Home of the best Carnival Festival in the world, Rio de Janeiro will enchant you with its sounds, colours and nature. Everything seems to go at the rhythm of samba and passion for football. I have here collected some unique tips and recommendations to make your visit extra special.
Free Walking Tours
One of the nicest, yet unique experience of my trip to Rio has been a walking tour around Lapa, the Porto and the city centre offered by a local member of staff of Discovery Hostel. However there is a proper company which organises many others and I recommend you to check it out below:
BEST BBQ (Churrasco)
Fogo de Chão – You can’t say you’ve sampled Brazilian food without going to a churrasqueria. Fogo de Chão offers an authentic Brazilian all-you-can-eat carved bbq meat accompanied by a large variety of salad dishes.
One of the best exotic purple fruit used for many recipes. Best way being as an ice-cream flavour sold everywhere in Rio and especially on the beach. It is refreshing, tasty and healthy as it works as a great antioxidant. More benefits of açaí berres here.
TAKE THE TRAM
Travel as the locals do on this historic FREE tram. This is genuinely the BEST way to visit the fascinating neighborhood of Santa Teresa (must-go place!). It operates in one of the oldest railway system in the world (and yes it STILL works) connecting the hills of S. Teresa to Rio city centre, passing above the iconic Carioca Aqueduct of Lapa.
BEST SAMBA CLUB
Rio Scenarium – prime and finest Samba experience in a multilevel bar/restaurant/club. This place is second to none with its own unique character. It is big, diverse and pure FUN. The caipirinhas there are so delicious too so make sure you sip on one whilst experience the best live samba music.
You might be put off by the thought of visiting/entering a favela due to the bad press they receive. However I have done it myself and it is not as bad as you might have heard of. Equally though it is not a touristic attraction: ‘seeing how poor people live’. I am so against those lucrative ‘favela tours’ offered in town. It just does not sound right to me. Instead I went through one of the known ‘pacified one’ (where locals are willing to receive visitors). I explored it and fell in love with it. The view from those narrowed and picturesque streets going up and down is just SENSATIONAL. Last but not least, Vidigal is your point of access to the spectacular Two Brothers Mountain.
BEST HIKE OF RIO
Pedra da Gavea – fun and challenging hike paid off by a breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro. Please note that the 2 hour hike also involves a bit of rock climbing too (15 metres) making it a bit tricky for non regular-hikers. Be sensible: know your limit (or train for it!). Book your tour here. If you are brave enough and are looking for a bad-a*s picture try the ‘cadeirinha da morte’ literally ‘death seat’.
Or more xtreme (be sensible, please!)
ONE DAY EXCURSION
Wake up early and take a ferry to visit Niterói for the day: a municipality of Rio just opposite Rio de Janeiro city and coastline. You will know why I am recommending this as you will appreciate a priceless view of the golden beaches of Rio and green mountains of this paradise on earth. View this map how to get Niterói. Once there make sure to explore Pedra do Elefante for the below view. Find out all bout this hike experience here.
EXPERIENCE THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD GRAFFITI
World’s largest Graffitis by KOBRA. Believe it or not I was there on when the artist himself made the final touch of his masterpiece and managed to get the original of the black-and-white drawing.
And here I was with him when the black and white original was donated to me. One of the 5 faces featuring on the wall also a symbol of the 5 Olympic rings. This was not a case since I went to Rio as a volunteer for Rio2016 Olympic Games. This has been by far the MOST IMPRESSIVE work of art ever witnessed and its meaningful idea behind makes it even greater: the unity among continents (5) expressed in 5 different faces. With his own word his desire was: ”I [want] to show that everyone is united, we are all connected.”
Where to stay
Lapa – for nightlife – I stayed at Discovery Hotel near metro Gloria. For me the BEST Hostel I ever stayed at. In fact I even got back several times after moving to Ipanema/Copacabana area. Solely missed.
Ipanema – Ideal beach destination. In my opinion way better and trendier than Copacabana. Strongly recommending staying at Che Lagarto.