Rio – the best attractions in 48 hours.
7 weeks. That is the time I spent in Rio photographing the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It may be that you want to spend a week there, see some sites and relax on the wonderful beaches, but 2 days is plenty to see most of the major attractions. Feel free to do it in whatever order you wish depending on cloud cover.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Morro da Urca)
Get up early and catch a Uber to Sugar Loaf Mountain to arrive at 08:00. Other tourists are generally still in bed being lazy so it will hopefully be very quiet. It certainly was when I visited. Take the cable car to the halfway point and then take a leisurely walk to the second cable car to take you to the top of Sugarloaf. This is where the best views are and if you are lucky you might be the only people up there except staff. Take your time here and soak up the views – they really are breathtaking. Move around to all the viewing platforms and take in the forest walk (accessible via a relatively steep slope with a guide rope). I spent almost 3 hours up here, enjoying a coffee and slice of pizza from the cafe whilst overlooking the beach at Botofogo.
On you way down stop off at the mid point and discover the very first carriages that were used on the cable car, do a little shopping if that is your thing and take in the views from a slightly lower perspective.
You saw the beach from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and it is only a 15 min walk from the cable car exit so do that or grab a cab. There is more shopping to do in Botofogo or you can simply enjoy the beach whilst looking at where you have just been. Behind you, there is a shopping mall with a viewing area on the 8th floor which is worth visiting and grabbing some lunch.
Christ the Redeemer
You can do this today or the next but check on sunset times and plan to arrive at least 2 hours before it sets. I got an Uber to the ticket desk which takes you virtually all the way to the top. From here you queue and get a minibus ticket to the statue itself. There is a lift if you do not what to climb the steps (quite a few) once you exit the minibus. It will be crowded so just be patient – the views are very much worth it. If you have to choose between this and Sugarloaf it is a tough call. Christ is more iconic but I preferred the views from Sugar Loaf.
Get up early catching an Uber to Parque Da Cidade in Charitas or get the ferry across to Niteroi (get it from Praca XV) and then an Uber which will save time and will be less expensive. It is a bit of a drive but offers some incredible views from a high vantage point. If you feel you have seen enough vista wise already then skip this but I do think it is worth it.
Copacabana and Leblon
A visit to Rio would not be complete without spending some time on one of the most iconic beaches in the world – Copacabana. be warned though that “beach sellers” will continually pass you by trying to sell you drinks, food, tobacco, towels etc. I would suggest avoiding the drinks as you do not know the origin of the ice. I would suggest heading up the road and around the headland to Leblon which is a lot more classy with fine restaurants and bars to amuse yourself in.
Where to Eat
Churrascaria Palace – Rua Rodolfo Dantas, 16 – Copacabana
This is a bit of an institution in Copacabana so a must try. It was OK. It did not blow me away as it is a BBQ joint but the meat was good and was as much as you can eat. The salad bar offers oysters which were a nice touch but desserts are not included which I always find rather odd. Like all places in Brazil wine is expensive. We paid £25 which were about as cheap as it got.
Caprese Pizza – 122 Avenida Rainha Elizabeth, Copacabana
I visit Italy pretty frequently but have to say this is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. Simply stunning. Eat outside on the street or take away.
Venga – Av. Atlântica 3880 Copacabana
I had a really enjoyable paella in this busy and fashionable restaurant. There are 3 in Rio and I imagine they are all equally as good.
Spend part of the afternoon exploring the Botanical Gardens which are beautiful or visit one of the museums or galleries such as the Museu Nacional De Belas Artes, Museum of Modern Art or Centro Cultural Municipal Parque das Ruinas.