About Megan S
Since Oct 2014
Arenas & Stadiums
Tramways, Mountains, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Lookouts
Historic Sites, Parks
Forests, National Parks
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Architectural Buildings, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Piers & Boardwalks, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Bars & Clubs, Dance Clubs & Discos
Observation Decks & Towers, Parks
Bars & Clubs
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Gift & Speciality Shops
Beaches, Bodies of Water
This is the center of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, where the famous evening parade takes place. It takes place over three nights of Carnival until the winner is announced. Expect to see over-the-top parade floats, elaborate and colorful costumes, impressive samba dancing, and hear a lot of passionate samba music! (This is a real spectacle, compared to the street parties.)
The most popular beach in Rio de Janeiro, Ipanema is an icon of the city, and a beautiful spot for laying out, swimming in the waves, and even socializing. During Carnival, some spots turn into beach parties, and some are left alone for beach-goers.
At the end of Ipanema Beach, you'll find this jutting rock and bit of beach, offering beautiful views back on Rio. Definitely worth the stroll!
The second most popular site in Rio de Janeiro, this is my personal favorite! The Sugarloaf offers incredible views over all of Rio (including the beaches, Botafogo Bay, and the Christ Statue — which it faces), plus the perspective is stunning.
A classic hotel on Rio's famous Copacabana Beach, the impressive Copacabana Palace is hard to miss. I mention it here because it also hosts the most popular Carnival Ball in Rio. If you plan to attend one, this classy affair is hard to beat, featuring a night of music and dancing in the hotel's elegant ballroom.
Known year-round as a beautiful stretch of land for walking and running along, this area transforms during Carnival time, into one of the most popular sites for the city's famous street parties ('blocos'). Check the official schedule for times and days, and don't miss attending at least one!
For those who would like to celebrate in a bar rather than on the street, check out the historic Academia da Cachaca. Try Brazil's national drink, the caipirinha, and experiment with the many types of the drink's key ingredient — sugar-cane rum called Cachaca — on offer here.
Like any tropical country, Brazil is full of amazing fresh fruits, and you'll see snack shops on every corner offering fresh juices of any fruit or veggie your heart could desire! Bibi Sucos is my personal favorite.
Brazil's most famous cuisine is its all-you-can-eat barbecue (aka 'churrascao'). This reknowned 'churrascaria' is my personal favorite, and even though it's a splurge by Brazilian standards, you more than get what you pay for here — with endless high-end cuts of meat. If you want a great Brazilian meal, this is it!
My favorite neighborhood in Rio (and most other people's too), the hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa is full of winding streets, colorful homes, endless street art, boutique hotels, and charming cafes and restaurants. While it isn't the easiest to access (you need a car or taxi to get here, and not all are willing to take you up), it's well worth the effort.
This classic building in the middle of a lush park is one of the most beautiful spots in the city. Definitely worth checking out, it's a little oasis in the midst of the rampant Carnival buzz.
My favorite part of Copacabana Beach, this beautiful spot is a nice refuge from the packed central area of the stretch. Also, during Carnival, a ton of street parties ('blocos') take place here, so you can combine beach time with great music!
Lying much further from the center of Rio than the other spots in this guide, Prainha is great because of exactly that. A pristine beach for laying out and surfing, few travelers know about (or make the trek out to) Prainha, so you can be sure to have the peaceful break that you need here.
Even though Rio is mainly known for its beaches, it also has amazing hiking opportunities. Pedra Bonita is one of the city's shorter hikes (Rio has some very challenging ones), but the views are still incredible.
Many of Rio's most amazing hiking trails lie inside the Tijuca National Park. Here you'll find waterfalls, mountain peaks, monkeys, and amazing views. Plus, almost all the hiking is under the shade of the rainforest canopy so it stays relatively cool! Great for a health detox — if you've been indulging during Carnival — or for those who want something other than partying to do.
The beach corresponding to Rio's most high-end neighborhood, Leblon hosts a few Carnival festivities, but remains a calm haven overall for those wanting a break from the madness. Come here if you want a beach day away from the constant activity!
