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My top 5 favourite things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro was the first stop of our 5 month South American trip and I’m so glad we stayed for 2 weeks because there is a lot to see, plus we could take our time to get to know the city. But we also realised that the weather can be very unpredictable (yes, it can rain a lot in Brazil!!!) and you do need a clear day to get these picturesque views from the Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Besides the must see attractions, we’d wanted to do some hiking and explore all the different neighbourhoods. We’d first thought about booking a guided tour, but realised that you can easily get around by public transport for less than £1 per ride, which means more freedom but also more money to spend on delicious Brazilian food.

Although I really enjoyed every single day in Rio, 5 things stood out to me. Below are my top 5 favourite things to do in Rio:

1. Sugarloaf Mountain

This is one of the most popular things to do in Rio for one simple reason: The views are amazing! The most convenient way to get to the top is the cable car but you can also hike to the first platform if you fancy some climbing. Both platforms offer amazing panoramic views over the Copacabana and Centro and there’s plenty of space to take pictures without having people in the way all the time. We spent 3 hours on the Sugarloaf mountain as we couldn’t get enough of the beautiful views…

Tip: A short walk away from the cable car station is the beautiful Praiha Vermelha. It’s a small but very quiet beach that is perfect for a chilled afternoon in the sun. 

view from sugarloaf mountain in rio

2. Morro Dois Irmãos

The Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Mountain) offers another beautiful view over Rio but this time, it involves some hiking. The two iconic mountains are at the end of the Ipanema/Leblon beaches and look almost impossible to climb. We took a taxi to the start of the trail at the top of Vidigal and began the 50 minute hike. The climb was very steep at times and I needed a few breaks to catch my breath. Between the humidity and the climb, we got a little sweaty but it was worth it, not many people were there and we got treated to some unbelievable views over Rio. Make sure do go on a nice, clear day; we had lots of clouds that made Rio disappear from time to time.

view over rio

3. Christ the Redeemer

The famous Christ the Redeemer is visible from almost every corner of Rio but it’s still worth getting to the top as this is the only way to get a close up view.  We’ve picked a sunny day and got an early bus at 9am to avoid the afternoon crowds. 1 hour later, we got our first glimpse of him in his full glory. After getting the almost obligatory photo taken with our arms out like Christ the redeemer, we soaked in the panoramic views. Although we got there quite early, it already felt a bit cramped and people were fighting for the best picture. It’s super popular but you just can’t visit Rio without coming here.

christ the redeemer in rio

4. Santa Teresa

This neighbourhood is on top of a hill and is known for its narrow cobblestone streets. We took the historic, yellow tram to the top that runs between Centro and Santa Teresa. The tram passes over the Carioca Aqueduct before it drives through the winding streets of Santa Teresa. 10 minutes later, we arrived at the final stop and explored the very vibrant area and its street art, cute restaurants and cafés. I found this neighbourhood very calm and loved the colourful streets and viewing points from where you get more amazing views over Rio.

santa teresa in rio

5. Selaron Steps

Escadaria Selarón, Rio’s world-famous steps are located between Lapa and Santa Teresa. They were only a short walk away from our apartment in Rio, so we went a couple of times. Jorge Selarón, a Chilean artist, who lived in one of the flats next to the 215 steps, started decorating them in 1990. Today, they are covered in over 2,000 colourful tiles and look absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, Jorge Selarón died in 2013 (he was found dead on the steps) but his beautiful work lives on.

Selaron steps of Rio

Rio is a very colourful and vibrant city, full of beautiful views and friendly people. We’ve had an amazing time and I’m very grateful that I could call this city my home for 2 weeks. Mucho obrigada Rio!

Have you been to Rio? What are you favourite things to do?

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Travelling to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and wonder what you should visit? Don't miss out on Christ the Redeemer and the Sugarloaf Mountain but Rio is so much more than just this. Find out what else you should visit on my blog or pin for later!

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Laveena Sengar
    4. May 2017 at 4:56 pm

    I really want to visit Rio and sometime pretty soon. It seems like a fabulous trip of yours.

