24 Hours in Rio de Janeiro

Sweet Spots in Rio

Rio is for people who live for the outdoors. In 24 hours you can swim in the Atlantic Ocean, soak up the rays on Ipanema Beach, hike up a forest-streaked mountain, and dance to the samba beat. The best thing about Rio? Inside is almost as good as the outside. Top art galleries, architecture, restaurants and museums are all on your doorstep.

The city is gearing up to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games so it’s a truly vibrant city in flux. One thing remains the same: it’s tough to be bored in Rio.

It’s all about the view for Rio’s hotels. The best hotels sit right on the beach so visitors can wake up to the sound of the ocean. The Pestana Rio Atlantica hotel sits right on Copacabana Beach and is one of the best in Rio. The top floor pool gives a drop-dead-gorgeous vista without having to leave the hotel. 

Address: Avenida Atlântica, 2964, 22070-000, Copacabana

Hike Up Pedra de Bonita

The tropical Tijuca Forest is a 32 square km (12.4 miles) oasis in the middle of Rio. For commuters, the forest sometimes gets in the way of the most direct route to work, but for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, it gives expansive views of Rio de Janeiro and provides a welcome respite from urban life. The hike up Pedra da Bonita (translation: Rock of the Pretty) takes 45 minutes and is an easy stroll. Once at the top, take in a panoramic view of Rio’s coastline. On the way down, suit up into your swimsuit and cool off by diving into a waterfall. Take your pick – there are 30 to explore.

Eat at Tacaca do Norte

The açai fruit grows on palm trees in the north of Brazil and locals often eat the purple berry as a sweetened, frozen slushy with granola and various fruits. The pure version can only be found at Tacaca do Norte. This tiny gastro boteco serves up delicacies from the northern state of Pará, like Casquinha de Siri (stuffed crab shells), Tacaca (soup with dried shrimp) and pure Açai with unlimited granola or tapioca.

Address: Rua Barão do Flamengo 35, Flamengo

Brazil’s newest museum is helping to revitalize the once-forgotten port area of Rio de Janeiro. Today, locals and tourists gravitate to the area for food trucks and art. The Museu de Arte do Rio provides a full cultural experience, with modern art exhibits, a casual café, a museum store and a top-floor restaurant with the views of the Bay of Guanabara. Check out the photography of Kurt Klagsbrunn, an Austrian photographer who captured Brazil life over the course of two decades.

Address: Praça Mauá, 5 - Centro

Ipanema beach

Watch the sunset from Arpoador on Ipanema Beach

Copacabana Beach might be more famous, but Ipanema Beach offers better views and backdrops that are so spectacular, they might break your Instagram. The Arpoador rock is the photogenic rock where people station themselves to watch the sun set over Dois Irmões. Arrive at the beach by 3:30 to take in the sun and ocean but don’t overthink packing - light layers are all you’ll need. (Vendors at Rio de Janeiro’s beaches provide chairs, umbrellas, snacks and drinks for a small fee).

Eat and Drink at Bar do Mineiro in Santa Theresa

Santa Theresa is a bohemian village propped up on the side of a mountain. Convincing a cab to take you up there is well worth the effort. On weekends, the main street turns into a street party and Bar do Mineiro sits right in the middle. The bar is known for feijoada, a bean stew dish served with rice, ground manioc, and chopped collard greens with influences from Portuguese, African and indigenous cuisines. Is it pretty? No. Is it delicious and worthy of the title of national dish? Yes. The traditional day to feast on feijoada in Rio de Janeiro is Saturday (hence the phrase ‘Saturday Feijoada’ as in “My Saturday Feijoada place is…”), but luckily this restaurant serves it every day. Order a plate with a caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink made with cachaça liquor, lime, and sugar. Saúde! (That’s cheers in Portuguese.)

Address: Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, 99

Soak Up Samba at Beco do Rato in Lapa

When Márcio opened Beco do Rato 10 years, he created a rare bar in the center of Rio where locals could listen to good samba music, and famous Samba musicians could drop in without too much of a fuss. The muraled walls pay homage to some of Rio de Janeiro’s samba legends like Arlindo Cruz and Zeca Pagodinho (to name a few). On Tuesdays, the bar hosts a traditional Roda da Samba where musicians sit around a table and play acoustic style samba. The full samba band on Saturdays plays Brazil’s most popular samba songs.

Address: Rua Joaquim Silva 11 - Lapa

After soaking up the sun, exploring a rainforest, swimming in a waterfall, dining on local cuisine and doing a samba, you can consider your 24 hours in Rio de Janeiro action-packed. 

Keep traveling: check out our 24 hour guides to San Francisco, Brighton, and Martha’s Vineyard.