Alternative Rio de Janeiro

Maybe you have already visited Rio de Janeiro at least once, or even couple of times. Or perhaps you are spending a bit more than just few days in this marvellous city and are willing to see the alternative face of Rio, experience it just like the locals do. This is why we wanted to give you tips how to get beyond the traditional tourist attractions. Check out our suggestions and choose what mostly fits into your perfil as a traveller.

Praia Vermelha

Praia Vermelha

First of all, as always accommodation is one of the most basic needs when we are out of our homes. How to choose an alternative accommodation in Rio de Janeiro. The touristic neighbourhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon are filled with hotels, some of them chic ones, others basic tourist class hotels like anywhere in the world. If you wish to feel the real Brazilian hospitality try to look for some smaller options, such as the brazilian pousadas. In a huge cosmopolitan city like Rio de Janeiro there are not that many pousadas as in many smaller villages, but still you can find some. A charming pousada with individually decorated rooms can be found right from the heart of Copacabana and a stylish luxury pousada in a hidden location is an excellent option for those looking for high quality escape. If you prefer raither simple life style, try out some of the bed & breakfast style pousadas in the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa and a radical adventure minded traveller will get some unforgettable memories by accommodating in a simple pousada located inside of a favela. Some peaceful favelas controlled by police offer bed and breakfast accommodation for tourists allowing them to see from close how is the real life in these communities. An excellent choice for you who want to experience Rio beyond the touristic sights.

Biking in Rio

Biking in Rio

During the day time try out some alternative ways to experience Rio de Janeiro. If the day is sunny, there is nothing better than biking in the fresh air while you admire the breathtaking landscapes of Rio de Janeiro. You will find traditional bicycle tours taking you to the world famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro or to the cultural heritage sites of the city. Some interesting alternative options  are biking through the forest of Tijuca National Park or along the beaches of Barra da Tijuca, Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Grumari and Prainha located west of Rio de Janeiro. If you are not into sports and wish to enjoy the city without practising physical excersise, get yourself a local friend. Local friend is a person, who has been chosen according to your needs and interests. Your new friend will plan a taylor made itinerary taking you to the most exciting spots of the city. This service will offer you a personalized way to explore the city just like if a local friend would be taking you to the most impressive viewpoints, the charmiest restaurants and the best parties of the city.

Bar do Arnaudo

Bar do Arnaudo

When the night falls you can always opt for some of the pulsing lounge bars of Ipanema and Leblon or enjoy the vibrating samba nights of Lapa. However, if you are looking for an alternative program check out Feira São Cristovão, a closed market place located in northern part of Rio de Janeiro. Feira de São Cristovão is an homege for the culture of northeastern Brazil. During the day time it’s an excellent place to buy local handcrafts and enjoy delicious tastes of northeastern culinary. Feira de São Cristovão is open every day, except on Monday and nonstop from Friday 10 a.m till Sunday 6 p.m . During the weekends you will have a chance to assist several shows of live music, all of the representing typical northeastern music styles. So if you are not afraid of loud music and crowds of people, Feira de São Cristovão is a alternative option for you to experience a piece of northeastern culture in the middle of Rio de Janeiro.

Jazz at the Maze

Jazz at the Maze

In case you prefer less crowded places with boheamian touch, check out the jazz jam sessions at Maze, a unique bar located inside of Tavares Bastos favela, in southern zone of Rio de Janeiro. The jams are generally organized on the first Friday of each month, however exceptions do happen so keep an eye on the schedules. The jazz night in an awasome experience and quality musicians will entertain you while you enjoy some of the most spectacular views over the bay of Guanabara,  in one of the safest favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro with all its’ attractions is waiting for you.

For further information, contact Brazil Diversity!

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Rio de Janeiro in 5 days

Are you planning to visit Rio de Janeiro, but don’t know how many days you should stay in the city and what should you experience during your stay? We have retailed you an itineray including some of the most interesting attractions of Rio de Janeiro. Of course all of them may not interest you, but our aim is to give you a complete example of all the possibilities.

