Out&About

THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU DON'T WANT TO STAY IN

Hometown - Rio de Janeiro

I was born and raised in Rio and even though I've left it 8 years ago, I do love the city.

I have prepared a list of things to do and places to see there. Prepare yourself for a truly Carioca (how we call those born in Rio) experience!

NEIGHBOURHOODS

Ipanema, Leblon, Barra da Tijuca are the most interesting neighbourhoods in Rio when it comes to the whole package {beach + shopping + restaurants}

- Ipanema and Leblon: Enjoy the beach, go for long walks, visit some of our most famous restaurants and bars, do some shopping. Ipanema and Leblon are all about the true Carioca lifestyle. 

- Barra da Tijuca: I was born and raised there, some call it “Rio’s Miami”, I just call it 'home' really. Barra is one of the newest neighbourhoods in Rio. You will find great malls, restaurants and a nice beach. If you want a day of shopping I highly recommend you visit Barra da Tijuca!

Santa Teresa, Lapa, Centro (Downtown) and Copacabana are famous for the historical elements.

- Santa Teresa is full of ateliers, studios, workshops and lovely restaurants with stunning views. They have the only cable car system in Rio, it’s fun to watch, kids usually enjoy it.

- Lapa is our ‘bohemian’ neighbourhood. Lots of people go there at night to enjoy the bars and the live music!

- Centro / Downtown has history written all over it. It’s where the Portuguese first arrived in Rio which equals to landmarks everywhere. You will see lots of museums and churches with a lot of stories to tell. Better to get a tour guide here as it can be quite busy and tricky at times.

- Copacabana means old glamour and a not a very good (read 'safe') atmosphere at night... I recommend you visit 2 places there – list below.

HOTELS

There are hotels and there are hostels. You can find rooms that were once occupied by Madonna and all sorts of pop starts you can imagine to beautiful and genuine carioca hostels. Pick one and have fun!

Hotels:

- Fasano in Ipanema

- Marina Palace Hotel in Leblon

- Promenade Palladium in Leblon

- Everest Park Hotel in Ipanema 

- Radisson Hotel in Barra da Tijuca 

Flats:

- Leblon Flat Services

- Protel Rio Flat Service

Hostels: 

- Leblon Spot... beautiful, excellent location!

- Zbra Hotel... super trendy and hype!

TOP RESTAURANTS

Rio has a wonderful selection of restaurants - from sushi to meat, from vegan to pasta. There's always something for you. Over the last couple of years Rio welcomed well known chains such as PF Changs, PJ Clarke's and L'Entrecote de Paris. However I still prefer recommending the local places... those that you will only find in Rio. 

- Zaza Bistro  My favourite place in Rio. Small but so so so charming! Get a table upstairs, which requires sitting almost on the floor, lots of pillows, candles, a very intimate atmosphere. They also have a lovely outside area… it’s a great place altogether! The cuisine is a “Brazilian fusion” which means fresh local ingredients with a hint of Thai / Asian food. Seafood is great, curry is STUNNING and desserts are a wonderful end to an interesting night. You might want to book a table beforehand as it’s usually very busy.

- Zozô Rio  Located right below the Sugar Loaf Mountain. I’d recommend you go there for lunch. At night the place becomes a nightclub which can be quite loud… unless loud is what you want :) The atmosphere is very interesting with candle lights and huge tree in the middle of the salon. The deck is covered in glass where you can have a glimpse of the Sugar Loaf which is always a beautiful view.

- Gero  A very exquisite Italian restaurant created by an Italian family that migrated to São Paulo decades ago, the Fasano family. Very elegant, I’d recommend you go there at night for a lovely dinner, special occasion type of thing. It’s pricey but the quality is amazing!

- Garota de Ipanema Have you ever heard about the famous song “Girl from Ipanema”? Well, this is where Tom Jobim (the song writer) wrote the lyrics to it! It’s also well known for its “feijoada”, a delicious stew made with black beans and smoked beef. No other dish says “Rio” as a good feijoada does, you gotta try it! Very relaxed, go there straight from the beach.

- Jobi Tiny bar in Leblon where “everybody” goes for one beer after the beach or even after dinner. Order your drink at the counter and enjoy it outside. Great place to sit and watch people passing by. Caipirinhas are a must!

- Bracarense Bar in Leblon with draft beer and very good quality bar food / pub grub. You have to try the “bolinho de aipim com camarão” – small bites of shrimp and yucca. It’s from out of this world!

