8 Things To Do In Rio De Janeiro (besides The Beach)

Ever fancied chilling at the famous Copacabana beach? Of course you have! There’s more things to do in Rio de Janeiro than the beach, though. Check them out.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most famous cities. Here, you will find everything from delectable Latin cuisine and fancy hotels to street parties and favelas.

If your were wondering what to do in this gorgeous city besides going to the beach, check out our mini city guide with coolest things to do in Rio De Janeiro.

The Carnival

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OK, so this is obvious, but if you manage to book your trip so that it coincides with the Rio Carnival (just before Lent each year), you’re in for a treat!

Approximately 200 samba schools in Rio showcase their talent by performing little stories using dance and fancy costumes to tell their tales.

Street festivals, balls, parades and a general party atmosphere pervades the city during the carnival.

Even if you can’t make it to the carnival, there are plenty of rehearsals in the months leading up to the carnival, which you will be able to catch if you’re lucky!

Parque Nacional da Tijuca

Did you know that Rio was once surrounded by rainforest? What’s left today is the 120-sq-km tropical jungle that makes up Parque Nacional da Tijuca.

Here, you will find clearly marked trails if you feel like hiking. You can also go there for picnics or to climb the Pico da Tijuca if you feel like some vigorous exercise.

You can get there most easily by car, and will find maps of the area by the entrance. Tour companies also provide day trips. Please note that the park closes at sunset.

Cristo Redentor

Christ the Redeemer Rio de Janeiro

Standing atop the hunchback mountain (Corcovado), Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) watches over the city of Rio. It’s probably the most famous landmark in Rio and, as a proper tourist, you’ll want to see it up close!

You will find Corcovado within the Parque Nacional da Tijuca.

To get to the actual statue, take the red narrow-gauge train, which departs every 30 minutes. It takes approximately 20 minutes to reach the top (710 meters up in the air!).

To get to the train station, take any ‘Cosme Velho’ bus. If coming from Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon Copa, you can take bus No. 583.

Instituto Moreira Salles

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The Instituto Moreira Salles is worth visiting for its gardens alone, which were designed by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.

However, the main reason you will likely want to visit is because of its great exhibitions, showcasing some of Brazil’s best artists and photographers.

Often, there is an exhibition related to Rio as well, allowing you to get to know the city better through the eyes of artists.

The cable car to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf)

Sugarloaf Mountain Rio de Janeiro Brazil cable car gondola city skyline

If you want to enjoy a brilliant view of the city, taking the cable car to Pão de Açúcar is an excellent idea. Naturally, you will want to do it on a sunny day as fog will restrict your view.

There are actually two slopes or mountains: Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar. You can take the cable car up both, starting with Morro da Urca and then from there up Pão de Açúcar.

Bear in mind that it gets busy on weekends, so if you want to avoid standing in line for 2-3 hours, go on a weekday.

The Santa Teresa District

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Feeling an urge to hang out with the bohemian population? Then head to Santa Teresa! Here, you will find eclectic and artsy boutiques, an independent cinema and plenty of small restaurants.

Also, pay a visit to the Selarón stairway, which has been decorated by hundreds of colorful tiles. You can get there by taking one of the small busses from Avenida Gomes Freire in Lapa.

Visit the favelas

Favela in Rio de Janeiro

Favelas are shanty towns and as much a part of Rio as the fancier districts. If you want to visit the favelas, there are several tour operators that offer tours there.

It’s not advisable to go there by yourself, as you need to know which areas are safe for visitors; it also helps to know someone in the favela when visiting. Read tourists’ and guide’s views on the matter.

Carioca Free Culture won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for offering, among other things, a course in favela slang!

The Botanical Garden

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Over 200 years old, this garden is not to be missed if you are looking for tranquility within the city. Here, you can follow the trails (though it’s recommended you grab a map) and get lost in the beauty of nature.

It’s perfect for a relaxing day or a romantic stroll with your partner.

There are a lot of things to do in Rio that have nothing to do with the beach! If you want to see the city at its most vibrant, join the carnival.

If, however, you want to avoid the carnival (and carnival prices for hotels), but still enjoy some of the perks of street performances, visit in the weeks leading up to it.

Make sure to relax in nature at the botanical garden or Parque Nacional da Tijuca. Soak up the views of the city by visiting the Cristo Redentor monument, or take the cable car to Pão de Açúcar.

If you feel like indulging in the boho vibe, go to the Santa Teresa district and if you want to see “the other side” of Rio visit the favelas with a guide. For cultural pleasures, head to Instituto Moreira Salles for various exhibitions by artists.