Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Things to do in  Rio de Janeiro

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro

Buzzing Rio de Janeiro—the second largest in Brazil—is famous for its miles of stunning beaches, rich musical culture, and beautiful people. Experience it all at once by simply people-watching on one of the beaches, which Cariocas (Rio locals) consider their backyard. On legendary Copacabana, Ipanema, or Leblon beach, you’ll find residents and visitors alike socializing, relaxing, eating, drinking, dancing, and playing. Off the sands, see the best of Rio—while maximizing time and minimizing crowds and potential language barriers—on a guided city tour. A cog-train trip up Corcovado to the famous art-deco Christ the Redeemer statue or its twin peak, Sugar Loaf Mountain, rewards with stunning views of the urban sprawl, lined by white-sand beaches and the sparkling Guanabara Bay. Cruise that very bay for a different but equally epic perspective on the city, then feast on a Brazilian-style barbecue at a churrascaria. Stay up late to catch a samba show in Lapa, or wake up early to trek through the tropical Tijuca Forest or the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. Walking tours stroll through the streets of historic and bohemian Santa Teresa, or up into the hills for a look at favela life in Santa Marta or Rocinha. And for sports lovers, behind-the-scenes tours of Maracana Stadium showcase the country’s national obsession: futebol (soccer).

Top 15 attractions in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer Statue (Cristo Redentor)

Keeping a watchful eye over the people of Rio de Janeiro, the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue (Cristo Redentor) sits atop Corcovado Mountain at 2,300 feet (700 meters) above the city. Unveiled in 1931 and voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, this impressive monument is often credited as the most iconic site in Brazil.More

Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açúcar)

It’s easy to see why Rio de Janeiro was nicknamed the “Marvelous City” when you’re gazing down at it from the heights of Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açúcar). From its soaring 1,300-foot (396-meter) summit, the city unfolds around you, with views of the iconic Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, the Tijuca Forest, and the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue standing tall atop Corcovado Mountain to the west.More

Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón)

Decorated with more than 2,000 brightly colored tiles in the colors of the Brazilian flag, the Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón) is one of Rio de Janeiro's most vibrant and striking landmarks, marking the boundary between the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods.More

Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao)

Tall and cone-shaped, the modernist Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao) doesn’t look like a typical church. The unusual design was constructed between 1964 and 1979 by architect Edgar Fonseca. One of Rio’s most important religious structures, it is dedicated to St. Sebastian, the city’s patron saint.More

Sao Conrado Beach (Praia de Sao Conrado)

Whether you’re looking for the surf, the golden sands or to soar in the skies above, visiting Sao Conrado Beach (Praia de São Conrado) is a highlight of Rio de Janeiro. Here in this affluent, oceanfront neighborhood that’s sometimes called Praia Pepino, visitors will find an eclectic combo of people, many of whom are surfers or paragliders. The juxtaposition of social classes is evident out on the streets—yet everyone seems to equally enjoy the combo of sunshine and surf.When strolling the sands of Sao Conrado, be sure to look up and scan the skies for hangliders circling above. The beach is a popular landing spot for groups of paragliders and hangliders, most of whom have launched from the slopes of neighboring Pedra Bonita. To get a birds-eye view for yourself—but keep your feet back on land—a strenuous trail climbs 2,500 feet up towering Pedra da Gávea. This stoic sentinel and oceanfront rock is a classic Rio landmark, though the round-trip climb can take a whole day—even for seasoned hikers.More

Copacabana Beach (Praia de Copacabana)

Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Copacabana Beach evokes images of white-sand shores, sun-kissed volleyball players, tourists sipping agua de coco out of bright green coconuts, and bikini-clad revelers partying long into the night. And for the most part, that’s pretty accurate. Add in a touch of local flavor and a splash of the obscure, and it becomes obvious why this is one of the world’s most famous beaches.More

Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca)

Prior to the 19th century, Rio de Janeiro was surrounded by Atlantic rain forest. Today, all that remains is the 13-square-mile (33-square-kilometer) jungle known as Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca). Studded with tropical trees knotted together by jungle vines, the world’s largest urban forest is home to ocelots, howler monkeys, more than 300 bird species, waterfalls, and one of Rio’s iconic landmarks, the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue standing atop Corcovado Mountain.More

Maracana Stadium (Estádio do Maracana)

The gigantic Maracanã Stadium (Estádio do Maracanã) is one of the most iconic soccer temples in South America, built to open the 1950 World Cup. The site holds the record for the largest attendance at a World Cup Final thanks to the 199,854 paying spectators who crammed into the stadium in 1950 and also hosted the FIFA World Cup Final again in 2014 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. Officially known as MárioFilho Stadium but called Maracanãafter the small river that runs alongside it, the arena is now a historical site dedicated to its former use as a world-class arena and event venue.More

