Rio, the oldest colonial settlement in Brazil, is a cosmopolitan city which really has everything: gorgeous beaches, a rich cultural scene, great food, stunning natural scenery, friendly locals and tons of history. You could easily spend a whole week here exploring the city and not getting bored of what it has to offer, but here’s a taste for how to spend 24 hours in Rio de Janeiro.
After breakfast, start the day off with a look around the Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) which offers scientific perspectives on situations from the past, present and hypothetical future. The museum building itself is also worth seeing: designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it is meant to resemble an alligator from the outside, and its position at the Maua pier with views over the Guanabara bay make for a spectacular setting.
Take a taxi along the coast for the 20-minute ride to Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) in the Urca neighbourhood. If the weather is nice enough, stop for a minute and dip your toes into the beautifully clear water at this small, neighbourhood beach with incredible views.
From there, walk across the street to the cablecar to ascend the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Enjoy the views from atop one of the city’s most iconic mountains, where you’re almost entirely surrounded by water and can make out the entire coastline of the city.
Once you come back down from the mountaintop, take the 25-minute walk or short taxi ride to the neighbourhood of Botafogo, where the streets are lined with boutique shops and cute cafes. Take a minute to wander around this cute part of town, known by locals as BotaSoho for its bohemian vibes and choose one of the many eateries for a lunch or coffee break.
Now that you’re re-energised, hop in a cab to the Trem do Corcovado (Corcovado tram) where you can, for the same price, either take the tram or a minivan up to see the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer): the advantage of the minivan being that the trip includes a stop at an additional viewpoint and they leave more regularly. Once the minivan drops you off, you have to pay entry for the monument itself and take a final minivan to the very top of the hill, so there are several hurdles to surpass, but the views once you’re there are quite spectacular!
Even if you only spend a relatively short time up at the highest point in Rio, it takes a while to get back to the city, but you’ll be in time to catch the sunset at the beach. Head over to Pedra do Arpoador, a rocky peninsula that separates Ipanema and Copacabana beaches and take a walk along the seafront, probably heading down Ipanema beach for the best sunset views, though it’s also very close to the Copacabana Fort that’s worth checking out if you’re interested in the city’s colonial history. Perhaps stop and rent a deck chair, buy a drink and enjoy the views and people watching as the sun goes down behind the Corcovado.
Once the city has transitioned to nighttime, the vibe changes and you can feel the electricity of the Rio night in the air. Either take a cab or hop on the metro lines 1 or 4 at Nossa Senhora da Paz for 10 stops to Cinelândia to explore the lively district of Santa Teresa. Walk over to the very cool Selina hotel, which has a great bar on the ground floor open to everyone and often live DJs spinning. Take a stroll around the nearby historic streets, stopping by to see the 18th-century aqueduct that now serves as an overhead line for a tram, and the famous Escadaria Selarón (Selarón steps), a stairway adorned with colourful mosaics that makes for a great selfie spot!
By now you’re probably hungry, so either you found somewhere to eat in Santa Teresa, or it’s time to head back to Botafogo for dinner. South Ferro in Botafogo has a Japanese style interior and serves some of the best ramen you’ll find in the city. They also have gyoza and some curry dishes which are highly recommended.
Since you’re in the area, head directly to Reduto, a multifunctional space that has live events, a bar and boutique shop. If you’re lucky, there might be a drag show happening, which even though mostly in Portuguese, is worth seeing for laughs as most of the queens’ comedy is in their expressions and looks.
If you’re still up for it, hit one of Rio’s many excellent nightclubs in Botafogo. For example, Casa da Matriz, just a few blocks away from Reduto, which is perhaps less typical of the city’s other clubs as it’s not necessary to be as dressed up, but the music is totally worth it. Everything from Tropicalia to punk, soul hip hop and funk are spun here, and the crowd is young and so Rio!
This guest post was written by Sam Wood.