Brazil is famous for its beach-centric lifestyle and carefree attitude, and the sun-soaked atmosphere of Rio de Janeiro confirms that a 24-hour stopover in the cidade maravilhosa is not enough to experience the Brazilian culture and traditions. However, you can visit Rio de Janeiro in one day and ‘have a good beach’ (‘Boa praia!’ commonly heard words everyday).
As soon as you have left your bags at the hotel, go to the Zona Sul, where you can choose to spend a few hours on one of Rio’s famous beaches: Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema. If you want to bath amongst Rio’s mauricinhos and patricinhas (the rich, bronzed and beautiful), then you should choose Leblon and Ipanema, posto (post) 9 in front of Rua Farme de Amoedo. If you prefer to sip your beach caipirinhas (Brazil’s national drink, made of cachaça, limes and sugar) in a quieter atmosphere, you should choose posto 11, which is for families. However, all the beaches in this area are have lifeguard posts, so you’re safe even if you’re not a good swimmer.
No matter how many things you want to do in Rio de Janeiro in one day, you cannot skip lunch once hunger strikes. Have a perfectly grilled meat at one of Brazil’s all-you-can-eat churascarias (steakhouses) in the area, such as the Esplanada Grill (Rua Barão da Torre 600, Ipanema), where you’ll spend a lot of money, but you’ll leave with a happy stomach. If you don’t have a big appetite, than you should try filet mignon, cheese and pineapple sandwiches at Cervantes, a Copacabana institution down Av. Atlântica. Alternatively, you can have a juice on the beach at Bibi Sucos, famous for its natural, refreshing drinks made of acai berry, honey, granola, bananas and guarana.
Now it’s time to leave the beaches behind and head towards Cosmo Velho, where you should take the train to the 710m-high peak known as Corcovado, to reach the Cristo Redentor, one of the most impressive monuments of the world. You’ll ascend through protected Tijuca National Forest and the trip is worth it as in the end you’ll see one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Finally, take a favela tour through the historic Santa Teresa, Rio’s hillside bohemian neighborhood, full of historic mansions, museums, shops and galleries. After all, you cannot leave Rio until you see all of his hidden faces, including the poor neighborhoods, where Brazilians are struggling every day for survival.