• 12 November 2019

24 hours in Rio de Janeiro may not sound like much time but planned well, a short visit to the city offers a well-balanced day. Full of excitement, splendid views, breather stops, and plate loads of delicious food. 

Here’s a list of things to keep you busy on your day in Rio de Janeiro.

10 Things to do in 24 hours in Rio

If you move at a steady pace, you could fit all of these items into your 24-hour Rio visit. But if you really want to feel the city, we suggest you pick your favourites and discover them fully. 

1. Breakfast on the beach

With many gorgeous beaches in South America, Rio has a few to enjoy in the first few hours of your day. The earlier you get there, the less likely you are to have to fight for space.

Choose between some of the most spectacular beaches in the city. From the more popular beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema to the quieter options such as Barra da Tijuca and Praia Vermelha. 

Early mornings in Ipanema beach
Early mornings in Ipanema beach
2. Visit the future at The Museum of Tomorrow

Travel into the future as you step inside the Museum of Tomorrow’s doors. This science museum is an enthralling attraction in Rio, offering a unique and memorable experience. The museum was built in 2015 and designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neo-futuristic architect. 

It’s located near the Pier Maua waterfront and is a magnificent sight from afar, becoming even more enchanting as you get closer. Pay a visit to view the artistic, futuristic displays, and see what things could look like in the very near future. 

The Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro
The Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro
3. Marvel at the Sao Bento Monastery

Found in the city centre, this 16th-century church is full of fantastic architecture, historic artworks, and unimaginable beauty. This monastery is regarded as one of the most important pieces of Brazilian architecture, and should not be missed on a visit to Rio de Janeiro. 

Choose to take a walking tour of the city which includes a stop here, or spend a couple of hours exploring the building on your own. If your Rio travels fall on a Sunday, be sure to check out the Gregorian chant traditional Mass at 10 am. This will take your breath away. 

Sao Bento Monastery (Abbey of our Lady of Montserrat)
Sao Bento Monastery (Abbey of our Lady of Montserrat)
4. Artistic admiration of the Kobra Mural

Head down to the Etnias Wall in Gamboa to appreciate the largest street art mural – in the world. Eduardo Kobra left his legacy along the walls of Rio in celebration of the Olympics in 2016. 

Today, the brightly coloured images on the walls that run along the Olympic boulevard add vibrancy into any day. This is another great attraction to view on a guided walking tour, but can also be seen on a self-guided tour. Don’t forget your camera!

Kobra mural in Olympic Boulevard
Kobra mural in Olympic Boulevard
5. Breathe in nature at the Botanical Gardens

While taking in the city’s vibrant energy is an important part of a Rio de Janeiro day tour, taking a break is also important. The Botanical Gardens offers some tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. 

Stroll through the gardens, enjoy the many fascinating plant species, and take advantage of one of the more serene Rio de Janeiro vacation spots. 

Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
6. People watch from the head of the Christ the Redeemer Statue

One of the most iconic landmarks in Rio de Janeiro, and perhaps even Brazil, the Christ the Redeemer Statue should be on every itinerary. 

Not only is the statue itself a sight to behold, but from the base of it, you get a stunning view of Rio from above. The statue is quite a popular tourist magnet, so visit with a guide to avoid long queues and long wait-times. 

Related: See why Rio de Janeiro is a must-see city in South America.

Tourists at the Christ the Redeemer statue
Tourists at the Christ the Redeemer statue
7. Explore downtown Rio

For those unsure of what to do in Rio de Janeiro, a trip downtown is a great option. Head down to the Lapa neighbourhood, where you’ll find a bohemian atmosphere. Lapa is full of historic monuments and landmarks, as well as some of Rio’s top nightlife spots. 

Then, continue on to the Lapa steps. The steps are decorated with thousands of colourful tiles and offer some amazing photo opportunities. The 2000+ tiles come from over 60 countries around the world and were laid by Escadaria Selarón, a Chilean artist. 

These steps then lead you to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood, where you’ll find an artistic community vibe. Enjoy a walk through the architecture, stop at street performances, and take in the views from the elevated neighbourhood.  

Escadaria Selaron steps in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selaron steps in Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
8. Find the sweetest views on Sugarloaf Mountain

If there’s one thing you’ll regret not seeing on a trip to Rio de Janeiro, it’s Sugarloaf Mountain. This peak, at 396m above sea level, offers gorgeous views from its summit. 

We suggest taking the cable car up in the late afternoon, as the sunset is spectacular from here. Early morning is also a magnificent time to go, but if you must fit it in, any time of the day is perfect. If you’re feeling energetic, hike up the first half of the mountain and take a cable car up to the peak. 

From the top, you’ll be treated to views of the city below. From the bustling streets to the coastline, and everything in between. 

Related: Read more on why Brazil is one of South America’s safest countries.

Sugarloaf Mountain views with the cable car
Sugarloaf Mountain views with the cable car
9. Satisfy your hunger with traditional Brazilian food

From Brazilian barbeque to fine dining, Rio offers delectable food to fill you up on your day trip. There are many street food vendors found throughout the city, they sell everything from bite-sized kibe balls, to pastels and tapiocas.

If you’re looking for more of a luxury experience, try one of the finer restaurants on offer. We suggest popping into Confeitaria Colombo for at least one meal. 

Local Brazilian food
Local Brazilian food
10. Party the night away in Rio Scenarium

Spend your last few hours in Rio de Janeiro at night the right way. Rio Scenarium is a nightclub spanning three floors. Find private rooms and corners, memorabilia, and entertainment to take you through the night. 

While there, check out a Samba dancing performance, and perhaps even try it out yourself on the dancefloor. 

Rua do Lavradio with the Rio Scenarium building in Rio
Rua do Lavradio with the Rio Scenarium building in Rio

Rio de Janeiro day trips promise to leave you wanting more. Whether you’re staying for the full day, or simply waiting for your Brazil tour to commence, this list of things to do in Rio should keep you busy. 

If you’d like to experience Rio de Janeiro, as well as the rest of Brazil and South America, have a look at our group tours and join us in our explorations.

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