) ensure you are the first off the train and the first to get on an elevator up to see the statue and 2) ensure you can see all the beautiful views on the train ride up. It gets busy quick, as there is no limit to how long people can stay at the top. Plus, trains are continually running to bring up more people. There are stores and cafes at the top, so many choose to stay and hang out for awhile, only adding to the crowd. If you wait until later in the afternoon to go, it will make it extremely difficult to get your perfect shot with the statue. Even though we were some of the first up to the top, it made it very challenging for us to continue to take pictures once the second train arrived.
- Escadaria Selaron: located in Lapa, this staircase has tiles from all around the world. It is the work of Chilean painter Selaron, who began working on the staircase in 1990. He was found tragically murdered at the top in 2013. I’d recommend going during the day to get bright photos. We went early one weekday morning and with the exception of a few locals walking to work, the stairs were relatively empty. It’s suggested not to venture too far at the top, as the neighborhood can be a little dangerous. Walking up the stairs you see all the gorgeous colorful tiles, but on the way down they look like everyday stairs. *Fun fact: Snoop Dogg & Pharell shot the video for their song ‘Beautiful’ at the stairs. Watch it here.
For more pictures of the stairs, check out my outfit post here.
- Mirante Dona Marta: this is a quiet place that provides gorgeous views of all of Rio. You can take a helicopter ride from the top or just spend some time and enjoy the views. We took a taxi to the top. However, they aren’t plentiful once you’re up there, so I’d recommend having them wait while you spend your time there. You can also do a city tour with this as a stop so you ensure you have a ride back down. Mirante Dona Marta will allow you to have a peaceful moment admiring the Christ the Redeemer statue like this:
- Hike Dois Irmaos: the trail up the Two Brothers Mountain starts at the top of the Vidigal favela. You start by taking a taxi to the favela. Then you take eithe a van or moto-taxi (less than $1 USD) through the favela to the starting point of the hike. From the top you’ll have amazing views of the south of the city including Leblon, Ipanema, Lagoa, and Christ the Redeemer. The view gives you a totally different perspective than at Sugarloaf or Corcovado Mountain. You will also see The Tijuca Forest, Vidigal, Rocinha (the largest favelas in the country), the Cagarras Islands, as well as the immense Atlantic Ocean. A guide is not required to do this hike, which is a promising sign for Rio since not too long ago it would have been too dangerous. If you feel you need a guide, there is a group called Trilha Dois Irmaos who are from Vidigal. They grew up hiking the mountain and speak some English. The trip with the guides average about 4.5 hours total or you can ride through the favela, hike, and get back in a little over 2 hours on your own.
- Hangliding: start by running off Pedra Bonita Mountain and then glide above the Tijuca Forest. You can have photos or video taken of your flight for extra. Multiple companies offer hang gliding experiences, but two highly rated companies include:
- Jardim Botanico: this beautiful 340 acre garden has more than 5,000 species of tropical plants and trees and 140 species of birds. A highlight inside is The Avenue of Royal Palms, an 800 yard double row of 134 royal palm trees. The grounds also contain a museum, a library, two small cafes, and a gift shop. It is open from 8:00 to 5:00 daily and entry is R$6.
- Bike Rio: Rio has a citywide bike sharing system that is a great way to see the city, as there are many bike lanes running throughout. There are numerous rental stations along the beach and other bike-friendly locations. Daily passes are R$5.
- Joquei Clube: this beautiful racetrack has views of distant beaches, as well as Christ the Redeemer and Dois Irmaos mountain. Grande Premio in August is the biggest event of the year and will attract large crowds dressed in their best. Whenever you go, make sure you leave your shorts or flip flops at home, as they are not allowed. Entry is free year round. They also have a well rated on-site restaurant if you want to eat while watching and betting on the races.
- Attend a soccer game at Estadio Maracana: this 78,000+ person stadium underwent major renovations for the 2014 World Cup. Attend games in season from January-November. Tickets are available in advance or on the day of a game at the stadium’s ticket office and cost around R$35. Arrive early to grab good seats. Also, consider sitting in the branco, or white section of the upper tier for the safest, neutral fan seats.
Doing all the above, plus some local bars (keep reading) and the beach would leave me feeling completely content with my Rio experience. However, I know some people like a little history when they are traveling so a few more options (especially for a rainy day) include:
- Theatro Municipal: located in Centro, this theater is modeled after the Paris Opera House. It has beautiful marble, mosaics, chandeliers, statues, mirrors, and stained glass windows. The decor becomes more simple as you reach the upper floors, which is symbolic of when classes were separated. It is also due to the use of all the funds for the project prior to it’s completion. Guided tours are available Tuesday-Friday each hour from 11:00 to 4:00 and on Saturdays at 11:00, 1:00 and 9:00 in the evening. Tours are R$10. Check the website for scheduling if you are interested in a dance performance or concert. After your tour, stop by Confeitaria Colombo, a nearby cafe with delicious pastries that has been around for over 120 years.
