Visiting the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and looking for experiences to enjoy as a local? Have been to all those tourist attractions and now want something different or simply prefer exploring a foreign place as if you lived there? I’ve got you covered!
Here are my top 7 things to do in Rio de Janeiro that Cariocas* love doing.
*people born in Rio are locally called Cariocas.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon – Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
My number one tip is to run or walk on the beautiful Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. It is located on the South side (Zona Sul) area and all the locals go for a run or jog there both on weekday mornings or on the weekends. Although you are more likely to see “tourists” on weekends, and I say it in quotation marks because what I really mean is that on weekends you will find Cariocas from other neighborhoods. Whereas on weekdays you’ll see Cariocas who actually live around the Lagoa region. People go there for an outdoor workout routine, to walk their dogs and for the views.
Colombo Café – Confeitaria Colombo
The charming coffee shop Confeitaria Colombo is a great choice to chill on an afternoon for a cup of tea or coffee. What makes this place special is that it is a century-old coffee shop.
They have stores in two locations: one in downtown Rio and another in the Copacabana area. Both locations have great architectural details and are so charming. It’s like going back in time, into the late 1800’s. The one in Copacabana is an excellent option if you crave ocean views and some more chill vibes. Also better to visit on weekdays.
Local bars in Botafogo – Barzinhos em Botafogo
This is one of my personal favorites spots in town. Whenever I’m in Rio I try to spend the Friday night exploring the local bars (or Barzinhos as Cariocas call it) in the neighborhood of Botafogo. To be more precise, on Nelson Mandela Street. The street is not very long. Yet you can find Brazilian food, burger places, craft beer bars, Arab cuisine. Which makes me think of bar hopping next time I visit.
When to go: Thursday nights can be a good choice, but the bars might close a bit earlier. That’s why I personally prefer going on Fridays and Saturdays.
This is the place to enjoy the Guanabara Bay views from the Urca area and watch planes taking off. Urca is a very charming neighboorhood close to Botafogo. So technically you could walk from Botafogo to Urca, I’ve done this a couple times too, it’s about a 40-minute walk to get there, and you have the Botafogo bay views, which is just gorgeous. But I don’t think it’s the safest option, especially if you plan on bringing your phone or photo gear along. Get a cab or an Uber, because the area lacks in parking. Once you get in Urca, Bar Urca is bay front. So grab a bottled local beer, order a Pastel (Brazilian empanada. A savory pie) and sit outside. Late afternoons are excellent for phenomenal sunset views.
Cobal do Humaitá
Fresh market and local bars, all in one place. Is there even a better combo in life than this? A market in the day, bars with great food, beers and drinks at night. It is located right off the Botafogo area, in a neighborhood called Humaitá. Perfect for meeting friends on Saturday nights, it is definitely one of my favorite places in Rio. Oh, and you get unbelievable views of Christ the Redeemer from there, too! How not to love Cobal do Humaitá?
The Reserva Beach – Praia da Reserva
Cariocas seeking a more chill and peaceful environment, tend to head to Reserva Beach in the sunny days. The beach is located between the neighborhoods of Barra and Recreio. For a better experience, avoid the weekends, when the beach can get a bit crazy and parking spots get harder to find.
My best last tip on things to do in Rio like a local is…
SPEND THE NEW YEAR’S EVE ON THE BEACH, wearing white clothes and watching the fireworks at midnight!
In Brazil, it is such a tradition to do this for NYE and people love it. They wear white as a symbol of peace.
It is a great local experience to enjoy with family and friends.
PRO TIP: avoid the Copacabana beach area. It gets way too crowded and it is a hassle to find a cab willing to drive you to/from there since many streets around this area get closed for cars….So the traffic around is nuts that time of year.
BONUS PRO TIP: Find a private beach party in Barra, near the Pepê Beach (Praia do Pepê), to attend to. The parties are thrown by the beach kiosks and they sell the tickets upfront. You should find more info either on Facebook or in person.
PS: I tried purchasing the ticket on the spot, and unfortunately, it was sold out because the NYE party was full. So make sure you get the tickets before making the travel arrangements, otherwise, you’ll have to find another party to go or just watch it from the outside – which my husband and I did and it was fun until it started to rain, LOL.
So that’s it for my top tips on what to do in Rio like a local. Which of those places would you like to go to? And if you have been to Rio already, which of these places you liked better?
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