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Top 5 things to do in Rio de Janeiro

12 August 2016

Rio de Janeiro

Updated February 2017

We take an in depth look at Brazil's passionate heart and soul. Read on for the top five things to do in Rio.

Cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain

The city of Rio is by far one of the most breathtaking cities in the world, where vibrant beaches meet modern architecture mixed with verdant rainforests and soaring mountains. This incredible view can only really be seen from above and the Sugarloaf Cable Car is the ultimate way to experience this.

Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the world’s most famous natural landmarks and stands on top on this phenomenal city. The cable car is divided into two stages: the first goes from Praia Vermelha to Morro de Urca and the second from Morro da Ulca to the tip of Sugarloaf Mountain. Reaching an altitude of 528 metres, these cable cars travel at a fairly slow pace allowing you to catch every inspirational view on the way.

The most captivating sight you will ever experience will be the Rio beaches, Dedo de Deus (God’s Finer), Rio Niteroi Bridge and the bright city that shows off it's dynamic lifestyle even from above.

Go to a carnival

Everyone knows about Rio Carnival. The most famous carnival in the world truly celebrates what this country is all about – dancing, fun and parties!

Although the main carnival is held in February, if you are not lucky enough to go during this time rest assured there will be a carnival happening somewhere. In fact, Brazilians are known for having any excuse to throw a carnival party.

I would not believe anyone who goes to a carnival in Brazil and says they didn't want to join in. From the extreme costumes, happy music and sensational dancing, nowhere else in the world could put on a show like this.

Even if you stand on the sideline, the spirit of Carnival and the locals will entice you. Read more about the world's best festivals.


Brazilians are known for their love of dance. Everywhere you turn, even if it’s just along the street there will be someone moving to the sounds of music. Whether first thing in the morning or in a night club, there is never a bad time to put on your dancing shoes.

From the famous Brazilian Samba to the romantic Latin tango, these guys really know how to take control of any dance floor. You cannot stand and watch this happen around you, your trip to Rio will not be complete unless you test your dancing feet. The great thing is the locals are just as willing to teach you as they are to dance amongst themselves.

There is a venue for every taste, from the larger nightclubs to the smaller local hangouts, dancing will play a key part of every venue.

If you're a solo traveller and love to dance, take a look at our post about dancing options for single cruisers.

Participate in beach activities

Endless beaches line the city of Rio and act as a carefree backyard to the exotic lifestyle lived here. From the small secluded beach areas to the lively Copacabana beach, a trip to Rio will have you experience 'beach life' like never before.

From tiny bikinis, market stalls and barbecues serving local cuisine, there is no shortage of exciting things to see and do upon these lively shores. However the main thing seen here is the array of beach activities and competitions being played by both locals and tourists.

Beach volleyball, polo and surfing are among the activities you should try when visiting these shores. If you are unsure of how to play, the locals are more than happy to show you and make you feel included.

Fun fact: Brazillians do not take towels to the beach, the women will use their sarong to lay on and the men will use a chair. Using a towel will ensure everyone knows you are a tourist.

Watch the sunset

As if this city is not striking enough, as the sun sets it projects a luminous glow over every inch. The beaches will be covered in palm tree silhouettes and the mountains create giant shadows on the side of the radiant buildings. Accompanied by sounds of exotic music and cocktails being served, I would recommend you take in a sunset if nothing else.

Although experiencing it from the top of Sugarloaf mountain is an unforgettable experience, it is just as inspiring from the beach, your hotel balcony or cruise ship.

Most of us think of a sunset as the close of a day, however in Brazil it is often referred to as the beginning of the night. As the sun goes to bed, the bars and streets come alive with the most exciting nightlife in the world.

Visit Rio on a cruise with these cruise lines MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Hurtigruten, Cunard, Celebrity and more.

See cruises to Rio de Janeiro.

Find the perfect shore excursions for you on your South American cruise with our official local port partner Venture Ashore. Offering a variety of excursions, from tours to culinary experiences, there’s plenty of choice for those of all tastes and ages. Book your land tour experiences here and enjoy the highest quality tours, flexible cancellation and other tempting benefits!

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