View over Copacabana

View over Copacabana

DAY 1:

  • Head early in morning to the Corcovado train station (opens at 08.30 am) and get to the top where the world famous Christ statue is located. After having visited Corcovado head to the downtown of Rio de Janeiro and catch one of those old fashioned trams up to the artistic neighborhood of Santa Teresa. This picturesque uphill neighborhood is an ideal place to enjoy a delicious and traditional Brazilian meal. After your lunch enjoy the views from Parque das Ruinas and visit the museum of Characa do Ceu with images of Rio de Janeiro before it became a city of millions and millions of inhabitants. After having explored Santa Teresa, the next stop is one of the most traditional landmarks of Rio de Janeiro, the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Visiting Sugar Loaf Mountain in the late afternoon has the advantage of both daylight and sunset, which is a spectacle itself!

DAY 2:

  • Botanical Garden

    Botanical Garden

    Start you day by having a walk in the Botanical Garden, which is a real oasis in the middle of such a huge city as Rio de Janeiro. After having enjoyed your lunch participate in one of the guided Favela tours. These tours are an excellent way to see the other face of Rio de Janeiro and especially to understand a little bit better the causes of social problems in the city. In the evening participate in a rehearsal of a samba school (available from August to February) and bring a piece of carnival feeling with you.

DAY 3:

  • Star your day with emotions and try hang gliding admiring the views from the top of Pedra da Gavea and landing to the beach of Praia do Pepino. If you are not into adventures, have a walk in the downtown of Rio de Janeiro visiting the museums, churches and monasteries, or just have a relax at one of the world famous beaches. After having enjoyed your lunch have a refreshing swim in the sea and get prepared to more emotions in soccer game at the world’s biggest stadium Maracanã. If you are not into soccer, enjoy shopping in the fashionable stores of Ipanema and have a walk in the shores of the lake Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The restaurants of Parque dos Patins located in the edges the lake are also excellent places to enjoy your dinner with live music.

Pele, the legend

Pele, the legend

DAY 4:

  • Start a day with a visit to the National Park of Tijuca located within the city of Rio de Janeiro. You can choose either a sightseeing tour that takes you to the most interesting points by car or take a light hike up to the highest peak of Rio de Janeiro, the Tijuca Peak. After the tour enjoy your lunch at one of the many sea front restaurants in Copacabana and have leisure stroll inside of the Fort of Copacabana (situated at the end of it), which is also an excellent place to enjoy a cup of coffee or a delicious desert at the famous coffee house Confeitaria Colombo.

DAY 5:

  • Take a day trip outside of Rio de Janeiro and get an idea of the beauty of this state. Tours (private or scheduled) to Búzios or to tropical island of Angra dos Reis are ideal options and a schooner cruise in the destination allows you to enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the clear waters of these regions. Enjoy your last night in Rio de Janeiro at one of the samba clubs of Lapa, the most popular neighborhood of nightlife. Easygoing atmospheare, traditional live samba and delicious snacks/dinner are guaranteed, no matter which of the many bars you choose.
Angra dos Reis

Angra dos Reis

Obs. Activities such as Samba school rehearsals and Soccer games are not available everyday, so check the schedules and modify the plan according to them.

Rio de Janeiro, Part II: One of the 7 wonders and other things to see and do.

Restaurants and bars:

Churrascaria Majórica –
Restaurant Arab –
Restaurante à Mineira –
Restaurante Espirito Santa –
Rio Scenariuam
Carioca da Gema

What to do and see in Rio de Janeiro? Anyone of us can probably name the three most popular sights of Rio, the world famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the Sugar Loaf mountain. These three must be visited by any tourist who comes to Rio.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

There are two ways to reach the statue of Christ the Redeemer which was recently chosen among the 7 new wonders of the world. You can either take a taxi up to the hill or pick a small train from the Corcovado station that takes you up through the Atlantic rainforest area. If you are not in a hurry, we do recommend you to try this out, it’s a nice experience and worth it even if you may have to take a queue before boarding the train. Once you are up on the top you still have to ascend 220 steps (or take an elevator) to reach the feet of the statue. Together with the beauty of the statue you can enjoy stunning views over the city. For the best views, try to reach the top of the Corcovado hill during the morning, before the clouds come up. There is also a small chapel up on the feet of the Christ for those who want to get married and immortalize their love in this spectacular place.

