In Rio de Janeiro, every day is a party. Rio, as it’s usually called, is a place like absolutely no other in the world. The jet-set and glitterati descend here year-round for the white-sand beaches, bass-forward nightlife, and five heady days of Carnival bacchanal celebrations in February or March. But you don’t have to be a thong-clad party seeker to appreciate the literal highs of mountainous Rio. The breathtakingly beautiful city is home to landmark sites like the Christ the Redeemer statue and world-class art museums. Sprinkle in beach volleyball matches, samba dancing, and stunning tropical mountains meet azure sea scenery you won’t find anywhere else. But there are a few things to keep in mind: the language is Portuguese, not Spanish; and the drug-trafficked favelas are a harsh reality. This Rio de Janeiro travel guide has everything you need to get started on planning an unforgettable trip. Ready, set, Rio! By
Brasilia Standard Time
Best Time to Go
Rio de Janeiro is a bustling and modern beachfront city, with something for tourists to see and do on and off the sand 12 months out of the year. Weather-wise, December through March (Brazil’s summer months) and September through November (spring in Brazil) means temperatures in the 20s to 30s and little rain. With Carnival comes crowds in February or March, but that’s half the fun. It’s no surprise New Year’s Eve is another epically popular time to party in Rio.
Things to Know
Currency: Brazilian Real (R$)
Language: Brazilian Portuguese
I don’t speak Portuguese: Nao falo portugues.
I’m lost: Estou perdido.
I would like…: eu gostaria
Calling Code: +55 (Brazil) + 21 (Rio)
Capital City of Brazil: Brasilia
How to Get Around
Trains: The three-line subway system, called MetroRIo, is clean, convenient, and safe. This is the best way to get around the city and avoid traffic.
Buses: Cheaper than taxis and trains, but the buses in Rio are crowded and slow.
Taxis: Yellow taxis are widely available — insist the driver turn on the meter instead of haggling over the fare.
Car service: Uber is available in Rio. You’ll need internet access on your phone to use the app. From Galeao Airport, Uber departs on the second level.
Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro
Address: Avenida Vieira Souto, 80 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22420-002, Brazil
Phone: 55 21 3202 4000
When famous hotelier Phillipe Starck brought a luxury boutique hotel to the Ipanema waterfront, he smartly designed much of the hotel (including the infinity pool) to overlook the beach. Apart from the vistas, the property pays homage to the glamorous era of Bossa Nova in the 1950s and 60s. The rooftop bar draws beautiful people for beautiful views of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Copacabana Palace, A Belmond Hotel
Address: Av. Atlântica, 1702 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22021-001, Brazil
Phone: 55 21 2548 7070
Looking for a taste of the French Riviera on Copacabana Beach? The Copacabana Palace was built in 1923 and still retains much of its original architecture and retro art deco glamour. The 239 rooms mostly overlook the beach. The three restaurants and piano bar are highlights, but the real star of the show is the private beach — complete with attendants to watch your belongings while you frolic.
Santa Teresa Hotel RJ – MGallery by Sofitel
Address: Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 660 Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20241-260, Brazil
Phone: 55 21 3380 0200
Swap the beach for the mountains at Santa Teresa Hotel RJ. Once an 18th-century coffee plantation, the building is now a chic boutique hotel with unbeatable views of the city and Bay of Rio below. It’s literally above the scene, but still very much a part of it — the onsite restaurant, Tereze, is considered one of the best in Rio.
Address: Avenida Delfim Moreira, 696 – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22441-000, Brazil
Phone: 55 21 2172 1100
Style and eco-consciousness go hand in hand at the Janeiro Hotel. It’s located in the glamorous Leblon neighbourhood and across the street from Ipanema-Leblon Beach. Each of the 51 apartment-style suites has sea and Cagarras Islands views…some of the showers do too.
Address: Av. Afranio de Melo Franco, 290-406 A
Phone: 55 21 3875 1830
When it’s too hot for a full meal, head to Mil Frutas (a thousand fruits) for a frozen treat. This sorbet shop makes close to 100 handmade flavours using fresh ingredients, including native fruits like araca, acai, and umbu.
