10 Best Activities in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has a varied and fun entertainment offer, such as cultural attractions, soccer events, outdoor plans, carnival parades and more. I invite you to get to know the best activities in the city!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

10 Best Activities in Rio de Janeiro

Sunset in Rio | Bruno Scramgnon

There is no shortage of fun activities in Rio de Janeiro, as it is a multicultural city with plans for all ages. Upon arrival you will find many attractions on the beach and in the mountains. For example, you can take advantage of some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro, such as taking a jeep ride through the jungle, learning how to cook authentic Carioca food, climbing the Sugar Loaf Mountain by cable car or the Christ the Redeemer on the cog railway.

Also, you can't miss Rio de Janeiro's soccer activities, as well as the carnival parades that are very popular in the region. Hiking is also an ideal option, especially in winter as temperatures are mild and there is little chance of rain. Of course, you can't miss exploring the favelas whose peculiar secrets will make you fall in love.

1. Take a jeep ride through the Tijuca rainforest in Rio de Janeiro

Jeep| ©Jeferson Felix
Jeep| ©Jeferson Felix

Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and move to a magical and peaceful location less than twenty-five minutes from downtown. The Tijuca Forest National Park is a very beautiful place in Rio de Janeiro that is worth touring in detail. Specifically, it is an urban forest where you will find different species of animals such as monkeys, sloths, birds and butterflies. This Carioca jungle offers outdoor plans, including hiking, taking advantage of a jeep tour and enjoying the best views of the city.

You will find guided options starting at 63 euros, which last approximately four hours. In this type of experience you will probably pass by magical and refreshing waterfalls, such as the Cachoeira dos Macacos and the Vista Chinese viewpoint, which is ideal for appreciating Rio from the top.

Book a jeep tour through the Tijuca Rainforest

2. Learn how to cook carioca food in Rio de Janeiro

Feijoada| ©ana_gandra
Feijoada| ©ana_gandra

Brazilian gastronomy offers unique dishes, which have Portuguese, African, Spanish and indigenous influences. An ideal activity if you are planning to spend at least 3 days in Rio de Janeiro, is to delve into the Carioca cuisine. It is the perfect opportunity to try traditional dishes and have a great time with family or friends. These classes are usually held for small groups in order to be personalized.

These types of experiences start at 72 euros per person and usually focus on the preparation of at least six Brazilian recipes. Popular dishes include:

  • Feijoada: a mixture of black beans with pork, which is a must on Brazilian tables. It is the most consumed traditional dish and is usually accompanied by rice or chard.
  • Brigadeiro: when it comes to desserts, Brazilians immediately think of this delicious chocolate preparation. Specifically, it is a hot cake that is accompanied by butter and condensed milk, for an explosion of flavors.

Book a cooking class

3. Enjoy a parade at the Carnival Samba School

Rio Carnival| ©Gerardo Lazzari
Rio Carnival| ©Gerardo Lazzari

Rio de Janeiro's carnivals are considered the best in the world, due to their exotic dances, typical costumes, traditional floats and rhythms that add flavor to this iconic celebration. It takes place at the beginning of the year, but Brazilians prepare all year round, especially in the city's samba schools. Undoubtedly, one of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro, as you can immerse yourself in the Carioca culture and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on behind the scenes.

A visit to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Samba School is an exclusive activity that will allow you to experience an authentic Brazilian parade at any time of the year. You can immerse yourself in a show of dances and rhythms of the typical carnival, from 93 euros per person approximately. Generally, you will be able to enjoy the show from a private box with privileged views, as well as having a tour guide and round-trip transfers. It is an experience dedicated to small groups that allows you to connect with Brazilian culture in the front row.

Buy tickets for the Carnival Samba School parade

4. Attend a soccer match in Rio de Janeiro

At the Maracana| ©Jogos Rio 2016
At the Maracana| ©Jogos Rio 2016

In Brazil, the passion for soccer is lived to the fullest: whether in the big stadiums or in the small fields of the favelas, this sport steals the hearts of the locals. Rio de Janeiro's soccer activities are undoubtedly exciting, and from February to August is the season for matches between local teams. Mostly, they are played at the Maracana and Nilton Santos stadiums.

Brazil is the country that has won the most editions of the World Cup, and this is due to the effort and passion with which the locals take this sport. In fact, in 1950 the Maracana hosted this emblematic tournament and the team was runner-up. There are many ways to attend a match, as a recommendation to live this experience you can book a guided tour, as it is usually the best way to get comfortable seats, learn about the history of this iconic sport and ensure round-trip transportation.

Buy tickets for a soccer match

5. Tandem paragliding in Rio de Janeiro

Paragliding and Rio| ©Mario Howat
Paragliding and Rio| ©Mario Howat

Rio is a challenging city, where definitely no one gets bored. If you like adrenaline-filled activities, then you have to sign up for a tandem paragliding flight. It is the best way to fly over the colorful beaches, get a glimpse of the most iconic buildings and pass near the peak of the main hills. You can't miss this experience, especially if you want to create unforgettable memories during your vacation. The biggest advantage of this kind of jumps is that you will receive training and live the experience with a professional instructor.

Keep in mind that traditional skydiving requires certain knowledge and professional skills to jump alone, while tandem skydiving is ideal for beginners. The briefing that is usually conducted will help you learn the safety rules and protocols that should not be overlooked during the flight.

In addition, the best tours in Rio de Janeiro usually offer these activities, starting at 147 euros per person. Avoid doing these adventures on your own, as permits and professional equipment are required.

Another fun option is a hang gliding experience in Rio de Janeiro, which will allow you to fly and feel like a free bird. It is a technique suitable for beginners, but more uncomfortable than parachuting. It is usually performed from the mountains and is perfect to see Christ the Redeemer, the favelas and the Sugar Loaf.

