The first time I went to Rio de Janeiro, the weather was awful, cloudy and rainy. Me and my friends had rented a tiny apartment in Copacabana. The first impressions about the city weren’t positive at all…it seemed that the color grey didn’t match with this city and its inhabitants’ faces. After three days of trying to discover the “marvelous city” without success we decided to go away.
Nowadays, after one month living here, I can’t believe that bad experience really happened. Every day I spend in this incredibly city I fall a little more in love with it, so here I’m gonna show you some of the places I have loved most so far just to make sure you don’t miss anything about Rio! I have to be really grateful to my lovely carioca guide, with whom I’ve had the opportunity of living the truly Rio
Urca is the little hill connected with the Sugarloaf mountain by the cable car. On its foot lies the charming neighborhood of Urca, full of beautiful houses and surrounded by the peace of the sea. I recommend taking a bus to get there, as there are quite routes with stop in Urca. The first time I went, I get there by foot from Copacabana, it’s quite long, but possible. Once you get there, just start walking around the street with no rumb, there’s no way you get lost, as it is really well delimited by the geography, the sea in one side and the hill in the other. After going all over the calm streets, go to the promenade close to the sea and follow it until the end. On the way, you will come across the little Urca beach with some good but quite expensive restaurants, so I recommend you to keep walking until the promenade finishes. There, you will find in a corner a little restaurant where you can buy an ice-cold beer and taste the famous carioca pies called “empadas”, that can be stuffed with chicken, prawns, dried meat…The tradition is to seat on the short wall next to the sea and enjoy of the food and drink, the views and the company….You cannot miss it! Then you should obviously visit the Pão de Açúcar mountain taking the cable car. The station is in the other side of the hill, next to Praia Vermelha.
The Santa Teresa neighborhood is located in a hill just next to Gloria and Catete. It is one of the bohemian areas of Rio and it has beautiful views of the city. In your trip to the “Cidade Maravilhosa”, you cannot miss a good promenade through its streets and a beer, as always an ice-cold one, in one of his historical restaurants. The first obligatory stop is the “Parque das Ruínas”, in the top of Santa Teresa. To get there, you can go by mototaxi, combi or with the bondinho. Mototaxi is the fastest way to go if you’re travelling by your own, you can find them in the corner of Rua Benjamin Constant and Rua da Gloria. If you’re travelling with more people, you can take the “combi”, which is like a bus, just in front of the Americanas store of Rua da Gloria, once you pass the corner with Rua Candido Mendes. The other option is to take the traditional “bondinho” that appears in the photo (it’s free!). The station is on Rua Léilo Gama , in Centro, near the Lapa Arches. You can take the metro to get there, get off in Carioca station and then you can ask for the bondinho station, anyone will help you to find it. The little train has different stops, so I recommend you to ask to the driver. Once you get to the park, just walk around, enjoy the views and discover its history. After this visit, do a good promenade through the neighborhood, you will definitely fall in love and wish you lived in one of the houses you’ll see. Take the Rua Dias de Barros, that turns into Rua Almirante Alexandrino until Largo dos Guimarães. Drink one for me and taste some of the typicals “petiscos” (snacks). One of the traditional restaurants is the Bar do Mineiro on Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, right after the Largo Guimaraes, it’s usually full, so another option is the Armazén São Thiago, most known as Bar do Gomez, located in the corner of Rua Monte Alegre and Rua Áurea. To go back you can just take the bondinho way back and then the metro (it works until 16 pm). If the sun comes down while you’re there, better avoid secondary streets as they are usually empty.
Hike Dois Irmãos and favela Vidigal
Natural wealth is one of the main characteristics that makes this city so special. A trip to Rio must have at least one hike to one of its hills. Seeing the rising of the sun from the top of Dois Irmãos is worth witnessing once in your lifetime…in less than two months I’ve done it already twice! Some cariocas do it once a month, for example, to charge with good energies. You should start the hike at 4 am aprox, when it’s still night (much better if it’s full moon!) and wait for the sun rising from the top, with the city on your feet. You’ll have no words to describe the feelings.
