Hip and happening Rio offers something for everyone, from adrenaline-pumping action to quieter cultural pursuits.
Ride a motorbike the Vidigal favela peak
Once a dangerous and run-down area, the Vidigal favela has sprouted into a hip destination, thanks to its amazing views of the beaches and sparkly night-time vistas. Vidigal is so chic that locals are getting priced out of their own homes, so any meals or crafts you buy are an investment in preserving a community forged on hard work and hope. Best way to travel up the hill is to hold your heart in your hands and sit on the back of a motorcycle taxi as it zips along the corkscrew ride to the top. For less than $5, you’ll get a ride worthy of an amusement park and magical views of Rio at sunset and beyond.
Tip: This is like a roller-coaster, so strap down cameras and remove hat/sunglasses.
Ferry across the bay to Oscar Niemeyer’s Contemporary Art Museum
Architect Oscar Niemeyer has stunning buildings around the world, including the United Nations HQ in New York and much of Brasília, the nation’s capital. But few of his massive concrete structures offer more imagination than the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (MAC), across the bay from Rio. The trip by ferry docks in Niterói and offers a glimpse of the thriving waterfront (being ugraded for the Olympics) and the sheer expanse of Guanabara Bay. The museum itself is nothing special – the attraction is the building itself, which features other-wordly spirals and light and is photogenic from all angles. Like the Statue of Liberty, you don’t have to climb around inside to appreciate the outer beauty of this iconic landmark.
Tip: Once you arrive in Niterói, take a cab to the MAC.
Explore Santa Teresa art district and dine at Aprazível
The Santa Teresa neighbourhood is a showcase for contemporary Brazilian artists. As the arts scene ramps up, it’s getting easier to explore galleries and visit studios. Though some of the streets are steep, the varied architecture is stunning and the world-famous Aprazível restaurant is the reward for your efforts. The treehouse-like restaurant is ideal for a glass of Champagne at sunset or a full evening meal. Whether or not you explore the neighbourhood, this high-end restaurant is a destination unto itself.
Tip: Make a reservation ASAP.
Visit the Rio Art Museum and grab a meal at a classic Brazilian bar
A visit to MAR is not on most tourists’ radar but it is a suberb local museum with excellent curation and is situated in the Gamboa area, a part of Rio that is getting a huge overhaul, thanks in part to the upcoming Olympic Games. With spacious terraces and views of the bay, it is possible to see the billion-dollar projects that seek to transform Rio’s decrepit waterfront into the Puerto Maravilla (Marvellous Port).
Tip: Eat at Trapiche Gamboa, a hip old-school bar.
Bike the beaches
Hit the bike path at any time of the day for a front-row view of the street circus that is Rio. From Leblon in the south to Copacabana a few miles away, the bike path is populated by joggers, rollerbladers, longboarders and cyclists with surfboards strapped to the side like saddlebags. Bike rental is easy and cheap. Just plan to stop along the way as you graze the different scenes – rent a lock as well, so you can pop off for a swim and then continue riding. See easybikerio.com.br or bikeinriotours.com
Tip: Don’t ride on the section past Copacabana known as Aterro do Flamengo, as bikes robberies have been reported along that stretch.