Hello lovely people…I have not been able to write on my blog for a while as I have just come back from South America!!! We started our journey from Santiago, then flew to Buenos Aires, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and finally São Paulo. It was a beautiful trip, I met beautiful people, had so much fun with my friends, and loved every city we visited for one reason or another, but Rio and Buenos Aires now hold a special place in my heart. I wanted my first post to be about Rio, as I fell in love with it as soon as we landed. Before leaving for South America we had gathered as much info as possible on how to be safe and what to watch out for, and kind of got worried after reading some posts that made it sound very unsafe. Well, once you are there you realize people do not exaggerate, Rio is quite unsafe, as also the nice areas are mainly surrounded by favelas, so you do need to be vigilant all the time, but it is so worth it that I recommend you visit the city at least once in your life if you get the chance, and I would love to go back myself, as I didn’t have the time to see everything I wanted to see since we only stayed for two days. The one thing you need to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t wear too much jewellery, and should check the people around you before using your camera or phone. Apart from that, pack and GO!
We arrived in Rio at 11:00 am, and since our hotel was right by the beach in Copacabana, we decided to take a walk and explore the surroundings. The beach is beautiful, and I would have walked all the way to Leblon, but as a Brazilian friend later told me, you need to watch out for the big numbers you find along the beaches: the higher the number, the safer the place. These numbers, or “postos”, are numbered lifeguard stations, which indicate which kind of crowd you will find! Unfortunately Copacabana starts from number 1 (Ipanema and Leblon are much safer) so, after a nice walk on the beach we decided to head back to our hotel. We waited for our other friends who were flying into Rio a couple of hours later, then decided to go to the beautiful Corcovado Mountain, to watch the sunset by the statue of the “Cristo Redentor”. Usually it’s better if you book your tickets online, but we were lucky that the queue was not long, maybe also because we went at 4:00 pm, so we were able to get our tickets there without any problem.
The worldwide famous statue of the “Cristo Redentor” (Christ the Redeemer) sits atop the steep Corcovado Mountain, 710 meters above the sea level. The statue can be reached by taxi, the cog train, or on foot through Parque Lage. If you take the taxi like we did, they will drive you up to where the vans are, where you will be able to buy your ticket for the van that will take you to the top, and which will also include your entrance to the statue. The ride from Copacabana took us about half an hour, also due to traffic jam, and the van took around 5/ 7 minutes to drive us to the top. Our taxi driver was amazing, he waited for us while we spent about 90 minutes watching the sunset and taking pictures of the beautiful Guanabara Bay. Apparently the cog train is a nice way to get to the top, as it climbs through the Tijuca forest, and the hike sounds amazing too, but if you do hike I would advise you to not do it alone or take any valuables with you, as people have been robbed on the trail! Whatever you decide to do in Rio, make sure you don’t miss this; the view from up there is breathtaking, and there is something magical about it! I heard you can also do a helicopter tour around Rio and the Christ statue…Maybe next time…
Ticket price for the van ride and entrance to the statue: 28 BRL (less than 8 Euros)
For cog train tickets click here
For tickets to the statue and up to date info click here
Where to eat
Since it was my birthday, I made sure I already knew where we were going to have dinner after exploring the city. After doing some thorough research, I decided to book a table at Marius Degustare in Copacabana, which was easily done via a WhatsApp message. The nice meat and seafood restaurant did not disappoint! The setting is beautiful, with its unique décor, nautical memorabilia and waiters dressed as pirates, and you should also visit the restroom even if you don’t need it, as it is not your typical restroom!!! The restaurant offers Brazilian and Mediterranean cuisine, which can be enjoyed in a very relaxed atmosphere. There is a fixed price for the buffet, which also includes desserts and a glass of Prosecco, and the waiters will serve different kind of meat and fish at the table. We paid 190 BRL (50 Euros) each including service charge, which I think is fine for what you get and the quality of the food. I would totally recommend it for meat and/or seafood lovers (and if you also love pirates of course!!!), but make sure you book in advance as it’s usually very busy.
