Brasil: touristing in Rio

I have the opportunity to go to São Paulo with my dear spouse on a business trip this September. The business portion would be in São Paulo, but that’s only an hour flight from Rio, so we’d spend half the week there. Below is my what to do, where to go research for Rio. See this post for São Paulo ideas.


“The place makes Miami look like Cleveland.”


Walk around Santa Teresa

Take the antique tram called the bonde uphill to the cobbled, winding streets of leafy Santa Teresa.

Visit the Botanical Gardens

Ferry to Ilha de Paquetá

45 min ferry ride from downtown for a very different beach experience from Ipanema. “Paqueta’s dirt roads, which are car-free (horse-drawn carriages cart visitors around town), feature 19th-century homes, stores that rent banged-up bicycles (5 reais an hour) and diners that offer up simple pleasures like fried fish or grilled ham and cheese.”

Take a favela tour

5-hour tour:

2-hour tour:

Article about favela tourism from The Guardian

Go running

Leblon-Ipanema-Arpoador – 3.7km

Runs the Lagoa a close second for the most popular jogging route in the city… Cruise along the most beautiful urban beach among the beautiful people that frequent it.

Lagoa – 7.5km
The loop of choice for many Zona Sul runners… the views are spectacular and you get to skirt four different neighbourhoods on the way.

Admire views

  • Sugarloaf Mountain
  • Corcovado (where the giant Jesus statue lives) – but long lines of tourists and often cloudy at the top
  • Elevator tower observation deck: corner of Rua Teixeira de Melo and Rua Barão da Torre, just off Praça General Osório


Just sit on the beach and watch the ridiculously attractive locals play soccer and footvolley. Ipanema is nicer and less touristy than Copacabana.



Sunset at Arpoador Beach; get a table at the Arpoador Inn. But don’t get in the water; it’s very polluted.


There’s lots of fancy dining in the Leblon area, specifically on Rua Dias Ferreira

Oro: Felipe Bronze heads this acclaimed restaurant, which celebrates Brazilian produce and its cooking traditions while serving up some of the most imaginative plates in the city. The low-lit Zen-like interior contrasts with the culinary pyrotechnics on display in most dishes.

Espírito Santa: “Espírito Santa is set in a beautifully restored mansion in Santa Teresa. Take a seat on the back terrace with its sweeping views or inside the charming, airy dining room, and feast on rich, expertly prepared meat and seafood dishes from the Amazon and the northeast.”

Térèze: The global flavours on offer at Térèze, part of the chic Hotel Santa Teresa, provide the neighbourhoods most exclusive dinner option. Elegant and modern, the restaurant couples accents from a wealth of countries with one of the most quintessentially carioca settings in the city. If you are thinking of taking any other mode of transport besides a taxi, think again – even some cabbies will balk at the winding, cobbled roads up.”

Late night


This historic, charmingly shabby neighborhood in central Rio goes late into the night with plentiful street food — and cheap drinks.


Take a taxi to the Urca area and Zozô (Avenida Pasteur 520, Praia Vermelha; 55-21-2295-5659; Dramatically situated by the beach, adjacent to the Sugar Loaf cable car station, this restaurant turns into a weekend after-dinner lounge and dance club where a posh crowd of 30-something Brazilians do what they do best: look good.

Where to eat

A lot of the most fun-to-eat food in Rio is sold on the beach, including esfirras, or little Middle Eastern pastries. Get a sandwich and fresh fruit juice for breakfast and eat it sitting on the beach.

Eat at the simple restaurants (Degrau, Jobi).

Confeitaria Colombo, even if it’s just for a light lunch or tea with some of the traditional (and to-die-for) Portuguese pastries like toucinho do ceu.

Santa Teresa: “Those feeling flush shouldn’t miss the opportunity to check out the view from Térèze, the sublimely romantic bar and restaurant in Hotel Santa Teresa but a “treehouse” booth in nearby Aprazível with its views of Centro and beyond, makes for a memorable meal too. Hearty dishes to suit more modest budgets can be found at Simplesmente or Bar do Arnaudo, both close to Largo do Guimarães, while seafood lovers are in for a treat at both Sobrenatural and Amazonian specialist Espirito Santa (pictured) a little further down the track.”

Where to stay

Stay in Leblon if you can, for the leafy streets, cafes and restaurants, and easy access to the beach. (Ipanema is not quite as pleasant, and Copacabana can be a bit seedy.)

Getting around

Taxis in Rio are for the most part easy to hail or order, though few drivers speak English, so bring a written address for your destination. At the airport, buy a prepaid fare from Transcoopass to avoid solicitations from dodgy drivers.

Rio’s metro is clean, fast, and safe.

General information


“So aside from not walking alone at night and taking other appropriate precautions, simply don’t go out with anything you couldn’t stand losing. I take a bit of cash, one credit card and a copy of my passport.”


“Look for PFs, or pratos feitos, homey set plates of a main course, rice, beans and juice for under 12 reais”

Drink caipirinhas: a rum-relative liquor, sugar, and lime

Light Brazilian lager on draft called chope or chopp (said cho-pea). If you order a cerveja, you’ll get bottled beer.

Useful phrases

(Portuguese pronunciation is tricky if you’re coming from a Spanish background!)

  • Hello – Alô
  • Hi – Oi
  • Goodbye – Tchau / Adeus
  • Excuse me (getting attention) – Com licença
  • Excuse me (beg your pardon) – Desculpe
  • Sorry, I don’t speak Portuguese – Desculpe, eu não falo português
  • Do you speak English? – Você fala inglês?
  • Please – Por favor
  • Thank you – Obrigado (said by a man) / Obrigada (said by a woman)
  • Where is the bathroom? – Onde está o banho?
  • How’s it going? – Tudo bem? (The response is also “tudo bem.”) Or, “tudo bom”
  • Please, can you help me? – Por favor, você pode me ajudar?
  • I don’t understand – Não compreendo
  • Good morning – Bom dia
  • Good afternoon – Boa tarde
  • Good night – Boa noite
  • Beer – cerveja
  • Cool – legal
  • Cheers! – Saúde!


36 Hours in Rio de Janeiro

Rio, with eyes open

In Rio and Sao Paulo, go north

For a Brazilian vacation, 7 rules to save by

3 Experts, and Many Tips for Visiting Brazil

Top 5 Runs in Rio

Mercado Municipal

Brazil Important Phrases

20 Essential Portuguese Phrases

Brazilian Portuguese Phrasebook

Best places to eat in Rio

Santa Teresa Neighborhood Guide

Lonely Planet: Getting Around Rio


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