Also known as the Lapa Stairs, this landmark is a very unique part of the city. Walk up the stairs covered in mosaic tiles from all over the world; a tribute by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron to his beloved adopted home of Rio. He spent years working on the stairs, and both lived and died on them! A great spot for colorful photos, for those who know the history, and for anyone interested in seeing a unique take on street art.
Considered an important downtown city landmark, the 'Arches' are much more than just a sight to see. They mark the entrance to Lapa, the bohemian nightlife center of Rio, and the action all starts in the plaza, below the arches themselves. During Carnival, many 'blocos' take place on the plaza by day, while more official concerts happen there at night. Once you walk under the Arches, you'll see a street full of different restaurants, music venues, bars, and clubs. These rain from dive and cheap to very high end, so there really is something for everyone!
Just a few blocks from the ocean sits this beautiful, expansive lagoon. Those who want exercise away from the crowds can run around the perimeter on the designated jogging track; luxury travelers will love the high-end bars, restaurants, lounges, and clubs that line the water; while others will enjoy simply taking in the views. All venues here offer special events for Carnival too — ask your hotel for information!
The bustling Saara Shopping District is mayhem all year round, but its collection of 'everything under the sun' comes particularly in handy during Carnival time. Here you'll find everything at very cheap prices: Clothes, shoes, Havianas (Brazilian flip flop brand), beach towels, souvenirs, home decor, art, cheap electronics, you name it! For Carnival, it's the perfect spot to grab costumes and any other party supplies you might need — from foghorns to confetti to portable drinking cups.
For those hoping to see another side to Rio de Janeiro, look beyond its beaches and natural landmarks. The Santa Marta favela was the first slum in the city to undergo the pacification process, and is considered the model for Rio's attempts to make these areas safer. Now teeming with multiple art projects, tours through the favela are a great way to learn about the community, give back to those in need, and see how 1.4 million people in the city really live.
Rio Scenarium has long been the most popular evening venue in the city, and with good reason. The quirky, art-filled, classic building offers three stories of dancefloors and different music. Start on the bottom floor, which hosts a live samba band most nights, as well as serving quality drinks and food earlier in the evening.
The iconic rocky outcrop at the end of Leblon and Ipanema, the Two Brothers Mountain (Morro Dois Irmaos) also has a trail up to the top with one of the best views in the city!
Along with Ipanema, this is one of Brazil's most beloved beaches. While several 'blocos' (street parties) take place in the Copacabana neighborhood during Carnival, the beach itself stays mainly filled with beachgoers. Walk along the promenade to buy souvenirs, listen to music, or have a snack and drink; or head onto the sand to lay out on the beach all day and enjoy some swimming.
Some of the most expansive botanical gardens you're likely to come across, nature lovers won't want to miss this beautiful, peaceful destination. Amazing flora and fauna — including an Atlantic Forest trail — and massive grounds await you!
Sushi may not seem like an obvious item on your Rio de Janeiro bucket list, but it should be! After traditional Brazilian cuisine, it's the most popular food in the country — Brazil has a huge number of Japanese immigrants, and Rio is currently obsessed with sushi. Sushi Leblon serves up world-class sushi, on a par with the best restaurants in New York or London, and while the prices reflect this, you won't regret dining here!
The most challenging hike in Rio, I would be doing a disservice to nature lovers by not mentioning it in this guide. While you need to set aside a full day to tackle Pedra da Gavea, it makes for a great pre- or post-Carnival outing: The views are outstanding, and the trail itself holds several world records for its height and rock formations.
This historic spot downtown may have a long history as a former slave trading center, but locals have turned this dark history on its head, by making the rock home to Rio's most popular street event. Every Monday and Friday, you'll find live samba here, plenty of fellow revelers, and a year-round Carnival atmosphere!
A famous structure by iconic Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer, a visit to the MAC museum will also give you a glimpse at a very local neighborhood: Niteroi. While the art inside struggles to compete with the impressive building, there are always a few pieces worth seeing, as well as a great view back on Rio.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Rio de Janeiro, the Municipal Theater is definitely worth a visit while you're downtown. Although impressive from the outside — and great for photos — tours of the inside are also available.
