Ten Top Attractions for Happy Holidays in Rio de Janeiro

With many major holidays falling during the height of Brazilian summer, visitors  to Rio will often 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 virtually no introduction - and the whole city takes practically a whole week off in February (or occasionally March, depending on the date of Easter) to take part in the biggest 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 Ipanema's Hippy Fair and Centro's Feira do Rio Antigo.

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

Feira do Rio Antigo
Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson


The historic center of Lapa is the setting for a lively street market, held on the first Saturday of each month (and every Saturday in the weeks before Christmas). Browse for everything from antiques and folk art to handmade fashions and...  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

Ipanema Hippie Fair
Photo courtesy of Janice Waltzer/Flickr


The name 'hippie fair' may conjure up images of flowing kaftans and incense sticks, but this colorful market, held in Ipanema each Sunday for some 60-plus years, is in fact a great place to pick up everything from local arts and crafts to...  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.