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Together with the Corcovado, the top of the Sugar Loaf mountain is one of the best places to enjoy breathtaking views over Rio de Janeiro. To reach the top you have to take two steps cable car from the neighborhood of Urca. In addition to the views you can also enjoy the trails surrounded by the tropical vegetation. Sugar Loaf Mountain and the smaller Urca mountain are also popular among mountain climber and together they create one of the largest urban climbing areas in the world.

Copacabana and Ipanema are the most well known and popular  beaches of Rio de Janeiro. These world famous beaches have been numbered according to life guard posts and serve as meeting points both for locals and for tourists. One of the most trendiest points, is the always crowded post number 9 located at Ipanema.  In addition to these two pearls, Rio de Janeiro has many other smaller or less famous beaches. Arpoador, which is especially in favour of surfers, is located in between of Copacabana and Ipanema. Less crowded Leblon on the other hand is the continuation of Ipanema. The beach of Flamengo is not suitable for swimming but offers one of the most beautiful beach views facing the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Niteroi.

Tram to Santa Teresa

Tram to Santa Teresa

Rio de Janeiro is a lot more than just world famous beaches and landmarks. We highly recommend you to visit the boheamian neighborhood Santa Teresa, located up hill close to the center of the city. There are two ways to get up, either by taxi or by one of the charming old style trams leaving from the feet of Arcos da Lapa, an old aquaduct and entrance to the neighborhood of Lapa. You may have to face a queue to take this pictoresque tram, but it will certainly be at least worth of one way trip. Get off at the square of Largo de Guimarães and wander around in the streets of Santa Teresa. You will find a lot small shops selling handmade items of local artist and small restaurants with delicious dishes. Walking in these streets, while the monkeys are jumping up and down in the trees and tucans hiding themselves behind the leaves, you will start  feeling like if you were in a smaller town and forget of being in a city of more than 6 million inhabitants.

When it comes to historical sights, don’t forget to visit the monastery of São Bento, church of Candelaria and the national museum of Fine Arts. Enjoy a cup of delicious brazilian coffee at the fort located in between Ipanema and Copacabana or walk through the tropical vegetation on the top of the Leme mountain to enjoy another spectacular view over the beaches. The botanic gardens of Rio de Janeiro are worth visiting as well. Jardim Botanico, as it’s called in portuguese is a huge park, where you will find parts decicated for oriental vegetation, others for the Amazon rainforest flora. Don’t miss out the orchid house either! If you enjoy football, pay a visit to the world’s largest stadium, Maracana. Assisting a local match is so much more than just a game, the stadium is full of passion when the Cariocas enjoy their favourite sports and there is no lack of emotion while the fans encourage their teams by singing.

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca

A seeker of an active holiday will also find plenty of things to do in Rio de Janeiro. If you are into surfing try out the beaches of Barra da Tijuca and Recreo, they are just one hour away from the heart of the city and offer great waves for the lovers of surf. These beaches are also less crowded and for example a small beach of Prainha, surrounded by the mountains is an excellent place for a swim in beautiful settings. Big emotions and bird’s view over the city are guaranteed if you decide to try hang gliding at São Conrado neighborhood. You may not know, but the world’s biggest urban rainforest area is also located in Rio de Janeiro. Visiting the National Park of Tijuca, is an excellent way to escape from urban life and feel the touch of the nature. For the first time visitors, it’s recommendable to take a tour with a local guide in order to avoid getting lost. The light hikes through the tropical vegetation will take you to waterfalls and viewpoints with breathtaking views over the city.

Once the night falls, we recommend you to head to Lapa. The most trendy, slightly bohemian neighborhood full of bars and restaurants. This is were the Carioca’s go to enjoy a drink and live music. The easiest and the safest way to reach Lapa is by taxi. Don’t consider taking metro, even tough the nearest station is not that far away, at the night time walking through the empty streets of Centro may not be very wise idea. The buildings of Lapa has been refurbished respecting the old architecture, which turns it to be a culturally interesting place to visit as well. Once you reach Lapa you will see a lot of people on the streets, especially during the weekend. Just join them and start bar hopping until you find your favourite place. There are plenty of options for all tastes and budgets. Also check out our recommendations for night in Lapa (see below).