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      5. May 2017 at 9:57 am

      It is a beautiful city with so much to offer. Hope you can visit one day!

  • Reply
    Ana Ojha
    28. April 2017 at 4:55 am

    Never been to Rio but it’s on my bucket list! I’d love to take my picture with Christ the Redeemer!

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      28. April 2017 at 11:32 am

      Rio is amazing, hope you get a chance soon. Taking a picture with Christ the Redeemer is a must 🙂

  • Reply
    Kat
    26. April 2017 at 11:19 pm

    I didn’t know about Santa Teresa or the Selaron Steps! I would love to go to Rio and visit all 5 of these places – Rio looks so stunning. Did you feel safe there? I’ve never been to South America.

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      2. May 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Rio is really a beautiful city and I always felt safe. I think as long as you don’t show off your valuables, you won’t have any problems. Hope you get a chance to go very soon!

  • Reply
    Dave - Man Vs. Globe
    19. April 2017 at 6:38 am

    I agree, I spent two weeks in Rio too and i’m glad I did – although I could have happily stayed another two weeks!

    I’m glad you have Santa Theresa on the list. It was my favourite place in Rio but it’s often overlooked. The streets are beautiful and it has amazing views over the city!

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      19. April 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Rio is an amazing city and I could have easily stayed there longer too. There’s just so much to see and do! I really liked Santa Theresa too – luckily it was very close to our apartment, so we could explore the area a bit further.

  • Reply
    Agness of eTramping
    12. February 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Those Selaron steps are so vibrant, and what a cool history!

  • Reply
    Diana - MVMT Blog
    5. January 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I love finding cool street art when I travel and would love to visit Santa Teresa! I think I’d also like to try the hike up to the first platform at Sugarloaf Mountain. Hoping I get to go soon!!

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      10. January 2017 at 10:55 pm

      Yes, I am the same – I love street art and Santa Teresa is great for that! Rio has some great hikes, there’s also a 2-3h hike to Christ the Redeemer from the beautiful Parque Lage. Hope you get a chance to go soon, Rio is amazing ❤️️

  • Reply
    Jen McIntyre
    4. January 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Great tips! The Sugarloaf mountain cable car looks very similar to the one I just experienced in Santiago, Chile! Beautiful views. I’m hoping to head up to Brazil later this year and will definitely save this list. – Jenn 🙂

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      5. January 2017 at 1:20 am

      Thanks Jenn! Rio has so many beautiful views, you’ll have a great time. Chile sounds amazing – how much longer are you staying? Happy travels 🙂

  • Reply
    James Smith
    4. January 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Did you know that Rio harbor is a wonder of the world?

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      5. January 2017 at 1:10 am

      Wow, I didn’t know that. Well, the harbour looks incredible, need to read up on it. Thanks for that interesting fact 🙂

  • Reply
    The Travelling Bookworm
    4. January 2017 at 10:03 am

    I’ve wanted to visit Rio for absolutely ages and you’ve just made me want to go even more! Amazing images!

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      4. January 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Thank you, it’s a beautiful city with so much to see and do – you have to go one day 🙂

  • Reply
    The Travel Realist
    4. January 2017 at 9:47 am

    Love the photos – so many vibrant colours! Sounds like you had a great time 🙂

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      4. January 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks a lot, Rio is a very colourful, vibrant city – I think that’s why I loved it so much 😀

  • Reply
    Midori
    4. January 2017 at 9:35 am

    Cool tips for this beautiful city (and beautiful pictures!) xxx

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      4. January 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post xxx

  • Reply
    Shona
    4. January 2017 at 4:43 am

    Rio has been on my list for such a long time. I hope to get there soon!!

    • Reply
      Sina Meyer
      4. January 2017 at 2:53 pm

      It’s one of my favourite cities, it’s so vibrant and colourful – hope you get a chance to visit soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Asia Voygers
    3. December 2016 at 7:14 am

    Amazing post you are posting here…….

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