Is Rio de Janeiro Worth Visiting? A Complete Guide for Traveling to Rio

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Is Rio de Janeiro worth visiting? Well, welcome to one of our favorite places in the world. There are so many amazing things to do in Rio de Janeiro, and you could spends weeks in this Brazilian paradise! With its stunning mountains, beautiful beaches, delicious food, and booming nightlife, it is impossible not to enjoy this crazy city! 

If you're wondering is Rio de Janeiro worth visiting- then keep reading, because we know you'll fall in love with it just as much as we have.

Here we'll share all of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro, foods to try, where to stay, and so much more. So without further ado, let's jump right in to our complete guide of Rio de Janeiro.

Where is Rio de Janeiro?

Rio de Janeiro is located in the south of Brazil, along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Rio de Janeiro is both a state, and a city which is the capital of the whole state of Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is the biggest country in South America, and takes up the majority of the center and east coast of the continent.

Where is Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is located on the coast of Southern Brazil.

Getting to Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of biggest cities in Brazil, and is pretty well connected within the Americas. There are two airports in Rio, one which is located right in the heart of the city, and the larger one (GIG) which is about a 20 minute drive from the center.

Domestic cities that fly to Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport (GIG) include Aracaju, Belem, Brasilia, Campinas, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Iguassu, Joao Pessoa, Maceio, Manaus, Natal, Recife, and Sao Paulo. International flights to Rio include Amsterdam, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Houston, Lima,  Lisbon, London, Miami, Munich, New York, Panama City, Paris, Porto, and Santiago.

Cities that fly to RJ Santos Dumant include Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Campinas, Caxias do Sul, Curitiba, Florianopolis, Goiania, Macae, Navegantes, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Riberiao Preto, Sao Paulo, and Vitoria.

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Is Rio de Janeiro Worth Visiting? Here Are Some Awesome Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

Here we will tell you our favorite things to do in Rio de Janeiro, including hikes, beaches, viewpoints and other cool stuff.

Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro: Cool Places to Check Out

Let's start with some of the best things to see in the city. Here are a few of the best ones:

1. Escadaria Selaron

Visiting escadaria Selaron is one of the most well known things to do in Rio de Janeiro, and for a good reason. These iconic stairs are colorful and made of mosaic tiles, and are super picturesque. During the day it can get extremely busy, so not the easiest to get a photo. But there is a line that is formed for one of the best photo spots. 

Want a souvenir to take home with you? There is also a lady who offers to take your picture and make it into a magnet, which was only $5 USD, and our favorite souvenir to take home.

Escadaria Selaron, best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Escadaria Selaron is a set of beautiful mosaic stairs in Rio de Janeiro.

2. Carioca Aqueduct

The Carioca aqueduct (also known as arcos de Lapa) is located right outside the Escadaria Selaron, just a few minutes by foot. These white arches and this plaza look are a beautiful piece of architecture in Rio de Janeiro.

Note: They are not located in the safest area. Good thing is, that police patrol the area, but it is still smart to keep a close eye on your belongings here.

Carioca Aqueduct in Rio de Janeiro

The Carioca Aqueduct is right around the corner from Escadaria Selaron.

3. Parque Lage

Parque Enrique Lage is a public park in the city of Rio de Janeiro, located in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood at the foot of the Corcovado. Open from 8:00-5:00, this park has beautiful greenery, architect, and a cute cafe.

Parque Lago Rio de Janeiro

Parque Lage is one of the most beautiful parks in Rio de Janeiro.

Best Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro: The Best Viewpoints

Rio de Janeiro is so iconic because of the stunning views that it offers. Just flying in you can truly appreciate how beautiful this city is. However, there are also some really awesome viewpoints to check out, and here are a few of them.

4. Christ the Redeemer

As one of the seven wonders of the world, Christ the Redeemer is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Rio de Janeiro.

There is a lot of confusion that goes into visiting this iconic statue, as there are a lot of locals who will try to scam you into giving them extra money.

