When you visit the Brazilian home of Carnival, be prepared for a parade of sights, sounds, and tastes. With so much on offer, it can be hard to know where to begin sampling the city. Luckily, we’ve uncovered 10 things to do in Rio that are simply unmissable.
Visitors walking to the Christ the Redeemer statue
Visit all the must-see attractions of Rio de Janeiro on a full-day tour with a local guide.

1. Don’t miss the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue

That’s Cristo Redentor to you. No trip to Brazil is complete without a stop at this striking modernist statue atop Corcovado mountain. It’s Rio’s most famous landmark for a reason — it’s undeniably breathtaking. Make a day out of your trip to the monument with a guided tour that also includes a cable car ride up lush Sugarloaf Mountain, where you’ll see Cristo Redentor from a fresh angle.

Colorful painted buildings of Favela  in Rio de Janeiro
Take a walking tour at the Rocinha Favela in Rio and learn about life in the city’s famous shantytowns.

2. Discover the real Rio

The glitzy beaches only tell half the city’s story — many Rio residents live in the city’s favelas. Take a respectful, educational tour of these vibrant neighborhoods with a local guide. Learn about the history and culture of the favelas and chat with residents for an authentic glimpse into this side of the city.

People posing for a picture at a Rio beach
Head to the best swimming and snorkeling spots in Angra dos Reis on a speedboat tour.

3. Sail straight to paradise

The pristine beaches of Ilha Grande, just outside of Rio, are one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets. Head straight for their white sands and crystal-clear waters on a memorable speedboat cruise. Visit some of Brazil’s most spectacular nature spots, like the Blue Lagoon, the Cataguases Islands, Japariz beach, and Saco do Céu.

People tandem hang-gliding over Rio
Go tandem hang-gliding flight over the mountains and forests of Tijuca National Park.

4. Get a bird’s-eye view on Brazil

When it comes to things to do in Rio, the sky’s the limit. Hang out, Rio-style, with a tandem hang-glide experience. You’ll enjoy unbeatable views of Tijuca National Park, the Cristo Redentor statue, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Corcovado Bay before finally coming back to earth at São Conrado Beach. Best of all? You can always relive the thrill back home with a go-pro film of your flight.

People walking up colorful stairs in Rio
Get to know many of the most traditional places in Rio de Janeiro on a walking tour through the city.

5. Experience vivid traditions

Rio de Janeiro is as traditional as it is vibrant. Uncover some of the city’s historic sights in the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Stroll the quarter’s cobblestoned streets on a relaxed walking tour that takes in South America’s oldest public park, the Passeio Publico, the colorful Selarón Steps. Don’t forget to finish with a tasty snack at the Confeitaria Colombo, an Art-Nouveau cafe that locals have loved for over a century.

Woman skipping through botanic gardens
Discover flora from Brazil and the world on a tour through Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden.

6. Get back to nature at the botanic gardens

Rio’s botanical gardens are nothing short of epic. This sprawling park is home to some of the world’s rarest and most exotic plant and animal species. Think toucans, orchids, carnivorous plants, and more. Wander the greenhouses with an expert guide or chill out in the famed Sensory Garden. 

Man standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean
The hike to Pedra do Telégrafo leads to one of the most stunning viewpoints in Rio de Janeiro.

7. Take a high-energy hike

Rio is paradise for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers with some of the world’s finest hiking trails at the city’s doorstep. Our favorite hike has to be the ascent to Pedra do Telégrafo, taking in beachside scenery and lush rainforest, all capped off with a panoramic view of the city.

People on a walking tour in the Santa Teresa neighborhood
Venture outside the center of Rio de Janeiro to visit the beautiful Santa Teresa neighborhood.

8. Explore eclectic neighborhoods

No trip to Rio is complete without a visit to the lively district of Lapa. Go there during the day to browse cute boutiques and antique bazaars, or come back after dark to take part in the area’s legendary nightlife. 

Cooking class in Rio
Join this fun 4-hour hands-on Brazilian cooking class to learn how to make traditional Brazilian food and cocktails.

9. Taste the city’s true flavors

Don’t stop at sampling Brazil’s most delectable dishes, learn how to make them yourself! In a workshop with trained chefs, you’ll stir seafood stew, simmer feijoada, and even shake up a caipirinha or two. Delicioso!

Couple on a yacht at sunset
Board a yacht for a private sailing trip from Rio de Janeiro Yacht Club at Urca to the most scenic points along the coast.

10. Sail into the sunset

For a Rio de Janeiro experience you’ll never forget, opt for a luxe private yacht cruise. Relax on deck, caipirinha cocktail in hand, as the sun sets over Guanabara bay. Keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins and splashing humpback whales. This is the ultimate in vacation relaxation.

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