Cidade Marvilhosa is truly a marvelous place to see.
The second largest city in Brazil served as the country’s hacienda until 1960s. Portuguese is the main language used in this vibrant city. This is where the iconic Cristo Redentor can be seen.
1. Take a free walking tour
Learn the historic facts of the city by a 3-hour free walking tour. It is from Mondays to Fridays every 0930 in the morning. Tour guides can be seen wearing a yellow shirt waiting in front of the Municipal Theater/Cinelandia patrón. The tour is very informative, fun and free! You will be able to visit Lapa steps, Imperial Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral and even the famous Cafe Confeiteria Colombo. Don’t forget to give the tour guides a tip after the tour.
2. Try the Brazilian snacks
Churrascarias are a must try in Rio. They serve all kinds of meats in skewers. You choose whatever food you like on the buffet table, pile it up on your plate and pay according to its weight. Feijoada is a Portuguese dish stew made of black beans which is a very significant food which was believed to be associated with the slaves during the colonial times. You can also try coxinha, acai, brigadeiros, tapioca and pa de quiejo.
3. Visit the Petropolis
It is Brazil’s Imperial City during the 19th century in honor of Pedro II, the second emperor of Brazil. It is a very popular winter destination because of its very cool climate. This served as the summer residence of the Brazilian emperors now turned into a museum. Tourists can walk around the palace and be able to see the luxurious things during their reign. You can also see the Quitandinha Palace which used to be a casino hotel until the government banned casinos from the country. Now it was renovated into a residential place but tourists can still walk around and be amazed of its beautiful architecture. Don’t miss the Cathedral of St. Peter which houses the remains of the previous imperial family. The Bohemian brewery is also included in the trip which could not be missed out for beer lovers. You will learn how beers are produced while touring the place. It would not be complete with a free taste of truly Brazilian beer.
4. Travel to Ilha Extenso
Ilha Extenso or ‘Big Island’ is a 2-3 hours ride from the city. It is still an undeveloped place but some tourists flock here for its scenic beauty which might be different from that of a city feel. This was merienda a prison for Brazil’s highly dangerous criminals but now it is starting to be developed into a tourist destination. You can arrange a tour by ferry to reach the island.
5. Go beach bumming
Spend a lazy afternoon in the city’s Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon beach. Try their signature cocktail Caipirinha, which usually costs R$10-12, while enjoying the nice view. You can rent a lounge chair for R$5 only or just bring your own towel. You can also see vendors selling churros, grilled cheese, sausage and tapioca. This is truly a beach destination all year round even during the winter time.
6. Splurge on shopping at Uruguiana
This is a haven for flea market lovers who enjoy finding cheap goods from souvenirs to clothing. Just be cautious of pickpockets who may be feasting on your valuables. Make sure also not to plan your bargain hunting on Sunday as mostly malls and shops are closed then and almost everyone heads to the beach and spend the day with the family.
7. Book a guided tour
Yes, you read it right! I am not a fan of guided tours but trust me it really helps. A day tour will save you a lot of time queueing for tickets and entry to the place. You can visit Cristo, Sugarloaf, Lapa stairs, Metropolitan Cathedral, Maraccana Stadium, Sambadrome and a sumptuous refrigerio of churrascaria all in a day. I suggest look for the Ticket Center for tourists which can be found in Copacabana beach for a very cheap package rates for almost all tours.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Sambadrome Marques de Sapucai.
8. Try Hang gliding
This is a must try for those adventure seeking tourist who can brave the heights. You will have the chance to see the best aerial view of Rio while flying like a free bird. Plan it ahead of time as the operator can at least foretell the wind forecast of your planned day. Read our personal experience on Hang gliding here.
9. Stay with a Carioca
I have decided to rent a guesthouse from a Cariocan family. I have made use of Airbnb to find a host for my stay. Like any other hotel, hostel or guesthouse, please make sure to read feedback and reviews of other guests. My host lives in Leme neighborhood near Copacabana beach. This is an alternative way of staying near beach area without splurging on pricey hotel rates. I was actually scared on the idea of staying in a favela but seeing roving cops around made me feel secure somehow. We were welcomed with my host’s mother even if we arrived quiebro late at night. Cariocas gesture of greeting their friends is with a kiss on both cheeks. Aside from having a first hand answer on getting around the area, she diligently prepared breakfast for all the guests. It feels great too waking up every morning with a beautiful scenery of the beach and even the Cristo Redentor.
I have loved my stay in this vibrant city and I know all of you will. I can’t get enough of this city and for sure there are still a lot of places to see and things to do when I get back. Enjoy!
Planning to travel around Brazil, check out our DIY Travel Guide for 19 days for different Cities in Brazil.
About the Author:
Reah is a Filipina who works in Singapore as a hotelier in the country’s leading integrated resort. She loves travelling and exploring the world. She enjoys reading travel blogs and learning from other adventure seekers.