Ipanema Beach (Praia de Ipanema)

Although less famous than its neighbor Copacabana Beach, Ipanema holds its own with quiet charm and considerably cleaner surroundings—and it does so without skimping on any of the white sands, blue waters, or local character that give Rio de Janeiro’s beaches their claim to fame.More

Sambadrome (Sambadrome Marques de Sapucaí)

Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome (Sambadrome Marques de Sapucaí)—also known as Sambodromo or Passarela do Samba Darcy Ribeiro—was designed and built by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1984. Established to host the city’s enormous Carnival celebration every year, the stadium features a 2,300-foot (700-meter) runway and seats 90,000 spectators.More

Pedra da Gavea

When Portuguese sailors entered Guanabara Bay in January 1502, they spotted Pedra da Gavea and thought its shape resembled the topsail of a ship, which gave the mountain its name. The granite peak rises 2,769 feet (844 meters above sea level and plummets almost directly down toward the sea from within Tijuca National Park.More

Morro da Urca

Approximately half the size of neighboring Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 720-foot (219-meters) Morro da Urca is by no means insignificant. In fact, Morro da Urca is a necessary, and often overlooked, stop on the cable car ride up to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Before heading off to the larger hill, wander around the turtle-shaped mound for spectacular views of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, downtown Rio, Christ the Redeemer, and Sugar Loaf itself.More

Santa Teresa (Barrio Santa Teresa)

Close to the center of Rio de Janeiro, the cobbled district of Santa Teresa has long been a visitor favorite. Though it started out as an upper-class neighborhood, it has now become an artistic enclave that’s famous for its bohemian cafes and galleries.More

Lapa Neighborhood

Rio de Janeiro’s vibrant and bohemian Lapa neighborhood is the epicenter of the city’s music scene, with an abundance of bars and clubs hosting local samba and forro bands. After dark, revelers spill onto the sidewalks of Rua da Lapa and Rua Joaquim Silva in the heart of Lapa.More

Leblon Beach (Praia do Leblon)

Fronting one of Rio de Janeiro’s wealthiest and most exclusive neighborhoods, Leblon Beach (Praia do Leblon) is one of the city’s cleanest and safest beaches and a slightly quieter alternative to Ipanema. Separated from Ipanema by a canal, the beach is particularly popular with families, as it offers a play area with beach toys and playground equipment.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Rio de Janeiro

A day in Rio - Full City Tour

A day in Rio - Full City Tour

Guided Jeep adventure through Tijuca Rain Forest
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

All about Rio de Janeiro

When to visit

Free-spirited Rio de Janeiro is in its element in summer, when travelers come to sip caipirinhas by the beachside and join the legendary Reveillon (New Year's Eve) and Carnival celebrations. Just don’t forget your umbrella—it’s also rainy season. To avoid the crowds, visit in fall when the cooler weather also means increased visibility from Rio’s mountain viewpoints.


People Also Ask

What is Rio de Janeiro best known for?

Rio de Janeiro is known for the beautiful beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, and Barra da Tijuca; its samba culture; Sugarloaf Mountain; its huge statue of Christ the Redeemer; and its colorful annual Carnival. The city is also known for its love of soccer and the Maracanã stadium.

What types of activities are popular in Rio de Janeiro?

Taking a cog-train trip up Corcovado to the imposing Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf are both must-do activities in Rio de Janeiro. You should also take a stroll through the bohemian Santa Teresa district, catch a match at Maracanã, savor a Brazilian-style barbecue at a churrascaria, stay up late to catch a samba show, and people-watch on Copacabana, Ipanema, or Leblon.

Do they speak English in Rio de Janeiro?

No. English is not widely spoken in Rio de Janeiro but you should be able to get by with just English in the main tourist areas. The second language of Cariocas is more likely to be Spanish—fortunately, if you speak some Spanish, you will likely be able to understand a little Portuguese.

How can I spend 3 days in Rio de Janeiro?

With three days in Rio de Janeiro you should have enough time to take trips up both Corcovado and Sugarloaf; explore a few neighborhoods, such as Santa Teresa or Lapa; watch a soccer game at Maracanã; cruise around Guanabara Bay; and spend some quality time on the beach.

What is there to do in Rio de Janeiro at night?

Rio de Janeiro truly comes to life after dark. Lapa is one of the most popular nightlife districts and is a great place to catch a samba show, drink caipirinhas and meet locals at the bars, and dance the night away at a club.

Is Rio de Janeiro a safe place to visit?

Yes, Rio de Janeiro is safe to visit, but visitors should still be cautious as Rio’s reputation as dangerous is not entirely unfounded. The city's favelas have high rates of crime, so it’s best to avoid them while popular neighborhoods such as Santa Teresa and Praia de Botafogo should only be visited during the day.

Frequently Asked Questions