Barra is a nice, clean suburb of Rio de Janeiro, and its 13-mile beach has plenty of space for everyone. It's also very clean, and particularly popular for surfing!
Another favela that is popular to visit for an eye-opening experience, Rocinha is the city's largest slum, and offers travelers a whole new look at the city and how many people in Rio de Janeiro live.
A classic snack and juice bar, BB Lanches is an affordable spot for a typical Brazilian snack. Try a fruit juice of your choice, and a savory ('salgado') pastry such as 'pao de queijo' (cheese bread). You'll see outlets all over the city!
Luxury travelers will love the high-end Chinese cuisine on offer at Mr. Lam. Unique dishes and a nice atmosphere are two of the highlights, but what makes it especially pleasant is its tucked away location — providing a much-needed break from the crowds of Ipanema and Copacabana.
A funky little spot a block away from Ipanema Beach, Zaza serves up great tropical fusion food. It's perfect for stepping off the beach for a meal, snack or cocktail, and has a cozy, creative atmosphere that most travelers are bound to enjoy.
Looking for an authentic dose of Brazilian cuisine, served up in an even more traditional environment? Bar do David — at the entrance to a favela — is the best spot for home-cooked Brazilian dishes and tapas that you've never heard of! Don't worry about choosing your dish either, as David is happy to order for you if you prefer. Simply sit down and get ready for some of the best food you'll have in Rio!
With Rio's beach lifestyle comes a love of fresh, healthy food, and Delirio Tropical brings it to you in locations across the city. Simply pick your own combination of salads, proteins, and sides at the front, and then find your own seat. Quick, delicious, and a great price for such healthy food!
Sao Paulo, the NYC of Brazil, is well known for its amazing Italian pizza restaurants, and Braz is the best of the bunch. Luckily, there's now a branch in Rio, so you can try the pizza lauded as 'better than in Sicily,' and see for yourself! (Easily the best pizza in Rio in my opinion.)
For those who want churrascao (Brazilian BBQ) quick and easy, check out Carretao right next to the General Osorio metro station. One of the best in Rio, they manage it well so that you can often walk in without a reservation and still be served quickly (though during Carnival, I would suggest a reservation).
This popular juice spot is great for refreshments on the go: everything is fresh-squeezed in front of you!
Looking for live samba music in a nice setting? The streets aren't the only place to hear it! Come to Carioca da Gema and enjoy drinks and samba any night of the week.
If you've just spent the day on the beach and are craving a good meal, stop by at Felice. With plenty of light and healthy options, Felice is very accommodating to locals and visitors alike!
Brazil specializes in amazing gourmet chocolate, and Cacau Show is one of the best places to try it. You can buy individual chocolates, or get some great souvenirs to take home with you.
A very local bar up in quaint Santa Teresa, Bar do Mineiro is always bustling with locals looking for a good, homestyle meal, and a strong drink in this very classic spot.
This little plaza is always bustling with activity. By day, you'll find families barbecuing here, and at night, the bars around it come alive and it transforms into a popular meeting point. It's especially lively during Carnival — come see where the locals hang out!
The neighborhood where most tourists stay, hang out, eat, and shop, Ipanema has a little of everything — so whenever you aren't sure of where to go, Ipanema is a good bet! Walk along its major avenues for amazing (though often high-end) shopping, souvenirs, cafes, restaurants, and nightlife spots.
While Botafogo Bay itself is beautiful, the neighborhood as a whole makes for a great chilled-out Carnival experience. A low-key, yet safe and upscale neighborhood, Botafogo is just one metro stop from Copacabana (and just a few from Ipanema), but feels like a world away. Right near the Botafogo metro stop you'll find the plaza surrounded by local bars and restaurants; a place many locals enjoy celebrating Carnival in a more laid-back manner. The street parties here during Carnival are more family-oriented than the ones in Ipanema, and the slower pace of life makes them all the more enjoyable too. For a more local experience, make sure to spend some of your Carnival (at least!) in homey Botafogo.