- Forte de Copacabana & Museo Historico do Exercito: located in Copacabana, this fort and military history museum housed political prisoners during Brasil’s military dictatorship in the 60’s and 70’s. The fort itself is a site to see, but the archway at the entrance also gives a perfect view of Sugar Loaf. There is also a cafe on site that has good coffee, pastries, and desserts. It’s open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 to 6:00 and entry is R$6.
- Fundacao Planetario: Rio’s planetarium is a great option for those interested in astronomy or traveling with kids. It’s also a good option if you are needing something to do outside of shopping or sipping caipirinhas on a rainy day. There is an interactive museum, Museu do Universo, that goes through the history of space exploration. The planetarium is open Tuesday-Friday from 9:00 to 5:00. Sky gazing is available on open evenings from 7:30 to 9:30, also. Entry is R$16 for the planetarium and museum. *Tickets are 1/2 price on weekends.
The main attraction in Rio, as you have some of the greatest people watching and views possible. Kiosks and vendors can be found all along the beaches. The lifeguard stations at each posto have restrooms you can use for a very small fee. You can rent chairs and umbrellas from stands all along the beach, also. Most of them will keep a running tab that you can settle before you leave at the end of the day.
- Ipanema: my personal favorite, this beach is lively and was perfect for experiencing Rio. Soccer, volleyball, and other activities on the beach provide great people watching. Families tend to congregate near Posto 10, the gay community tends to cluster near Posto 8, and in between you will find a good mix of relaxation and fun at Posto 9. (See below for more on chair rentals and beach food at Posto 9)
- Copacabana: this famous beach has quite a lot of activity, much of which is from tourists. It’s absolutely worth a visit to see this area, but I’d recommend you visit during the day. I thought it was best seen as we went to have a few cocktails at the famous Copacabana Palace beachfront hotel on Avenida Atlantica.
- Leblon: while Leblon has great restaurants and nightlife, their beaches are usually occupied by families and the water is not always great for swimming.
- Flamengo: a small beach that is best for a walk or run early in the morning.
- Botafogo: the most polluted beach, but it provides a gorgeous view of the sunrise.
- Vermelha: at the bottom of Sugar Loaf, this is one of the safest beaches in the city for sunbathing. However, the water is not always clean for swimming.
- Leme: an extension of Copacabana, this beach is in a quiet cove that is less crowded than it’s neighbor.
- Diabo: a small beach that is popular with surfers due to it’s large waves.
- Arpoador: where Ipanema meets Copacabana, this beach has great waters for surfers. It often has fewer vendors than it’s neighbors, providing a good spot for undisturbed sunbathing.
- Vidigal: a calm beach next to the favela it is named after. It is next to the Sheraton hotel and is practically a private beach for hotel guests these days.
- Sao Conrado: Rio’s safest beach as it is often empty during the week, but crowded on weekends and holidays. The sun setting over Gavea Rock is also gorgeous.
- Barra: the each at Barra da Tijuca is considered by some locals to be the best.
- Bandeirantes: popular with families as it is calm and quiet.
- Prainha: a large beach that is popular with surfers.
- Grumari: a little bit of paradise, but lacks some amenities.
My rainy day activity of choice, until cocktail hour of course.
- Beach kiosks & vendors: everything from jewelry to paintings to beach towels (my personal favorite souvenir) is sold along the beach. Vendors will come up to you repeatedly and offer you various items. If you aren’t interested just say “Nao, Obgrigada/Obrigado” (No, thank you) and look away. If you give them the slightest hint that you are interested, they will continue to try to sell you. Prices are generally negotiable, so don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal!
- Salinas: the popular bikini brand has locations throughout Brasil. But, what trip to Rio is complete without purchasing a bikini from the country that wears them so well? Don’t worry, they aren’t all as teeny as you may imagine. Salinas also has so really great jewelry, beach bags, and coverups.
- Lenny: another popular bikini brand that is now available in many stores globally. However, I think it’s far more fun to purchase it when you can walk down to the Brasilian beaches that inspired the designs to wear your new bikini.
- Havainas: the best beach flip flops ever are a Brasilian staple. If you don’t have a pair already, they make a perfect souvenir. You’ll use them on beach trips for years to come.
- Foxton: menswear store with linen and beach shirts.
