Mountains, beaches, juice bars, feijoada, and Christ (the Redeemer)

Truly the Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro is endlessly beautiful and endlessly fun to explore.

To spend time in Rio de Janeiro is to always be going up a mountain, down a mountain, or under a mountain, whether that’s via taxi, metro, or cable car. That means there are more stunning vistas than you can shake a stick at, with half of them admiring Sugarloaf or Corcovado and the other half peering down toward Guanabara Bay and the ocean.

It also means your time on foot can get a bit tricky. Google Maps might say you can walk from your hotel in say, Laranjeiras or Santa Teresa to the main street, but you might be hugging the curves of a cliffside (with no sidewalks) while you’re doing it.

But there’s no reason to do that! The bus system in Rio is extensive, connecting even some far-flung Airbnb rentals with a nearby metro stop (which you can then take around the eastern and southern parts of the city). And you can get pretty far on the bus with 2 reals (about 60 cents).

Once you do get where you’re going, a few things to know:

You’re going to become obsessed with juice bars.

If you see the word sucos above a little shop (or a huge pile of fresh fruit behind the counter), you’ll know you’ve found the sweet Brazilian manna of heaven. Just accept that you’ll be stopping off a sucoshop once a day, minimum. There’s pineapple juice, mango juice, orange juice, açai juice, avocado juice, strawberry juice… In short, there are more juices to conquer than you’ll ever understand, much less sample — I stopped trying after the cashew fruit juice — so cast a manageable net and find your favorites.

While you’re at it, try the gazillion variations of snack sandwiches and pastéis they usually sell along with it.

you can’t swim at the bay beaches.

The view from Botafogo, for instance, is tantalizing. And you might even arrive to find an empty beach during the day.

The view from Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro.

That’s because the water is gross. It’s polluted, it’s murky, and unless you’re in a boat, you shouldn’t be in it. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of gorgeous ocean beaches. And you can even try searching for the girl from Ipanema while you explore them.

when you get feijoada, don’t get the “inteira” portion.

Fun fact: Inteira is Portuguese for “entire”. And if you see that word on a menu, be ready to feed an entire phalanx of large, hungry men. Choose the other option instead, unless there are at least 5 people sitting around the table (who only want to eat feijoada).

Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro

That said, feijoada is a beloved staple of the Brazilian diet for a reason. It’s a glorious spread of black beans, stewed sausage and pork, with rice for days and enough fixins to rival any Korean feast. Just don’t go if your hunger level is anything less than ravenous, or you will hate yourself at the end.

you can take a van to christ the redeemer from largo do machado.

If you’re researching this must-see part of any visit to Rio, you might have found some horror stories about how convoluted and difficult it is to get to see it if you’re staying in Copacabana or other points south.

If you want to avoid the crowds and have a more relaxed morning on your way to a tourist trap, I suggest taking the metro to Largo do Machado first instead. There’s a ticket counter in front of the church, which sits at the end of the square. You can hop in a van there that will take you right to the beginning of the line at the top of Corcovado. And hey, if you go up hungry, there are pastéis de queijo waiting in a little stand at the top, too.

one more thing: relax.

Rio is a megacity, which might entice you to make a mega-long itinerary for yourself. Resist the urge. It is so very un-carioca to rush around from sight to sight.

1 Comment

Submit a comment