The weekdays always have something going on in Rio de Janeiro, yet nothing beats the feeling of Friday evening when the weekend fever kicks in and the next two days roll out full of possibilities. And in Rio, the possibilities are endless. If you’re in Rio for a long weekend or an expat looking for some ideas for things to do on the two best days of the week, here are some of Rio’s best weekend activities.
With mile upon mile of golden coastline, it’s little wonder that one of the most popular weekend activities is going to the beach. Which beach you go to depends entirely on what you want to do: Copacabana is a whirlwind of activity and is perfect for playing sports and drinking caipirinhas; Leblon beach creates a trendy setting where people go to see and be seen; finally, the west beaches are wild and untouched, providing a moment to sit and contemplate among nature.
One of Rio’s best qualities is its accessibility to dozens of hikes ranging from easy rambles to more challenging feats. Some of the easiest include Morro da Urca and Pedra Bonito but if you are looking to test your endurance, try the 3-hour hike to the top of Pedra da Gavea. One of the most stunning hikes is the TransCarioca trail that takes you along 223 km (139 miles) of coastline and forests.
Just outside of Rio de Janeiro city are several small towns and coastal retreats that are well-worth visiting. Hire a car and head north to Petropolis to see palaces and visit a beer factory, or head further up the coastline for party-town Buzios with its stunning beaches. Alternatively, head south to Paraty to see colonial architecture or hop on a boat and go to Ilha Grande, a tropical, car-free island off the coast of Rio.
Sometimes the weekend is all about letting your hair down and partying ’til dawn. If it’s one of those weekends, then don’t miss a Friday or Saturday night in Lapa where there are plenty of lively bars to choose from to start the night before moving to one of the several nightclubs that stay open until the early hours. Botafogo also has a selection of animated bars that are great for mingling, drinking, and enjoying the moment. Try something different by going to the all-night parties at the top of the Vidigal favela or go to an outdoor rave with electronic music at the Museum of Modern Art in Flamengo park.
Rio has several fairs that sell artisanal and vintage items, making them great places to buy unique souvenirs or simply to stroll around and absorb the culture. On the first Saturday of each month there are two great fairs to choose from – Rio Antigo fair in Lapa that sells vintage and second-hand items and Circuit Interno in Bhering, a former chocolate factory that now houses 50 artist studios and sells alternative clothes, furniture, and food. On Sunday, there is the unmissable Hippie Fair in Ipanema brimming with art, ornaments, and handmade fashion items.
The weekend is a great opportunity to participate in an activity that almost all Cariocas (residents of Rio) love doing – playing sports. Try surfing or stand-up paddle at the beach or test your football skills with the groups of Brazilians that play on Rio’s shores every weekend. You can also run alongside the coastline or if running isn’t your thing, try cycling or skateboarding instead. There is also slackline in Flamengo park and outdoor yoga sessions at Lagoa.
If you love football, then watching a live match is a must-do. Make a day out of it by visiting Maracana and doing a tour around the stadium before bracing yourself for a lively, boisterous game later on in the evening. Most people buy beers from the street vendors outside the stadium to drink before going in and, although you are not allowed to take any drinks in, you can buy water and beer inside.
Enjoy the quieter city center on the weekend when the workers are off and just the tourists roam the streets. Now is the time to check out museums such as the Museum of Tomorrow or art galleries such as the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.