- If you are in Rio on Sunday, head to the Feira Hippie de Ipanema. This art fair happens weekly, rain or shine, and includes a number of stands selling various items. Don’t be afraid to price haggle here, also!
- There are also several malls including:
- Shopping Village Mall on Avenida das Americas
- Shopping Leblon on Avenida Afranio de Mello
The nightlife is a must when experiencing Rio. It is so fun and we met so many wonderful, friendly locals along the way. I can tell you from experience that these spots also make great rainy day escapes! Especially if you have shopped yourself out and do not want to visit any indoor tourist destinations.
- Jobi: located in Leblon, this bar is one of my top ten favorite bars in the world. You read that right. I visited Jobi almost every day when I was in Rio. It was repeatedly recommended and after going I know exactly why. It is a local gem that now holds such a dear place in my heart. Go early to get a table or act like a local and stand out on the street. The workers are wearing precious white shirts and bow ties and are as friendly as can be. The drinks are delicious and ever-flowing, the crowd is fun and welcoming, and the food is outstanding at any hour of the day. The filet sandwiches were so good as a snack one night, I continued to order more. Jobi stays open on weekends until the last customer is standing (or sitting). If you’re especially early in the day, or just need a little help staying awake, they also have very good coffee.
- Rio Scenarium: located in Centro, this bar is a must. Despite it’s popularity with tourists, this three level bar still keeps the locals coming back for samba and great live music. The decor is colorful and one of a kind, as this bar is located inside a former junk shop. This bar is so fun, The Guardian of Britain named Rio Scenarium one of the 10 best bars in the world. Go early to avoid lines on weekends.
- Fasano bar: If you don’t stay or eat at this hotel, stop by for a drink and to see the beautifully modern decor. Baretto-Londra in the Fasano hosts DJs and live music that mixes a pub atmosphere with rock and roll. Named by Wallpaper Magazine as the world’s best hotel bar, this bar is a must to try one of their award-winning cocktails. They are open Thursday-Saturday evenings.
- Academia da Cachaca: a must, especially for a caipirinha. This bar has almost 100 brands of cachaca, sold by the glass or bottle, as well as mixing them into delicious cocktails beyond the famous caipirinha. Try a frozen drink that mixes frozen coconut, coconut water, brown sugar, and cachaca. Enjoy the beautiful Brasilian flag made from confetti on the ceiling as you sip your cocktails. Also, enjoy some of their good bar-style snacks if you get hungry between drinks.
- Copacabana Palace bar: We wanted to see this iconic hotel during the day, so we stopped by for a drink on our rainy day in Rio. If you don’t stay or eat at one of their restaurants, stopping by for a drink will give you the opportunity to explore a little. The decor is traditional and elegant. Plus, the pool is a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon cocktail or snack.
- Belmonte: the original is near Parque do Flamengo, but now there are several locations you can visit around the city. This bar is a Carioca favorite.
- Bar D’Hotel: located in Ipanema, this hotel bar has a beautiful sea view and serves up some nice cocktails and food.
- Bar Garota de Ipanema: the original Garota where the song “The Girl from Ipanema” was born.
- Bip Bip: located in Copacabana, the only table in this bar is where you’ll find musicians sitting and playing instruments. It has a help yourself to beer policy and a relaxed but lively vibe.
- Bar Bacernese: one of the most well known bars in the city, this spot located in Leblon is a local favorite with a laid back vibe. They have good bar snacks as well. Try the dumplings with shrimp and cheese or the pork sandwich.
- Palaphitas: located by the Jockey Club, this is a good spot for hanging out on Thursdays and Sundays.
- Miranda: located in the Lagoon Complex near the Jockey Club, this bar has live music that often features everything from jazz to 80’s Brasilian rock. This is a perfect place for those who want to sit and relax while listening to music.
- Miroir: good DJs with music you can dance to all night long. The party goes til sunrise, so it doesn’t start getting crowded until around 2:00 in the morning.
- 00: Zero Zero is located in the Gavea Planetarium. A revolving door connects the spaces that include an outdoor garden with a seating area and a dance floor. It starts as a sushi bar and restaurant. The music gradually starts to get louder and the dancing goes until 5:00 in the morning.
- Carioca da Gema: located in Lapa, this is a favorite for samba enthusiasts and has live music 6 nights a week. It’s crowded by 11:00. If you’re hungry after all the dancing, there’s a good pizza parlor downstairs.
- Pink Elephant: located in Barra de Tijuca, this 800 person club is the same world-known brand as the popular NYC location. Their biggest night is Thursday. While they have a lot of electronic music, they also feature hip-hop and pop.
