Tijuca National Park covers an area of 15 square milesaround Rio de Janeiro. This huge conservation area embodies some of the best views of the city, including Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer, and Pedra da Gávea – a steep rock, paradise for climbers.
Tijuca National Park is the largest urban forest in the world and hikers can be spoiled with its hundreds of miles of trails, greatvariety of fauna, flora and an impressive wildlife.
2. Dancing time at Lapa
Lapa is one of the most bohemian neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, known for its lively social scene and cultural events. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy live Brazilian music and to risk some Samba and Forró moves.
Located at the historic center of Rio's downtown, Lapadistrict has many restaurants, bars and clubs, with an open-air party vibe that brings the streets to life on the weekends.
3. Picnicking at Rio’s Botanical Garden
Created by Dom João VI in 1808, the Botanical Garden is home to rare species of flowers and plants, with a very important botanic collections recognized by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
Great option for families with kids, the Botanical Garden has picnic tables, playground, plenty of space to run around. Kids can have also the opportunity to watch out little monkeys and colored parakeets playing on trees.
4. Watch a Game at Maracanã Stadium
Whether you are a “futebol” fanatic or not, watching a match at the most famous stadium is definitely something not to be missed. What makes watching a soccer game in Maracana a unique spectacle? The passion of Brazilian supporters, the drums, fireworks and colored banners waving to the sound of the team’s anthems.
Maracanã Stadium was opened in 1950 to host the World Cup, and was renovated for the 2014 tournament. The stadium held the 2014 World Cup final match and will host the opening and closing Olympics ceremonies.
5. Tour Rio’s Art Museums
Rio de Janeiro is home of many cultural Institutions and museums that houses collections from renowned international and Brazilian artists. Here some of the most important: Museum de Arte do Rio (MAR), Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM), Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi - MAC (famous for it’s design by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer)
Two more Museums are under constructions and should be open by the start of the Olympics. The Museum of Tomorrow, designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava, will be a science museum scheduled to open in the second half of 2015. The Museum of the Image and Sound (MIS) is getting a new house at Copacabana beach and may transfer its collection to the new building in thebeginning of 2016.
6. Surfing waves at Rio’s beaches 24/7
Rio is definitely the place to be in the water. A little over 45 minutes drive from downtown Rio, the beach of Prainha is known as one of Rio’s best spots with breakers up 12-15ft high. For an urban ride, Arpoador beach, located between Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, is one of the most unique places. Arpoador is known as the places where every night, “Silver Surfers” shed their business suits for wet suits and practice Night Surfing. The beach is uniquely illuminated to allow surfers to see incomingwaves at night.
The Barra da Tijuca beach, close to the Barra Olympic Park, has also good waves along its 11 miles of shore. Barra is also the place to practice kite surfing, a sport that is getting very popular in Rio de Janeiro, thanks to a combination of good weather and wind, and the cariocas’ love for beach sports.
7. Blend in with the locals at the Rio Long Shores
From popular places like Copacabana and Ipanema, to a more secret, hidden and tranquil beach like Grumari, a day on the white sand beaches of Rio is a relaxing and cultural experience. Cariocas love their beaches and many of those stretches of sand can be described by a particular group of regulars and/or activities, creating a rich mosaic of the city.
Rio’s urban beaches are marked by “Postos”, and travelers will find many kiosks along the sand that sell cold beverages and food. Also, many vendors go around selling kangas, beachwear, iced-tea, coconut water, and “salgadinhos” (salty snacks). Sport is very present along the shore with soccer, surfing, stand-up, cycling, jogging, volleyball and Futevolei.
8. Stretch your wings over Rio de Janeiro
The sweet wind, the weather and the stunning hills and scenic views prime Rio for the hang gliding sport. The city offers flyers the gorgeous ocean, lush forests and the necessary spirit for the adventure.
Pedra Bonita, in the Tijuca National Park, has a ramp where hang gliders take off towards Pepino Beach.
9. Savour the “essence” of Rio de Janeiro
The carioca spirit cannot exist without its “botequim or botecos”. Hanging out with friends at their favorite bars, sipping icy cold draft beer (Chopp), eating Brazilian appetizers or “aperitivos” is what makes this city so lively and friendly. Plates of fried cassava, cod balls and “pasteis” (a pastry filled with cheese, meat or shrimp) or coxinhas (small chicken croquettes ) blend the city’s Portuguese and African origins and are simple irresistible.
You can find also many bar specialized in “cachaças” where you can taste the finest Brazilian production. Saturday is feijoada day in Rio de Janeiro, and it’s easy to find a place where you can taste the tradicional brazilian dish.
10. Discover Santa Teresa
Go for a walk in the charming and quiet cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa. The neighborhood offers a collection of cafes, restaurants, and art shops surrounded by a 19th-century architecture.
Some highlights are: The Escadaria Selaron (Selaron Steps), a work by the Chilean-born Jorge Selaron, who covered the staircase with colored ceramic, mirrors and tiles from all over the world. Also, the Cultural Centre Parque das Ruinas, with its beautiful views over Guanabara Bay, and the Museu Chacara do Ceu, which brings works of renowned Brazilian artists such as Candido Portinari, Di Cavalanti, Volpi, Iberê Camargo and Manabu Mabe.
11. Biking the Marvelous City
Biking is a good way to explore Rio de Janeiro, and the bikelanes along the beaches and lakes offer spectacular views. The Bike Rio – the oranges bikes you can rent around the city – is very easy to use and a month pass cost only R$10.00 (US$ 3 dollar circa), or R$5,00 (US$ 1.5 circa), for a day pass.
You have also many specialized companies that rent bikes and offer bicycle Tours around the city, helping travelers explore alternative routes and discover stunning views. Some of the routes can include mountain ride to Chinese View, Corcovado, and Christ the Redeemer or trails in the Tijuca Forest.
12. Experience Early Glimpses of the Olympics
Rio de Janeiro is already in the Olympics Games mode, with the “Aquece Rio” or “Warm-up Rio” test events taking place until May 2016. During this period, 40 competitions will be staged in the city, providing a great opportunity to know the Olympic Venues and to watch your favorites athletes.
To mark one year to Rio 2016, in the beginning of August, the city will conduct the triathlon and equestrian tests. The events will put a spotlight at Copacabana and Deodoro Venues.