Can anyone recommend an itinerary for me as I plan my trip to Rio de Janeiro? I want to experience this city to the fullest, but have no idea where to start. I will be traveling with a group of friends and we like eating, shopping, sightseeing, and lazing in the sun, preferably on a beach or cool pool!
at night the old part of Rio called Lapa is a very cool and trendy part of town that in recent years has gone from being a dangorous place to one of the places to be at night with cool bars and a nice bohemian vibe.
check out the Selaron Steps too when in Lapa as this is one of the cooler attractions in Rio.
If you want a sightseeing tour of Rio then try the JEEP TOUR which is a nice way to see the city without being stuck inside a bus most of the time.
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A week sounds like the perfect amount of time to be in Rio! I was there for five days in July, and missed out on a few things I would have loved to have seen. Here are some suggestions, grouped vaguely by neighborhood. Most would take about half a day to see or do - you could tackle two a day, or spend the other half at the beach!
Apologies for no 'at' symbols. I'm replying on my tablet which hardly types.
Lagoa is another neat area - the botanical gardens are great. I missed having brunch at Parque Lage, but I heard it's nice. My local friend took me out to a lake-side restaurant called 'Lagoon'. It had great views, and lots of dining options.
FInally, you have to go up Corcovado and see Christ the Redeemer. The views of the city are amazing. While you're waiting for the train, walk up the road to Largo do Boticário, a bunch of beautiful old homes that are fading into the surrounding jungle.
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Must see places are:
1.Sugarloaf (Pão de Açúcar) - take the cable car all the way up, best time is late afternoon so that you can be up on top when the sun sets. It's gorgeous!
3. beaches - my preferences are Leme/Copacabana Beach and Ipanema/Leblon. You might want to go out to São Conrado, though, if you want to see beautiful hang gliding - the gliders launch from a high mountain, and make their way down to the beach in Sao Conrado. While at the beach, take in some sidewalk cafes. Be sure to order Brazil's best soft drink, guarana, or if you prefer alcoholic, a caipirinha (cachaca - a sugar-cane based liquor, with lime juice and ice), or a caipiroska (same thing except it's with vodka instead of cachaca.)
Another cool thing at the beach is to walk along the beachfront avenue with their beautiful patterns of black and white tiles - it can be good exercise and you can see a lot of the local lifestyle. (There are even early morning exercise classes & yoga on the beach, if you want to get up very early!) Also try some coconut - they sell it along the beach at little stands - they use the big green ones, cut a hole and put a straw in for you to drink the coconut juice - yum!!
4. Take the little "bondinho da Lapa" - a tram - over the historic arches of Lapa up to the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Beautiful, photogenic area with very colorful and beautiful houses. Near Lapa is Rio's cathedral, which is a very interesting shape and beautiful inside.
5. Botanic Gardens - this is in "Floresta da Tijuca" - a preserved natural forest where you can see waterfalls, rows of tall palm trees and other tropical rainforest flora and fauna.
6. There's a new art museum housing modern art by Brazilian artists, which I've never been too, but they say it's spectacular. I think it's in Flamengo? (I could be mistaken).
7. Make sure to go somewhere where you can take in good Brazilian music - popular, samba, etc. Where there's playing, there's also dancing. Many hotels have shows for tourists. Brazil has some interesting African-based instruments, including the cuica, berimbau (which is used to accompany the martial art of capoeira), agogo and various types of chocalhos (shakers or rattles). If possible, go to a show by a samba 'school' (not really a school, it's a large group of 'sambistas' including dancers and musicians who parade during Carnaval) and a capoeira show - it's a martial art which uses mostly the legs and feet. It was developed by runaway slaves in the 19th century, who used knives held between their toes to fight off the slave catchers! They no longer use knives, of course! It's very stylized today. At your hotel, they can tell you how to see these various types of cultural shows.
8. After you've heard the music, you'll want to buy some! Visit a good record store and pick up some CDs.
9. Malls - Tijuca has one of the biggest and glitziest malls, where you can visit a good record store as well as any other type you can think of. If you prefer a smaller mall, Shopping RioSul is at the entrance to Copacabana.
10. Eat at a churrascaria - these barbecue steak houses have become popular in the States, but in Brazil they're much cheaper! All the meat you can think of to eat, served on large skewers that they bring to your table and slice off pieces right onto your plate, and they also have a buffet of other wonderful Brazilian foods, such as palmito (hearts of palm), salads, whipped potatoes, etc., etc.
There's lots more to do, but these are the essentials, in my opinion. Be sure to always keep your handbag close to you, especially when riding public transportation. Brazilian pickpockets are experts and most are kids! When you go to the beach, don't take any valuables, just a little money to buy a drink or snacks sold on the beach. When walking on the beachfront, street kids sometimes use "tricks" to get your money. Don't indulge them!!
My favorite sweets are "quimdim" (a coconut candy covered with a glaze) and "brigadeiro" (chocolate balls that are out of this world). Go to a "confeitaria" for these and more!!!
Another food to try: feijoada - a traditional dish made with black beans, rice and various kinds of sausage.
One more caveat: Brazilians are proud people. If you don't speak Portuguese, tell them so. If you speak Spanish, you can tell them that you don't speak Portuguese but can speak Spanish (or Italian - both languages are close to Portuguese). Don't just launch into conversation with Brazilians in Spanish, as if you assume that's their national language. They might pretend they don't understand you, even though they do. However, if you preface this with saying you don't speak Portuguese, you acknowledge that you know Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, but then offer to communicate in another language they understand (like Spanish). Many educated Brazilians speak English, and most likely you will find people who speak English at hotels, at the beaches, and other tourist destinations.
Most of all, take care, use sunscreen and have fun. The Brazilian people are in general very friendly and helpful. I wish I could go with you!!
(I lived in Brazil for over 2 years back in the '80s. My last trip there was in 2003. I have friends and family in Rio. I never get tired of Rio. It's my favorite city in the world!)
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Sometimes it can be quite a fuss to go to all the main sights in Rio, so what I did the two times I've visited the city is taking a day trip to go and see Cristo Redentor, Pão de Açúcar, Escadaria Selarón etc all in one day. Saves you loads of time and effort! Most of them are in minivans, which is also nice. Doing this, you get the most important sightseeing over with in one day.
Tips for the other days:
- One day Copacabana and Ipanema beach hanging;
- Visit the Rocinha favela, by taking a tour (not recommended to do on your own);
- Hiking tours to Tijuca and/or Pedra da Gávea for insane views!;
- Maracanã, for the soccer fans;
- Neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
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