- Bira  Located far away but I do recommend a visit there. It’s a beautiful rustic colonial house located on a hillside (Restinga da Marambaia) with nature all around and little “micos” (tiny little monkeys). A great place for photos and kids usually love it there! Try the “pastel de camarão” (pastry filled with shrimp) and the “moqueca” (wonderful seafood and yucca dish). They never fail to impress! As I said, Bira is located on the West Zone of Rio, quite far. Try to agree on a fix rate with a taxi driver.

- Porcão Rio’s A classic for the meat lovers. Our “churrasco” (barbeque) is served in skewers and you can eat as much as you want. Yep: all you can meat! Porcão is probably one of the best Brazilian BBQs in Rio and is situated in Flamengo with a fantastic view of the Sugarloaf Mountain. They have an infinite salad bar including sushi and warm dishes but don't eat too much from the buffet! Let the waiters indulge you with all the great meat they serve.

* For other options of Brazilian BBQ you can also try 'Fogo de Chão' in Botafogo or 'Oasis' in São Conrado.

- Antiquarius Portuguese food at its best. Quite pricey but a true experience! Codfish dishes are the star of the menu, together with Portuguese egg-based desserts.

- Tereze French gastronomy located in Santa Teresa, this is a lovely spot for food and drinks. Jaw-dropping views great for pictures!

- Aprazível Located in Santa Teresa, Aprazível offers a true Brazilian menu. A little bit pricey but worth it. Try the pão de queijo with sausage (Cheese bread with sausage) for starter. It’s delicious!

- Bar dos Descasados The name means “Unmarried People’s Bar” but this place is quite the opposite. Located in a hotel, “Bar dos Descasados” is a romantic place with a great décor and even greater menu.The view is amazing. Go there to watch the sunset or enjoy the bright views of Rio at night.

Chácara Tropical A plants nursery but full of Brazilian art craft from all over the country. Fab! Worth it to go there for brekkie or lunch and enjoy the great selection of Brazilian dishes. You must see the art craft are for a ‘non-touristic’ price... if you know what I mean!

SIGHTSEEING TIPS

As you can imagine, there are loads of fun stuff to do in Rio. Here's a compilation of my favourite ones!

- Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Acucar) Classic landmark. Get the cable car and enjoy the superb views of the city.

- Christ the Redeemer Statue (Corcovado) The most famous and fabulous view of Rio. Very special place, take many pictures with arms wide open – a classic pose! To get up there you will board on a small train that goes through the forest. Enjoy the ride!

- Sambódromo & Cidade do Samba (Samba City) Where Carnival happens! You can dress up in Carnival costumes, have pictures taken and join some samba classes. Recommend to get a tour guide here.

- São Bento Monastery (Mosteiro de São Bento) An inexplicable silence reigns in there! Gregorian chants are performed on Sundays at this Benedictine complex, which was completed in 1641 and contains a spectacular church altar.

- Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico) Our botanical garden was created by our first emperor, Dom Pedro I. The location was chosen because it was outside the city. As you can imagine, the city has taken over since then. Some of the royal palm trees you will see are ‘descendent’ of the ones planted by our emperor himself. The palm tree alley is the symbol of the gardens and is very impressive. A very relaxing place to be (nice bakery/breakfast place (La Bicyclette).

- Parque Lage Lovely park to enjoy a great breakfast with fab views. Again, skip brekkie at the hotel and have it at Parque Lage (usually very crowded so you want to make sure you arrive around 9-10AM). The area was owned by a couple with no children. After their death, the house was opened and it became a romantic park with a great atmosphere. They also run an art school in there – I took art classes there for years and I am truly obsessed with this place. A must!

- Rodrigo de Freitas Lake (Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas) A 5-mile pathway circling the lake is popular for walkers, skaters, and cyclists. In the evening there may be live music, and kiosks serving drinks and food. Try “Palaphitas”. Lovely area with great snacks and cocktails.

- Urca A neighbourhood which lies at the foot of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. It is one of Rio's safest neighbourhoods as it has only one road to enter/leave by. There is a small beach, and there once was a Casino/Show House, but it has been closed for many years. Carmen Miranda sang there prior to WWII. The building is now supposedly being converted into a design school… that'd be so nice! Look for a lovely bar called “Bar Urca”. Grab a drink and seat outside observing the astonishing views. Good place to relax while watching the sunset.

- Vista Chinesa Observation deck, some say the most beautiful view of Rio. There is no fee for this attraction but the negative terrible thing is that you have to take a taxi to get there.