The trail begins in Vidigal, one of the pacified favelas. Both times I’ve done the hike, I was always with local people, and although there’s no danger inside this favela, I would probably hire a guide which usually includes the transport. As a recommendation, not only because I personally know him, but because he has good prices and really loves what he does, take a look at the tours with Hike to Sunrise (facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/twobrotherstour/ (contact Bernardo)
If you’re an intrepid adventurer, then you can follow these directions to do it by yourself. Get to Vidigal entrance by taxi or uber. Then take from there a mototaxi and tell to the driver that you’re doing the “trilla Dos Irmaos”, they will know where to take you. If you are a little afraid of motorbikes, like me, just say “devagarinho” (slowly). The price shouldn’t be more than 10 reales, talk about it before getting on the moto. The trail starts between some houses, you first have to climb some stairs and then follow a kind of wall that has houses on the left and bushes on the right, and then starts the trail into the bushes. (Don’t forget taking a head torch). This is an alternative trail of the hike, as the principal starts in a soccer field that is closed during the night, but they join at some point so you can’t get lost, just follow the way until the top and enjoy. For the return, I’ve always get to the entrance of Vidigal on foot, it’s a bit long, but for me it worths walking the streets of a favela, it’s an unique experience. Once you get down, you can take a bus in the stop just in front of the entrance, or take taxi or uber.
After the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the center of the city has changed radically, so nowadays you can peacefully walk around its streets and see some of the oldest constructions and main buildings of the city, such as the Teatro Nacional, the Cámara dos Deputados, the CCBB (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil). Thanks to the Olympics, this neighborhood that was a bit dangerous, has turned into a nice zone to go for a walk and enjoy the carioca culture. However, you should better go during the day and working days when there’s more people around. You can go by metro, get off in Cinelandia station and start walking. I recommend you to ask for the direction of the Candelaria church and walk on this way. The Candelaria church, one of the most important religious constructions, is where the olympic torch remained during the games. One of the main avenues that has gained some pedestrian parts in the renovation process is the Rio Branco, you can go through there, pass by the Praça XV and reach the Praça Mauá. This square was one of the principals points during the Games, as they build the Museu do Amanhã, restored the old buildings and placed there the Olympic Boulevard. Finally the Centro nights. The most famous is the Rodas de Samba in Pedra do Sal on mondays and fridays nights, it’s samba live music from local groups, really authentic and unique. There’re some other streets with some bars and good atmosphere at night, like Rua Arco do Teles and Rua do Ouvidor.
Lagoa and Parque da Catacumba
The Lagoa Rodrigo Freitas is a beautiful and special place for a walk or a bike ride. In my opinion, much better by bike as the whole lake has a bike path around it. There’s the Parque da Catacumba, with free entrance, where you can do some adventure activities like arborism, climbing or a Tyrolean traverse for good price. What you can’t miss is a short hike (about 15 min) that takes you to two viewpoints from where you’ll have the most beautiful views of the lake. I recommend going in mid-afternoon, when the sun is going down. Then, going around the lake you’ll find some good places to stop for a while and rest near the calm water. Depends on the location of your hostel, you can follow the bike path until the beach and keep riding by the Ipanema beach.
Here I show a map with the principal beaches of Rio. There’s bike path (red colour) from Flamengo beach to Lelbon, right next to the beaches, I highly recommend you to rent a bike and go all across! Although the most famous are Copacabana and Ipanema, my favourites ones are Praia Vermelha, Arpoador and Leme. If you like surfing, then yours is Leme, really good vibes! Botafogo has a little cute beach too, but no one swims as the water is dirty.
The Cristo Redentor
This is one the most important tourist visits you’ll do, you will easily find all the information about the tourist visit. I would like just give a piece of advice. It’s obviously a must if you’re in Rio, and I highly recommend you to visit the Cristo near the end of your stay and in the afternoon of a sunny day, so the sun goes down when you’ll be there. Why visiting Cristo at the end of your stay? If things flow as they should, you will be definitely in love, will have lived some nice experiences and discovered some beautiful places. From the top of the city, near the feet of the Cristo, you will identify each beach, hill and part of the city and review everything that happened during your stay. The feelings that I felt the first time I get there, will always be with me.