Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city which exudes colors, music and life. It’s also known for its wonderful Carnival which attracts a lot of travelers.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Saudades De Rio (mixtape)
If you plan to go to Rio for the Carnival—starting on the 18th of February this year— or for one of the multiple others reasons (samba, girls in bikini, feijoada, street art…), I have prepared a 7 days program to take you around the city.
But don’t hesitate to let me on the roadside if you see something more exciting or interesting! As we say in our manifesto: « In preparing for a trip, we try to leave the itinerary as open as possible. This way anything can happen and the people we meet have a better chance to show us their world… »
Ready? Then follow me for a exciting week long adventure in the streets of Rio and its surroundings.
Click on the pictures below to go directly to the days that interest you or read everything:
Avenida Marques de Sapucaí
Metro: Praça Onze or Central
Saara street market
Praça Pedro do sol
Rua Argemiro Bulcão, 38
MONDAY, THE « CENTRO »
It’s hot. There are lots of old Volkswagen vans and cars on the roads, people selling tapioca crepes, churros and fruits in the streets. Welcome to Rio! Let’s start with a walk or a bicycle ride around the city. There are enough exotic things in the streets to take an eyeful.
After having eaten some salgados (small salt filled doughnuts) in the small and numerous shops of Rio, I suggest that we head to the Centro and the Sambódromo, an impressive purpose-built venue where samba schools parade competitively during the Rio Carnival. We can just have a look but if we plan to go again for the Carnival, I have a tip! For a good seat, the tickets are very expensive, about 800 reais (350€/460$). But a few days before the show, some men will sell cheaper tickets around the Sambadrome. If we bargain a bit and confirm they are not fake tickets, we could get the best seats for only 80 reais!
Since we got our tickets for the Carnival at the Sambadrome, we now need to prepare for the street Carnival! The tradition is to wear a different costume every day... Direction the Saara street market, in the old Jewish and Arabic shop district of Rio. It offers the biggest and most diverse selection of clothing, toys, gifts, hair and nails accessories, make up, carnival costumes and anything else you can imagine.
It’s time for a drink on the Praça Pedro do sol. Birthplace of the samba and the chorro, it's a historic and religious square of Rio. Every Monday, Brazilians get together to drink a cerveja bem gelada (cold beer), listening to a live band that plays samba, in a friendly atmosphere. Some women are cooking spicy meals from Bahia, yummy! And it’s a student and artist neighborhood, a good place to meet interesting local people!
Rua Almirante Gonçalves, 50
TUESDAY, COPACABANA & IPANEMA
Cantagalo is a beautiful and safe favela, between Ipanema and Copacabana. A lot of students live there, it's cheap and very pleasant. We can walk in the streets and visit the friends we met yesterday maybe!
It’s the perfect time to test the traditional manicure in a carioca nail salon, watching telenovelas (romantic and mushy Brazilian TV shows). All the Brazilian women are gossiping in Portuguese about the romantic adventures of their local heroes, and it's very pleasant to be there. If you're a boy, you can wait for me on the beach!
The bus leaves us at the Sugarloaf, an emblematic place of Rio. The view is wonderful, but the beach calling is too strong, let’s go!
I want to expose my new sexy nails so we should head to Ipanema beach. We can buy pareos for 20 reais each, after haggling. And then, relaxation, agua de coco in fresh coconuts, swimming and sunbathing!
The sunset is so wonderful that everyone is applauding.
If there is one place we can’t miss, it’s the Bip Bip: a tiny bar in a small street of Copacabana, famous for its outstanding musical program. Tuesday and Sunday nights are the best evenings to catch some great samba or pagode (a more mellow kind of samba). The bar is run by Alfredo, an old man with a white beard. If we speak too loud, he will say "Shh! Musica!" and ask us to snap our fingers instead of applauding the musicians, to keep the neighbors happy. He may seem a bit surly, but he's a very nice guy, a true music lover who wants us to feel as at home. If we want to get drinks, we can directly take a beer in the fridge, tell him our names and simply pay when we leave the bar.
