What to do in Rio de Janeiro – Guide for First Time Visitors
Rio de Janeiro is called Cidade Maravilhosa, or The Marvelous City, for a reason; it has a lot more to offer than its famous beaches. There every visitor wants to return. So did we of Gringo Rio, we came, fell in love, and stayed. The beauty and vibrant life of the city got under our skin and once that happens, there is no way back. But where to start and what to do in Rio de Janeiro if it’s your first time? This article is written to give you an overall idea of what to expect from the city, useful tricks and tips of Rio and of course things you can’t miss during your stay.
If you want to get a good first impression of the Marvelous City we recommend spending at least five days to a week in Rio. This gives you the time to visit places more calmly without having to rush from one highlight to another to check them off your to-do list. After all, you are on holiday, right? But the reality is that most visitors stay in Rio for three days. So our first advice would be, to choose your activities wisely, enjoy them thoroughly and make sure to not rush yourself. You have to leave something for your next visit as well, right?
The must-do highlights in Rio
Since every travel blog in the world already wrote about what highlights in Rio de Janeiro you should visit, we are not going to waste any of your time by talking a lot about those places here. Just have a look at our top 5 highlights in Rio de Janeiro and from there you will find all the info you need. It is almost a crime to not check all these highlights off of your to-do list, so make sure they are part of your program! This list contains five places, but we need to make a plus one here, because you could easily fit in the famous Maracanã stadium, especially for football fans. The historic football temple where legends like Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, and Romario made history.
How to go off the beaten track in Rio
If you follow our advice and you focus on the highlights first, you will notice that there is not a lot of time left to do other stuff. And that is a shame because Rio has so much more to offer. That is why we suggest staying a bit longer than three days, surprise, surprise. To get to know the city in a different way, you can for example go for a sailing trip in the Guanabara Bay or explore Rio de Janeiro on a bike. Or spend some time in the bohemian neighborhood Santa Teresa, which is easily accessible while hopping on the historical streetcar that takes you on a ride through the neighborhood. And if you are a die-hard backpacker, or simply someone who tries to make economical decisions, make sure to check out how to spend your time in Rio de Janeiro on a budget. There’s quite some stuff you can do without paying lots of money.
Nightlife in Rio de Janeiro
The nightlife in Rio is not the typical nightlife you normally find in big cities. Since Rio is a beach city with nice warm weather most of the time, lots of the parties take place on the streets in the open air. One of the most famous places to go out in Rio is the neighborhood Lapa. From Thursday to Saturday this is the place to be. Lots of bars, lots of clubs and lots of people. One of the most famous bars is Bar Cachaça, a little hole in the wall, but with lots and lots of different kinds of cachaça. And one of the most famous clubs is Rio Scenarium. Make sure to check our events page, to see what are the events in Rio this week you definitely should visit.
Safety in Rio
One of the big questions when coming to Rio is: how safe is that city? Or better, this is the question all your friends and family will ask when you tell them you are going to visit Rio. Of course, you don’t really worry about safety in Rio – otherwise, you wouldn’t have booked your trip in the first place -, but when every time you try to talk enthusiastically about this great vacation you booked everybody starts talking about how unsafe Rio is, doubts arise. Well, don’t you worry, we got you covered. Safety in Rio is like climbing a tree, it’s fun, it’s a bit dangerous and you know there is a small possibility you can fall. So you have to be prepared to fall, but of course, try to avoid that at any cost. But when in the end you do fall, it is all good. But of course, you won’t fall. Using the right type of transport in Rio helps to avoid lots of potential problems.
If you plan to spend over a month in Rio, you might want to learn basic Portuguese to get around. Not a lot of Brazilians speak Portuguese and knowing the basics will help you to visit places, ask for information, and buy stuff. Caminhos Language Centre offers a great Portuguese course that not only focuses on teaching you Portuguese but gives you a better understanding of the Brazilian culture and way of life. They also offer a 4-hour crash course for tourists to learn the basics to facilitate your stay in the city. Study Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and learn a bit about the Carioca culture.
How about the weather?
One last thing you will probably want to know about is how many hours of your stay you will be able to spend on the beaches of Rio. Well, the weather in Rio during your stay is one of the things you can’t control, even though you would love to. After all, when visiting the Marvelous City you want the sun to appear every day. But even in Rio it can rain and to stay in your hotel when it rains, would be a waste of time. So, make sure to be prepared for those days of rain as well. Just a small spoiler: don’t worry, Rio also has a lot to offer on rainy days.
This guide for you as a first-time visitor is mainly focused on a stay of around three days. In case your plan is to stay longer, which we obviously would advise you to do, take a look at our guide for the returning visitor as well. Here you may find things that we didn’t include here.
See you in the Cidade Maravilhosa!
Ah, wait. Just one more thing, since social life in Rio basically happens spontaneously and on the streets, you definitely should try to visit one of the street parties. Don’t miss them! And make sure to check out all about restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, so you know the best places to go to eat.