Overlooked by Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro is famed for its vibrant dance and music, stunning beaches and the largest carnival in the world. While the iconic sights like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain are essential to any Rio visit, there’s still plenty more to be discovered in this coastal city. So, from shopping and sightseeing to dining options, these are some of our tips and favourite places to go if you want to experience Rio de Janeiro like a local.
Food, Glorious Food!
While the perfectly sculpted bodies you’ll see at all of the beaches might have you believe otherwise, food is actually a national pastime and finding some delicious delicacies is never difficult!
A popular breakfast dish is the Pao de Queijo; a stuffed bread roll filled with melted cheese. A popular eatery for this morning meal is Casa de Pao de Queijo, where the cheesy bread is always served flakey and warm.
Long before it was known as a ‘superfood staple’, Rio de Janeiro locals were eating açai berries daily. The purple berry comes from the Amazon and is often served as a sorbet, accompanied by fruit and granola.
Feijoada is Brazil’s national dish, loved by locals across all corners of the country. Made out of a mix of black beans and pork stew, this staple food item is served with rice and farofa (cassava flour), shredded kale and orange to squeeze over the top.
While tapioca comes from the north of Brazil, it gained popularity in Rio for being a healthy (and tasty) alternative to bread. Made from the starch of the cassava root, tapioca is a great gluten-free option. You can buy tapioca in mobile food stalls around the city, or buy the flour at supermarkets to make at home.
Treat your taste buds to a food splurge at least once while in Rio de Janeiro. Restaurante por Kilo has a huge buffet where you can load your plate up with as much food as you like, and pay for it on a per kilogram basis.
Shop til You Drop!
From bargain hot spots to streets lined with some of the worlds best-known brands, there is some serious shopping available in Rio de Janeiro.
Whether you’re a bargain hunter or prefer to shop more upmarket, Ipanema has all grounds covered. Rua Garcia d’Avila and Rua Maria Quitéria are lined with upmarket brands stores, while Rua Visconde de Piraja is home to more reasonably priced shops.
If you’re on the hunt for a bargain and quirky souvenirs, be sure to stroll around the Hippie Market, which is held every Sunday and has stalls selling items such as hand-carved wooden furniture, jewellery, clothes, food and paintings.
Famous for its antiques, vintage items and handcrafts, the Feira do Rio Antigo is held on the first Saturday of each month in downtown Lapa.
Uruguaiana is one of Rio’s biggest permanent markets. Located out the front of the Estacao Uruguaiana Metro Station, this is the market to head to if you’re after electronics, clothes, jewellery and random knick-knacks.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, the Feira Nordestina Sao Cristovao specialises in products from Bahia and northeast Brazil. Here you can find northeastern foods, souvenirs, clothes, hammocks and more.
If you’re after a unique Brazilian souvenir to take home, Tucum is your answer. Located in Santa Teresa, Tucum sells all kinds of handicrafts from woven baskets to gemstones and pottery.
Top Spots and Hidden Gems
Escape the chaos of the city and popular tourist attractions and get to know Rio like the locals do.
For unobstructed views of the iconic Copacabana beach, head to Leme Fort (also known as Forte Duques de Caxias). This military fort was opened to the public in 2010 and serves as a memorial to Caxias. Getting here is an easy 20-minute hike, which is totally worth the strain for the amazing views over Brazil’s most famous beach.
Often overlooked by tourists due to it being more of a residential area is Lagoa. Not far from Ipanema, Lagoa is over 7km in circumference, but even walking a small section offers some peace and quiet from the busy city nearby.
Previously a favela (unregulated neighbourhood), this quiet public park is well worth your time. Getting to the top is a steep, yet easy ascent, however, you’re treated to amazing views of the area.
You’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time when you visit the neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. The streets are all cobble-stoned and old-fashioned trams travel up and down the road. As a bonus, as the neighbourhood is situated quite high, there are fabulous panoramic views of the city below.
A must-visit for nature lovers, the Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful and relaxing green spaces in Rio. Home to over 6500 plant species, you can also spot plenty of wildlife too, including Toucans, marmosets, Capuchin monkeys and more!
Are you ready to celebrate life with a vigour that’s contagious? Check out our Brazil tours here!