Rio de Janeiro – which is also known as Cidade Maravilhosa, the wonderful city. I always knew it was wonderful, but now I am truly convinced. Rio is an urban jungle surrounded by hills, rainforests, paradise beaches, and the ocean. It’s a combination of extreme poverty and luxury, and the line that divides these two realities is really thin. There’s a mix of delicious food, tropical fruits, and caipirinhas. The sounds of samba, bossa nova, and crashing waves fill the air.
To explore Rio, you really need time. Perhaps ten days are enough to visit the most famous tourist attractions, but Rio is much more than that. If you want to feel the life of Cariocas, then a few months might be enough. Carioca is the term used to describe all those people who are born in Rio.
They say that at least once in your life, you should experience Rio during New Year’s Eve, and they are absolutely right. The atmosphere is unique, not just because it’s about 50 degrees outside and too hot, but because of the incredible mix of sounds, colors, beaches, people, and the unforgettable fireworks.
We stayed in Rio for around eight days in total. The first two or three days before New Year’s Eve, we used just to relax on the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Copacabana stretches for four kilometers, and the beach is really huge. You’ll see lots of people doing sports by the beach, such as biking and roller skating. Along the beach, there are plenty of good restaurants and bars where you can refresh yourself with coconut water, caipirinha, or another tropical cocktail.
Rule number one – when you go to the beach, do not take a beach towel with you. Carioca people go to the beach with a Kanga – a kind of big beach scarf. You will see many people selling Kangas at the beach, and of course, the price will be double than normal, but you need to bargain and not pay more than 25 reales. In Brazil, you can pay by card everywhere, even the guys who sell scarves and bikinis on the beach accept cards.
Copacabana is perhaps the most famous beach in the world, and it’s true, the beach is full of handsome Brazilian boys and girls, just like in the movies. Copacabana was nice, but my personal choice was Ipanema. This beach has a unique view of the mountain Two Brothers.
Leme – Copacabana – Ipanema – Leblon, the beaches are numbered from 1 to 12 according to the rescue towers along the beach. From Copacabana, you can see the most beautiful sunrise over the Sugar Loaf. For a beautiful sunset, head to posto 9 on Ipanema, while 10 and 11 are for rich and celebrity faces.
Things you must do during your stay in Rio:
1.Visit to the downtown– on the streets you can enjoy the sounds of samba while walking through the city. In this part of the town are located most of the companies and business centers . Visit also the legendary Confeteria Colombo and try the best brigadeiro (typical dessert) in town.
2.Visit to the Carioca square and to the Monastery of St.Antonio. The legend says all those who seek the love of their life should pray here. Visit also the Cathedral with interesting architecture
3.Visit the Teatro Municipal and the library
4.Visit the boulevard with the graffiti from the Olympics 2016
5.Visit to the Museum of tomorrow
6.Visit to the nearby town of Niteroi and the Museum of Contemporary Art with a unique architecture, designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer
7.Visit to the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, the Park of the ruins, the nightlife and the club Rio Scenarium
8.Visit to the famous steps Selaron, each tile is from a different country
9.Visit to the Botanical garden and Lage park, great for coffee break
10.Visit to the hippy market in Ipanema (every sunday) at General Osorio Square – here you will find souvenirs and handicrafts for normal price
11.Visit to a local samba bar, our choise was Bip Bip, located in Copacabana near Hotel Othon Palace. Here you can hear masters of samba and you will meet Alfredo, the owner of the bar who is very upset if someone has come to make noise and talk instead to enjoy and listen good samba.
12.Sunset at Sugar Loaf – named by the sugar which was produced here in Brazil, in the form of a cone with a rounded top. There are two cable cars, one takes you to the first part, which is called Morro de Urca, from here you have a nice view over the city and the neighborhood Urca and the second cable car takes you to the top of the Sugar Loaf (396m) from where you can have a 360 degree view of the city and if the weather is sunny you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, right here in Cidade Maravilhosa. The ticket for the cable car is 76 reais. There is free wifi.
13.Walking around the neighborhood Urca, another great place for sunset, and if you have time visit the red beach – Praia vermelha
14.Visit to Christ the Redeemer – try to be there before 8 am so you can go up with the first vans and you will make photo with not so much people around you. Bonus tip – bring your kanga with you so you can hide the people behind you. The entrance is 40 reais. There is free wifi.
15.Panoramic view from Mirante Dona Marta
16.Hike to sunrise, hiking to Morro Dos Irmaos (Two Brothers mountain). 40 minutes hiking early in the morning, it was worth it for the view we had at 6 am. This was the best sunrise in my life, right here in Cidade Maravilhosa!
17.Visit to the favela Vidigal – as part of the hiking tour. Vidigal and Rocinha (the biggest favela in Brazil), now these favelas are pacifed and the police have control over the things. You can bring a photo camera with you and take pictures, but not from the people and inside the houses. Given the fact that we were there early in the morning, there were not many people, only dogs and some locals. We could see a lot of graffiti everywhere around us. However, in the favelas there are the most beautiful panoramic places in the town. Near the Vidigal favela, there is the house of David Beckham.
Rio is an expensive city, especially the south of Rio (Copacabana, Leme, Leblon, Ipanema) and those are the most recommended places to stay. Also the markets are not so cheap. The best way to eat well and to not spend a lot is to eat in those self service restaurants with a large buffet usually priced per grams. The prices start from 4 reais per 100 gr. If you are hungry before or after lunch you can try something from the Brazilian street food such as tapioca, the famous Pão de Queijo (bread with cheese) , cochinha, brigadeiro, acai …
To move around the city everyone recommends to use uber, and sometimes also public transport. My advice for accommodation is airbnb or hostel. There is a big choice of expensive and luxury hotels. On Ipanema there is one of the more famous hotels – Fasano, a place where usually stay rich and famous people. The hotel has a very nice rooftop pool with a great view of Ipanema and the mountain Dois Irmaos.
At the beginning of Ipanema you can see the statue of the famous songwriter Tom Jobim, the founder of bossa nova, in the same neighborhood is located his native house.
In the end my conclusion is that once in a lifetime you should visit Rio, because the magic that you can feel in this city can’t be described with pictures and words. Once you visit Rio, you will never forget it, and all the time you will feel the desire for another date with this wonderful city, another date between waves, golden sunset, caipirinhas and samba.