If you would like to visit, you can purchase tickets online, although we think it is much easier to purchase them upon arrival. You can drive, take an Uber, or take the train up Corcovado.

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If you would like to drive, you can park a little bit down the hill (for free). When entering Corcovado, you will be stopped by some guys who will explain that they will take you to the top, or that you can't park at the top. JUST IGNORE THEM, and continue up the hill! 

The train is of course the more scenic way to get to the top, but a little pricier. Train tickets can be purchased online in advance, including the entrance of Christ the Redeemer.

Christ the Redeemer, rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer is one of the 7 wonders of the new world.

When you arrive, there isn't really much time to be spent. The views of the city are spectacular, but it is very crowded, and almost impossible to get a picture without people walking in front of you. At the top there is a small restaurant for a snack or drink while you enjoy the views. Christ the Redeemer wasn't our favorite place in Rio, but we do think it's a must for a one time experience.

5. Sugar Loaf Mountain

This popular group of mountain peaks is linked by cable cars, and has some of the best views of the city. Rising 396 meters above the harbor, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. With 360 degree views of the city, a gift shop, and cafes, this attraction can take an hour or two. 

The entrance is 110 reales, and the hours of operation are from 8 am- 9 pm. We suggest going a little before sunset, to enjoy the views during the day, as well as the night.

Sugarloaf mountain, best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain has some of the best views of Rio de Janeiro, and is connected by sets of cable cars.

6. Mirante Dona Marta

This viewpoint sits near Corcovado and offers some of the best views in Rio. The cliffside lookout point offers expansive, panoramic views of the city & the Christ the Redeemer statue. Mirante Dona Marta is arrival straight off of the side of the road, most easily reached by car or Uber.

Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro: The Most Beautiful Hikes

One of our favorite things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to enjoy all of the great landscapes that the city has to offer. There are tons of great hikes in Rio, with the most epic views. Here are a few of the top ones to check out.

7. Trilha Morro Dois Irmãos 

While we usually don't recommend going anywhere near a favela, this one is definitely an exception. At the top of the favela of Vidigal is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the city. 

You can take a taxi up to a certain point (we wouldn't suggest walking it if you don't have a guide), and then you can hike to the top in 40 minutes for some of the most breathtaking views.

It has become a popular viewpoint for tourists, and there are plenty of guides willing to take you for a reasonable price. We suggest going for sunrise for the most stunning lighting.

8. Pedra da Gavea

This is a monolithic mountain in the Tijuca Forest. Composed of granite and gneiss, its elevation is 844 metres, making it one of the highest coastal mountains in the world, and the highest in the country. Pedra da Gavea takes two hours to climb, and is just 15-20 minutes outside of the center of Rio de Janeiro.

9. Pedra Bonita

This is one of the most popular hikes in Rio, as it is easily accessible. Located right near Pedra da Gavea, it is also just 20 minutes from the center. Hop on the 448 bus, drive, or grab an Uber straight to the trail head, which will take about 1 hour 1/2 round trip, to get some seriously stunning views.

10. Pedra do Telegrafo

Located about an hour 15 minutes away from the center of Rio de Janeiro, is one of our favorite hikes, Pedra do Telegrafo. Not only are there amazing views, but there is a prime photo opp of a cliff that seems much higher than it is. Click here to read all about this epic hike!

Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro: Top Beaches

11. Ipanema

Ipanema, known for its iconic beach, is fun and fashionable, and draws a diverse crowd for sunbathing and socializing. Right on the rocky Pedra do Arpoador peninsula, lies a popular surfing spot that also offers trails and sunset views. Inland, the neighborhood’s green streets have high-end fashion boutiques, fine-dining restaurants and relaxed bars playing bossa nova.

12. Copacabana

This is the most popular area of Rio, as it is full of nice hotels, its famous crescent-shaped beach, and tons of shops, restaurants, and nightlife. This area is chic, and fun, and also sports a mosaic tiled promenade with plenty of street vendors, making this a place you don't want to miss!

