As detailed in an earlier post, I decided to head on down to Rio for Labor Day for a weekend of sun, fun, and caipirinhas! Over four days and three nights, I managed to see and do a good bit. There are several things that I’d like to do if I had more time, but all-in-all, four days is plenty of time to see most cities around the world. Without further adieu, here’s ten crazy awesome things that I did in Rio…
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
One of the eight wonders of the modern world, Cristo Redentor is a sight to behold. Perched almost 3,000 feet over the city on the Corcavado, Cristo Redentor is a must while you’re in Rio. Our group hired a private guide who took us in a bus up to the top of Corcovado. The statue was impressive, and the views of Rio are purely spectacular. This is one of the few places I’ve ever been where I got the chills taking in the views and just realizing where I was standing at that moment in time. It’s truly the iconic symbol of Brazil, and it was surely an amazing experience.
The sights and sounds of Ipanema Beach
Ipanema is without a doubt the most active beach in Rio. Centered around lifeguard post 9, Ipanema is the epicenter of scantily clad Brazilians of all shapes and sizes. Spending a few hours here soaking in the sun and some cheap Brazilian beer is a must. I ended up spending the better part of six hours on Ipanema with my group of about 12 friends. Many beers were had. Brazilian gifts were procured. Dental floss bikinis were seen. The weather was a perfect 80 degrees and sunny. It was pretty much paradise.
Have a caipirinha along Copacabana
The caipirinha is the iconic adult beverage in Brazil, and there’s nowhere better to have it than on one of the country’s most famous beaches. Our group had multiple caipirinhas during this trip, but none perhaps as memorable as late night along the sidewalk at Copacabana. It was an awesome time just people watching and enjoying this Brazilian treat.
Visit the Feira de São Cristóvão marketplace for an authentic lunch
After the trip to Sugarloaf, the group was led by our guide, Carlos to a large market in downtown Rio called Feira de São Cristóvão. Here, we at lunch at a fantastic spot called Estação Baião De Dois. We got what amounted to a mound of meat – and that was fine by everyone. Absolutely delicious. We appeared to be the only Westerners in the place, and that was a good thing – the food was amazing.
This was at the very top of my list! I love going to sporting events when in other countries. I always try to attend a futbol game when I’m in Europe or South America. Maracanã is the epitome of international soccer. In addition to being the de facto home of the Braziilian National Team, it was also home to the first FIFA World Cup Final. It will be the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final. And of course, it will also be the site for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped about getting to see a soccer game in this venue – arguably the most famous soccer venue in the world (no disrespect to Wembley and Camp Nou). We had amazing seats – about fifteen rows up from midfield for the game between Sao Paulo and hometown Botafogo (one of four teams that call Rio home). This marked my second soccer game in South America in six months (River Plate in Buenos Aires last March), so naturally, I was thrilled.
Gorge yourself at a Brazilian Churrascarria
One of the first things people think of when they think of Brazillian food is the Brazilian steakhouse, or churrascaria. Popularized by chains in the states such as Fogo de Chão and Texas de Brazil, these places are literally all you can eat steak… just delicious. We ate at one of the more popular places in Rio called Porçao in Ipanema. It was indeed delicious, albeit relatively expensive. In the future, I’d probably head to a more low key place where I would likely get the same quantity and quality of food for maybe half the price.
We took the tram up to Sugarloaf mountain – another popular landmark in Rio. From here, you can see another angle of the beaches, and downtown, as well as a very unique view of planes approaching the Santos-Dumont Airport – from above! The tram ride up to the mountain is fantastic featuring awesome views of the beaches and harbor.
Sample some cachaça at Academia de Cachaça
As the main liquor ingredient in the caipirinha, cachaça is a liquor that is foreign to most Americans. So naturally, like good tourists, we set out to sample all sorts of cachaça at Academia de Cachaça in Leblon. This place had dozens upon dozens of different flavors, types, and kinds of cachaça – it was pretty impressive. I admittedly did not partake in too much of it since I was glued to my phone awaiting updates on the season opener for my beloved Auburn Tigers. Needless to say, the rest of the group sampled multiple types of cachaça.
Sample the nightlife on a pub crawl
When I show up in a foreign city with no clue what to do as far as nightlife is concerned, I’ve found that a pub crawl is a great way to get introduced to some of the livelier neighborhoods in the city. Three of use decided to partake in the Pub Crawl Carioca. This was a good time with a mix of locals and tourists. We went to four places in Leblon, Ipanema, and Lagoa. While some pub crawls are a bust, this one was most certainly not!
Take in sunset on Copacabana on the JW Marriott rooftop with a drink in hand
My hotel for the weekend was the JW Marriott Rio de Janeiro. Its location in the middle of Copacabana is hard to beat. The hotel itself is great — I really had no complaints, as the location really just makes the place probably the premier place to stay in Rio. The room was more than adequate, and the club lounge was great. One of the coolest features of the hotel is its 18th floor rooftop pool, bar, and terrace. The views of Copacabana in the front, and Corcavado in the back are ridiculous. With a few beers and caipirinha’s in hand, our group enjoyed the first evening on Friday night as the sun went below the mountains in the West.
Though three nights and four days is plenty of time to see Rio, there are still several things that I would have loved to do if I had even more time in Rio. And that may happen in the near future, as I’m currently booked to return to Rio de Janeiro next June for the 2014 FIFA World Cup!