- Church of Our Lady of the Candelaria (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária) A beautiful historic landmark built by a sailor after he was rescued from a boat accident. A lot of carving has gone into the massive church doors. Inside the old-style church there are some beautifully carved and sculpted pieces.

- Copacabana Palace Hotel Where stars such as Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe stayed. Very glamorous! I’d recommend you to go for an afternoon tea at its pergola (“Pérgula” in Portuguese) or even dinner at Cipriani (Italian).

- Forte de Copacabana Amazing views here. An old fort on a military base that is still in use.Stop for a bite to eat at Confeitaria Colombo (get a table by the sea for a stunning view of Copacabana) and eat some delicious pastries and sambos. Kids always enjoy this place!  

SHOPPING

Shopaholics of the World, this is for you! Many well-known brands are based in Rio - from Gucci to Tiffany & Co., from Sephora to Forever 21. However I like to recommend the local places as, again, you won't find their stuff anywhere else (or if you do it will be certainly more expensive). 

- Visconde de Pirajá Street, Ipanema Lots and lots of little stores all over the place. Good to go with time enough to explore its stores and galleries. I recommend "Galeria Ipanema 2000", a gallery filled with bikini brands (Lenny and Salinas are a must-see) and fashion. Another shop I always send friends who are visiting Rio is 'Nag Nag', also located in Ipanema. They have multiple brands and their own lines of beachwear, and fitness wear amongst others.

- Dias Ferreira Street, Leblon In a hidden little building called “Palm Beach” (#64) you will find lots of amazing high-end boutiques – from shoes to jewellery. Look for shops like Adriana Barra (fashion, most amazing patterns you will ever find!), Felipa (trendy espadrilles, shoes), Daniella Martins (fashion) and Julia Monteiro de Carvalho (delicate jewelry). It is here you will also find Granado, traditional for its Brazilian scents, soaps, shampoo and beautiful packaging (think gifts to take home).

- Fashion Mall Great but small shopping with local and foreign brands. Located in São Conrado – between Leblon and Barra da Tijuca. Look for Daslu, a Brazilian brand full of vibrant colours and style. Some of Rio's best restaurants are also located here. Try Curume for amazing sushi and yummy 'caipisake', a caipirinha made with fruits of your choice and sake!

- Barra Shopping Largest shopping in South America with pretty much everything you may need :) Located in Barra. It can be *very* busy at times, so if you want to visit it, pick a week day... for your own sake!

- Village Mall Our most high-end shopping mall with brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Sephora, Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch and Kate Spade. Also sells Zara Home and Le Creuset. Amazing restaurants to be explored here too (Pobre Juan for the meat lovers, Naga for the sushi lovers). The movie experience here is to die for! If I could I would! :)

- Lenny (beachwear) If you are looking for Brazilian beachwear with a little bit more fabric than the usual go shopping at Lenny. She does the best and most beautiful beachwear you will find. Very elegant pieces that can be worn in and out of the water.

GOOD TO KNOW...

As with any other place in the world, it's always good to hear from the locals. Rio is no different. Like any other city, there are amazing things and not so amazing ones. Here's a brief summary for you... 

- Cost = Rio is not a cheap city, specially now post the World Cup buzz and pre Olympics 2016. The reason I point this out is because several people we know went there and came back saying “It was unexpectedly expensive!” so I rather warn you.

- Security = As any other big city, Rio has its “don’t go there” type of areas. Avoid walking around wearing too much jewellery, watches or having your camera / cell phone out. Having said that I’ve never been mugged and I am always wearing some accessories, etc. around town.

- Favelas (aka Slums) = They are all over which doesn’t mean danger all the time. I’d not recommend you to do anything like “Favela Tours” where tourists go inside the favelas, etc. Rio has beautiful places to go, and unless you are really curious about one of its favelas you better not visit one. That’s my view anyway…   

- Juice Houses = Rio has many juice bars. Somewhere you can order any juice, of any fruit, and it’ll be prepared just for you on the spot. I'd say skip breakfast at the hotel and enjoy some fruit juices. Some places to go: Bibi (Ipanema and Leblon), Big Polis (Ipanema), BB Lanches (Leblon).

Relax = Rio is a very chilled city as you know, Cariocas are very relaxed, always wearing summer clothes to go anywhere. I personally love that and I always tell my friends to make the most of it. After all it’s not every day that you can go somewhere wearing nice flip flops and a light outfit!

Well, I hope you enjoy this Rio and above it all, enjoy the Rio you would like to discover! 

Let me know how it goes!