Since I was a little girl I always dreamed about visiting Rio de Janeiro and taking part in the famous Carnival. That finally came true and below I’m sharing with you my top things to do in Rio de Janeiro- an ultimate 4 day Rio itinerary.
Rio de Janeiro is such a vibrant city full of colour and flavour! It’s got the most epic viewpoints from the Sugar Loaf mountain and from the platform of Christ de Redeemer, cool beaches, unique culture and so much more! Keep reading to find out.
Places to stay in Rio de Janeiro
As expected from Hyatt, the hotel is 5 star and offers great luxurious rooms and excellent service. It is located in a quitter area, a little away from the main, busy part of Rio. The hotel is facing Barra beach from one side and the Marpendi Lagoon on the other side. The rooms are large and come with terraces. The hotel boasts beautiful pool area where you can chill out and forget about the entire world.
Windsor California is located in Avenida Atlantica which is the main road going through Copacabana beach. I stayed here and loved the location, which is in a nice, safe neighbourhood with a lovely beach just across the road. The rooms are very modern and well equipped with good bathrooms and comfy beds. The hotel seemed to me on luxurious side for a mid-range price, which is great. The best part was the pool on the rooftop. It’s small but offers a great view on the beach and I loved sitting there.
This is a great budget option to stay in Rio de Janeiro. This hotel is situated in the city centre. Rooms are clean and comfortable. There is a rooftop pool and sauna. Not bad at all for a budget hotel.
4 Day Rio Itinerary
Day 1- Lapa, Santa Teresa & Copacabana
Start your day from Metropolitan Cathedral de Sao Sebastiao. Admire its modernist structure. It may be a bit uneasy on the eye from outside but I promise it gets better inside- I loved its mosaic windows.
Next, walk to Lapa and make sure you pay attention to its most iconic landmark- aqueducts that are still used by trams. If you fancy you can take a ride on an old school tram. The area is a bit on a sketchy side so be aware of your surroundings at all time.
Otherwise your next stop is- the most famous stairs in Rio – Escadaria Selaron- Selaron Steps. The Chilean artist- Jorge Selaron created them as a tribute to Brazil. The famous stairs connect two neighbourhoods- Lapa and Santa Teresa. And the colourful tiles they are made of, come from all over the world.
The iconic Snoop Dog’s music video- ‘Beautiful’ was shot here. And this very video made me want to come and visit Rio for the first time! If you don’t know what I mean, you must watch it here:
Getting a decent shot here may be a challenge, but if you walk a bit higher up, there will be less tourists and you should be able to take your perfect, unobstructed shot.
Parque Das Ruinas
It’s a villa that burned and was converted into a view point. It offers stunning outlook onto Sugar Loaf mountain and the coats as well as the financial district. You can watch two different words meeting together. You can also watch planes going round the Sugar Loaf to land on Rio’s airport.
Stroll the streets of this cute neighbourhood. Again you will have the opportunity to get onto a tram if you missed it earlier.
Spend the rest of the day like a local, enjoying this famous beach. Bring with you a towel, sun cream and some change for coconut water. You can hire sun chairs and parasols on the beach. Be patient, there is a lot of sellers circling the beach, if they annoy you just think how hard they work every day. Enjoy people watching and unruly ocean waves.
Day 2 – Corcovado, Parque Lago, Botanical Gardens and Ipanema
Christ The Redeemer- explained
Start your day early and head to Corcovado lower station that is located in Cosme Velho. The most convenient way is to use UBER. It should cost around £6. I went in February, just before Carnival and it was alright to buy my ticket from the card machines located at the station. The wait was only 10-15 min until the next train. If you want to admire the views, sit facing downwards on the train.
It’s only a short ride and after that a few more steps and here it is- one of the seven wonders of the world. It almost felt undeserved because of this convenience.
Expect a large crowd and little chances of getting a photo without any unwanted companion on the background.
Christ the Redeemer is certainly a must see in Rio, however for me the experience was underwhelming for the above reasons. I much preferred the view of Christo from Parque Lago which is where we’re heading next!
It’s a very cute park located at the foot of the Corcovado. It brings a well deserved relief from the crowds and heat. In the centre, there is a mansion with a pool inside, now converted into a charming cafe. You can relax here by the pool.
Another great stop for nature lovers. The entrance cost around £3. There are around 6,500 species in the park. There is plenty of marvellous photo opportunities if you’re into photography. And last but not least, Instagram famous palm alley! Hidden deep in the park, there is a lake and a little cafe, another great place for a refreshment.
After all morning of sightseeing, spend the rest of your afternoon on the Ipanema beach! Ipanema was my favourite beach due to the iconic view of the mountains that look like camel humps.
Day 3- The Sugar Loaf & Downtown
The Sugar Loaf
Take an UBER to Urca where the cable car station is located. The return ticket costs £20 all the way to the top. The journey is divided into two parts! Get off on the first station and walk round it to see Rio from all the perspectives. The views are stunning and there is plenty of place for everyone. You can take a helicopter ride or head to the very top for more awesome views. Get an acai bowl and just absorb the scenery.
Start with Sao Bento Monastery. It is located on the St. Benedict Hills in downtown Rio. It’s built in Portuguese colonial architecture. Just go ahead and spend few minutes walking inside and admiring its lush interior, the entrance is free.
Once you absorbed a bit of spirituality, head down Rua 1 de Marco to see Rio’s business district. On your way people watch all the employees of big corporations chatting away and getting lunch from various street sellers.
If you’re into art head to Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. The entrance cost £2.5 and you can find here some good collection of paintings from various areas.
After all the sightseeing you deserve to spend the afternoon at your favourite beach drinking a Caipirinha or two.
Day 4- Favela Tour and Tijuaca
Today take a Favela tour to see Rio de Janeiro from a different perspective. You can book it in advance or through a leaflet on Copacabana. Please be aware that it is not safe to visit Favelas on your own.
Favelas or shanty towns are build on the outskirts of Rio neighbouring with Tijuaca forest. They are populated by mostly Black and impoverished part of society. People that did not have anywhere else to live.
There is a striking contrast between Favelas and rich neighbourhoods of Rio which are literally built site by site.
I visited Rocinha Favela.
Tijuaca National Park
Situated right on the outskirts, Tijuaca is one of the few urbanised jungles. Locals love taking picnics here and going for hikes.
Again to see this amazing place, hire a guide. See its numerous waterfalls, lakes and trails. Don’t forget the Chines Vista view point which is also situated in Tijuaca.
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