Ten Top Attractions for Happy Holidays in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has more than its fair share of big ticket attractions - from the towering Christ Statue and cable car ride up Sugar Loaf mountain to the busy beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. And, with many major holidays falling during the height of Brazilian summer, many visitors will be able to spend Christmas and New Year's basking in tropical heat rather than shivering in the clutches of winter. Brazilians celebrate Christmas on the night of the 24th, and Cariocas (Rio natives) typically spend the 25th relaxing on the beach. Lagoa, the city's lake, is one of the biggest attractions during the holiday season, when an enormous floating tree, decked with millions of sparkling lights, twinkles away at its center.

Rio Carnival needs no introduction - and the whole city takes practically a whole week off to take part in the biggest pre-Lent party on the planet.  

New Year's is celebrated in grand form, with the biggest and best firework displays held on Copacabana beach, and the party hub of Lapa throngs with a mix of locals and visitors right through the party season. 

When given a few days off, many locals escape the city and head for the beach destinations to the east and west of the city - the Costa Verde, a stretch of beautiful green coast dotted with beaches and islands, is home to many of the state's best attractions and is well worth a few days' exploring.

Those looking to escape the holiday crowds can find shade and spectacular flora and fauna at the impressive Botanical Gardens, and there's some good last-minute Christmas shopping at downtown's Feira do Rio Antigo.

While Copacabana wins out as the liveliest and most picture-perfect city beach in Rio, Ipanema is easily the more chic of the two neighboring stretches of sand. Less flanked by high rise hotels than its neighbor, Ipanema is the ideal place to...  Read More

Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

This shady botanical garden is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in the fascinating flora and fauna of Rio as well as those just looking for a shady retreat from the sticky heat of the city streets. Colorful butterflies flutter...  Read More

Along with the beaches, the Christ statue and Sugar Loaf mountain, another postcard-perfect image of Rio are the mammoth white arches that stand in city's historic center. At night, revelers gather below the arches as a huge street party...  Read More

Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar)
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

One of the most famous mountain peaks in the world, Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar in Portuguese) scarcely needs an introduction. But while you may be familiar with the tourist board images of the cable car making its dizzying ascent up to the top...  Read More

Maracana Stadium
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

The mighty Maracana is arguably the world's most famous soccer stadium and, while it is no longer the largest in the world, its 78,000 capacity means it is still a giant among sports arenas. The stadium, whose official title is Estadio...  Read More

Costa Verde
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

Rio de Janeiro's city beaches are famous the world over, and with good reason. But if you´ve been partying hard during your Rio vacation and are feeling the need for a little rest and relaxation in more tranquil surrounds, the Costa Verde...  Read More

No visit to Rio would be complete without a trip to see 'the Big Guy', and the views from the feet of this most iconic of statues are truly breathtaking. One of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, the 'Christo Redentor' stands tall atop...  Read More

New Year's at Copacabana
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

There's no better place in Rio to ring in the New Year than Copacabana beach. Millions of happy revelers, magnificent fireworks displays, live bands and music and a sparkling of Rio magic make for a truly memorable night. Tradition...  Read More

Designed by famed modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, this enormous purpose-built stadium is where Rio's carnival magic happens. Located close to Centro, the Sambódromo, as it is known in Portuguese, stretches for 700 metres and has capacity...  Read More

Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson

Lagao Rodrigues de Freitas, or Lagoa as it is popularly known, is Rio's beautiful city lake and yet another postcard perfect scene in this city of so many natural wonders. The vast stretch of water is flanked by jungle-clad, cloud-swathed...  Read More


Meet Lucy Bryson

Lucy is a British freelance writer living in Rio de Janeiro since 2007. While there are some things she misses about her home country, the lure of year-round sunshine has proved too powerful to resist.