Wandering the Neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, and it’s different neighborhoods, have it all; from beaches and rain forests to skyscrapers and historic buildings; making it both beautiful and historic. It’s hilly cobblestone streets reveal secrets at every turn that will please even the pickiest of travelers and tourists.

Copacabana: The most well-known neighborhood other than maybe Ipanema, Copacabana is a popular neighborhood for tourists and locals alike. With beautiful beaches and streets lined with restaurants, stores, and hotels it’s hard to find anything to dislike.

  • Restaurants: Boulangerie Av. Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, 920, Belmonte Bar Rua Domingos Ferreira, 242.
  • What to do: Lounge on the beach, rent a bike to ride from the end of Copacabana all the way to Ipanema.
  • How to get there: Metro (closest to the beach and Copacabana Palace is Cardeal Arcoverde), Bus, or Taxi.

 Ipanema: Serving as the setting in the song “The Girl from Ipanema/A Garota de Ipanema”, you can’t think of Rio de Janeiro without thinking of Ipanema. Like it’s equally famous neighbor, Copacabana, Ipanema is known for its beaches, restaurants, hotels, and laid back vibe. If you happen to be around on a Sunday, Ipanema is also home to the city’s biggest and most popular “hippie fair” where you can buy some cool and unique handmade souvenirs.
  • Restaurants: Zaza Bistro Tropical Rua Joana Angelica, 40.
  • What to do: Check out the hippy fair on Sunday and then lounge on the beach for the rest of the week. Nearby is Arpoador which is a nice spot for pictures and watching surfers catch the waves crashing in.
  • Shopping: The Sunday hippy fair.
  • How to get there: Metro (General Osório), Bus, or Taxi.

 Centro Historico: Often overlooked by tourists, the Centro Historico has a lot to offer anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro. With beautiful architecture and a deep history stemming back centuries, you find yourself feeling as though you are no longer in the city known solely for its beaches.
  • Restaurants: Chopperia and Restaurante Super Bar Praça Floriano, 55.
  • What to do: Take a tour of the national library and then check out the Municipal Theatre. Afterward walk over to nearby Lapa to see the Arcos da Lapa and the famous Selaron Stairs.
  • How to get there: Metro (Cinelandia, Gloria), Bus, or Taxi

Santa Teresa: The hilltop, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa is a great place to spend an afternoon strolling around, shopping, and drinking coffee. With cute cafes, fun bars, and great cuisine this is an “off the beaten path” neighborhood that you shouldn’t miss.

  • Restaurants: Aprazível Rua Aprazivel, 62.
  • What to do: Walk the streets, people watch, enjoy a coffee with the locals in a small cafe. This neighborhood is all about relaxing and taking in Rio from above.
  • How to get there: Bus or Taxi. In recent years the Bondinho has been shut down which makes it much harder to get to Santa Teresa but there is talk of them reinstating it sometime before the Olympics.

Lapa: Famous for it’s nightlife, the small neighborhood of Lapa is the place to be in the late evening. During the day there isn’t much going on but if you are “in the neighborhood” check at the Arcos da Lapa that sit on Lapa’s border with the Centro area.

  • Restaurants: Mitsuba Rua Sao Francisco Xavier, 170.
  • What to do: If you are there during the day check out the Arcos da Lapa and the Escardaria Selaron (technically in Santa Teresa). At night, head to a bar or a club to experience Rio’s nightlife.
  • How to get there: Metro (Cinelandia, Gloria), Taxi, or Bus.

Flamengo: With 296 acres of park land that features different museums, Flamengo is a great place to enjoy the fresh air away from the beach. Mostly a residential neighborhood, this neighborhood has a very laid back and sophisticated feel that carries into its restaurants and bars.

  • What to do: Stroll through the park or rent a bike to get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air. However, while enjoying the nature don’t swim in the water as it has come under fire many times for the high amounts of pollution.
  • How to get there: Bus, Metro, or Taxi.

Botafogo: Botafogo is as well known for it’s soccer team as it is for it’s museums, food fairs at Cobal Public Market, and malls. Two of the biggest malls in Rio are located in this neighborhood for anyone looking for something to do on a rainy, cold afternoon.

  • Restaurants: There are a large variety restaurants at the Rio Sul mall that serve good food and have great service (and they’re all open late).
  • What to do: Check out the Villa-Lobos Museum (and the Native Brazilian Museum if it was not torn down for the World Cup), and then after head to the mall for a bite to eat and some window shopping.
  • Shopping: Rio Sul and Botafogo Praia shopping are two of the biggest malls in the entire city. With a large variety of stores and restaurants, it is easy to occupy yourself while staying inside.
  • How to get there: Bus, Metro or Taxi.

Leblon: Considered one of the richest neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, Leblon is well known for the surfing on it’s beach, people watching, and strolling around while stopping in for coffee at one of the cafes or shopping at one of the many boutiques.

  • Restaurants: Olympe Rua Custodio Serrao, 62.
  • What to do: Stroll through the neighborhood to admire the architecture and do some people watching. When you grow tired, just stop at any of the numerous cafes for some espresso and chocolate.
  • Shopping: Shopping Leblon is supposedly one of the best malls in the city with many high end, luxury brands featured in the store windows.
  • How to get there: Bus or Taxi.

Tijuca: Bordering the Tijuca National Park, this neighborhood is all about Brazil’s famous natural areas. A large rain forest at the edge of the city, Tijuca National Park is the place to go for hiking, mountain biking, and basically anything outdoors-y. At 3,352 feet up, there is the Pico da Tijuca offering some of the best views of the city on clear, sunny days.

  • What to do: Hike or take a jeep tour through the large rain forest to see amazing view of Rio from above.
  • How to get there: Taxi or Bus.

Any favorite spots in Rio de Janeiro that we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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