4-Day Itinerary in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has a little bit of everything. It is a big city on the beach that features plenty of museums, hiking, restaurants and even jungle. Of course, Rio is also home to one of the world's seven wonders, Christ the Redeemer. But perhaps the loveliest part of Rio is its people, the Cariocas, who live life to the fullest every day, welcoming every passing moment with a smile.
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Copacabana Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Rio de Janeiro
This Art Deco icon reigns supreme over its namesake beach, an unmatched destination for tapping into the spirit of Rio’s beach culture.
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Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro
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Day 1: Beach it and dance samba
The beach is a quintessential aspect of the Carioca lifestyle, so what better place to start your trip? And don't worry if you forget something; the beach vendors can sell you anything from sunglasses and bathing suits to fresh coconut water and even cheese on a stick (highly recommended!).
Different parts of the beach have different personalities. For example, post 8 in Ipanema is LGBT-friendly, while Arpoador is an excellent place for surfing.
After a day in the sun, head out to experience Brazil's famous samba music. Pedra do Sal in downtown Rio is the birthplace of the Brazilian samba. Nowadays, it's home to a group of outdoor bars with live samba every night of the week. Dance, drink and take in this incredible piece of carioca history.
Day 2: Local institutions and sunset at Sugarloaf Mountain
Start the day off with brunch at Confeitaria Colombo. This beautiful restaurant with a stained-glass ceiling and French-inspired design is a Rio landmark and will give you the fuel you need for the rest of the day.
A few minutes from Confeitaria Colombo is the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Reading Room), one of the most famous (and most beautiful) libraries in the world. Stop in for a quick photo and a peek at some of the best architecture in Rio.
Next stop: Oi Futuro, the Museum of Telecommunications! It's an interactive museum with sound and visual exhibits, all by Brazilian and Latinx artists. It's an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, and you'll get some great Instagram photos from the mirrored rooms on the top floor.
Head to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) for the city's best sunset view. Take the cable car up to the top and enjoy the 360-degree views of Rio. If you're really adventurous, you can arrange a guide to help you scale it (but after seeing that sheer rock face, you may think twice!).
Day 3: Rio’s Botanical Garden & Christ the Redeemer
Head to Jardim Botanico (Rio's Botanical Garden) for breakfast at Plage Cafe in Parque Lage. (I recommend getting there before they open at 9 am because they don't take reservations, and by 9, there's usually a line down the block. It's worth the wait for a huge brunch spread in a gorgeous old arts building that will make you feel like you're in the middle of Europe. Walk off brunch in the botanical garden (be sure to check out the avenue of palm trees!).
After brunch, it's time for Rio's most famous landmark Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). You can take a train up the mountain or hike but be warned, the hike is steep and takes about three hours. Up at the top, you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of Rio and a close-up of one of the seven wonders of the world.
At night, it's time to check out the Lapa neighborhood. Full of bars and live music, there's something here for everyone. Mingle with Cariocas over a beer or a craft cocktail and drink in the sounds of bossa nova.
Day 4: Art in Rio de Janeiro
Today is all about arts and culture. First, we're checking out Santa Teresa, Rio's artsiest neighborhood. Start in Lapa and take the streetcar up the hill into Santa Teresa. Once you're up there, wander the cobblestoned streets and pop into art galleries and bars. There's fantastic street art around practically every corner! For the best views, go to Parque das Ruinas, where you can see all of Rio.
Up for a bit more walking? Head down to Rio's Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), an interactive museum with thought-provoking exhibits about nature, humanity and the future. Just outside the museum is a long, car-free avenue with warehouses covered in gorgeous murals. Grab coconut water and take a stroll down the avenue.
Carioca culture is beach culture. After a long day of walking, head down to one of the beach kiosks for dinner and drinks. Locals love La Carioca en la Playa and Classico Beach Club near Leblon.
Need to Know
January and February are the busiest (and more expensive) times to go to Rio. Every year, the city hosts an enormous fireworks display on the beach for New Year's and a week of celebrations for Carnaval in February. If you're interested in going to either of those events, book at least six months in advance.
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