13. Botafogo

While most people head straight for the popular tourist beaches, we also love this local gem. Botafogo is a bay with a smaller and quieter beach. With the view of boats along the water and Sugarloaf mountain in the back, it's perfect for relaxing, or getting a beautiful backdrop for a photo.

Food & Drink

The food in Brazil is some of the best and most flavorful in the world. With such a large country, it is no wonder that they have so many different varieties of dishes. Here are some of our personal favorites.

Brazilian Steakhouse

If you are a meat eater, than Brazilian cuisine is for you! One of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to eat at a typical Brazilian steakhouse. They are unlike steakhouses around the rest of the world, as they have gauchos (waiters) that walk around the restaurant offering to slice different types of meat onto your plate. 

This all-you-can-eat style restaurant isn't like a normal buffet with mediocre food, sitting out for hours. This food is high quality, replenished regularly, and seriously delicious. 

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Before beginning your experience, you will have the opportunity to go to the buffet for your appetizers, soups, sushi, and salad options, The first course in itself is enough to fill someone up! But save room, because the meat is the best part.

All the meats are slow cooked on skewers for hours in giant ovens, locking in all of the juice. There are usually between 10-15 different cuts of steak, sausage, chicken, lamb, and any meat you could think of. Our favorite cut of, meat is picanha, which is an absolute must try!

Brazilian Steakhouse, best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

At the steakhouses in Brazil you will see men carrying around large rotisseries to your table.

Brazilian steakhouses are pricier than other restaurants (which is only normal for the amount of food you get), but they are still much more affordable than the Brazilian Steakhouses offered in other areas of the world. Give yourself a few hours, and we don't advise having a crazy night of drinking after this.


One of our favorite in Brazil is this delicious fried, teardrop- shaped croquette. Shredded chicken, covered in dough, and fried- sounds amazing right? These are available almost anywhere you go, for a quick to go snack, and are cheap and filling. We can never get enough of these!

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Pao de Quejo

Pao de quejo are small buns with cheese baked into them. These small balls of cheesy goodness are light, tasty, and served in many bakeries, and sometimes given before the start of a meal. They are also made with tapioca flour instead of wheat flour, making them okay for those who are gluten free!

Queijo de Coalho

This is a light cows-milk cheese that is put onto a skewer a grilled. It makes for a great quick snack on the streets, is cheap, and is super delicious!


This frozen treat is a must try in Brazil! Made from the Acai berries native to this country, it is high in antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber. There are also toppings available such as fruit, shaved coconut, and condensed milk. 

Acai is healthy, filling, and so delicious! Where you can find it highly marked up in other areas of the world, it is much cheaper here, and can even be found served right on the streets.


Coconuts are plentiful in Brazil, so it doesn't need to be a luxury item. They are sold for as low as 3 reales (50 cents), but usually go for around 6 certain areas of Rio. Great for those hangovers, or just hot days in general, drinking an ice cold coconut will bring you back to life. Take advantage of having them so cheap here!

Coconuts in Brazil

Coconuts are the best cure after a crazy night out in Rio de Janeiro.


These chocolate fudge balls are a Rio de Janeiro favorite. Made of condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter, and chocolate sprinkles covering the outside layer, these are like little balls of heaven.


Tapioca is a common Brazilian snack made from the starch extracted from cassava root. This is a form of a crepe eaten as breakfast or a snack, and can be served sweet or savory.

Brazilian tapioca

Brazilian tapioca is folded with various types of ingredients.


Capirinha & Caipiroska

The Brazilian classic is a chachaça (typical Brazilian liquor) based cocktail, with sugar and lime. The Caipiroska is Caipirinha's cousin, substituting it's cachaça for vodka. These fruity drinks are perfect for the Brazilian heat, and a stop at the bar along one of the many beaches.