Bip Bip at Copacabana
Key places: Bip Bip
Rodoviária Novo Rio
Avenida Francisco Bicalho, 1 - Santo Cristo
Ticket to Mangaratiba (with Costa Verde) : 22 reais (10€/13$)
Length of the ride : 2 hours
Ticket to Abraão : 14 reais (6,20€/8,15$)
and 6,35 reais from Friday to Sunday (2,75€/3,65$)
Length of the crossing : 1 hour and a half
Medium price for a night : 15 reais (6,65€/8,75$)
To the « cachoeira » (waterfall) and 3 beaches : 30 reais (13,30€/17,50$)
WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, ILHA GRANDE
Today, we are going to Ilha Grande! It’s a real heaven on earth located off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state which will require first that we take a bus at the Rodoviária Novo Rio bus station to Mangaratiba. After a two hours ride, we’ll need take a boat to go to Abraão, the largest (but very small) village of Ilha Grande.
"Olala...", we are now in this heavenly island. Tropical beaches, luxuriant vegetation, no cars, waterfalls, stray dogs, howler monkeys... So many things to see and feel! We have to find a pousada (inn) or a camping (cheaper) which is never difficult. Then, we should walk for 2 hours along the coast to join one of the most beautiful beaches of the island: Lopes Mendes. But there are beaches everywhere, so we can go where we want! And then it’s only pleasure, relaxation and adventure... Careful, we have to come back to Abraão before the sunset, because there is no electricity—meaning no lights—so it can be quite dangerous.
There are several small bars to discover and spend a good night! But avoid the nightclub, full of tourists and oafish men. After some caipirinhas and nice encounters, what do you think about a midnight swim?
For breakfast: a suco de abacaxi com hortelã (delicious pineapple juice with mint), fruits and Negresco (Brasilian Oreo).
We can get on a small boat to discover beautiful remote beaches and waterfalls. Don't be scared by the long walks under the sun! And let's become friends with the "captain" of the boat, he might take us to wonderful hidden places.
Time to get back to Rio!
MAM, Museu de Arte Moderna
Av Infante Dom Henrique, 85 - Parque do Flamengo
Metro Cinelândia or Glória
Rua Conde de Lages, 19 - Lapa
Happy hour : free entrance from 18:00 to 20:00
Live concert : around 15 reais from 21:00 to 00:00
Clube dos Democráticos
Rua do Riachuelo, 91 – Lapa
Metro Cinelândia or Glória
Ticket : 10 reais (4,40€/5,80$)
FRIDAY, SANTA TERESA & LAPA
Let's start with some culture at the MAM, Museu de Arte Moderna, a good way to discover Brazilian artists and the Glória marina.
The most impressive in Rio are the artists who express their art in the colorful streets of the city. We can admire their work everywhere, but Santa Teresa is known to be the artistic hotspot of the city, home to several artists, studios and galleries. It’s located on top of the Santa Teresa hill that overhangs the area of Lapa.
After having walked from Glória to Lapa, we follow the Escadaria Selarón, the famous mosaic stairs that go from the bottom of the Arcos da Lapa (aqueduct) to Santa Teresa. Keep your eyes wide open, art is everywhere and the view of the city from the top of the hill is amazing!
After this nice afternoon, and a drink in one of the several bars or restaurants, we take the famous bonde to go back to Lapa. The bonde is the last trolley of Rio, a single yellow wagon, that runs between Santa Teresa and the center of the city, going through the aqueduct (what a beautiful view from there!). And the ticket is only 0,60 reais, so no excuse!
Lapa is the place where we’ll party tonight. It’s a popular district where music and parties are everywhere. The atmosphere is crazy and wild on Friday and Saturday nights, especially under the aqueduct and in the streets around. But it’s a little early so we better walk 5 minutes to move away from the growing excitation, direction the TribOz, the first venue in Lapa dedicated to jazz and bossa-nova. The calm before the storm…
Da Do at TribOz
Tonight is the night… back to the craziness of Lapa! We have a lot of choice for bars and clubs, all in historical buildings. But first, we should drink some cocktails (and eat local food) sold under the aqueduct. I know where to find the cheapest caipirinhas: under the Barraca das Irmãs hut, two caipirinhas for 5 reais (2,20€/2,90$)!
We walk a little bit and start hear some baile funk around us: the music come from the clubs, but also from the sound systems put on the cars, in the carwash stations, or directly on the ground. People are excited around us, and we enjoy the spontaneous street parties.