Book a tandem paragliding flight

6. Take a cable car ride up Rio de Janeiro's Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain| ©NFTOMY
Sugarloaf Mountain| ©NFTOMY

Sugarloaf is a very popular natural monument in Rio de Janeiro, due to its natural beauty and the panoramic views that can be enjoyed from the hill. You can climb the trails, however it is an activity for experts that requires a certain physical condition. It is best to enjoy the aerial cable car ride, which is comfortable, safe and fast. It has two sections, since the first stop is at the Morro de Urca and then continues the tour to Sugarloaf.

To live this experience, I recommend buying tickets to Sugarloaf in Rio de Janeiro in advance, some usually include a guided tour of this spectacle of nature. Additionally, tickets for the cable car round trip start at 35 euros per person, the best thing is that they are flexible: you have a week to use them after purchase. If you want to live this experience, get ready because from the heights you will be able to appreciate:

  • The Atlantic Forest
  • The Tijuca and Corcovado massifs
  • The image of Christ the Redeemer
  • Guanabara Bay and Botafogo Cove
  • The Serra do Mar and its peak "Dedo de Deus".

Buy a ticket for the cable car ride to Sugar Loaf Mountain

7. Use the rack railway and visit the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer| ©Jass Hop
Christ the Redeemer| ©Jass Hop

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is an iconic monument, known worldwide. Many people venture to the top via the trails, however the stretches are not suitable for everyone. The most comfortable and ideal option if you are traveling with children is the cog railway. This transport will take you to the top of Corcovado, and usually includes queue-free access to see the statue. The advantage is that the ride is short, but profitable as you will enjoy the best views of the city.

The rack railway will take you to 710 meters above sea level, with round-trip tickets for approximately 30 euros. The return schedule is flexible, so you can explore at your own pace. Note that the best tours to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, take you to see this iconic statue that can be seen from different points. It is considered a protective monument, at the top are organized light shows and other activities to commemorate special dates such as New Year's Eve.

Buy tickets for the Christ the Redeemer rack train

8. Take a walk along Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro.

Guanabara Bay| ©Anastase Papoortzis
Guanabara Bay| ©Anastase Papoortzis

The local beaches offer must-see activities all year round due to its tropical climate without snowfall, which allows the water temperature to remain pleasant. A walk along Guanabara Bay will take you away from stress, so it is an adventure not to be missed during your vacation. The bay borders the Atlantic Ocean and the most pleasant way to tour it is aboard the best cruises in Rio de Janeiro. It is a relaxing experience where you can observe the contrasts of this Brazilian city.

This type of experience takes you to sail close to the urban area of Rio, without going too far from the shore. You will get another perspective of the main monuments, such as Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer. You'll also get a glimpse of Sugarloaf Mountain, and you'll even see many people enjoying a tandem paragliding or hang gliding jump.

You're also likely to pass close to Copacabana Beach and a few meters from Flagstone Island, a hidden archipelago that is not very crowded. In addition, from the comfort of the sea you will get a glimpse of picturesque neighborhoods such as Botafogo, Urca and Flamengo. These types of experiences usually include lunch on board, and even Brazilian barbecue is usually served. The price for this activity ranges from 48 euros and the cost can include a private guide, transportation and the cruise itself.

Book a cruise in Guanabara Bay

9. Venture to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa slum| ©AHLN
Santa Teresa slum| ©AHLN

Brazilian favelas have become iconic, due to their peculiar charm. In fact, many have evolved and are considered must-see tourist spots. They are characterized by colorful houses, music in every corner and life full of contrasts. The best favela tours in Rio de Janeiro take you to the most emblematic ones, including Santa Marta, Rocinha and Vidigal. The Rocinha favela is one of the most popular, due to its cheerful and festive atmosphere, where tourists are openly welcomed by the families.

There are usually walking tours that take you to see street art and projects that seek to continue improving the area. It is a very nice experience, ideal to get to know in depth the life in the favelas. On the other hand, the Vidigal favela tours allow you to discover the local contrasts and climb the Dos Hermanos hill. From the heights, you will be able to appreciate the Corcovado mountain where Christ the Redeemer is located, Pedra da Gávea and the Rocinha favela.

You can not miss a tour of the favela Santa Marta, where you will know the daily life and you can enjoy points of interest, such as the statue of Michael Jackson. In this area, the handicraft stores and the typical colorful houses stand out. In addition, you can tour this neighborhood by the Santa Marta tourist streetcar or aboard the Santa Marta cable car. Generally, the price for a guided tour of the favelas ranges between 30 and 50 euros.

Book a tour of the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro

10. Hiking in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro

Hiking in Rio| ©Elias Rovielo
Hiking in Rio| ©Elias Rovielo

Certainly far from the crowds, you can take advantage of relaxing activities in the Pedra da Gávea mountain, which is located beyond Copacabana and Ipanema, about an hour from downtown. This adventure is a natural spectacle from the heights, and to get there you have to cross the Carioca Tijuca jungle, so it can be considered a double ride. Keep in mind that you will be approximately 844 meters high, so it is not a recommended plan for pregnant women or people with health problems.

A good option to join this adventure are the best excursions from Rio de Janeiro, you can organize them on your own or hire a guide to take care of the itinerary for you.

To get to the Pedra da Gávea mountain it is very important to bring a hiking equipment for safety reasons. This way, you will be able to reach the summit without any inconvenience and practice a low intensity climb along the Carrasqueira trail. You can find guided hiking activities from 51 euros per person, which usually cover transfers.

Book a trekking excursion to Pedra de Gávea