- Nuth: located in Barra de Tijuca, this club is a mixture of a restaurant, lounge, stage show, and dance floor offering varied entertainment all in one place.
- Melt: once THE club in Ipanema, this club now attracts a varied crowd but hosts a wide range of live music. Samba night is on Tuesday.
This foodie considers where and what to eat very important when visiting a new city. I cross reference a number of recommendations and reviews before choosing my dining options. While I can never quite cross every place I want to try off my list, but I can share them all with you so you have a variety of options when visiting. You don’t have to have reservations, but I’d recommend them. Especially if you plan on eating during prime dining time, as many of the restaurants below will have wait lists.
- Zaza Bistro Tropical: I ate at this Ipanema gem during two of my three visits to Rio. I would have gone back the third if I had time. Myself or those I dined with didn’t order any of the same dishes, so I got to try a number of things on the menu. Everything was absolutely amazing. The decor inside is eclectic but charming and the service was attentive.
As my entrees I had organic chicken curry and then braised lamb with potato ravioli. I will 100% be trying to recreate this amazing coconut curry when I get back home to Texas.
Those I dined with had organic balsamic chicken, tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, seafood noodles, and lobster with risotto. I’m sure glad that none of them have a problem with sharing food, because I tried everything and it was all delicious.
- Zuka: this trendy Leblon restaurant has a great atmosphere and a varied menu. My friend and I split the garlic-bread crusted shrimp with lemon risotto and a hamburger with a salad and french fries. We got our surf and turf fixes and were extremely happy with both entrees.[ezcol_1half][/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end][/ezcol_1half_end]
- Fasano Al Mare: located in the Fasano Hotel, this seafood meets Italian restaurant has beautiful decor and impeccable service. With a chef straight from a multi-Michelin star restaurant in Florence, the food has a price tag to match. As usual my boyfriend and I ordered two entrees and shared. After asking our server for recommendations, we ordered the cavetelli with lobster, red chilli pepper, cherry tomato, and eggplant and the veal ravioli with parmesan cheese fondue. Both were delicious. The couple we were with had the King Crab salad with pasta and the herb-crusted grilled rock lobster with tomato puree. For dessert we all shared a creme brulee, which honestly was nothing to write home about. It could have been because it followed our rich pastas. It also could have been that the espresso martini I was sipping was more my taste at the time. Either way, this creme brulee connoisseur was a little disappointed. Overall, it was a delicious meal. I would suggest consulting with the server for recommendations, as they provided us with wonderful ones. However, if you are looking for Italian food on a budget, this is not the place you should choose to dine.
On the more casual side of dining in Rio there are some great choices as well. Don’t forget the aforementioned bars that have some great snacks. Especially those delightful little sandwiches at Bar Jobi.
- Celeiro: This restaurant has a delicious by the weight salad bar. They also have some good breads and desserts, and delicious hot plates. They were kind enough to let us come in early when we were looking for lunch around 11:30. (Most restaurants didn’t open until noon or later.) This was the perfect light meal before heading to the beach.
- Copanema Mix: acai bowl heaven can be found at this lttle sidewalk cafe. They mix fresh fruit juices of your choice into the acai and it is delicious. My friend and I had this one morning as a light breakfast. It was so good she was just messaging me this week that she wished she could have another acai bowl from here.
- Restaurante Faraj: right around the corner from Copanema Mix is this little stand with the most delicious Esfiha de carne. It makes a perfect little snack if you find yourself wanting something small during the day. We grabbed one right after our acai bowls.
- Beach food: Vendors walk along the beach selling a huge variety of foods. My favorite were churros and cheese on a stick that they melt on a tiny grill and season for you.
- Sandwiches: Near Posto 9 on Ipanema beach there is a Uruguay flag above one of the many chair rental options. This family has been coming to the same spot for years and sells the most amazing sandwiches. The workers speak some English and Argentinian Spanish and are very helpful, engaging, and attentive. Beers, water and coconut water, and caipirinhas are also sold here. Regardless of your beverage choices, you must try the sandwiches. My boyfriend went to Rio previously with someone who has been going to this stand for years. He loved it so much he said we had to go back and I am so glad we did. We had several sandwiches on the beach for lunch one day and couldn’t stop talking about how good they were.
So much food, so little time. Other restaurants that were on my list and that are highly recommended to try when in Rio:
- Sushi Leblon: a go-to for sushi lovers, usually with a line out the door.
- Le Pre-Catalan: this popular Copacabana restaurant located in the Sofitel hotel has a Michelin star. It is supposed to be a foodies dream restaurant. They offer several tasting menus with a French flare.
