The Olympics are well underway, the medal tallies are growing and you’ve realized that you have a lot more time on your hands that you thought you would.
Perhaps you are searching for activities to do while you’re in Brazil’s most famous city – different places you can go to see the country and experience the rich and vibrant culture you’ve heard so much about. More importantly, you want them to be close to the stadiums you will be attending since you’d rather stay in an area you have become familiar with.
You’ve come to the right place. In no particular order, here are the sites in and around Rio de Janeiro that you can visit during your time in Brazil.
1. Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado Mountain
If you are at all familiar with the Art Deco design style, then this statue is well known to you. It is the largest Art Deco-style sculpture in the world and arguably Rio de Janeiro’s most recognizable landmark, the foundation for which was laid in 1922 and the entire statue completed by 1931.
The statue sits atop Corcovado Mountain, located in the Tijuca National Park in Barra Da Tijuca, Rio’s youngest neighbourhood.
Christ the Redeemer, though the main attraction and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, is not the only occupation available to you in the National Park.
Tijuca National Park is a nature lover’s paradise and located entirely within the city of Rio – containing picturesque waterfalls, picnic perfect parks, caves for exploration, quaint chapels and restaurants that will no doubt have a Brazilian delicacy or two on the menu.
Stadiums located within Barra Da Tijuca are the: Olympic Aquatic Stadium, Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre, Carioca Arena, Riocentro, Rio Olympic Arena, Olympic Tennis Centre, Future Arena, Olympic Golf Course and the Rio Olympic Velodrome.
2. São Cristóvão Fair, Maracanã Zone
What is this? An open air market and your best introduction to Brazilian culture short of hanging with the locals, which is highly encouraged and very possible while at this venue. There are shops, stalls, bars, restaurants and dance floors. Yes, dance floors.
If you wanted to pick up a souvenir for someone back home or even for yourself, this would be the place to do it. The prices are extremely reasonable with the admission being less than a dollar, and a meal that can comfortably feed 3 people at the pricier end around 15 USD.
Between the food, music and shopping you might never want to leave, and the opening hours are amenable to that desire. The fair is opened for lunch from Tuesday to Thursday and right through out the weekend from 10 am to 5 am.
Stadiums located within the Maracanã zone are, not surprisingly, the Maracanã and the Maracanãzinho.
3. Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
What to do when in Copacabana? Any number of things actually. The beach is always an available and preferred option especially from people coming from cold climates.
Though, because we are in the summer months (unless of course your country is experiencing winter now) this reasoning might not be applicable to you, though you will no doubt still enjoy your time here.
If you’re a surfer and you’re already missing the waves, you’re in luck. You can visit Arpoador beach and take in the waves which can get as high as 10 ft.
Catch up on Brazilian history while having lunch or taking a break from sightseeing at Forte Copacabana.
If you’re looking for a fancier evening then Ipanema and Leblon, are right by Copacabana so within no time you can be on the beaches of Ipanema humming that famous song, or partying with the locals in Leblon known for its exclusive eateries, bars and nightlife.
Stadiums by Copacabana are: Fort Copacabana and the Beach Volleyball Arena.
4. Rio de Janeiro Aquarium, Santo Cristo
Those currently in Brazil are in luck as this aquarium just recently opened. You will be one of the first to visit and see all the wonderful sea creatures Brazil has to offer.
It also happens to be South America’s largest Aquarium, with the highlight being a 3.3 million liter aquarium with a tunnel right down the middle giving the impression of walking through the depths of the sea.
Outside of the Olympics, the Sambódromo is the home of the Rio Carnival and the traditional home for samba school parades. There is also a museum where you can learn about the history of Samba.
The stadium within this area include the Sambódromo.
5. Pedra Branca State Park, West Zone, Rio de Janeiro
In a world where Instagram-perfect pictures are all the rage, and that impossible shot that wow’s and makes you the envy of all your followers is the goal of every trip, Brazil’s got you covered.
If hiking is not your thing, you’re gonna have to dust off your shoes, and get to stretchin’ because you don’t want to miss out on the Pedra do Telégrafo.
The trail is in Caminho dos Pescadores, and begins at Praia Grande in Barra de Guaratiba. Now that I’ve properly exercised your Portuguese, you can rest assured that you don’t have to worry about finding these places on your own, unless you wanted to that is.
Once you have made your way to the state park you can purchase a packaged tour which will include a guide on the trail to the Pedra do Telégrafo, a guide expert in eco-adventure and personal accident insurance. Round trip transportation are offered as well at an extra cost for private tours rather than group tours.
At the top you have a fantastic view Rio de Janeiro which means you will be able to see many of the places mentioned earlier like the Tijuca National and Pedra Branca State Park. Of course, you get a fantastic picture as well.
This state park is the largest urban state park in the world, that comprises parts of many neighborhoods in Rio along with many waterfalls and historic constructions. It is open from 8 am to 5 pm on Sundays.
This state park is approximately 40 minutes away by car from these stadiums: Youth Arena, Whitewater Stadium, Olympic Hockey Center, Olympic BMX Center, Mountain Bike Center, Deodoro Aquatics Center and the Deodoro Stadium.
6. Pão de Açúcar, Rio de Janeiro
Have you ever been on a cableway? Well this is your chance, and it comes with a bit of history too. It is the first cableway installed in Brazil and the third in the entire world and is a Rio certified trademark.
From the cableway you will see Cocabana and Ipanema beaches and the various mountain ranges in the vicinity two of which include the Pedra da Gávea and the Corcovado on which Christ the Redeemer stands.
Opening hours are from 8 am to 7.50 pm daily, your ticket must be used on the same day and it is good for two hours. Tickets are 22 USD and you can bring your kiddies along for free!
This site is about 25 minutes away from the Maracanã by car.
7. Santa Teresa Tram, Rio de Janeiro
If you’re an art lover then a trip to the Santa Teresa district on one of the last remaining trams in Rio should be on your list of things to do before you fly out.
The district is alive and buzzing with artists–young and old–art studios, old trams and has been described as a ‘hallmark of fine arts.’
Also located within this district is the Escadaria Selarón or the Selarón Steps that attract local and tourist alike with its vibrant colors and unique designs. The Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, created this from more than 2,000 pieces of colored tiles, ceramics and mirrors.
The tram runs daily from 7 am to 9.30 pm and your ticket is good for one hour. The station is located 15 minutes away from the Maracanã by car. If you choose to take public transport, you can get there in about an hour.
Have any other must-visit spots in Rio de Janeiro to add to this list? Please leave a comment for us below!