10 Best Rio Experiences

Plan your Rio itinerary with our pick of the best sights and experiences...
Aerial view of Christ The Redeemer Statue
:Aerial view of Christ The Redeemer Statue. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether you're lucky enough to have tickets for the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics or dreaming of visiting South America, Brazil's second city is an essential stop on any itinerary. From iconic sights to off-the-beaten track experiences, here's our pick of the top ten Rio experiences.

1. Walking the brightly colored steps of Lapa.

Escadaria Selarón, known simply as ‘the steps’, is the most colorful part of the already colorful neighborhood of Lapa. More than 60 different countries have contributed over 2,000 colored tiles to make this landmark what it is. Snapping a photo is all but mandatory. 

Tourists at Escadaria Selaron in Rio de Janeiro. The stairway is famous work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron.Tourists at Escadaria Selaron in Rio de Janeiro. The stairway is famous work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Visiting Cristo Redentor (Christ the Red­ee­mer).

Arriving at this New Wonder of the World (it was christened in 2007) is an arduous task thanks to the two million visitors who make the trek up Mount Corcovado every year. However, hours spent in lines amid selfiestick-wielding crowds hardly reaches Christ-like levels of suffering, and the 360-degree views of Rio afforded at the base of statue are enough to make anyone feel spiritual. For the lowdown on Rio's other great viewpoints, read our Top 5 views in Rio blog. 

3. Lazing on the beaches of the Zona Sur.

Get that enviable carioca bronze whiling away the hours on Copacabana and Ipanema, two of the most iconic stretches of sand in the world. Read more about the city's best beach spots: Copacobana, Ipanema and Beyond: Rio's Best Beaches 

Do you want to travel to Brazil: Talk to our Brazil travel experts now to plan your unforgettable holiday!

 Aerial View of Beach in Rio de Janeiro.Aerial View of Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Having a chope (draft beer) at Bar do Gomez.

The secret’s out – Bar do Gomez, located in Santa Teresa, is one of the best neighborhood bars in the world. The black-and-white photos on the walls are a historic record of the previous generations who ran this slice of ‘Old Rio’. 

5. Browsing the handicraft stalls at Ipanema’s Sunday ‘hippie market’.

You don’t have to actually be a hippie to enjoy this Ipanema staple, which takes place every Sunday in the Praça General Osório. Arts and crafts abound, and shoppers on a budget can find great scores on souvenirs, gifts and bric-a-brac. 

 Shoppers look at art displayed at the outdoor Hippie Fair market in General Osorio Plaza in Ipanema.Shoppers look at art displayed at the outdoor Hippie Fair market in General Osorio Plaza in Ipanema. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Sampling exotic produce at a Feira Livre.

Many of the fruits and vegetables on offer at these outdoor markets will be familiar. However, travelers likely won’t know how to pronounce, let alone identify, some of the more exotic fruits, such as guaraná, açai and graviola. Pretty much everything can be made into delicious juices.

7. Partying like a local at the Feira de São Cristóvão.

Gigantic open-air market by day, raucous party venue at night – this is where to go for an authentic carioca party experience. Located a little outside the center, but well worth the taxi fare. 

8. Strolling through the Jardim Botânico.

This delightfully fragrant enclave on Rua Jardim Botânico, the busy avenue that connects the Leblon and Botafogo districts, occupies 149 hectares (368 acres) and contains more than 7,000 species of tropical plants and trees and at least 140 species of birds. 

Jardim Botânico.Jardim Botânico. Photo: Shutterstock

9. Attending Carnival.

Behind-the-scenes activities of this most famous of festivals begin in November. Excitement spreads to every neighborhood and the powder keg of passion finally ignites during the last five days before Lent, when everybody joins the round-the-clock spree. With its frenzy of bateria (percussion), limber-legged dancing, singing, and resplendent costumes and bodies, Rio’s annual extravaganza is one of life’s overwhelming experiences. 

10. Discovering Rio's modernist architecture.

Across the Guanabara Bay lies the city of Niterói where you'll see futurist architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, including the iconic Museu de Arte Contemporânea, shaped like a flying saucer, and the curvaceous curves of the Popular Theater of Niterói. Discover the best routes around the city with Explore Rio de Janeiro

 Oscar Niemeyer's Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum.Oscar Niemeyer's Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum. Photo: Shutterstock

Want to find out more about Rio? Insight Guides: Explore Rio de Janeiro covers the city's best routes, with practical maps and the best places to eat and drink along the way. Available as both an app or an eBook.

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