- Aprazivel:located in Santa Teresa, this restaurant is positioned on a hill with a beautiful view. They serve traditional Brasilian food with ingredients from all over the country. Many Brasilians highly recommend this restaurant!
- Porcao Rio’s: the ultimate Brasilian churrascaria. I don’t know how well all you can eat meat and tiny bikinis go together. But, if Rio is your only stop in Brasil, then dining at a churrascaria is a must. There are three locations in Rio, all of which include bow-tied waiters, linen table clothes, and endless amounts of meat.
- Gero: Italian restaurant, also owned by the Fasano.
- Forneria Sao Sabastiao: located in Ipanema, this location of the small Brasil chain serves up traditional Italian food.
- Yume: more delicious sushi in Brasil, this restaurant in Jardim Botanic is supposedly Madonna’s favorite place to dine in Rio.
- Mee: located in the Copacabana Palace Hotel, this restaurant was one of the first in South America to receive a Michelin star. It is pan-asian cuisine and features some sushi as well.
- Brigite’s: located in Leblon, this beautifully decorated restaurant has a focus on organic and fresh ingredients.
- Alessandro e Frederico Cafe: this restaurant in Ipanema is supposed to have to die for sweet and sour salmon.
- Stuzzi: another great Italian option, recommended repeatedly by locals. This one is centered around stuzzichini or tapas-style small plates to share. They have a beautiful greenery filled patio. Plus, a Sunday Buffet da Mamma or comfort style Italian food to die for.
WHERE TO STAY
Just in case you find time to sleep between the beach, tourist attractions, eating, and nightlife. I will warn you that as some of the real estate in Rio is some of the most prime money can buy, some hotels or apartments may not be as you expected. Pictures may make rooms or buildings look a little better kept than they actually are. So, just do your research. We weren’t in our hotel room except for to sleep and shower, so we weren’t really too disappointed or picky.
- Air BnB: we had a wonderful Air BnB experience in Rio. We rented a two bedroom, two bedroom apartment in the Tiffany’s building just a few blocks from Ipanema. It was clean, modern, and nicely decorated. It was also in a great, safe location. This would be my biggest recommendation. You can rent anything from a bed to a private room to a entire floor penthouse, depending on your needs and price range.
If a hotel is more your style due to the amenities and ease, there are several great options as well. Almost every hotel I’ve researched in Rio (and Brasil) provide a good breakfast, which makes it easy to wake up, eat, and start your day. Having a concierge to provide recommendations, make reservations, and call cabs can also be extremely helpful. Especially if you do not speak much Portuguese.
- Fasano: If it’s in your price range, it’s the best you can get in my opinion. The rooms are modern and clean and the amenities are the best. Especially the rooftop pool and the to die for view you’ll have of Ipanema and Dois Irmaos. The service throughout the hotel is great and it is in a prime location.
- Copacabana Palace: if you are more into traditional style, then this hotel, built in 1923 may be your perfect spot. It was the first luxury hotel in South America. It has great on site restaurants and service, also. However, Copacabana can be a little dangerous at night and taking a cab anywhere from the hotel is recommended. If you don’t plan on leaving much in the evenings or don’t mind taking a cab, then this famous hotel is a great option.
- Praia Ipanema: I stayed here with my friend on my first visit to Rio. We booked for the pool, which although small, provides an amazing view of Dois Irmaos. The common areas are nice, but the rooms are very dated, especially the bathrooms. It seemed a little expensive for the room we had. However, the balcony view, roof view, and location were all great.
- Casa Cool Beans: located in Santa Teresa, this hotel has a chill atmosphere, great service, and gorgeous decor. It is a little far from the beach and they require a two night minimum. But, if somewhere not as crowded as Ipanema or Copacabana is something you want, then this ten room hotel with amazing reviews is your spot.
- Hotel Santa Teresa: also located in Santa Teresa (hence the name), this hotel is stylish and houses a great restaurant with twenty-four hour room service. Yes, please. Being in Santa Teresa it is a little far from the beach, but this gorgeous boutique hotel and spa will provide you with tranquility in the busy city of Rio. The pool is the perfect place to lay and relax after a busy morning of sight seeing. If you’re heading to Rio on a honeymoon, it would be a wonderful place for your romantic getaway.
- La Suite: another romantic hotel, this space is a cliff-side hideaway that has an exclusive feel. It is a cab ride to all the bars and restaurants. However, with the views and gorgeous decor available at this hotel, you may not want to leave.
Whether you or someone you know is visiting Rio, this guide will serve as a wonderful resource for planning a wonderful trip any time of year. If you aren’t planning one, hopefully this will inspire you to consider Rio as a destination. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the city and it’s tourist attractions, beaches, nightlife, food, culture, and people.