Then we are off the Clube dos Democráticos, an old art-deco ballroom where Brazilians dance all night long drinking cheap beers and caipirinhas. Here, live concerts take place and the Cariocas transform the classy dance hall into a sensual and sweaty pit, inviting us to dance forró and samba. There is a friendly atmosphere, and we don’t have to be scared to dance with strangers. They have a real passion for samba and forró that they want to share with curious people like us.
Rio Carnival 2012
Sambadrome :18th, 19th, 20th & 25th of February
Blocos : from 17th (evening) to 15th (afternoon) of February
Find costumes, accessories and make-up
Saara street market (cf. Monday)
Buy tickets for Sambadrome
We already have our costumes for the street Carnival (don't forget: one costume per day) and our tickets for the Sambadrome. Fortunately, everything has been prepared on Monday because the day will be busy!
08:00 – 04:00
Today no detailed program. First: make-up, accessories and costumes. Preparation is very important, we won't live so many Rio Carnivals in our life.
Ready? Let’s go! There are people in fancy dress in the streets, the shops, the buses, the subway... And a festive atmosphere floating around us.
Our best moments will be lived in the street parties, with Carnival Samba bands called « blocos ». They are more than 400 blocos approved by the city, parading in the streets. Some of them have special themes (Beatles, girls in boys and boys in girls, etc) and they organize free live concerts each day of the Carnival, at different hours and in different places. We can find some information in booklets and on the web, but it’s usually better to discover the best ones by word of mouth.
I don’t really like the blocos at Ipanema, Copacabana or Leblon… Maybe you’ll enjoy them, but it’s not my cup of tea. This part of Rio is full of tourists and daddy’s boys and girls, and the ambiance isn’t very crazy (I think). The blocos are parading, we walk a lot, following them and listening to their music but we probably won't really meet any nice strangers.
I prefer the blocos that played on small squares in a friendlier atmosphere, where we can dance, sing, drink and speak with the people around us. I advise you the blocos at Cinelândia, Santa Teresa, Botafogo, Flamengo… Even if I don’t know all of them! The best is always to ask to Cariocas, they will tell you where are the good ones.
If you want, we can go to the Sambadrome, to see the samba parade. It starts at 8pm but we have to leave the street parties around 6 because of the traffic jam. The parade will last all night long but it’s more of a big and spectacular show than a real festive moment. There’s a lot of tourists and rich people in the audience (who can afford the tickets) so the ambiance isn’t so much fun and nobody is wearing fancy costumes. I think it would be more exciting if we had family or friends in the parading samba schools. But for me the most important is to not miss the street parties!
Corcovado train (to go to the Christ the Redeemer)
Rua Cosme Velho, 513 - Cosme Velho
Metro Largo do Machado
Ticket : 43 reais (18,90€/25$)
Rua Jardim Botanico, 1008
Ticket : 5 reais (2,20€/2,90$)
Praca Santos Dumont, 116 - Gávea
SUNDAY,TIJUCA FOREST & BAIXO GAVEA
We can’t be in Rio without paying a visit to the Christ the Redeemer, the icon of the city located on the Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest. We need to get tickets, take a little red train and go to this Brazilian symbol. The view of the city is wonderful, but there are so many tourists posing in the same way-open arms, as the Christ-in front of the statue that we can’t really appreciate the moment. Maybe only seeing it from below would have been more impressive!
What do you think about a hike? Yes we can hike in Rio! We are in the Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban forest, home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife and where you can find many cachoeiras (waterfalls). We’re still in the city and yet surrounded by the jungle… An advice: don’t forget your mosquito repellent!
We can walk down to the Jardim Botânico (botanical garden) to observe thousands of flower species (including carnivorous plants), but also many birds and howler monkeys. It’s a quiet and nice place to walk a little bit, discover Brazilian flora and maybe read a book under a kiosk.
It’s our last day already, so sad! We need to enjoy our last cervejas geladas in the city, and the best place for that is the Baixo Gávea neighborhood. It’s full of locals on Thursday and Sunday nights, especially young people. Everybody is at a table outside a bar, or in the street, drinking beers, talking with friends or strangers... We meet a lot of people we met the preivous days. Rio is not that big! We don't want to leave and will probably stay late in the night. Since we are not very far from Ipanema, we can finish our trip by a walk on the sand and a midnight swim with our new Carioca friends.
Bye bye Rio, we already miss you!