Things to See & Do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I finally managed to compile a list of the hotels in which I stayed, restaurants in which I ate, tour companies I used, photos that I took etc from my time spent in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Check out the list below to learn about some things you can see and do while there:

  1. Alessandro E Frederico Cafe – hands down my favorite restaurant in Rio. Affordable, delicious, fresh food, and located in the Ipanema area of Rio. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They won me with their freshly baked bread. Get a seat on the patio to watch the pretty people of Ipanema walk by.
  2. Aprazivel – a Portuguese restaurant in the Santa Teresa area of Rio. Also homed in a restored colonial style mansion. Great food, extensive wine list, and again a beautiful view of Rio. A must for anyone visiting the city.
  3. Brazilian Consulate in Toronto – you must have a visa to visit Brazil. Get one well in advance of your trip – have the process started at least 30 days before you leave.
  4. Grayline Tours – I went to see Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf mountain through Grayline. They offer some great tours.  ** DO NOT book them for airline/hotel transfers under any circumstance. The guy who picked me up at the airport almost killed me with his reckless driving and they never even showed up to pick me up at the hotel the day I left Rio. I almost didn’t make it to the airport in time to catch my flight home!
  5. Hotel Santa Teresa – a boutique, 5 star hotel, set in a restored colonial style mansion. I stayed there and it was glorious!
  6. Iguassu Falls – a two hour flight from Rio, I booked an excursion there through Gap Adventures. BEST part of my trip. Suggest to book Comfort or Superior – the hotel at the Standard level is gross.
  7. National Geographic – another blog post I read before leaving for Rio.
  8. Selaron Stairs – infamous stair case in the Lapa area of Rio. Learn about my experience seeing the wonderful site.
  9. Shopping Leblon – one of the better shopping malls in Rio. I dropped some serious cash there. 🙂
  10. Tereze – a lovely restaurant in Hotel Santa Teresa. Enjoy the cuisine of French Chef Damien Montecer. A little expensive but delicious food, great service, and an exceptional wine list. Ask for a table by the window to get an awesome view of Rio.
You can view photos from my trip here:

Founder of Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. Cheryl, I’m Brazilian and while not from Rio de Janeiro, I know that city well. You missed A LOT. First, Ipanema and Leblon are very nice, but also very expensive. You could get better shopping deals in nearby Copacabana – a not so upscale district, but not much inferior either and with a character of its own – much better for you to get the spirit of the average middle-class “carioca” rather than just the élite. As for sightseeing, you definitely should have gone to the Botanic Gardens, not far from Leblon, with palm trees that were personally planted by Brazilian Emperor Pedro II 150 years ago. He was a remarkably enlightened monarch who is still remembered fondly and reverently. And you should have looked for references for a reliable cab driver to stay at your service all day – it would have been surprisingly affordable and you would have had a lot more independence. Near the Santa Teresa Hotel, there is a fabulous art museum in an old estate called Chácara do Céu (the name can mean either “Heaven’s Manor” or “Sky Manor” in Portuguese). And you definitely, definitely, should have gone to Tijuca Forest, that lush green forest you must have seen from above on the slopes of Corcovado Peak.

    After a few days and a little more confidence (and some basic Portuguese phrases), you could venture to downtown Rio. It’s dirty, hectic, full of street vendors, beggars and you have to watch your purse, but it has some hidden treasures, like antique bookstores where you can browse the titles for hours, ancient colonial Portuguese churches with breathtaking Baroque architecture and décor (they dared to try to take you to Candelária instead???), and most of all the Confeitaria Colombo, a gargantuan and opulent tea and pastry house over 100 years old, all in monumental French art-nouveau style, that would make your jaw drop, your mouth water and your scale show some added pounds. There are many great restaurants in Rio, but your experience should include both anonymous simple restaurants where you see locals going to the restaurant of Copacabana Palace Hotel, the city’s most classic and traditional (and expensive). You should also try some Brazilian food – it has a dish for all tastes.

    Niterói, the smaller city on the other side of the bay, is worth a visit, with the beautiful Modern Art Museum designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer and the best-kept secret: Itacoatiara beach, somewhat distant and remote, but incredibly beautiful, with natural pools at low tide. (You risked yourself, BTW, as Ipanema, Leblon, and Copacabana all have polluted waters, contaminated with sewage – local people do bathe there, but they are perhaps immunized – I wouldn’t.) And I would definitely recommend a day trip to Petrópolis, a nearby city high on the mountains north of Rio (about 1:30 hour by car), with much cooler climate (that even encouraged some to build Swiss chalet-style houses and buildings), where Brazilian royals took refuge from Rio’s oppressive summer heat. Not only is the place amazingly beautiful but there is the Imperial Museum, none other than the former Emperor’s summer palace, which is astounding! Another great day trip (even better if you could stay a few days) would be Angra dos Reis, a town100 km west of Rio on a bay that is a maze of coves and lush-green islands – you have never seen such an unbelievable mosaic of blue and green all over. If you think God was inspired when He made Rio, He was just rehearsing for Angra dos Reis!

    And there’s much more to see in Brazil, which has many different regional cultures, landscapes, climates, cuisines and sights – many countries in one. Rio is only *one* place and by no means representative of the national spirit and culture as a whole. From a true German Oktoberfest in Blumenau, in the temperate South, to the heavily African-influenced culture of Salvador in the Northeast, the cosmopolitan mega-metropolis of São Paulo (the country’s largest city and economic powerhouse), the bold modern architecture of the futuristic capital city of Brasília, the breathtaking Northeastern beaches, the Baroque colonial churches in Ouro Preto and other historic cities in Minas Gerais state, the Amazon rainforest in the far north, it’s a great country with lots to see. Hopefully you can come again to see more.

  2. @Goytá – Thanks for your comments. I wasn’t in Rio that long but I’m very happy with how I spent my time. And I do hope to return someday for sure and if I do, I’ll follow these tips.

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