Rio de Janeiro is home to so many 'must-see' attractions that first-time visitors to the city need to plan their time carefully if they want to check all the sightseeing boxes. As so many of Rio's major attractions are outdoors, it pays to make the most of sunny weather - save cultural centers, museums, churches and historical buildings for rainy days. Here's an attraction-packed, one-day fair weather itinerary.
For ease of access to Rio's beaches and other attractions, make your base in Copacabana or Ipanema - prices here are at a premium, so book early for the most affordable deals. Budget travelers can check into one of many hostels to be found here (Adventure Hostel in Ipanema has a great location and offers plenty of opportunity to swap travelers' tales with fellow guests), while those lucky enough to have a bountiful travel budget can experience Rio de Janeiro at its most fabulous by booking a room at Copacabana Palace or Fasano Rio. Families and groups of friends can also find it makes sound financial sense to book an apartment or studio - these self-catered options are usually much more budget-friendly than hotel accommodation.
Join the locals on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema — Photo courtesy of Sarah O'SullivanAfter a hearty Brazilian breakfast - think cakes, cold cuts, cheeses, breads, jellies, jams, fresh fruit, juice and fresh Brazilian coffee, it's time to hit the beach. Opinion differs as to whether Ipanema or Copacabana is the superior strip of sand, so visit both to make up your own mind.
It's a five-kilometer walk from one end to the other, so those at the Leme end (the furthest point from Ipanema) may want to take a metro down to Cantogalo, close to the point where Copacabana and Ipanema meet at Arpoador. Work on that tan by making like the locals and strolling along in your beachwear - hey, when in Rio...
The magnificent views (try and tear your eyes away from the famously teeny bikinis and concentrate on the landscape) and soft white sands make both Copacabana and Ipanema wonderful places for sunbathing and people-watching, but the water is usually too rough for swimming.
After toasting yourself for a couple of hours, stroll or take a cab down to Lagoa, Rio's vast city lake that is flanked by towering mountains. A seven-kilometer running/walking/cycling track runs around the lake, but as time is of the essence, you might be wise just to take a lunch break here and admire the views from one of the many bars and kiosks that surround the Lagoa.
Christ the Redeemer is best visited on a clear day — Photo courtesy of Lucy BrysonWith the sun still high in the sky, grab a taxi down to Cosme Velho, where you can take the little funicular railway that runs up Corcovado Mountain to the Christ Statue. You'll probably spend at least an hour snapping the views from the foot of the statue, and don't forget to pose, arms outstretched, in the obligatory 'redeemer' stance.
Don't forget to adopt the classic 'redeemer' pose for a picture — Photo courtesy of Lucy BrysonAfter taking the cog railway back down, grab a cab over to Urca where you can take the cable car ride up to the top of Sugar Loaf, the city's other legendary mountain peak. Time your ascent to coincide with sunset over the city - the views as the lights twinkle into life are incredible, and perfectly complement the daytime vistas you'll have taken in from the foot of the Christ statue.