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Rio de Janeiro is a complex city that can still remain a mystery for those who’ve lived there for years. Yet what if you only have 24 hours in Rio? It’s a rush, but it’s certainly doable. Follow this itinerary to get the most out of your precious time in the city.
If you want to make the most of your time in Rio, you’ll need to be out of the hotel and exploring the city as much as possible. Stay in the tourist spots, such as Copacabana and Ipanema, for easy access to the most famous landmarks in the city. For those on a budget, El Misti in Ipanema is a great choice for a modern, clean hostel with friendly, international staff. Those who have slightly deeper pockets could stay one night at the iconic Copacabana Palace on the beachfront of the famous Copacabana beach. The hotel is one of the most expensive in Rio, yet it’s as luxurious as it is pricey, and is a popular choice among the rich and famous.
El Misti – R. Joana Angélica, 47 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, +55 21 9848 55138
Copacabana Palace – Av. Atlântica, 1702 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, +55 21 2548 7070
Start at Confeitaria Colombo at Copacabana Fort for a fresh, tropical breakfast of fruit, ham, cheese, bread, cakes, and preserves, washed down with a smooth, strong coffee. The best seat in the house is on the outdoor terrace which offers a pleasant view of Copacabana beach and bay – the eagle-eyed may even spot the occasional turtle swimming in the shallows in the sea. After eating, stroll along the famous black and white promenade in Copacabana and take in the hustle and bustle of Rio’s busiest beach as beach vendors, sun-lovers, and sports enthusiasts jostle for space on the sandy shores.
From the other end of Copacabana near Leme, take a van to the Christ the Redeemer, and tick off a visit to the country’s most famous man-made landmarks. The van is the quickest way to the top and winds through the Atlantic Forest that coats Corcovado, the mountain that the Christ statue stands upon. The statue itself is impressive, yet the real joy comes from the panoramic views that sweep out over the city and the ocean.
After visiting the most iconic statue in Rio, head to Santa Teresa for a hearty lunch of feijoada at the casual and traditional restaurant, Bar do Mineiro, and enjoy the slow-cooked bean stew served with chunks of meat, fluffy rice, fried kale, and slices of orange. Wash it down with a locally-produced shot of cachaca – it’s a popular belief that it helps digestion, and even if it doesn’t, it’s a good way to try the national liquor made from sugarcane.
Save your energy after lunch and take a taxi from Santa Teresa to Urca. As the evening comes in, now is the time to take the cable car to the Sugarloaf mountain to see an extraordinary sunset from the summit of Rio’s most famous natural landmark – the views will take your breath away. Once you come back down, head to Bar Urca and sit on the wall outside that overlooks Guanabara Bay for chilled beers and homemade prawn pastels and cheese pies.
Brazilians typically eat late, so 10pm is a good time to head to Lapa, Rio’s party district, for dinner and drinks. Pay a visit to Belmonte, a traditional boteco (a type of Brazilian bar) for dinner, where menu choices include dried meat with fried cassava, classic Brazilian steaks, and thin-crust pizzas. The party scene in Lapa kicks off around 1am – head to the district’s most famous club, Rio Scenarium, to enjoy traditional Brazilian music and dance until dawn.
After Lapa, your 24 hours is nearly coming to an end, yet there is still time to squeeze in a visit to Stalos in Copacabana, a 24-hour snack bar that serves traditional Brazilian snacks such as coxinhas (chicken croquettes) and one of the best pizzas in town, where one slice is enough to fill you up for hours. Enjoy the last few moments there, and contemplate the chaotic yet rewarding 24 hours that you’ve just spent in Rio.