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July 28, 2017updated Dec 20, 2023

Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

By Lauren Jade Hill

As a sprawling city containing a diversity of neighborhoods, long stretch of coast and lush surroundings, Rio is a city that’s fascinating to explore with a wealth of arts, culture and local life to uncover. We take a look at some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro for an introduction to this enticing city.

With rainforest on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, verdant nature is a part of Rio’s identity, with the city’s greatest landmarks set in remarkable areas of natural beauty. The Art Deco statue, Christ the Redeemer, is most symbolic of this in its setting at the peak of Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. It’s this along with Sugarloaf Mountain that most defines the city’s skyline. In its position at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, those who ascend the mountain by cablecar are afforded panoramic views over the city and coast when they reach the top. And in addition to the abundance of natural wilderness, the city nurtures pockets of landscaped gardens, of which Parque Lage and the Botanical Garden are two worth seeking out as they both provide an oasis within the city.

One of Rio’s greatest appeals is its long stretch of sublime coast encompassing a series of beaches that all have their own distinct identity. While Copacabana is perhaps the most iconic, drawing the most people in, Ipanema stretches along a more upscale area of the city making it one of Rio’s places to be seen. Despite being lesser known, Barra da Tijuca is Rio’s longest beach, as well as being particularly popular for water sports and a strip of coast that was at the heart of the recent Summer Olympics. Prainha Beach and Praia Vermelha then provide a quieter space and more natural surroundings, with a cable car taking people from Praia Vermelha to the top of Sugarloaf mountain as well as providing access to a coastal hiking trail.

Along with its natural beauty, Rio is held in high regard for its prolific arts scene spurred by the creativity that is flourishing here. The Museu de Arte do Rio and Museum of Modern Art both showcase cutting edge work in architecturally impressive buildings while the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes focuses on historic paintings and sculptures. Of Rio’s major museums, the National Museum of Brazil is undoubtedly among the most prominent as one of the largest museums of natural history and anthropology in the Americas. In contrast, the Museum of Tomorrow presents ideas rather than objects in a striking building that was designed by Spanish neofuturist architect Santiago Calatrava.

Where to Stay

Belmond Copacabana Palace

As one of the most established hotels here, Belmond Copacabana Palace first opened its doors to guests in 1923. Since then, the hotel has attracted a long list of famous names who come for the glamorous décor, privileged setting on the Copacabana strip of coast and for its culinary offering and Copacabana Spa. The final flourish is the hotel’s attentive service.

belmond.com

Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro

With Philippe Starke behind the design of this hotel, there’s no wonder it’s been a continual hit with discerning travelers. The highlight here is arguably the rooftop pool for its views over Ipanema and towards the mountains that define Rio’s famous panorama. But what’s inside certainly stand out too, encompassing Fasano al Mare restaurant, Spa Fasano and elegant rooms and suites.

fasano.com.br

Hotel Emiliano

Situated just across the street from Copacabana Beach, Hotel Emiliano has an ideal location within Rio de Janeiro.  Behind its distinct contemporary façade, the hotel’s interiors are undeniably chic and the stylish light-filled space is made even more special by its views over the sandy shores. A restaurant, rooftop and bar all add to the appeal of this exclusive hotel, along with the addition of Santapele Spa.

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