Before I arrived in Rio, I heard so many horror stories about how dangerous it is that I am so thankful my Bnb owner said he would wait for me at the airport bus stop when I arrived at 730pm. Turns out it was Rock in Rio on the evening I arrived so the traffic jam was so bad I only arrived at 9pm to the apartment. Thankfully, I was not in a Taxi else the cost would be so much higher as they run by meter here. The airport bus only cost R$16 and I believe that it would efficient if there wasn’t a traffic jam and accident on the highway.
I signed up for a day tour to bring me to Santa Teresa, Lapa, a Favela and Christ the Redeemer on my first day. It was well worth the money and I had Ivan as my guide from Urban adventures. It was a full day walking tour and we took public transport. The metro in Rio is very safe, efficient and the aircon is cold so have no fear in Summer. The buses are a bit more complicated but with google maps, it isn’t so bad. The tram in santa Teresa is a must get on. It still is made the same way as they did many years ago. If you get on from the top at Santa Teresa, you don’t have to pay anything. If you take it from below at the start, then it will Cost you R$20. Now you know! The tram will get you to Lapa where the famous tiled staircase, Escadaria Selaron is. It’s so crowded but if you join the queue, you can get a photo of yourself with the name of the steps and it’s free unless you want a tiled photo of yourself.
Santa Teresa is a wonderful neighborhood. It’s where the artists, musicians and cool people hang out. There are art shops and wall art everywhere so it’s really nice to just wander around the neighborhood and into the shops. Do remember to head to Parque Das Ruinas which was the house of one of the riches women in Rio and as she died childless, the House was taken to pieces as the door handles were gold. It’s now a gallery and theatre and there is also a flea market. The views from there are spectacular.
My favourite stop in Santa Teresa? The Pao de Queijo shop called Cultivar that apparently is the best in Rio. The Açaí bowl with muesli is very good too! It’s just a short walk from the ‘tram/transport island’.
Lapa is now famous for being the clubbing street. In the day, you see musicians playing their instruments around Escadaria Selaron. In the night, feel free to hang out at a jazz bar, a rock club, a samba club or any other bar you fancy. It’s the most lively from Thursday to Saturday night from 12am – 5am. My guide says it’s safe if you practice commonsense.
We visit the Santa Marta Favela which is the only Favela in Rio that has a cable car. It is also THE Favela that Michael Jackson filmed his MTV ‘they don’t really care about us’ when he was 37 years old. He brought so much attention to how the people in the Favela are living on the edge that the government then decided for the first time to give them aid. Santa Marta Favela can only be visited with a tour guide and it’s really a good way to see how the working class people leave.
Favelas are touted to be dangerous and with gangs, drugs and violence. The majority of the people in the Favela though, wish there was none of that. By visiting them and knowing how they live their lives, it’s a good way for the kids to know that there are other ways to make a living other than join the gang or sell drugs. A lot of the musicians, soccer players, dancers, actors all come from the Favela. They are a very tight knit community and very friendly. Our local guide, Mundundo was originally a deportee from Congo and he’s been living in Santa Marta for 4 years. On the day I visited Santa Marta, another large Favela on the other side of town had a gang fight and there were casualties so the police were patrolling the area, so Rio can be dangerous in certain neighborhoods. A lot of people in the Favela are 3rd or 4th generation whose great great grandparents were brought into Brazil as slaves from Africa. Thus, they live in Favela and built houses with whatever materials they had when they were freed. The history is amazing and I really encourage you to join a Favela tour to experience the real raw Rio instead of just the glitz and glamour on the beaches of copacabana.
Christ the Redeemer needs no introduction. It is THE icon of Brazil and I went up at sunset as it’s lass crowded. It’s still crowded though as it’s the most visited attraction in Brazil! I went up by the bus and got my tickets from the counter at Largo do Machado. The last bus leaving for the top is 5.30pm and the last bus coming down is 630pm. The sunset is glorious from there so so wait for it.
The second day, I went to Jardim Botanico. You have a take a bus or Taxi and the nearest metro with the bus there is Botafogo. Bus costs R$3.60 and you pay the driver and tell him where you want to stop and he will scream the location when it’s your stop. 😂 but do use google maps in case he doesn’t shout at you. The Atlantic wall in the gardens is really nice with many many monkeys along the way and many fruit trees.
After the gardens, I headed to copacabana beach. The song kept ringing in my head as I walked along the beach. It’s such a nice beach with many people all sun tanning, in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and having a great time. It’s amazing how I flew past the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to Brazil and I’m still swimming in the same waters. You can rent beach chairs when you are there or just walk along the whole beach. In Summer, apparently the whole Rio turns into a beach where people walk around in their bathers and Havaianas. Oh! Did I mention they’re cheap here so it’s a must buy? Don’t say I never tell you!
he beach is clean until it gets to life guard post 7. Someone told me post 7 is the dodgy area as the Favela is near there. They said you can see the representation of the population by the area of beach. Presumably, post 7 have more people from the Favelas. I’ve walked there and felt safe, just that I didn’t like the trash in the sand as I was walking barefooted. Along the whole beach, if you’re seated, you will get vendors selling you drinks, sunglasses, towels, cigarettes, food and many other items. Feel free to have a coconut!
