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Free Things To Do in Rio de Janeiro

If you have extra time, Prainha is worthwhile.
  • #4
    Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
    View all Photos
    #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.

    Cariocas will tell you that Ipanema's vibrant atmosphere is the place to see and be seen, so it's tailor made for people-watching. Catch locals playing frescobol, a tennis-like game without a net played with wooden paddles, or venture off the sand for an even bigger taste of local culture at nearby restaurants, shops and art galleries.

  • #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.

    You'll definitely want to check out Rio Scenarium, the most popular Brazilian club that features three stories, vintage decor and a long list of craft cocktails. Other popular bars and nightclubs in the neighborhood include Lapa 40 Graus and Clube Dos Democraticos, which has been home to Brazilian music and dancing since 1867.

  • #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.

    Recent travelers love the quieter, more local vibe at Prainha, especially in the offseason. While the beach boats plenty of sunbathing spots, visitors recommend bringing your own food and drink as the area lacks nearby restaurants and the options that are available tend to be overpriced. The best way to get there is by car, since the beach is about 13 miles west of downtown Rio. 

  • #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.

    Brimming with authentic eats, lavish accommodations and the beautiful Avendia Atlantica sideway made of mosaic tiles, Copacabana Beach boasts much more than powdery sands. Recent visitors raved about the beach and said the people-watching is some of the best in the world. Since the sands are always crowded, some travelers recommended just taking a sunset stroll along the water. 

  • #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.

    Travelers say the beautiful neighborhood showcases the best of what is left of colonial Rio de Janeiro, with vibrant street life and a charming atmosphere that's safe to explore at night.

  • #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.

    Because of its extensive shoreline and less dense population, the area will be home to the largest number of venues for the 2016 Olympic Games. The neighborhood will stage 23 Olympic sports, including basketball, tennis and all aquatic events.

  • #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.

    Travelers rave about Grumari Beach's cleanliness and natural beauty, but note that the trek there may take you awhile. Recent visitors said that even though the beach is about an hour's drive from the city, it's a hidden gem worth checking out.

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