Explore My City Guest Blogger Thassia Dezan from Family Off Duty
Brazil, in general, has an abundance of natural resources, the most beautiful beaches, warm sea, surf, great food and drinks, culture and friendly population. Rio de Janeiro is a city that can well represent all the good aspects of Brazil, so no wonder it is such a popular destination.
Rio is without a shadow of doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The worldwide recognizable touristic sights such as the Christ the Redeemer statue on the top of Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are all worth visiting.
Today we want to share some insider tips on how to explore Rio de Janeiro like a local. What people like to do and their biggest passions. We compiled some tips below.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
Enjoy the beaches
Rio de Janeiro offers mild to very hot weather all year around. Cariocas, the people from Rio de Janeiro, are absolutely crazy about their beaches. They are fanatic and extremely proud of their coast. The beaches seem to please everyone from any social class, so you will find that the beaches are always busy, even in winter.
The famous beach of Copacabana is about 4km long and walking the length (or part) of it is a great activity if your kids can make it. You may find swimming there is a challenge for the small ones – relatively big waves and strong current – but the waves are perfect for body surfing.
Arpoador and Ipanema beaches are also very popular and child-friendly, just around the corner from Copacabana. Ipanema is also a stunningly beautiful beach and quite trendy. At the weekends all the beaches get pretty full.
Like the locals, try some Globe cookies in the beach and don’t forget to wear sunblock and stay hydrated. At the beach, you can also watch the young and old practising their football and foot volley skills on the beachfront.
Incredible skill is shown by all and amusing to watch. One great tip is that every Sunday and on bank holidays the main avenues on the seafront of Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon beaches and Parque do Flamengo are closed to vehicle traffic for leisure purposes. So there is even more space for pedestrians to walk and practice sports.
Appreciate the food
You must go to Rio de Janeiro with a big appetite because the locals will feed you until you cannot eat anymore. You can get great snacks and drinks along the length of the beach in general but also in the city.
Try the Pastel de camarão (shrimp pastry) or Mandioca/Aipim frito (fried cassava) – absolutely delicious. Bolinho de Bacalhau (cod balls), Moqueca (fish stew) or Feijoada (black bean and meat stew) are also outstanding and very typically Brazilian.
Churrascaria (Brazilian bbq) is another must do when visiting – Their bbq is very different from other countries. There are many places where you can have breakfast with a view to the sea even if you are not staying in a seafront hotel, most restaurants in hotels will be open for clients not staying in their hotel.
Enjoy the view
Rio de Janeiro’s landscape offers extremely beautiful views. The coastline which boasts mountains provides literally hundreds of vantage points for breath-taking views of the landscape, the Rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean. We will only highlight a few!
Morro da Urca: On top of this mountain you will find the second cable car station up to Sugarloaf. You can get up there with the cable car or taking the hike. This hike on Morro da Urca is very child-friendly, about 900 meters, and on top of the mountain, you have restaurants, toilets, souvenir stores and a great view of parts of the city. You can even take a helicopter and fly over Rio from there.
Sugarloaf: From Morro da Urca you can take the cable car to Sugarloaf. Going up the cable car you already get a great view of Copacabana beach.
Copacabana Fort: It is a great place for the views, the Café and the museum for kids and adults. A lovely attraction.
Pedra do Telégrafo: It is a medium level hike that kids can do and it offers amazing views. This hike is extremely popular because of the Instagramable picture you can take from up there.
There is a rock over there (Pedra da Bigorna) where the “daredevils” can take a death-defying picture by hanging from what looks like a rock standing hundreds of meters above the sea level. However the rock is just about a meter high from the ground below it, but it does make for great pictures, check #pedradotelegrafo on Instagram. There are queues to take pictures on Pedra da Bigorna but the views are worth the hike.
Corcovado Mountain: Although very touristic, the Corcovado offers an amazing panoramic view of the city and it is worth the effort. It’s not easy or cheap to get there though. You can hike the hill by foot (approx. 2:30 hours) or take the train up (tickets must be bought in advance). Best time to visit is in the morning and going up with the train.
Visit places nearby
There are many great cities to visit not far away from Rio de Janeiro which will make great day-out or weekend trip. We have only mentioned a few below:
Niterói: On the opposite side of the Guaranara Bay you have Niterói. There is a ferry from Rio city centre to Niteroi which is normally a lot better than taking the bridge where you can often have bad traffic.
Niteroi is very popular too because of its beautiful beaches and great infrastructure. On the coast, you have a superb view of Rio. You can stop at São Francisco beach and find a nice place to have dinner looking back at Rio.
One of our favourite places is Campo de São Bento in Icaraí – in this park you have a playground, market stalls with lovely handmade products and food, cultural centre and loads of green area. If you have a car you can drive around through Itaipu to Itacoatiara which is probably one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. Stunning and well worth a trip.
Ilha Grande: If you have a bit of time you can travel from Rio down the coast by bus to Angra dos Reis (which is a great trip out on its own), where you can catch a boat to Ilha Grande. This beautiful island has a small village (Vila do Abraão) where you can stay in a ‘pousada’ (bed and breakfast) and chill. This is a great place to bring kids as vehicles are not allowed there.
There is lots to explore on the island with its hiking trails through the woods, floating restaurants and another stunning beach Lopes Mendes, which must be one of the best surfing beaches we know.
It used to be home to a high-security prison, which was closed in 1994. There are lots of little beaches to chill on and you can take boat trips and dive and snorkel around the island. Well worth a visit, and we felt safe there.
Petrópolis: Another location worth visiting outside Rio is Petrópolis, the Imperial City. This is located about 70 km NE of Rio and is reached by car up a beautiful road into the hills. It was the official capital of the State of Rio during the first Brazilian Republic. Presidents would reside here in the summer to avoid the heat. It is a lovely city full of museum, history and charm.
Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful place to visit, but your trip can be ruined by a simple thing, so make sure you take proper precautions to stay safe. Brazilians are wonderfully friendly people, but with all big cities, there is always a minority that can ruin things for others.
So to stay safe like a local you should always be aware of what is happening in your surroundings. I have a few tips below, do not take these precautions too negatively but take them seriously.
Try to blend in – One of the easiest things to spot a careless tourist. If there are people with bad intentions in your surroundings you will be a target. So try to wear similar clothes to the locals and avoid any expensive jewellery.
Just take what you need and leave the rest of your wallet content in the safe in your hotel room (extra money and passport – do take a copy of your passport or another ID card).
If you get held up, just give them what you have and what they want. If you are not carrying much, you cannot lose much.
Stay together and make sure you are on the busy part of the street, especially at night. If you do not trust something, trust your own instincts.
Locals from Rio de Janeiro are friendly and love a good time and party! The entire place is a party during the city’s most notable events – Reveillon (New Year’s Eve) and Carnival. Cariocas love street parades, parties with a samba beat, live music and fireworks show. Be sure to relax, enjoy the music, the weather, the food and have a good time.
About the Blogger
Thassia is the blogger behind Family Off Duty: A multinational family who love travelling and discovering new places with their daughter. She hopes to show her the beautiful world we all live in, to teach her about other cultures and local history and to be more tolerant of the diverse cultures in our world.
You can keep up with Thassia and her family adventures here:
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