Going to Rio? Rio de Janeiro is a big city with lots of points of interest, here’s a list of the best things to do while you’re there!

Thinking of going to Rio de Janeiro? Rio is a big city with dozens of interesting things to do and sometimes it gets way too hard to make the perfect Rio bucket list. But don’t worry, we’ve worked on the perfect list of things to do in Rio so you don’t have to.

Best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

1. Christ The Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)

couple walking up the stairs at christ the redeemer in rio de janeiro
Can you imagine the view from Christ The Redeemer?

Christ The Redeemer, known locally as “Cristo Redentor”, is probably the most recognizable landmark of Rio. The statue stands almost 125 feet tall inside of the Tijuca National Park and it’s a must-visit kinda place.

Standing at the very top of Corcovado and more than 2 thousand feet above sea level has its advantages, as you can imagine. The view from there is absolutely fantastic, even more so when the skies are clear. Make sure to visit when the weather is nice!

2. Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)

montage of panoramic view from the top of sugarloaf montain
How about a panoramic view of Rio’s harbor?

The Sugarloaf Mountain is also a must-visit tourist attraction. Rising almost 1,300 feet above sea level, the Sugarloaf Mountain stands even taller than Christ The Redeemer and it’s known everywhere by its cableway, which takes passengers up to appreciate the views every day.

This beautiful place, however, isn’t just made by one mountain, the Sugarloaf itself, but also the Urca Mountain, which stands right next to the first to form one of the most incredible and famous Brazilian postcards.

3. Copacabana Beach

man standing between palm trees copacabana beach
Enjoy the white sant at Copacabana.

If you only have enough time to visit one beach (what a shame!) and you want to get the best Rio experience, you should definitely go to Copacabana.

Copacabana is the place where you’ll be able to enjoy the sand, the sea, the kiosks where you can sit and drink coconut water, run along the wide sidewalk and see the locals doing the same.

While you’re there, don’t forget to try a typical carioca snack: Biscoito Globo, as the locals call it, comes in two flavors — sweet and savory — and you should definitely try both. You can easily find them at kiosks, so there’s no excuse!

If you have time for more, don’t forget to check our top 10 Rio de Janeiro beaches list!

4. Ipanema Beach and Arpoador

people gathered watching the sunset at arpoador rio de janeiro
Enjoy the sunset at Arpoador.

Ipanema is definitely our second choice (sorry, Ipanema!) when it comes to Rio’s beaches. There are so many and they’re all so incredible it’s hard to talk about one and not the other!

Both Ipanema and Arpoador are right next to each other and nearby Copacabana, less than 2 miles apart. While you’re there, our top tip is to stay around until sunset, when tourists and locals gather around to watch the sunset from the stones at the very end of the beach.

5. Lapa Steps (Escadaria Selarón)

red lapa steps rio de janeiro

The Lapa Steps, also known as Escadaria Selarón or Selarón Steps, is a famous set of steps located right between two of the most charming carioca neighborhoods, Santa Teresa and Lapa.

Formally just a normal set of stairs, they were redecorated by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. The 215 steps were covered with colorful tiles, many of which were hand painted by Selarón himself, truly an incredible piece of art.

6. Museum of Tomorrow and Rio Art Museum

interior and exterior of museum of tomorrow rio de janeiro

Both Museum of Tomorrow and Rio Art Museum are located just a very short walk from one another, so we recommend you visit the area in one day. If you need to choose one museum, though, go for the Museum of Tomorrow.

Opened in 2015, the area went through massive renovation to be the home of this incredible museum, which focuses on interactive expositions about climate change, sustainability and the society.

If you’re into museums and impressive architecture, make sure to also stop by Niterói’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The building where the museum is located was designed by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer and Niterói is just a short drive away from the city of Rio de Janeiro. It’s well worth the ride!

7. Botanical Gardens and Parque Lage

park lage and christ the redeemer in the distance

The Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro and the Lage Park are relatively close to each other, so if you enjoy going to parks and taking a nice and energizing walk you should definitely visit both on the same day.

At the Botanical Gardens of Rio you’ll be able to see more than 6 thousand species from Brazil and the world. The Lage Park, on the other hand, offers you a chance to sit back and relax with views to Christ The Redeemer.

8. Confeitaria Colombo

interior of confeitaria colombo from second floor
Tea time, anyone? Confeitaria Colombo is our choice!

The Confeitaria Colombo is one of the most traditional coffee shops in Rio de Janeiro. Opened in 1894, visiting this incredible place looks a lot like entering a movie set. It is decorated in an Art Nouveau style, with lots of colorful crystals everywhere.

The tearoom upstairs serves lunch daily from 11.30am to 4pm and it is a treat indeed! There you get a feel of history and why it gathered such famous intellectuals back in the day.

9. Barra da Tijuca

aerial view of barra da tijuca rio de janeiro
Nothing but sand for miles… That’s what you’ll find in Barra da Tijuca.

Barra da Tijuca is located 21 miles from downtown Rio. Being far from the city center doesn’t mean Barra da Tijuca doesn’t offer much, far from that. There is where you’ll find the biggest beach of the state, with more than 11 miles of nothing but white sand.

Beyond the beach, at Barra da Tijuca you’ll also see another side of Rio de Janeiro, as its architecture and feel is very different from downtown. Definitely worth the visit!

10. Brazilian BBQ

Ok, not literally one of Rio de Janeiro’s attractions, but might as well be. Brazilian barbecue is famous all over the world for being incredible and a great taste of Brazilian culinary culture.

As you can imagine, there’s a huge selection of BBQ places to choose from, but our favorites are Fogo de Chão, Mocellin Steak e Malta Beef Club. Don’t forget to order a caipirinha 😉

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