Brazil is a vivacious country bustling with energy, and it’s no secret that Rio de Janeiro is its pulse.
A visit to Rio is a great way to experience Brazil, and will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. The list of things to do in Rio seems endless, so here are six important “must-dos” to guarantee a true Rio experience:
Hang out with Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain
By far, the most magnificent monument I’ve ever seen. Reaching 98 feet high and spanning 92 feet wide, Christ the Redeemer stands at the top of Corcovado Mountain, overlooking the entire city with an astonishingly peaceful and almost life-like facial expression. Visitors flock to ride a vintage tram on the historical Corcovado Railway, where the final destination is the very tip of the mountain – a stone platform upon which the statue stands. Thousands of tourists visit daily, and can be seen twisting their bodies into awkward positions or laying supine on the stone in an attempt to capture the colossal structure into a single photo. Even more incredible, perhaps, is the symbolism of the Redeemer’s size and body position, which represents the deep rooted faith and trust in God of the Rio de Janeiro natives.
Watch the sunset from Impanema Beach
I received several recommendations for watching the sunset from Impanema Beach, with the assurance that it would be nothing like I had ever seen. I’ve seen many sunsets, in so many different places, and I wondered how different it could possibly be. My question was answered after I watched the sunset on a Monday evening in Impanema. It was spectacular – not only for the sunset itself, but rather the hundreds of people that gathered along the beach, on the hills, and in the water. Observing the silence that descended upon the crowd while the sun was setting brought a peaceful calmness over the area, a silence which was suddenly broken with a loud applause once the sun went down. It was a stark contrast from the usual fast-paced, liveliness that exists in Rio, and seems to be an event that the locals cherish, where they can appreciate the beauty of their city.
Visit a Samba School
An absolute must in Rio. If you have the benefit of knowing a local, you have to visit a Samba School. The Samba Schools are the pinnacle of community pride, and showcase their best samba music and dance, which are products of their diligent and rigorous training for competition at Carnival. These well-respected schools open their doors to the public to feature their talents and promote themselves. While often located in the perceivably dangerous parts of town such as the favelas, the events held within the school are safe, if attended with a local.
Eat at a Beachside Stall and People-Watch at Copacabana Beach
In Rio, the beach is where the action is, and Copacabana is the beach to be seen at. The beaches are not pristine or deserted, which is their alluring feature – they are buzzing with bodies, especially at Copacabana. Very rarely would you be able to bask in solitude under the sun, and that is part of the charm. It’s all about strutting around in microscopic swimwear, and enjoying the proximity of other beach-goers. Between the beach and city traffic is a promenade, spanning the length of Leblon, Impanema, and Copacabana beaches. Here is where you can sit down at a hut and enjoy an ice cold beverage along with some traditional Brazilian snacks, all while watching the interesting people passing by.
Have Lunch in Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a nice change from the vibrant life in Zona Sol. It’s a quaint neighbourhood atop one of Rio’s many hills. Spectacular views and tree-house styled restaurants down the mountainside are characteristic of Santa Teresa, and offer a certain peacefulness that can’t be obtained in the core of the city. The elevation provides plenty of fresh air, along with a little bit of breeze to escape the hot sun that beats down on the beach. A winding cobblestone road carves a path along the mountainside leading to the town, where history is preserved with old, colonial homes, shops, and galleries that line the narrow streets.
Watch the sunset from Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is situated at the opening of Guanabara Bay, and has the perfect coordinates to offer up the most incredible panoramic views of the city. It is no surprise, then, that at its 400m peak lies prime real estate for watching the sun as it sets behind Corcovado Mountain and the rest of the city. Buy a ticket to ride the cable car up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and enjoy all angles of the city from above. Space is limited, so it’s best to arrive a couple of hours early to secure a spot, otherwise your photos of the sunset will be ruined with dozens of heads and outstretched arms!