Caipirinhas are the famous touristic cocktail originating in Brazil.


This is Brazil's most beloved liquor, and for a lot of good reasons. It's sweet, cheap, and has a strong alcohol content. Even more so, it enhances sexual desire.

Catuaba is made from an aphrodisiac plant in the Amazon, and tastes like a sweet wine, with an alcohol content of 16.6%. This is perfect for a fun night out, but be careful, because it is a lot stronger than it seems! 

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One of our favorite things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to just enjoy the busy atmosphere by the beaches. There are tons of great things to check out on the promenades, a highlight of them being the shopping.

You'll see plenty of people with kiosks selling souvenirs and local goods. Here are a couple or things you should bring back home to your friends and family.


The are Brazil's (and the world's) most beloved flip flops. Havaiana shops are scattered throughout the city, and have a wide selection of colors, styles, and even charms to add. They are long lasting, stylish, and much cheaper in Brazil than anywhere else! 


Cangas are pretty much a must buy. They are cheap, light to pack, colorful, and can be used for so many different things! They also make the perfect souvenir. The best way to shop for them is to find them sold on the streets or on the beach, running for $5-10 USD per piece. Just make sure you are ready to barter!

Brazilian canna

Brazilian cangas are light, cheap, and practical, making them a great souvenir to bring home.

Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

There are so many places to stay in Rio de Janeiro, and it can seem hard to choose. That's why we've narrowed it down to some of the places that are close to the highlights of the city.

If you have a higher budget, Copacabana is a great place to stay, with fancy hotels located along the beach, and easy access to many different popular places. When it comes to location as a tourist, this is definitely the top place to base yourself. (Make sure to stay as close to the beach as possible).

Look for a place to stay in Copacabana:

Ipanema is the next neighborhood over, with also plenty to offer, but is also a bit on the pricier side.

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If you are looking for a little bit more budget friendly option, we like the area of Leme. It is just a 15 minute walk from Copacabana, making it still very close to the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro. The good thing though is that hostel and hotel options that are definitely much cheaper.

Leme Rio de Janeiro

Leme is a great area is to stay in Rio de Janeiro, as it is cheaper than Copacabana and Ipanema, but still walking distance.

Getting Around Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a huge city! They have an underground system, as well as public buses. We decided to rent a car, as it makes it easier to reach many areas in a shorter time. The plus of having a rental car, is that you can get one directly at the airport, and certain areas for the best hikes, are much easier to reach with car.

Keep in mind that parking near popular areas such as Copacabana and Ipanema can be very difficult and expensive, so we suggest parking further away, and walking a bit to get into the center. 

If you don't feel comfortable renting a car, there is also Uber available everywhere. Taxis are easy to find, but of course can be more expensive than Uber.

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Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

The Best Time to Visit Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of the world's most popular cities, and is always pretty busy. The weather is actually beautiful year-round, and the lowest it drops is to about 18 degrees Celsius, or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter months of June, July, & August, you might need a light sweater at most. 

With out a doubt, the most fun time to go, is in Late February or early March. Why? Because of of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to experience Carnival.

This Mardi-Gras like festival is full of costumes, upbeat music, and people partying in the streets. Make sure you bring a costume or two, and are ready to go days with very little sleep. The week of Carnival changes each year, so make sure to check the dates in advance.

Carnival Rio de Janeiro

Carnival is the busiest and most fun time to visit Rio de Janeiro.

If you are looking for less craziness and less crowds, the best time to go is literally right after Carnival ends. The city empties quite a bit, and places like Christ the Reedember and Escaderia Selaron, become actually walkable.

Want to see some other great carnival celebrations throughout the world? You'll love our article "The 10 Best Places to Travel in February for Epic Celebrations"

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Rio de Janeiro is a fabulous city with a lot to offer. With great weather, friendly people, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and fun nightlife, it really has something for everyone.

Traveling to other places in South America? Check out some more of our guides all over the continent.

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