Ipanema Beach has less vendors but nearer to post 9, the waves are are stronger so do exercise caution if you’re swimming. I also saw more sporty people nearer to post 10, which is Leblon Beach, that after the lagoon that brings water from the Sea to the lake inland. Overall, the view on Ipanema is better in my opinion and the sunset there is more unblocked. If you want the best sunset view, head to the start of Ipanema Beach near post 8. A lot of people watch the sunset from Arpoador rock that’s there.
n Monday, I headed to the Centre of town which is Praça XV, Carioca and saw the giant cathedral and the CBD. The CBD is very lively and busy on weekdays and there is a huge Havaianas shop just opposite Confeiteria Colombo which is one of the oldest Grand Cafes in Rio. Stained-glass windows, brocaded mirrors and marble countertops gives you the experience of feeling like a bourgeoise once you step in. Have a chicken croquette or a Nata. The pastries are done using traditional recipes and are yummy. A bit pricey though, but food in Rio is generally not cheap, compared to Lisbon and Sicily.
fter all the eating, I was ready to do some walking from Botafogo metro station to Urca to take the cable car up the sugarloaf. You can also take the bus that says ‘Urca’. The walk is about 30 minutes and I was strolling.
Once you reach Urca, you can see a beach, it didn’t look as clean as Copacanana beach but you can see the entire sugarloaf from there. I headed to the cable car after taking a photo from the beach. The cablecar ride costs R$80 return and the last one down is around 8pm When I reached the summit, I saw people with ropes and I’m thinking they must have rock climbed their way up so I think that’s possible too. It was foggy when I was up there as it was a cloudy day. But I waited for the sunset anyway and once the sunset was near, the clouds cleared so I was lucky. But I suggest you get here on a sunny day to get better views of Christo Redentor and the surroundings. The views are spectacular.
uesday is museum day! This means you get free entry to some museums. Head to Praça Maua and you’ll get to enter Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) and the Museu de Arte do Rio for free. I took the metro and walked from Uruguaiana station. On the way there, I found a beautiful building with wonderful doors and a lift that still works. Its the most Bristol heritage building that’s still privately owned in Rio and it’s worth an entry. Ask the guard to let you take pictures. He won’t let me take the lift though 😂
Museu do Amanha is really really cool and it shows you how we can do our part for a sustainable future. The views there are also stunning of the promenade and the building itself is very very cool and built by Catalan neofuturistic architect Santiago Calatrava. It’s one of the most extraordinary buildings in the world! The exhibits inside are really fun and cool too and it’s a great place for kids and because it was free, there were many students with me.
Museu de Arte do Rio is the old building you see, but inside it’s beautiful and it’s a sensory experience to visit. The walkways are really cool and I love the photo exhibits of the indigenous Brazilian people. It’s about the history and the tribes and it’s displayed all so beautifully.
After, I went to Museu Nacional Do Belas Artes. It’s the beautiful building house next to the beautiful library and municipal theatre near a cinelandia metro. I walked from Praça Maua. This is one of the most important cultural institutions of the country, as well as the most important museum of Brazilian art, particularly rich in 19th-century paintings and sculptures. When Brazil wanted to bring culture to Rio, they built this museum, the theatre and the library so this trio of buildings can be visited and they are very beautiful. I went into the library too as they were refurbishing it and the stairways was just beautiful.
food, my favourite things to eat are:
Acai!! With granola. The best one and Carioca favorite is expensive R$21 but very very good and thick and free flow granola. It’s at Tacaca do Norte. They’re sold everywhere else too and super healthy and good for you.
Pao de Queijo from Cultivar in Santa Teresa which is the one that sells the Acai too and other wholesome organic food. It’s Amazeballs! I had many at a go!
eak – the Michelin star one is at Giuseppe Centro where great service and beef awaits. remember to wash it down with a capirinha
kilo restaurants with Brazilian Churrascaria – flamed grilled meat! I had mine at Oklahoma in Flamango and it has freshly grilled beef, chicken, chicken hearts, lamb and you pick it with the salads or a lot of other stuff and weight it and eat it!
The tropical fruits. There’s so many you’ll be spoilt for choice. Buy from the streets, buy from the super markets and they’re so fresh and sweet.
Arabic food. Believe it or not, it’s everywhere and it’s good. Have the triangular pastry or beef croquette. The kebabs are also yum yum with the chili or yellow sauce on the counter. Wash all of that down with Mate, the National Tea of Brazil, or Caju, which is juice of the fruit of the cashew nut. Yes, the cashew drink is made from the fruit and it’s yummy.
Rio is said to be the most dangerous city in the world. I’ve been here for 5 days and am grateful for my safety. I lost my phone and got it back by the kind guard at the botanical gardens. I went to a Favela and realized how nice and real the people were and the sense of community they had. I walked around Lapa and Santa Teresa with my bag held close to me and everything was fine. Rio is an amazing city where a Carioca can come up to me in the bus stop to speak to me in Portuguese and realize I could only speak English. At that moment, I realized that the Brazilians are really a multi racial and faceted county where anyone can be seen as a possible citizen. My bnb owner told me that in Sao Paolo, there is a huge Chinese population. The Carioca must have thought I was a Carioca too! And that’s the most beautiful thing, anyone can be a Carioca and there are no assumptions about being and outsider or insider. How cool is that? To be able to accept everyone as your own.
I’ll be back to explore the Iguacu falls in the next month from Argentina (it has 2 sides, Argentina and Brazil so I’ll technically cross over to Brazil again for a few hours!) and also the Amazonian forests in the next few years but I will be back!