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Best Things To Do in Rio de Janeiro

If it's your first time in Rio, you can't pass up relaxing and people-watching along the shores of Copacabana or Ipanema. But don't spend all of your time at the shore; the Marvelous City has more spectacular natural beauty to offer with sites like Tijuca National Park and Sugar Loaf. Venture into charming neighborhoods like Santa Teresa and Lapa, to get a real taste of what it means to be a Cariocas (native Brazilians born in Rio de Janeiro)

How we rank Things to Do

Updated May 30, 2018

  • #1
    Christ the Redeemer
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    #1 in Rio de Janeiro
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This iconic landmark is a must-see attraction in Rio. Recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, this statue of Jesus Christ stands with arms outstretched to the city from above Corcovado Mountain's staggering 2,330-foot elevation.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Jardim Botânico
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    #2 in Rio de Janeiro
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Spread out across more than 340 acres, this botanical paradise awes its visitors with more than 6,000 indigenous and exotic species of flora. This serene garden hosts everything from orchids to jasmine-mango heliconias.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Tijuca National Park
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    #3 in Rio de Janeiro
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Outdoorsy types love exploring this expansive green rainforest. Covering 8,300 acres, Tijuca National Park is the largest urban rainforest on the planet. The natural beauty of the park can't be understated: it features varied terrains, waterfalls, more than 1,600 plant species and more than 350 different species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    Ipanema Beach
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    #4 in Rio de Janeiro
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Made famous by the well-known bossa nova song, "The Girl from Ipanema," this beach has drawn tourists since the 1960s. The 2-mile stretch of sand boasts gorgeous mountain views, beautiful Brazilians and cobalt waters. While sunbathing, you'll observe wildly entertaining games of futevolei (the Brazilian version of volleyball without hands) and smell fresh shrimp grilling nearby on skewers.

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)
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    #5 in Rio de Janeiro
    Hiking, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Standing high above Rio's bustling metropolis at 1,299 feet, Sugar Loaf Mountain cascades over the picturesque Guanabara Bay. From Praia Vermelha in the residential Urca district, you can take a three-minute cable car ride up to Morro da Urca and then hop on another cable car up to the top of Sugar Loaf. From the glass-enclosed bondi (tram), you'll get a dazzling view of the city.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Lapa
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    Lapa
    free
    #6 in Rio de Janeiro
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you come to Rio to revel in samba, Lapa is the place for you. This festive neighborhood ignites at night, when locals swing their hips and sip on delectable cocktails. Brimming with rows of tapas bars, clubs and live music venues, Lapa's seductive night crawl certainly isn't lacking excitement or charm.

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Prainha
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    #7 in Rio de Janeiro
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Known as Brazil's "little" beach, this remote paradise  sits about 20 miles west of Ipanema Beach, but is well worth the jaunt. Prainha's magnificent shoreline features a backdrop of rolling hills and verdant rainforest. Surfers covet the killer waves, while beachgoers marvel at the gorgeous sunsets. The shore empties out during the weekdays (particularly during Brazil's winter — June to September), making Prainha a great alternative to other tourist-laden beaches. However, swimmers and surfers take note: currents are strong and there are no lifeguards.

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Copacabana Beach
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    #8 in Rio de Janeiro
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Rio's most popular shores, Copacabana is a public beach located in the heart of the luxurious Zona Sul neighborhood. The beach is marked by postos, or lifeguard stands, that offer changing rooms and restrooms for a small fee. Copacabana's 2.5-mile stretch of sand runs from Posto 1 to Posto 6, where you'll find a peninsula that houses the Historical Museum of the Army and Copacabana Fort.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    Santa Teresa
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    #9 in Rio de Janeiro
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This hilly bohemian district boasts an eclectic array of art and architecture. Strolling along Santa Teresa's cobblestone streets, you'll be enchanted by sidewalk mosaics, palatial mansions and artsy galleries. Conveniently situated just southwest of Lapa, this neighborhood offers traditional Brazilian restaurants, bars and craft stores.

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    Barra da Tijuca
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    #10 in Rio de Janeiro
    Beaches, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Barra da Tijuca's expansive 11-mile stretch of coastline and adjacent shopping center, known to Cariocasas "Barra," is popular among locals. Recent travelers say it has a more relaxed environment than the sands at Copacabana and Ipanema. Visitors enjoy the clean waters, as well as its ideal conditions for water sports like windsurfing and bodyboarding. Along the shore, you'll find plenty of inexpensive shops, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as kiosks selling coconut water.

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Grumari Beach
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    #11 in Rio de Janeiro
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    You won't find beachfront restaurants, luxurious hotels or plentiful kiosks here. Without them, you'll have space to stretch out on the nearly 2 miles of white and red sand. Part retreat for sun-seekers, part environmental reserve, this lovely beach is a ways away from the swooning tourists at Copacabana and Ipanema.

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    Ilha Fiscal
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    #12 in Rio de Janeiro
    Castles/Palaces
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Castles/Palaces
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Set apart from the bustling sights and sounds of central Rio, this remote neo-Gothic castle rests on a tucked away island in the Guanabara Bay. Completed in 1889 and once a prime location for Brazilian Custom Service, Ilha Fiscal now serves as an illuminated city gem. Inside the castle, you'll find hardwood mosaic floors, elaborate stained glass, as well as the transformed Ceremonial Room that's now used for Navy formal events.

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Rio de Janeiro

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