By Hakan Almerfors, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Experiencing Rio de Janeiro and all its attractions should probably take a couple of months. Many people are only able to come for a few days though, so here is a three day, two night itinerary. Assuming arrival the morning of Day 1, and departing the afternoon of Day 3, we’ve stayed close to Zona Sul.
Day 1 – Beginning at Noon
Starting in Copacabana – On the south side of Copacabana near Arpoador, is Forte de Copacabana, a nice area with great views and the entrance is only a few Reais. Inside is Confeitaria Colombo, a great place for lunch and further out there is a military museum, and most importantly a spectacular view.
Next enjoy the scenery of a stroll along the Copacabana beach, north towards Leme. Stopping for a juice or a fresh coconut on the way is to recommended, perhaps even a caipirinha. Near the end of Copacabana, about 3 km from Arpoador, is the classic hotel Copacabana Palace. This landmark has been visited by numerous celebrities over the years, and having a drink or a coffee in the restaurant grants a peek inside.
Sunset on Sugarloaf – The best time to leave Copacabana for the sunset varies with season. In mid-winter leave before 4 PM, in the summer 5:30 PM is enough time. Tell the cab driver: “Pão de Açucar”, or take bus 511 which leaves from Av. Princesa Isabel.
The gondola to the top of Sugarloaf and back is R$44. The views are incredible on a clear day so bring your camera. Spending a few hours on the top is recommended, something to read and a sweater for the wind help.
Dinner at a Churrascaria – The so called Churrascarias in Rio are all-you-can-eat restaurants specialized in barbecued meat. Most of them have good buffets with salads, sushi and lots more. Below are two of the best, and on holidays and weekends it’s a good idea to call for a reservation.
– Porcão R. Barão da Torre 218, Ipanema, tel 3389-8989 or Av. Infante Dom Henrique, Parque do Flamengo, tel 3389-8989. More famous and more expensive, you would probably spend around R$120 per person with dessert and wine.
– Carretão R. Visconde de Pirajá 112, Ipanema, tel 2267-3965 or R. Siqueira Campos 23, Copacabana, tel 2236-3435. Cheaper but still high quality. Bring about R$80 per person and that should cover dessert and wine as well.
Early at the Christ Statue on Corcovado – Leaving early is good, maybe 8 AM if you can as the morning visibility tends to be better and the crowd smaller. Bus 583 passes through Zona Sul on its way, or a cab is about R$25, just tell the cab driver: “Trem do Corcovado”. The train to the top and back is R$45, and despite your religious views, the panoramic sights are incredible.
Afternoon in Santa Teresa – Catching a cab from the train station at the bottom to the Santa Teresa trolley station is about R$25,tell the cab driver: “estação de bondinho no Centro”. Tickets for the trolley are R$1 and enjoy a hair-raising scenic ride through the historic neighborhood. Get off at Largo de Guimaraes in time for lunch, two recommendable restaurants are:
– Bar do Mineiro R. Paschoal Carlos Magno 99. The most famous restaurant in Santa Teresa. Located close to Praça de Guimaraes. Brazilian food. Closed on Mondays. Open from 11 AM.
– Bar do Arnaudo R. Almirante Alexandrino 316. A beautiful restaurant with a nice ambience. Food from the Northeast. Has a big selection of cachaças. Open from midday.
Also around Largo de Guimaraes are many small shops selling handicraft and art. At Parque das Ruinas there are great views of the central parts of Rio. After a few hours here, it is time to go back to get ready for the night, a cab is recommended as Santa Teresa is surrounded by favelas and not a good place to get lost.
Before heading out for the evening, have dinner, maybe at a so called “a quilo” place where the price is by weight. Some recommended examples are:
– Siqueira Grill R. Siqueira Campos 16, Copacabana.
– Frontera R. Visconde de Pirajá 128, Ipanema.
A Night of Live Music in Lapa – Dress casually (no sandals), as this are can get pretty crowded and wild, especially on a Friday and Saturday night. The cab to Lapa should be R$25-30, and is recommended over the bus of van options. Here is a list of suggested Lapa destinations by weekday:
Monday: Carioca da Gema, Av. Mem de Sá 79, arrive around 8 PM.
Tuesday: Carioca da Gema, Av. Mem de Sá 79, arrive around 8 PM
Wednesday: Carioca da Gema, Av. Mem de Sá 79, arrive around 8PM
Thursday: Rio Scenarium, R. do Lavradio 20, arrive around 8 PM
Friday: Rio Scenarium, R. do Lavradio 20, arrive around 10 PM
Saturday: Rio Scenarium, R. do Lavradio 20, arrive around 10 PM
Sunday: Comuna da Semente, R. Joaquim Silva 138, arrive around 9 PM
Day 3 – Ending around 4 PM
Relax on Ipanema Beach – Your last day should be spent on the best beach in Rio. The area around Posto 9 is recommended. To rent a beach chair is R$3, and as always valuables should be left at home – don’t forget sunscreen. An easy idea for lunch is pizza, so you can stay close to the beach and soak in the last rays of the trip.
– Zona Sul R. Prudente de Morais 49, Ipanema. Oddly located inside a supermarket this pizzaria has the best value for money pizza in town.
Unfortunately when it rains or is overcast, there is no point visiting Sugarloaf or the Christ Statue, and going to the beach is questionable. Here are some options if get bad weather.
Museums – Two of the best are:
MAM (Museu de Arte Moderna) Av. Infante Dom Henrique 85, Parque do Flamengo, open Tue-Sun 12 AM until 6 PM. The modern art museum of Rio.
MHN (Museu Histórico Nacional) Praça Marechal Âncora, Centro, open Tue-Fri 10 AM until 5:30 PM Sat, Sun 2 PM until 6 PM. A classic historical museum with a huge collection.
Jardim Botânico – R. Jardim Botânico 920, Jardim Botânico. The botanical gardens are nice to visit even if when overcast and raining. It is very beautiful and lush with a splendid orchidary, The café is to recommend with fresh salads, sandwiches and homemade cakes.
Maracanã – For football fans attending a game is an idea. Find out when league games are on Superesportes. There are ticket + transfer offers in most hostels and hotels.
Samba School – On Saturdays, September until February the night in Lapa or the Churrascaria could be exchanged with a samba school party. Also organized through hotels and hostels. An unforgettable experience for eyes, ears and soul.
Hakan Almerfors is Swedish and has been living in Rio de Janeiro since 2003. He has been working with tourists ever since, in 2007 he created the Rio travel information site Gringo-Rio.com