Rio City Guide



  • Bar Urca (Trip Advisor review here) - Get some no-frill appetizers (pastel, bolinho de bacalhau) and a bottle of beer at the bar and sit on the wall by the beach. Amazing view. 15 minute walk from the Sugar Loaf (Pão do Açúcar)!​

NIGHTLIFE (Note: my style is laid-back bars with live music)

Santa Teresa neighborhood on Fridays or Saturday nights

Lapa neighborhood on Friday or Saturday nights

  • Meet by Arcos da Lapa, walk by Avenida Mem de Sá. Get drinks. Night clubs with local music: Rio ScenariumBar Carioca da GemaCirco Voador, and many others
  • If you are into street art, check out the Selarón staircase, which is covered with tiles. Read about Brazil's legal graffiti and see examples of Lapa street art in this CBS news article
  • ​As always, watch your stuff when you're in a crowd - don't make pickpockets' job easy!​


Rio Recommendations from Erika Korowin, former MIT-Chile Program Manager


Lapa neighborhood map:



  • Ipanema beach - watch the sunset from posto 9 or Arpoador rocks
  • Copacabana and Copacabana fortress
  • Crafts market on Sundays 9am-4pm-ish at Ipanema - Praça General Osório (by the Ipanema subway)
  • Walk by Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (8km bike/walking path). Stop by Lagoon restaurants (mid-range price) or Arab kiosks (low cost) at Parque dos Patins.

Cristo Redentor

  • The best way to avoid the huge lines is to purchase a ticket online to take the train uphill a day in advance.  Get to the train station by cab or bus.
  • Not so crowded before 10am. If you can go on a weekday, the better. It's not worth going there if it's cloudy.

Morro da Urca, next to the Sugar Loaf

  • There is a trail called "Claudio Countinho" leaving from Praia Vermelha - in the middle of this trail you will find the the trail that goes up. It takes about 30 min to go up to "Morro da Urca". From up there you can have a fantastic view of the Guanabara Bay and the city. 
  • You can also buy the tickets for the telephonic and go up to the Sugar Loaf and back down, or you can hike down without paying anything. I think the 3 legs of the Cable Car are around R$50 to 70 (I don't recall exactly).

Pão de Açucar

  • Usually not as crowded as the Cristo Redentor; get the cable car ticket right at the entrance. Late afternoon is a good time as you can get views before and after sunset.

Jardim Botânico

  • See 150-year old Imperial palm trees, beautiful orchids, Vitoria Regia floating plants, and local trees.


  • Ipanema (hipster) and Leblon (wealthy).
  • Barra (I like this beach very much but it's a 30-45 minute drive to Rio's "Miami" neighborhood - think malls and highrise condos. Avoid rush hour traffic. It can take you 2 hours one way!
  • Grumari and Prainha (1:15h drive from Ipanema). Strong tides, wild, surfers' favorite.
  • Copacabana. This beach has had its better moments and though its very touristy, it's worth a quick stroll.


  • Morro Dois Irmãos (photo at top of the page): Steep hike and amazing view! The trail starts within a huge favela - Vidigal. It used to be safe. I've heard it's not that safe since mid-2016.
  • Pico do Papagaio: Regular/easy hikes with a very nice view. Start the hike from Bom Retiro checkpoint at Floresta da Tijuca Park.
  • Pedra da Gávea: Has my favorite views - gorgeous. The final meters to the summit though are pretty steep and not that safe. I recommend going up with a guide who can rig ropes.


  • The best fruit gelato and ice cream in town: Mil Frutas. Friendly clerks let you sample as many flavors as you'd like for free. The hard part: make up your mind about a scoop to order!
  • Have a juice, pão de queijo, and perhaps an Açaí bowl (Tijela de Açaí com granola) at any street corner juice store. Breakfast (or afternoon snack) of the champions!


  • Caminho Niemeyer
  • Museu de Arte Contemporânea (MAC): the flying saurcer-shaped building!
  • Both are located across the Guanabara Bay at another city: Niterói. You can take the ferry to Centro de Niterói from downtown Rio. Most constructions are walking distance from the ferry station in Niterói. Then take a bus or cab to MAC. Note:: it's probably more than a ½-day trip.