I did a little backpack trip from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro which was my first introduction to Brazil. Rio was my final destination: the city of the samba, with beautiful landscapes and a huge beach culture. I stayed a few nights in Santa Teresa and several nights at Copacabana. I was with locals and got the know the city in a non-touristic way. Let me tell you my favorite things we did this week in Rio. Consider it as a fun little city guide if you got no clue on what to do in this massive city.
1. Get a Half-Liter Caipirinha and Drink it at the Famous Stairs
Get a half liter caipirinha at one of the many market stalls at the square of Lapa called Praça Cardeal Camara. Take your cocktail (served in a plastic cup) to the famous stairs in Rio: Escadaria Selarón. Find a place on the stairs where you feel comfortable and sit down. Don’t go too high as it appears to be more dangerous the further you get up.
My best memories of Rio: a Friday night on the stairs. The crowd is really contrasting. Rockers, rappers, transgenders, nerdy students, etc. Everyone is welcome and everyone interacts with each other.
People are making music, people are smoking different substances, people are dancing. They are Brazilian after all.
2. Dance samba in Lapa
If you got used to the Brazilian energy, the caipirinha hit you and you feel like a dance yourself, go clubbing in Lapa. Or take an Uber to Pedra do Sal where they have live samba Monday and Friday evenings. Another unique experience where you will get to understand the Brazilian culture and the fierce energy they have.
3. Have some drinks at local pubs in Santa Teresa
Take the historical tram which will bring you from downtown up the hill. A charming neighborhood with colorful streets and European-influenced architecture. Get into a local pub and have some drinks with the locals. Have an open attitude and try to get into conversations with them to experience Brazilian’s warm personalities.
4. Hike the Pão de Açúcar during sunset
Tourists take the cable car, you just hike the mountain of Pão de Açúcar. The smaller top is called Morro da Urca and only takes 30 minutes to hike, which starts from Praia Vermelha. Enjoy the breathtaking view over Botafogo during sunset. It’s so beautiful how the city evolved around Rio’s mountains.
5. Have a beer at Ipanema’s surfer’s beach
Get some local beers from the supermarket and have them at the most left part of Ipanema beach. While a different type of people come together on Escadaria Selarón, they differentiate at the Rio beaches. Where Ipenama starts on the left side, appears to be the beach for the surfers. You can enjoy them catching waves whilst sipping your beer from the beach.