Top 5 experiences in Rio de Janeiro

All you need to do is show up to Ipanema beach
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Golden beaches and lush mountains, samba-fueled nightlife and spectacular football matches: welcome to the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City).


This enchanting beachfront attracts a wide mix of cariocas (residents of Rio). Different crowds – surfers, volleyballers, bohemians, muscle boys – congregate at each section, or posto, including famous posto 9 where Ipanema’s young and beautiful frolic. The principal activities of the day are people-watching, surf-side walks and sunset-watching – best from Arpoador, at Ipanema’s east end. You can also eat and drink on the sand. Roaming vendors will come to you, and barracas (stalls) set you up with chairs, umbrellas and caipirinhas. All you need to do is show up.

(Also read: Top 5 experiences in Brazil)

(Brazil’s Gaudí-style toilet blocks make it to our list of unusual toilets in the world)



People at outdoor bars in Lapa district.
People at outdoor bars in Lapa district.
Image courtesy: ©Michael Heffernan/Lonely Planet

The Arcos da Lapa form the gateway to Rio’s most animated nightlife. Pass through the arches of the 64m-high aqueduct and stroll the packed, bar-lined streets while samba spills out from 19th- century facades. While you’ll encounter drinks (from curbside beer and caipirinha vendors) and music (from impromptu jam sessions) all around, venture inside an old-school dance hall to see the city at its most dynamic. From the band on stage come the rhythms of samba, some of the world’s most infectious beats. Grab a partner and join the mayhem on the dance fl oor.


The statue of Christ the Redeemer is a remarkable work of artistry
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The open-armed savior has stood atop his lofty perch (710m-high Corcovado), gazing peacefully over Rio, since 1931. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is a remarkable work of artistry, but most people don’t come up here to admire the art deco design. They come for the mesmerizing panorama – a combination of tropical rainforest, beaches, islands, ocean, bay and verdant peaks – that surrounds this unlikely metropolis. There are various ways to reach the top, including a memorable (and steep!) ascent on a cog train.


RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - June 28, 2014: the players of the Colombian team warming up while people fill Maracana Stadium for FIFA World Cup 1/8-finals match between Colombia and Uruguay
Maracanã is where Pelé scored his 1000th goal
Image courtesy: ©Paolo Costa/Shutterstock

Fresh from a sparkling makeover for the 2014 World Cup, Maracanã is hallowed ground among Brazilians. It has been the site of both triumph (Pelé’s 1000th goal) and catastrophe (losing to Uruguay in the final match of the 1950 World Cup). Games here are simply spectacular, with tens of thousands of cheering fans sending up an earth-shaking roar when the home team (and Rio has four of them) scores. Whether or not you’re a football fan, don’t pass up the chance to see a game inside this historic arena.


Tijuca rainforest
Floresta da Tijuca makes other parks look like playgrounds
Image courtesy: ©MaViLa/Getty Images/Flickr Open

New York has Central Park; Rio has the Floresta da Tijuca, a vast swath of rainforest with hiking trails, sparkling waterfalls and abundant greenery that makes other parks look like playgrounds. There are a number of fine walks you can take, as well as some climbs up rocky 900m peaks, where rewarding views await. If you prefer flying to walking, take a hang-gliding flight from Pedra Bonita inside the Tijuca boundaries for a magnificent (if somewhat terrifying) view over Rio’s wondrously green backyard.

For more on the destination city for Olympics 2016 grab a copy of Lonely Planet’s Rio de Janeiro city guide today.