Rio de Janeiro in 2 Days
From the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue to the beautiful beaches, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Take a tour of the city’s historical sites on your first day.
Visit the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain and marvel at the breathtaking views of the city below. Then, take a stroll through the cobblestone streets of the Santa Teresa neighborhood and explore the charming boutiques and galleries. Head to the Lapa district for some live music and dancing at night.
The next day, head to the beach and soak up the sun. Spend the day relaxing on the white sand beaches and dip in the crystal clear waters. For a unique experience, try stand-up paddle boarding or take a boat tour of the bay. After a day of fun in the sun, head to one of the city’s many restaurants for a delicious meal.
The gorgeous landscapes, lively beaches, fantastic climate, colorful and vibrant Carnaval, and friendly people. I have fallen in love with Rio de Janeiro for all these reasons.
We planned our South American trip around this city and the biggest celebration in the world – The Carnaval. After over a week of discovering it, there’s no doubt why it is called the marvelous city.
There are two ways of enjoying the Carnaval: attending the show in the Sanbodromo and/or being part of the street celebrations called blocos. We were lucky to experience both.
The difference between the two is that, whereas the Sanbodromo show is out of this world in terms of outfits, atmosphere, dance, and grandeur, it is also more passive from the spectator’s point of view. The blocos, on the other hand, is all about being involved. You are following a group of musicians throughout the streets of Rio along with hundreds of people who are dancing, drinking, eating, and having fun, whilst dressed in the craziest of costumes.
The Sanbodromo can be fantastic if you have good seats and can enjoy it with a group of people. We bought our tickets last minute, at the entrance, and we were located at the end of the arena where the carousels finished their performances. Still a pleasant experience, though.
For the blocks, you don’t need to pay anything; you show up. There are street sellers that follow the crowds selling drinks (mostly beer) and some food, so you don’t need to do anything besides putting on some feathers and dancing the morning away. Yes, the morning! The blocos start early, say 6 am, and finish late in the afternoon.
This mountain is located in the heart of the city and offers incredible views of the city and the surrounding area. The cable car ride to the top of the mountain is an experience you won’t soon forget.
From the top, you can see the city’s beautiful beaches, the lush rainforest, and the stunning mountains that make up the landscape. You can also enjoy the fantastic sunset views and the city’s twinkling lights at night. No matter what time of day you visit, you’ll be sure to be mesmerized by the beauty of Rio de Janeiro.
Ipanema Beach at sunset
This is not to be missed, people! We went to Ipanema beach several times to watch the sunset. The scene was the same every time, and yet we could not get enough of it: the gorgeous sunset light covering some pretty hot bodies :); the small and frequent groups of beach football players; the unique atmosphere; the street vendors; the waves crashing and entertaining some of the brave people who ventured into the water; the talented surfers…
Ipanema Beach has it all, whether you’re looking for a romantic evening stroll or a day of fun in the sun. Plus, the locals are friendly and welcoming, making it the perfect place to make new friends.
Pao de Asucar
You know those beautiful pictures of Rio de Janeiro that you see on postcards? Quite a few spots can give you a fantastic view: Pao de Asucar, Christ The Redeemer, and Tres Irmaos.
If you have the time, start your day with a visit to Pao de Asucar, a mountain peak that offers breathtaking views of the city. Take a cable car to the top, and marvel at the incredible landscape. Afterward, take a tour of Christ the Redeemer, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. The statue stands at the peak of Corcovado mountain and is sure to highlight your trip. Finally, end your visit with a hike up Tres Irmaos, the three brothers’ mountain. This trail is perfect for families and provides stunning views of the surrounding area.
We chose Pao de Asucar, and the result was postcard pretty :).
Be careful when you choose your day to visit Pao de Asucar; if it’s cloudy, you won’t see much (check Windguru for the cloud coverage forecast, it’s pretty accurate). We chose what we thought was a clear sky day, only to have a cloud blocking the view just before sunset. We were a big crowd, and we all made that disappointing ahh noise when it happened. It was funny, though :).
Santa Teresa and Lapa
Santa Teresa and Lapa are two of the most vibrant and exciting neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. Tourists visiting the city should explore these areas to taste the local culture.
The difference between some neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro is astonishing. You can go to Ipanema and meet the tanned, muscular, all-trendy Cariocas. Then you can go to Santa Teresa and Lapa and meet the most relaxed people, dressed and much more interested in enjoying cultural activities than going to the gym.
Santa Teresa is a hilltop neighborhood with a charming atmosphere full of cobblestone streets, brightly colored colonial buildings, and a vibrant art scene. Here, visitors can explore the famous Selaron Steps, a mosaic staircase created by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, and take in the stunning views of the city.
Lapa, on the other hand, is known for its nightlife. This area is full of lively bars, clubs, and restaurants and is a great place to experience the city’s nightlife. Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner or a wild night out, Lapa has something for everyone. With their vibrant atmosphere and unique attractions, Santa Teresa and Lapa are must-visit destinations for tourists visiting Rio de Janeiro.
I liked both. I enjoyed going to Ipanema and admiring the crowds; simultaneously, I felt very relaxed and at ease in Santa Teresa and Lapa.
A dream in the heart of the city. This is the place to be when you long for shade during hot afternoons. It’s vast and perfect for a long stroll amidst unique plant species.
This stunning botanical garden is a must-see for tourists visiting the city. Located in the heart of Rio, the garden is home to over 6,500 species of plants, trees, and flowers, making it one of the most diverse botanical gardens in the world. The garden also features sculptures, fountains, ponds, and a beautiful Japanese garden.
How and Where to
How to get there: We took Easytransfer from Abrao, Ilha Grande, to Santa Teresa in Rio. It took about 20 min on the boat and 2-2:30 min by shuttle, and the price was 110 reales pp (prices in February 2016).
Where to stay: We stayed at Casa da Vera in Santa Teresa. If you go during the Carnaval, it’s a great location as the Sanbodromo is just a few minutes away and some (of the best) blocos.*This is an affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission if a booking is made.
Where to eat: For breakfast (in Santa Teresa), we went to Cafecito and the place just in front of it, which has no name but was very good.
For dinner, we went twice to Les Amis in Santa Teresa. In Humaita/Botafogo, we went to Restaurante do Mercado a few times and overdosed on sushi.
Carnaval entrance: For the main show, we bought the tickets at the entrance and paid 50 reales per person.
Safety: We were pretty worried about safety before arriving in Rio de Janeiro, and although we did feel we needed extra care, we had no problems. Like any other South American destination, you need to use common sense. That means: not flashing expensive things, equipment, or jewelry; not walking on empty streets at night; being mindful of the people surrounding you, etc.
Disclaimer: We were in Rio de Janeiro in February, so all the info/prices apply to this date.