For the official website click here
Day 2: A day around Rio with Alexandre
For our second day in Rio, I had created a list of things I didn’t want to miss, and I decided I wanted to start from the beautiful Parque Lage. We asked our hotel staff to call a taxi for us, and told them where we wanted to go. Rather than booking a taxi, they called Alexandre, a sweet guy who told us that apart from Parque Lage, he could take us to the other places we wanted to visit, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about how to go from one place to the other. Alexandre was the best thing that could ever happen to us in Rio! He is trustworthy, reliable, patient, gives you extra time when he takes you to places, and is very protective and a nice guy to talk to. He speaks Portuguese, Spanish and understands English, and will make himself understandable in one way or another. We started our trip with Alexandre at 10:30 am, and he took us to Parque Lage, Sugarloaf Mountain, the Santa Teresa district, Arcos da Lapa, the Selarón Steps, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, the São Bento Monastery and Mauá Square (Praça Mauá), where you can visit the Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã), which is a science museum.
Parque Lage is a beautiful public park located at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain, in the Jardim Botânico neighbourhood. In the park you will find English-style gardens, lakes, a beautiful mansion, once owned by industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, which now houses the Visual Arts School of Parque Lage, and hosts a courtyard café. You will also be able to see old stables, the historic slaves’ laundry, a grotto, a big aquarium, a duck pond, a tower, and if you are lucky, you might also meet sweet monkeys and toucans on your visit, as the park is surrounded by the Tijuca Rainforest. Unfortunately we didn’t see any, but we saw small bats in the grotto!!! From Parque Lage you can hike up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer (the hike takes up to 90 minutes), but remember to not do it alone, and to not bring any valuables with you. Overall I think we spent around 80 minutes in the park, which is definitely worth a visit!
Address: R. Jardim Botânico, 414 – Jardim Botânico
Opening times: Park: daily, 8am-6pm. Galleries: Mon-Thu, 9am-7pm; Fri-Sun, 9am-5pm
After visiting Parque Lage, we asked Alexandre to take us to the Sugarloaf Mountain. We arrived there at around 1:00 pm, and we were lucky as the queue at the ticket office was not too long, but there were still lots of tourists, so we didn’t have to wait for the cable car, which usually leaves every 20 minutes unless the car is full. The ride is divided into two stages, each of which takes 3 minutes. The first stop is Morro da Urca (Urca Hill), at an altitude of 220 metres, and the second stop is Sugarloaf Mountain, at an altitude of 528 metres. From the top of Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf Mountain you will be able to see the beautiful Flamengo, Botafogo, Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon beaches, downtown Rio, the Rio-Niterói Bridge and Dedo de Deus (God’s Finger), which is a peak at the altitude of 1692 metres at the top, resembling a hand pointing a finger at the sky. The view from both the hill and the mountain is breathtaking, we spent around 90 minutes there, but I could have stayed the whole day relaxing on a bench while taking in the view, looking for monkeys and exploring the area in depth. However, we still had enough time to take a look from every angle, take all the pictures we wanted, and also buy a pair of gorge Havaianas from a shop on Sugarloaf Mountain, and yummy churro on Urca Hill!!! I am sure watching the sunset from up there must be amazing, but the view is gorgeous during the day as well!
For up to date ticket prices and opening hours click here
After the gorgeous Sugarloaf Mountain, Alexandre drove us through the Santa Teresa district, which is a hilltop district with a charming vibe, thanks to its steep, winding, cobblestone streets lined by elegant old mansions. Known as the artistic heart of Rio, Santa Teresa looks like a cute village with nice examples of colonial architecture, and is full of nice restaurants and artists’ studios. Alexandre made a stop so that we could see the favelas surrounding the district, and take pictures of some nice buildings along the way. We also stopped to take pictures of the Santa Teresa “bonde”, which is a historic streetcar that connects the city centre with the mainly residential Santa Teresa district.
Arcos da Lapa
In the Lapa neighbourhood, Arcos da Lapa is an aqueduct built in the mid-18th century by colonial authorities. As Alexandre explained to us, the Carioca Aqueduct was built to bring fresh water from the Carioca River to downtown Rio. Made of 42 arches, the aqueduct stands 64 metres high.
The Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón) are one of the most visited places in Rio. The 215 steps, sitting between Rua Joaquim Silva in Lapa and Rua Pinto in Santa Teresa, became a piece of art when Chilean painter Jorge Selarón decided to cover them with more than 2000 pieces of colourful tiles, mirrors and ceramics from around the world. Selarón moved to Rio in 1983, and worked on the project for over 20 years, claiming it was his tribute to the Brazilian people. We spent around 20 minutes at the steps, which I highly recommend you visit.
Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, patron saint of Rio.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. Built between 1964 and 1979, the cathedral is definitely a place to visit if you like architecture. I usually prefer old buildings, but I still enjoyed looking at the beautiful coloured stained glass windows placed in the four cardinal points, which help create a mystical atmosphere, thanks to the sunlight being projected in different colours. The conical shape of the cathedral, which can sit up to 20000 people, was inspired by a Maya pyramid on the island of Yucatan in Mexico.
Address: Avenida Republica do Chile, 245 – Centro
Opening hours: From Monday to Sunday, from 7 am to 5 pm
For the official website click here (only in Portuguese)
São Bento Monastery
The Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, commonly known as the Mosteiro de São Bento, is a Benedictine abbey located on the Morro de São Bento in downtown Rio. The contrast between the exterior and the interior is amazing! Built between 1617 and 1641, this beautiful colonial church has a very simple façade, which hides a gorgeous baroque interior decorated with gold. At the entrance, there are two towers topped by pyramidal pinnacles, and inside the church there are seven beautiful side chapels dedicated to Catholic lay brotherhoods . One of the finest colonial churches in Brazil, the São Bento Monastery is definitely worth a visit.
Address: Dom Gerardo 68
Opening Hours: From Monday to Sunday from 7 am to 11 am and from 2:30 pm to 6 pm.
For the official website click here (only in Portuguese)
Praça Mauá – Museum of Tomorrow
After visiting the beautiful São Bento Monastery, we finally drove to Mauá Square, a nice clean square where you can visit the Museum of Tomorrow. A futuristic building which definitely captures your attention, but that we decided not to visit inside, as we wanted to spend time in the square instead. The square is by Rio’s port, and offers lovely waterfront views, which make it a good picture spot. We spent around half an hour there and particularly enjoyed the “Rio Te Amo” sign and just walking around looking at the buildings. Oh, I forgot to mention that we also had a nice ice-cream and chips from one of the many food kiosks in the square.
Our day trip with Alexandre had come to an end; he was driving us back to our hotel, but the sun was about to set, and it was our last night in Rio, so we didn’t want to miss watching the sunset from the Arpoador beach, which had been recommended to us by many Brazilian friends. We asked Alexandre to drop us at the beach, rather than at our hotel, and he was very kind to do so. We got there at around 5:20 pm, and made it just in time for the sunset. Trust me, the experience was magical! Arpoador is a beautiful beach between Copacabana and Ipanema, and it’s considered one of the best surf spots in Rio. There were many people waiting for the sunset, and the area felt quite safe. Make sure you don’t miss it, and if you can, try to be there by 5:00 pm at the latest, so that you can also relax on the beach before the sun sets. We spent about half an hour at the beach, and then walked back to the hotel, as it was only a ten minutes walk.
Alexandre was the best guide we could ask for, we felt safe, as he knew where we could go, where he had to be with us, or where it was better to not go. He was very accommodating and never rushed us. He made sure we stayed at each location long enough to enjoy the places and take all the pictures we wanted (he also took some of us at the Selarón Steps!!). I highly recommend him if you would like to explore Rio without having to worry about how to get from one place to another, or if you don’t want to explore the city on your own. We had already been to the Christ the day before, but Alexandre can take you there too if you want, as it’s usually included in the tour. He organises different tours of the city, which last between five to seven hours, and charges 200 BRL (53 Euros) if it’s only one person, but only 100 BRL (26 Euros) per person if it’s two or more people.
Contact details: Alexandre Garcia
Email address: email@example.com
Phone number: 96446-0333
Hopefully one day I will go back to Rio, as, despite everything, it’s a beautiful city, a magical place, which offers spectacular natural beauty. RIO TE AMO! Until we meet again…
Have a lovely week everyone, and have fun exploring!