Check out our other blog post about Rio de Janeiro:

Our suggested itineraries in the state of Rio de Janeiro:

Carnaval of Rio

Carnival of Rio

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Restaurants, Bars & Shopping

  • Churrascaria PorcãoA famous Brazilian steakhouse with excellent choice of meats served right at your table. Serves also delicious side dishes and deserts. Try out Porcão located in Flamengo and enjoy stunning views of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
  • Churrascaria Majórica – A typical Brazilian steakhouse, where the quality of meat is highly appreciated. Located at the neighborhood of Flamengo and very growded especially in the weekends.
  • Restaurante Arab – Restaurante Arab serves tasty arab food and can be found both from Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and from Copacabana. We recommend you to have a dinner at Arab of Lagoa Rodgrigo de Freitas where in the evenings you can enjoy live music and stunning views over the Lagoa.
  • Restaurante à Mineira – Located at Humaitá neighborhood. A buffet restaurant specialized at delicious dishes from Minas Gerais state.
  • Restaurante Espirito Santa – This small, but charming restaurant is located uphill at Santa Teresa and is very popular especially during weekends. Espirito Santa serves Brazilian flavours and has a small terrance with few tables for those who prefer their meal at fresh air.
  • Rio Sul – If you are into shopping check out the shopping center of Rio Sul, just a short step away from Copacabana. Here you will find a large number of both national and international brands.
  • Rio Scenariuam – One of the most interesting places to explore the nightlife of Rio. Rio Scenarium, located in Lapa,  is an like an antiquarian with a large number of old items being part of the decoration. It’s a show house, where you will enjoy traditional Brazilian music, samba and forró. Like in many Brazilian bars you will also have a possibility for dining in Rio Scenarium. During the weekends, try to arrive before 11pm. just to avoid long queues.
  • Carioca da Gema – One of the most tradional music houses of Lapa. Carioca da Gema is quite small, but the quality of the music, mainly traditional samba, and the atmospheare takes it to the top of the list when it comes to nightlife in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro, Part I: Where to stay and not to stay.

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

The Marvellous City of Rio de Janeiro

During the short existence of Brazil Diversitys blog we have noticed that many of our readers are looking for detailed information about travelling in Rio de Janeiro. Therefore we decided to come up with this topic as soon as possible, even if there are plenty of other attractive places to visit in Brazil and it’s hard to choose in between them. With no doubt Rio de Janeiro is a marvellous city and has some of the most beautiful views in the world. It’s also a city of  huge contrats and probably due to this travelling to Rio always brings up some questions such as the security. When I first stepped the ground of Rio de Janeiro, I do had to admit that there is something unique and very special in marvellous city. The beauty of the city and the life style of the Cariocas (=native Rio born) left me speechless and fullfilled all my expectations. And it’s was just a start for a long term relations with Rio de Janeiro. So let’s get started!

There are two airports in Rio de Janeiro,  the centrally located airport of Santos Dumont serves only domestic flights and about 25 kilometers from the city you will find the airport of Galeão, serving both international and domestic flights. The simplest way to get to your accommodation is to book an arranged transfer in before hand or take a taxi. The yellow taxis of Rio de Janeiro are everywhere and they are reasonably priced. As anywhere in the world the first time tourist arriving to the international airport has a danger to become cheated by the taxi drivers. All the taxis do have a taxi meter, but the driver may not speak your language, so if you are unable to communicate in portuguese we do recommend you to contract a taxi with fixed price. This is easy! Even before you step out from the airport’s international area you will find a number of ladies calling for you and offering taxi service. Take an advantage of this and book a taxi with fixed price to your destination. The price depends on the neighborhood you are going to.

Copacabana adn Sugar Loaf Mountain

Copacabana and Sugar Loaf Mountain

Now that you are in the city you will start circulating the in neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. The most well know ones are without any doubt Copacabana and Ipanema. They both give a name not just for the beach, but for the surrounding neighborhood as well. This is also where most of the hotels are concentrated. If you are looking for a beach front hotel with seaview, but are not ready to pay astronomic prices your choice will most probably be located at Copacabana. At this world famous beach you will find a large number of hotels in all categories. Many of them are located right on the beach boulevard Avenida Atlantica, but less pricy hotels can be found few blocks from the seaside. Ipanema on the other hand is one of the fanciest neighborhoods of the city and the beach front has mostly residential buildings. Some highly priced hotels enjoy direct sea view, but also here you will find some larger number of options few blocks away from the beach boulevard.

