Start the day at Sofa Café in Copacabana, a trendy coffee shop that serves creamy coffees with a fresh, homely breakfast menu. The beach is one of Rio’s best features, so why not spend your first day in the city relaxing in the sun? Stroll down Copacabana’s famous black and white promenade and take in the hustle and bustle of sports-lovers, groups of sunbathers, and beach vendors selling souvenirs and beach snacks. Settle at the beach in Ipanema for beautiful surroundings and plenty of food and drink options from nearby beach stalls. Later in the day, go to Arpoador at the far end of Ipanema to watch a magnificent oceanic sunset before finishing the night with national wine and locally-sourced cheese at Canastra.
Go to the city center to have breakfast at Confeitaria Colombo, an iconic venue with high ceilings, mirrored walls, and regal décor. Take a taxi over to Cosme Velho to the train station and take the train up Corcovado, the forest-carpeted mountain where the Christ the Redeemer stands. Allow about one hour at the top to take in the panoramic views and take plenty of photos. In the evening, go to Fogo de Chao in Botafogo – it’s time to try a traditional Brazilian churrasco. Pay a fixed price and waiters will come to your table with huge skewers of beef, chicken, and pork for you to choose from. Here you can eat as much as you want, so save plenty of room to try Brazil’s famous barbecue meat.
After the meat feast yesterday, spend the morning walking around the Lagoa, a natural lake in the south zone of the city. There is a cycle path that encircles the lake that is perfect for a pleasant morning stroll or hiring a cycle and riding around in the serene, tranquil settings. Keep an eye out for capybaras, the local wildlife residents. Later in the evening, go to Urca and take the cable car to the iconic Sugarloaf mountain. This is the best time to go to enjoy the stunning views of Rio and the ocean at sunset. Later, go to nearby Bar Urca, a traditional local bar where guests take their beers and pastry snacks outside to sit on the wall that overlooks the peaceful Guanabara Bay.
Spend the morning and afternoon exploring the historical downtown of Rio. In addition to buildings with architecture that date back to the Portuguese colonization period, the center is replete with art galleries and museums ideal for culture-vultures. Head to the port to see the futuristic architecture of the Museum of Tomorrow, before wandering over to the colorful and vibrant mural designed by Eduardo Kobra, the largest street mural in the world that represents five indigenous tribes from five continents. Later, take the bonde (street tram) up to Santa Teresa and enjoy a late lunch of feijoada at one of the most traditional bars in the region, Bar do Mineiro. Later in the evening, head to Lapa to dance the night away in Rio’s liveliest nightlife spot.
Rio’s natural surroundings are too good to miss, with forest trails yielding to extraordinary views and surrounded by exotic flora and fauna. Head to the Dois Irmaos, one of Rio’s hikes that combines a trip through Vidigal, the city’s safest favela, and then a 40-minute hike to the top. The view is breathtaking, with panoramic vistas of Rio’s golden coastline, the spiky peaks, and the bustling urban life below. Later in the evening, head to Comuna in Botafogo for one of the city’s best gourmet burgers in a hipster-bar setting. Enjoy the last evening on Rua Nelson Mandela, a street in Botafogo that’s a popular local hangout filled with Brazilian bars.