Here are some things to do in Rio de Janeiro!
1) Arcos de Lapa
“Formerly the Aqueduto da Carioca (Carioca Aqueduct), this structure with 42 massive stone arches was built between 1744 and 1750 to carry water from the Carioca River in the hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa to Centro. In 1896 the city transportation company converted the aqueduct, by then abandoned, into a viaduct, laying trolley tracks along it. For decades, Santa Teresa’s rattling yellow street cars (the “bonde” or “bondinho”) passed over the aqueduct as they carried passengers from Centro up to the hillside neighborhood of Santa Teresa. After an accident in 2011, however, when the tram’s brakes failed and six passengers were killed, the bonde was shut down pending major upgrades. New trams are expected to be in service by 2014, though this target may not be met.”
“Rio’s iconic Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue stands arms outstretched atop 690-meter-high (2,300-foot-high) Corcovado Mountain. There’s an eternal argument about which city view is better, the one from Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf) or the one from here. In our opinion, it’s best to visit Sugar Loafbefore you visit Corcovado, or you may experience Sugar Loaf only as an anticlimax. Corcovado has two advantages: it’s nearly twice as high, and it offers an excellent view of Pão de Açúcar itself. The sheer 300-meter (1,000-foot) granite face of Corcovado (the name means “hunchback” and refers to the mountain’s shape) has always been a difficult undertaking for climbers.
There are three ways to reach the top: by cogwheel train, by minibus, or on foot (not recommended without a guide for safety reasons). The train, built in 1885, provides delightful views of Ipanema and Leblon from an absurd angle of ascent, as well as a close look at thick vegetation and butterflies. (You may wonder what those oblong medicine balls hanging from the trees are, the ones that look like spiked watermelons tied to ropes—they’re jaca, or jackfruit.) Trains leave the Cosme Velho station (Rua Cosme Velho 513, Cosme Velho 021/2558–1329http://www.corcovado.com.br) for the steep, 5-km (3-mile), 17-minute ascent. Late-afternoon trains are the most popular; on weekends be prepared for a long wait. After disembarking you can climb up 220 steep, zigzagging steps to the summit, or take an escalator or a panoramic elevator. If you choose the stairs, you pass little cafés and shops selling film and souvenirs along the way. Save your money for Copacabana’s night market; you’ll pay at least double atop Corcovado. Once at the top, all of Rio stretches out before you. Visit Corcovado on a clear day; clouds often obscure the Christ statue and the view of the city. Go as early in the morning as possible, before people start pouring out of tour buses, and before the haze sets in.”
3. Grumari Beach
You won’t find beachfront restaurants, luxurious hotels, or plentiful kiosks here. Without them, you’ll have space to stretch out on the 1.5 miles of white and red sand to admire Rio’s beautiful scenery. A favored retreat by sun-seekers, this lovely beach is a ways away from the swooning tourists at Copacabana and Ipanema.
4. Sugar Loaf Mountain
Standing high above Rio’s bustling metropolis at 1,299 feet, Sugar Loaf Mountain cascades over the picturesque Guanabara Bay. From Praia Vermelha in the residential Urca district, you can take a three-minute cable-car ride up to Morro da Urca and then hop on another cable car up to the top of Sugar Loaf. From the glass-enclosed bondi (tram), you’ll get a dazzling view of the city. Visitors agree that the panoramic views at the top are breathtaking, particularly at sunset. Morro de Urca, an upscale village, rests against the mossy green backdrop of Sugar Loaf. Linger in the quaint town, and you’ll find lovely cottages, palatial mansions, and charming restaurants.
It’s easy to purchase a one-day adult pass from Praia Vermelha to Sugar Loaf Mountain, priced at approximately 53 BRL (about $33 USD). Sugar Loaf’s cable cars operate daily from around 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. However, the ticket office is only open from 8:00 a.m. until roughly 8 p.m. If you plan to visit Sugar Loaf during holidays, check the Pão de Açúcar website or call +21 (2546-8400) to confirm hours.
5. Santa Teresa
This hilly bohemian district boasts an eclectic array of art and architecture. Strolling along Santa Teresa’s cobblestone streets, you’ll be enchanted by sidewalk mosaics, palatial mansions, and artsy galleries. Conveniently situated just southwest of Lapa, this neighborhood offers traditional Brazilian restaurants, bars, and craft stores.
Visitors recommend hopping on the Bonde de Santa Teresa, a free trolley that transports passengers across the old neighborhood. Unfortunately, after a tragic accident in August 2011, the trolley has not been in operation. The trolley is set to be running again towards the end of 2012.
6. Tijuca National Park
Outdoorsy types love exploring this expansive green rainforest. Covering 8,300 acres, Tijuca National Park is the largest urban rainforest on the planet. Here, you can do everything from hang-gliding to hiking, wildlife-watching to marveling at the Christ the Redeemer.
Experienced hikers can explore Tijuca National Park on foot. The park is open every day from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free, although you will have to pay to visit Christ the Redeemer. We recommend taking a jeep to the park’s magnificent sights; you can also ask for an English-speaking guide when you book a Jeep Tour. For more information, consult the Tijuca National Park website (written in Portuguese).
7. Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna) houses an extensive collection of over 1,700 works of art. When you explore the second floor galleries, venture into the beautiful garden on the patio, which boasts an abstract landscape designed by Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx. Inside the Museu de Arte Moderna, you’ll also find a cinema, photography exhibits, and the Laguiole Restaurant, which infuses French and Brazilian cuisine.
The museum welcomes visitors Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on weekends. Admission costs 8 BRL (about $4.50 USD). The museum is located at the Parque do Flamengo in Centro, a short walk from the Cinelândia metro station. For more information, consult the Museu de Arte Moderna’s website (written in Portuguese).