Centro

Centro

Other interesting neighborhoods, when it comes to tourism are Leblon, an another fancy and most residential neightborhood located right next to Ipanema. Flamengo is a residential neighborhood for local middle class with large number of good quality budget hotels and easy access (10min) by metro to Copacabana Santa Teresa, the bohemian up hill neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro with smaller boutique hotels and an excellent alternative choice thanks to its’ relaxed small town kind of atmospheare. The center of Rio de Janeiro is called “Centro” and it’s basically home for many offices and financial operations of the town. The hotel’s located in the center will not bring any special interest for an ordinary tourist, unless you are travelling on business. It’s recommendable to vist Centro and it’s attractions from Monday till Friday during the day time, when the numerous restaurants and shops are open and you will find many Cariocas in the streets of Centro. At night time and during the weekends Centro remains empty and can turn out to be unsafe for a traveller.

Rio’s location at the Tropic of Capricorn on souther hemispheare means that the winter months June, July and August, temperatures are lower (20-25 degrees) and on the summer time an average temperature is over 30 degrees, occassionaly reaching 40 celcius. Rainfall is highest during the summer time, but usually it means thunderstorms at the end of the day. What would be a good time to stay at Rio then? Some people stop only for two days, other stay two weeks. We would recommend something in between. You will certainly always find something to do in Rio de Janeiro, but nearby in the state there are other interesting places worth of visit like Angra dos Reis, Ilha Grande, Búzios and Arraial do Cabo. All these are beach destinations, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving with clearer waters than the capital itself. In the inland, you will find the mountainous areas with options for hiking, mountain biking, river rafting and horseback riding. We do recommend you to take a short escape out of the urban life of Rio and visit at least one of these beautiful areas located nearby. To get an idea take a look at our blog post about Ilha Grande.

One of the many favelas

One of the many favelas

Then the never ending question of safety. Is it really safe to walk in the streets of Rio de Janeiro? On my opinion it’s as safe as walking in any other large city. It’s good to remember that Rio de Janeiro has more than 6 million inhabitants and you should not be wandering around at any part of the city on your own. The favelas (=slums), mostly located up on the hills are not to be visited by yourself. If you want to see this part of Rio de Janeiro, take a tour. It’s an interesting way to find out how big part of the population lives and in addition to sightseeing the tour guide provides you lot of information concerning the social system of Brazil. Highly recommended! Also leave all you jewellery, extra money and other valuable articles at hotel any time going out. There is absolutely no need to carry them with you. At the night time take a taxi, like we mentioned earlier they are everywhere and they are cheap. If at any moment you end up in a dangerous situation, stay calm, hand over all your belongings and contact the Rio’s tourist police afterwards. As a general mnemonic a street with few people should be avoided.

Last but not least, now it’s time to enjoy Rio de Janeiro! Shortly we are going to publish an another blog post discussing about the attractions that Rio de Janeiro has to offer. In the meanwhile, have a walk on the beach and enjoy a glass of chilly caipiriha!

Check out our other blog posts related to Rio de Janeiro:

Our suggested itineraries including Rio de Janeiro

Sunset at Ipanema

Sunset at Ipanema

Brazil Diversity recommends:

Accommodation:

  • Rio Guesthouse A small and stylish penthouse pousada right in the heart of Copacana.
  • Mama Ruisa – A mansion style pousada located up hill in the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa.
  • La SuiteYour hideaway design guesthouse in Rio. Choose this option if you want to enjoy the spectacular views without leaving your pousada and don’t mind taking a taxi when willing to discover the attractions of the town.
  • Astoria Palace – A reasonably priced new hotel right in front of the sea at Copacabana.
  • Sofitel Copacabana – Beach front hotel, located just a short step from Ipanema allowing you to enjoy easily the attractions of both world famous beaches.
  • Travelling with tight budget and looking for a hostel? Try out Bamboo Rio Hostel or Vila Carioca Hostel, both offering private rooms and dormotories.
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