Few cities offer as many 'must see' attractions as Rio de Janeiro, and 24 hours simply isn't enough to see absolutely everything that this most colorful of destinations has to offer. If this is your first trip to the city, it's wise to forget any qualms about following the tourist trail and make a beeline for the most famous of Rio de Janeiro's many visitor attractions.
Don't be afraid of 'doing the tourist thing' during your flying visit to Rio — Photo courtesy of Frances Ridley
Hopefully the tropical sun will be shining as you take your whistle-stop day trip through Rio, as the beaches, the Christ Statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain are all at their best when visited on a clear day. Assuming that the weather has decided to play ball, make an early start and head for the Christ Statue before the serious crowds start to arrive. Although the most pleasant way to arrive at the statue is to take the funicular railway from the station at Cosme Velho, time-pressed travelers would be wise to take an organized bus trip with hotel or hostel pickup. The views as your bus ascends the mountain passing through thick urban jungle are stunning, and you'll stop at a few of the best viewpoints for photo opportunities.
The Christ Statue itself is officially one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, so set aside at least half an hour to take in the sheer size of the statue as well as the breathtaking views from the Cristo's lofty vantage point.
Ask your driver to drop you at Copacabana Beach rather than heading back to your hotel, and take a walk along the famous two-tone paved beachfront in the direction of Ipanema, admiring the stunning natural landscape (and, inevitably, the equally stunning locals that parade the sands in eye-wateringly small swimwear).
From Copacabana it is possible to walk directly to Ipanema, stopping at the less-famous beach of Arpoador for a cooling coconut water at a beachfront bar. Once you're refreshed, carry on towards Ipanema and spend a little time soaking up the sun and the beach scene at this famously chic strip of sand. If hunger strikes, stop at one of the many kiosks for a bite to eat.
Be sure to spend some time soaking up the sun on Ipanema beach — Photo courtesy of Frances Ridley
Once the sun starts to descend in the sky, grab a cab and head for the scenic neighborhood of Urca, home to the world-famous Sugar Loaf Mountain. Taking the cable car ride up in time to catch sunset over the city is an unforgettable experience, and a caipirinha cocktail at the mountaintop bar will help to calm that racing heart.
The sunset views from Sugar Loaf are breathtaking — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Once you've made the descent, head back to your hotel for a quick shower and change before heading out for food and drinks - forget formal dining, and opt for a bite to eat at the beachfront or in one of the bohemian bar-restaurants of Santa Teresa. Next, head down to experience the famously lively nightlife of Lapa. Whether you choose to dance the night away in a samba club or just sip a fruit cocktail from one of the abundant street vendors, you're guaranteed a memorable night out to round off your day in Rio.