Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with joy, music, celebration and carnival, but it is also history, modernity, culture, art, gastronomy, nature and a lot more. It is a singular, warm and vibrant Brazilian city that makes everyone who knows it fall in love.

Rio de Janeiro Travel Guide

In Rio de Janeiro nobody feels like a stranger, as the Cariocas are always ready to welcome visitors with open arms, no matter where they come from. It’s easy to feel at home in the midst of this wonderful mix of races, colors and cultures that mark the city.

Top 5 reasons to visit Rio de Janeiro

Imperial Palace

Located in the historic centre, the Imperial Palace was the residence of King João VI of Portugal during his exile in the 19th century. After Brazil’s independence, this majestic building became the residence of the country’s new emperors.

Metropolitan Cathedral

The modern and unique Metropolitan Cathedral leaves no one indifferent. Its concrete building in the shape of a pyramid is a work of art, whose enormous stained-glass windows let the sunlight in, creating an unrepeatable impression.

São Bento Monastery

This Portuguese style architectural complex is one of the oldest in Rio de Janeiro. Its opulent interior is decorated with frescoes, images and elegant pieces of carved wood, covered in gold. From here you can enjoy incredible views of the bay.

Tiradentes Palace

This beautiful palace surprises inside and out. During a free guided tour inside you can learn about the history of the country and admire the spectacular Plenary Hall, in service during the time when Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil.

Catete Palace

Nothing on the façade of this former seat of government allows one to imagine the wonderful surprises hidden inside. Its elegant decoration includes marble sculptures, paintings, murals and other impressive decorative objects. Admission is free on Wednesdays and Sundays.

What to do in Rio de Janeiro

Visit the Indian Museum

This museum allows visitors to learn about the history and way of life of the indigenous peoples who live in the country. Its exhibition includes objects and replicas of houses of the tribes that live in the most inaccessible territories of Brazil. During the visit, you will be able to purchase handicrafts made by the inhabitants of these tribes.

Get lost in Quinta da Boa Vista

This beautiful French-style public garden was owned by the Portuguese royalty and belonged to the emperors of Brazil. It has several artificial caves, a lake, winding paths, multiple food stands, a museum and a zoo.

Enjoy panoramic views next to Christ the Redeemer

With Rio de Janeiro at its feet, the statue of Christ the Redeemer watches over the city’s development from the top of Corcovado Hill. Inaugurated in 1931, this sculpture is 30 meters high and is the largest art deco monument in the world. Its viewpoint offers panoramic views of the city and Guanabara Bay.

Going up by cable car to the Sugar Loaf Mountain

This impressive 400-meter-high mountain of granite and quartz rises over Guanabara Bay and is visible from any point in the city. Like Corvocado Hill and its Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the symbols of Rio de Janeiro. The cable car that reaches its peak leaves every 20 minutes from the Urca neighborhood.

Relaxing on Ipanema Beach

This is one of the most beautiful, safe and sophisticated beaches in the city. It is also known for its lively nightlife and fashionable places, where the carioca high society meets.

When to visit Rio de Janeiro

Its privileged climate, invariable throughout the year, makes any season ideal to visit the city. However, the high season starts in November and lasts until March, coinciding with the summer season in South America. This period also includes the famous Rio de Janeiro carnival, which takes place every year between February and March.

How to get to Rio de Janeiro

By plane

From Madrid there are direct flights to Rio de Janeiro, which take 10 hours and 45 minutes. The operating airline is Iberia.

Flights from Europe arrive at Galeão International Airport, located 20 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro. The best option to get to the city is the fast bus transport (BRT) that runs on exclusive lanes and therefore avoids traffic jams. A ticket costs R$ 3.95. If you decide to go by taxi, the trip would cost between R$ 70-80.

By boat

Cruises to Rio de Janeiro from Malaga, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Alicante, Tenerife and Lanzarote. The operating companies are MSC and Costa Cruceros.

By train

Rio de Janeiro currently has no rail transport. However, the construction of a high-speed train line that will connect the main metropolitan areas of Brazil is planned shortly.

Airports near Rio de Janeiro

(GIG) Rio de Janeiro-Galeão Intl
(SDU) Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont

Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

The best places to sleep in Rio de Janeiro are Ipanema, Copacabana and Arpoador because of their pleasant atmosphere and proximity to public transport stops.

Among the hotels with good value for money are the 4-star Hotel Atlântico Prime, from R$ 111 per night; the 4-star Hotel 55 Rio, (R$ 147); and the 4-star South American Copacabana Hotel (R$ 129).

Interesting neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro

The Santa Teresa neighborhood, known as the Montmartre carioca, is notable for its large community of artists and blocks of favelas that surround the area. Modernity barely left its mark on the colonial aesthetic of this neighborhood, where colorful historical buildings from the 18th century abound.

Copacabana, named after the Virgin of Copacabana, is one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods. Located in the southern area, it houses a beautiful crescent-shaped beach, nicknamed Princesita del Mar. Synonymous with wealth, bohemian and glamour, Copacabana is a tourist landmark in Rio de Janeiro.

Niterói, a city located on the other side of Guanabara Bay, is home to one of the most historic monuments in the state of Rio de Janeiro: the Santa Cruz Fortress, built in the 16th century with stones brought from Portugal. This is also the site of the largest concentration of buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

How to get around Rio de Janeiro

By public transport

The metro, tram and bus are the main means of urban transport. The Rio de Janeiro Pass for 1, 3 or 7 days (R$ 329, R$ 485 or R$ 797, respectively) allows unlimited travel on public transport and discounts in shops, restaurants, excursions and tourist attractions in the city.

By taxi

All local taxis have meters and charge R$ 2.80 per kilometer. The flag drop is set at R$ 5.85. Radio taxis are the most expensive option, but also the safest. The best rated companies are Rádio Táxi Rio de Janeiro, Coopertramo Rádio-Táxi and Rádio Táxi Coopatur.

Cost of living in Rio de Janeiro

Shopping areas

Rio de Janeiro is full of big shopping malls. Among the most popular are Rio Sul Shopping Center, Shopping Cidade Copacabana and São Conrado Fashion Mall. Don’t forget to visit the Mercadão de Madureira, where you can buy Brazilian handicraft items.

Groceries and others

Living in Rio de Janeiro is not expensive. Keep in mind that a beer in a local bar costs R$ 3.5; a cup of coffee, R$ 2; and a meal in a mid-range restaurant, R$ 20. In supermarkets, a dozen eggs would cost you R$ 5.7; a liter of milk, R$ 3.2; and a loaf of bread, R$ 1.35. The cheapest supermarkets are Rede Ultra Mercado, Redeconomia and Super Rede.

Where to eat in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has an immense number of restaurants at very reduced prices. Among them, Estrelas da Babilonia that besides offering a delicious meal with an authentic home-made taste, has spectacular views of Rio (R$ 40 per diner); and Galeto 183, where you can taste the best Brazilian dishes for R$ 80 for two people.

Other South America Destinations:

Bogota Travel Guide
Buenos Aires Travel Guide
La Paz Travel Guide
Lima Travel Guide
Medellin Travel Guide
Santiago Travel Guide
Sao Paulo Travel Guide