If you’re traveling to Brazil, it’s likely that Rio de Janeiro will be a part of your trip. You could spend a week there without running out of things to do, so personally I didn’t have time to do everything, but here are some things I can recommend.
- Visit Parque Lage in Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park is huge – Christ the Redeemer statue is actually inside it. Of course it’s got loads of different entrances, so for this specific place, you’d want to put ‘Parque Lage’ into Uber or Google Maps. The park is beautiful and quiet, so it would be a good place to read a book or people-watch.
There are lots of hiking trails here too, and they actually go all the way up to the Christ statue eventually. I explored the trails for a while but I was by myself and I reached a point where I thought it wasn’t particularly sensible to be in the middle of the forest with no one around, so I turned back. I think it’s a great place for hiking if you have someone else with you.
While you’re in the area, you can also walk to the botanical garden (Jardim Botanico) which costs 15R per person (£3.20).
2. Stay in a favela hostel
This photo is proof that favela hostels have the best views in Rio! It makes sense, as favelas are up in the hills. Personally I’m not sure how I feel about favela tours (I don’t like the whole ‘animals in a zoo’ vibe), so I think that spending a night (or more) in a favela hostel could be a good alternative if you want to experience this side of Rio.
The favela hostels I stayed in were Pousada Favelinha and Chill Hostel Rio. The downside of the first one was that it was difficult to access from public transport etc., but I have zero complaints about the second one and I absolutely loved it.
If you stay in a favela hostel, please make sure you spend some money in the favela to support local businesses. There are lots of corner shops, takeaways and bars there, so this isn’t be hard to do. Also, buying your food in the favela is a way more interesting experience than buying it in a tourist restaurant by the beach.
3. Get that all important photo at the Lapa Steps, obviously
To take an Uber there or walk to these crazily popular stairs with Google Maps, you need to type in ‘Escadaria Selaron’. I would suggest walking along the road that leads to the bottom of the steps before/after you go on the steps, as it’s covered in street art which is quite interesting.
At the bottom of the steps, there are lots of local people trying to make a living from the tourists, so if you want souvenirs, this could be a good place to buy them, but also keep in mind that the prices of food and drink etc. are higher here than in regular locations, for example I paid 10R (£2) for the coconut in this picture when it would normally be 5R or less.
The lower part of the stairs is really crowded, so I would suggest walking to the top of the stairs if you want any chance of taking pictures without a million people in the background. It’s also a nice walk up and I passed a few people selling homemade cakes etc. out of their front doors, which was cute.
4. Go crazy at a professional football game
Rio is home to a famous and successful football (soccer if you’re American) team called Flamengo, and they play at Macarana Stadium which is the biggest stadium in the whole of Brazil.
Any local person will probably know when the next game is and where you can get tickets, but you can also go on the Flamengo website (nrnoficial.com.br) instead. You can get tickets in the regular stands for about 40R, less than £10, and you can get fake Flamengo jerseys like the one I’m wearing for 50R (£10).
The atmosphere in the stadium is completely mad (in a good way) – even the atmosphere on the street outside the stadium before the game is insane. Stuff was exploding (fireworks or something), people had huge flags and banners, pretty much everyone was in red and black, people threw beer in the air when a goal was scored, and they were on their feet shouting, jumping and waving their arms around for the entire game.
I would DEFINITELY recommend making this a priority if there’s a game when you’re in Rio, because it’s honestly an unforgettable experience.
5. Wander along Boulevard Olimpico for the street art
It’s super easy to get to Boulevard Olimpico, as there’s a tram stop right there called Parada Dos Navios. The face in my photo is part of an enormous and amazing mural called Mural Etnias (Ethnicities Mural) which is unlike any other street art I’ve seen in my life.
There are a lot of other things to do in the area such as Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) which focuses on the challenges the world will have to face in the coming years. You’ll also find plenty of places around there to sit and watch life pass you by while you drink caipirinhas (a Brazilian cocktail).
Although Rio is a city, it’s got loads of green spaces so there are loads of options for hiking. The one in the picture is Pedra do Telegrafo, which is an hour’s drive outside of Rio (the best option is to share an Uber with some people from your hostel), and it’s about an hour’s hike up to the best photo spot ever.
Other popular hikes include Dois Irmaos (this starts from inside Vidigal Favela – ask the moto taxi people at the entrance of the favela to take you to ‘a trilha’ – the trail), and the trails leading to waterfalls in the Tijuca Forest (mentioned earlier in this post – but if you want to go to the waterfalls, it’s best to go to the national park entrance near Saens Pena metro station and follow the signs that say ‘cachoeira’ which means waterfall).
7. Have a beach day
You can’t really go wrong with a beach day. The beach in this picture is Praia do Leme (Leme Beach), and it’s a bit less busy than Copocabana and Ipanema (the slightly more well known beaches).
As you can see, it has numbered huts, and each one has a little area in front of it with chairs and umbrellas etc. You can rent the chairs for not much money (from 10R aka £2), and you can buy drinks from the huts. There are also loads of vendors walking up and down the beach with snacks and drinks, and plenty of Brazilian people playing beach football, so the atmosphere is lively.
The beaches stay busy when the sun is setting, so you can safely stay and watch the sunset, which is always a bonus.
To see my highlights from Brazil, you can go to my Instagram @zoe_93