With lush rainforest, golden beaches, and verdant cliffs, it doesn’t take long to see why Rio de Janeiro is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Add to that the sultry samba rhythms, the bronzed beauties, and the colorful costumes of Carnival, and you have everything you need for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. While 48 hours is enough to get a snapshot of La Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio’s main attractions are spread all over town. This guide will ensure you plan accordingly and discover the best of the city!
8 AM CAFE 18 DO FORTE
PRAÇA CORONEL EUGÊNIO FRANÇA, 1, FORTE DE COPACABANA - COPACABANA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22070-020
There’s no better way to start the day than with pao de quejo (manioc flour cheese bread) and a strong Brazilian coffee. Add an acai smoothie to the mix, and you’ll really be ready to conquer a full day of sightseeing. Head to Cafe 18 do Forte for a leisurely breakfast on the grounds of the Copacabana Fort. The scrumptious food comes complete with stunning sea views and a relaxing breeze.
10 AM CHRIST THE REDEEMER
PARQUE NACIONAL DA TIJUCA - ALTO DA BOA VISTA, RIO DE JANEIRO
There are few landmarks as iconic as Christ the Redeemer, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Watching over the city from 124 feet, the replica of Christ is visible from nearly every corner of Rio. To arrive at the Redeemer, take the 20-minute Corcovado Railway through Tijuca National Park to the summit. From here you’ll be rewarded with photo ops of the statue as well as stunning views of the city. The train leaves from Rua Cosme Velho every hour.
1 PM PORCAO RIOS
RUA BARÃO DA TORRE, 218 - IPANEMA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22411-000
You can’t visit Rio without a stop at a traditional Brazilian churrascaria or steakhouse and Porcao Rios is easily one of the best. Located in the neighborhood of Flamengo, breathtaking views over Guanabara Bay and Sugar Loaf make the meal that much more memorable. Come hungry because the waiters will keep shaving freshly barbecued meat until you literally can eat no more.
3 PM THE IPANEMA PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY
IPANEMA, RIO DE JANEIRO
Rent a bike and enjoy some easy cycling along the pedestrian walkway at Ipanema. Or, if you prefer to stay on your own two feet, grab a coconut drink and enjoy the walk. This is a favorite spot to mix, mingle and enjoy sweeping views of the water, while getting some exercise.
5 PM THE ARPOADOR
PRAIA DO ARPOADOR IPANEMA, RIO DE JANEIRO
The pedestrian lane along Ipanema will take you straight to the Arpoador, a giant rock that juts out into the ocean between Copacabana and Ipanema Beach. It’s one of the best places to watch the sun set behind the hills as you get ready for an exciting night out on the town.
7 PM THE HIPODROMO
PRAÇA SANTOS DUMONT, 106/108 - GÁVEA, RIO DE JANEIRO, 21910-490
For dinner head to Baixo Gavea, a hip bohemian neighborhood that’s popular with the university crowd. An authentic and casual restaurant with pizza and picanha (Brazilian steak), to look like a local, order the picanha fatiada com farofa e fritas and a large beer.
9 PM BAIXO GAVEA
PRAÇA SANTOS DUMONT, 116 - LOJA B - BAIXO GÁVEA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22470-060
After dinner, enjoy a relaxed beverage at any of the bars in Baixo Gavea, but don’t expect to find a seat. This area is so hopping patrons are usually spilling out onto the sidewalk, especially on a Thursday or Monday night. Popular with students and businessman alike, a unique fusion of people is virtually guaranteed.
9 AM THE VIEW
AVENIDA ATLÂNTICA, 1020 - COPACABANA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22010-000
Located on the 4th floor of the Windsor Atlantica Hotel, this restaurant is aptly named for its impressive view over Copacabana beach. The brunch buffet features champagne, breads, cheeses, salads, seafood, meat, and more so come hungry and allow plenty of time for seconds, thirds and even fourths!
11 AM SANTA TERESA
RUA MANUEL CARNEIRO - SANTA TERESA RIO DE JANEIRO
When you’re ready to walk off the calories you’ve just indulged; the trendy neighborhood of Santa Teresa is the perfect place to do it! Start by climbing the stunning mosaic steps of Escadaria Selaron, handcrafted over 20 years by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron. From here, take your time meandering through the tranquil and historic neighborhood of Santa Teresa. You’ll find gorgeous homes, cobblestone roads, and numerous art shops to entertain. And if you didn’t get your fill at brunch, there are also plenty of restaurants and coffee shops to stop and refuel at.
1 PM RIO DE JANEIRO BOTANICAL GARDENS
R. JARDIM BOTÂNICO, 1008 - JARDIM BOTÂNICO, RIO DE JANEIRO 22460-030
Rio’s Botanical Gardens are picture-perfect, featuring manicured gardens, exotic plants, and towering palms. Mosey along the paved walkways and enjoy a scenic escape. Don’t be surprised if you spot toucans and monkeys, too! It’s easy to forget that the bustling city of Rio is just outside the perimeter doors.
3 PM OLYMPE
RUA CUSTODIO SERRÃO, 62 - LAGOA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22470-230
Grab a late lunch at this famed French restaurant near the Botanical Gardens. The vision of one of the best chefs in the city, Olympe features a unique fusion of French and Brazilian cuisine. The lobster and crispy sweet potatoes is always a safe bet, but the elaborate tasting menu is also a good way to sample whatever is fresh, scrumptious and locally sourced.
7 PM RIO SCENARIUM
RUA DO LAVRADIO, 20 - CENTRO, RIO DE JANEIRO 20230-070
After you’ve had time to relax and rejuvenate, head to the Rio Scenarium, one of the most beautiful nightspots in the city. Spread out over three floors, this historic building in Lapa boasts live music, samba dancing, drinks and food. It’s the perfect spot to watch locals impressively sway their hips while sipping on a caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil. In between sets, wander the Scenarium and appreciate the antiques that decorate the walls. The music runs late into the night, so stay as long as the beat moves you. Or to check out more of Rio, there are countless bars and clubs just outside the Scenarium’s doors.
WHERE TO STAY: LA MAISON
RUA SERGIO PORTO, 58 - GAVEA, RIO DE JANEIRO 22451-430
A boutique guesthouse in the hills of Gavea, La Maison is cool and quiet with stunning views of the Tijuca Rainforest (one of the largest urban parks in the world). The amenities are first class and you'll be far removed from the hordes of tourists that congregate Copacabana.