48 Hours in Brazil

Two Days in Rio

With lush rainforests, expansive beaches, and stunning mountains, Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Its exotic topography attracts millions of visitors a year.  However, the second largest city in Brazil is also a vibrant multicultural center, filled with monuments, galleries, shopping districts, and museums that should delight travelers from across the globe.  Check out all that Rio has to offer with two days’ worth of highlights from the “Marvelous City”!


Day 1

Santa Teresa

Start your day with a breakfast of pão de queijo (cheese rolls!), papaya, and coffee, then make your way to this bohemian district near the center of Rio.  As a haven for artists, musicians, writers, and activists, this neighborhood provides a great introduction to Rio’s history and culture.  It’s also home to the famous Escadaria Selarón stairs, with steps comprised of colorful tiles donated by tourists from around the world.  Browse through the galleries and shops for some great souvenirs!


Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden)

You’ll find toucans, hummingbirds, turtles, and tropical fish in this sprawling 96-acre park featuring over 8,000 plant species.  When you stroll through the bamboo groves, keep an eye out for monkeys!  Make sure you bring a charged camera and insect repellent to this slice of the Amazonian rainforest, which winds through Rio’s South Zone neighborhood.  This picturesque landscape includes a lake filled with giant Amazonian water lilies, a Japanese tea garden, and a greenhouse containing over 600 varieties of orchids.


Sugarloaf Mountain

Finish your day of Rio sights in style, with a sunset picnic atop Sugarloaf Mountain!  Named for its resemblance to the traditional shape of refined loaf sugar, this majestic peak provides sweeping views of Rio’s harbor.  One insider tip: buy your cable car ticket in advance and arrive at the peak early, as the breathtaking twilight views of Rio attract plenty of locals and tourists in the evening.


Day 2

Leblon Beach

You can’t leave Brazil without visiting the beach, and Rio’s the place to do it.  Beach culture is a huge part of life in Rio, and there’s so many excellent seascapes to choose from.  Copacabana and Ipanema are quite popular, with a half hour’s walk between them.  Leblon Beach is a continuation of Ipanema Beach, and less crowded.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hire a bike and ride down to the promenade.  We suggest a morning swim and a game of volleyball to whet your appetite for a post-beach açaí bowl, as the Amazonian berry and Western superfood is extremely popular in Brazil!


Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil

Located in a restored art deco building, this magnificent cultural center (known locally as the CCBB) features several galleries, two theatres, a cinema, and a library.  Entrance is free, as are many of the exhibitions.  A daily schedule at the CCBB includes theater performances, cinema showings, painting retrospectives, seminars, and historical displays.  There’s always something to do here, and it’s a wonderful place to take a break from the bustle of the city.  Research which exhibitions you’d like to visit before you go.


Christ the Redeemer

At the summit of Corvocado Mountain, you’ll witness the grandeur of this ninety-eight foot monument to Jesus Christ that overlooks the Tijuca National Park, as well as all of Rio.  The religious significance of this statue is amplified through its towering height, as well as outstretched arms that seem to embrace the entire world in a gesture of peace.  In the eighty-seven years since its completion, Christ the Redeemer has become a cultural icon of Brazil and was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  Its impact is truly awe-inspiring, but you’ll need to experience it in person to fully appreciate its majesty.  You couldn’t pick a better way to conclude a day in Rio!


This list should provide world travelers with great starting points to fully embrace Rio de Janeiro’s stunning landscapes and cultural heritage.  Have a blast, and take a ton of pictures!

About the author:

Dana Silverman credits her passion for travel to Girl Scouts, which provided her with amazing opportunities to attend summer camps throughout the United States during her childhood. She’s lived in Australia and New Zealand, and she’s planning a trip to Japan around her appreciation for the country’s cuisine and temples.