Zaza Bistro Tropical
Address: Joana Angelica 40
Phone: 55 21 2247 9101
Tropical flavours with Asian accents and organic ingredients are only part of what draws customers to Zaza. The restaurant is filled with art and upstairs you can kick your shoes off for a laidback dinner on throw pillows. Outdoor dining available.
Address: Av. Gen. San Martin, 889
Phone: 55 21 2540 8767
Oro has been a darling on the Rio restaurant scene since it opened in 2010, winning two Michelin stars in 2018. Celebrity Chef Felipe Bronze combines a grill and creativity to create rustic dishes cooked on live fire. Reservations recommended.
Address: R. Barao da Torre, 538
Phone: 55 21 3202 2884
Bazzar serves wild fish, sustainable seafood, and organic vegetables in modern presentations by chef Lira Muller. Global trends and vegetarian dishes are well represented. Psst, Bazzar is open for lunch and the front area is laid-back enough to visit looking salty after the beach.
Things to Do
Christ the Redeemer
Address: Parque Nacional da Tijuca – Alto da Boa Vista
The Christ the Redeemer statue is the undisputed symbol of Rio. The art deco-statue was built by a French sculptor in 1931, and the statue’s arms stretch out a massive 92 feet wide. You can see the statue from multiple vantage points in Rio, but it’s worth the cable ride up the mountain to see it up close.
Address: Posto 8 through Posto 12 on the beach
A close second only to Copacabana Beach in popularity, Ipanema Beach has been a locals’ and tourist favourite since at least the ’60s. The two-mile stretch of sand features mountain views and cobalt water. The people watching isn’t bad either.
Bar hop through Lapa
Address: Avenida Mem de Sa
A visit to the Lapa neighbourhood is lovely in the day but visit after dark for an unforgettable nightlife scene. The neighbourhood overflows with samba music and revellers. Rio Scenarium is three stories of music and dancing. Also check out Lapa 40 Graus and Clube Dos Democraticos, where locals have been cutting a rug since 1867.
Address: Avenida Alfredo Agache
Check out the unexpected: a green neo-gothic 19th-century palace, which sits on its own miniature island in the city. Ilha Fiscal is a stylish reminder of when Rio was the capital of the Brazilian Empire.
Address: Praca Olavo Bilac, 28
Phone: 55 21 2224 9215
Located on the second floor of a nondescript building, Tropicalia Discos is a vinyl goldmine. This is the go-to for Brazilian music, with records from Bossa nova to samba to jazz.
Address: Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 270
Phone: 55 21 2274 7808
Rio’s laidback and colourful street style is inspired by the beach and tropical climate. Dress the part with floral bikinis and flowing dresses from Osklen.
Address: Av. Barao de Tefe, 3
Phone: 55 21 3231 6700
Shopping at local pharmacies is the beauty secret to sourcing local soaps, perfume, and toiletries. There are multiple Granado Pharmacies in Rio. Stop in and nose out your favourite scents. Pro tip: the pretty packaging makes for perfect gifts.
Address: Paschoal Carlos Magno 100
Phone: 55 21 99640 1710
Support the Amazonian community by shopping for handmade goods at Tucum. This small shop exclusively carries woven baskets, jewellery, pottery, and wall hangings made with Amazonian seeds and fibres.
Neighbourhoods to Know
Rio is a sprawling city, but each neighbourhood has a distinct vibe. Think of Rio more like a collection of small beach and mountain towns, and it’s less overwhelming. Copacabana and Ipanema are obvious beach neighbourhoods, but a tram ride up to Santa Teresa is worth it for the boho vibe, ocean views, and samba clubs. Leblon is the neighbourhood for pure glitz and glamour and the small footprint means you can check out most of the high-end boutiques and chi-chi wine bars in one visit.
Rio is known for its beaches, and thankfully the weather usually cooperates enough to enjoy them year-round. January through March sees temperatures in the low 30s — it’s too hot to do much of anything besides swim. July, August, and September are the coolest months with lows around 15 degrees, but also the driest. Hurricanes are a rarity in Rio de Janeiro.
Apps to Download
ChefsClub: Find restaurants, bars, and make reservations
Android (not on Android) | iOs