Looking back: my trips in 2016

2016 wasn’t exactly the best year ever for many people – including me. The bright side were the fantastic trips that I took. While in 2015 I managed to travel every single month of the year, in 2016 I almost made it (only February got away, meeh). But I did visit 3 new countries (Sweden, Malta and Bulgaria), the latter being my first country whose language uses a different alphabet.

Last year I made a summary of my trips in 2015, and in the blink of an eye it’s time to do the same for 2016.

JANUARY: Rio de Janeiro + Angra dos Reis / Ilha Grande + Arraial do Cabo (Brazil)
My year starts in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro, beautiful as always. And that month I also went to other cities within the state, with gorgeous beaches (including my first time in Angra dos Reis and Ilha Grande – finally!)

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Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro

MARCH: Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Tübingen, Heidelberg + Castles of the region (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)
Easter holiday with two dear friends. We went on a road trip across the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwestern Germany, going through several cities and at least 5 different castles.

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View to the Hohenzollern Castle, Germany

APRIL: Leipzig (Germany)
My second time in Leipzig, very close to Berlin. This time it was a business trip: my lab colleagues and I went to participate in a scientific conference.

MAY: Stockholm + Uppsala (Sweden)
A long weekend trip when I stayed with a dear friend and her family and visited two important Swedish cities. I’m usually lucky with the weather while traveling, but this time it was really impressive: very sunny and warm over there still at the beginning of May!

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Stockholm, Sweden

JUNE: Malta
The most anticipated and planned trip of the year, which managed to exceed my expectations (which were pretty high!). I’ve written two posts about Malta: one on general information and one full itinerary. There is not much left to say – it was probably my best trip in 2016.

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Blue Lagoon, Malta

JULY: Budapest + Szentendre (Hungary) / Rio de Janeiro + Búzios (Brazil)
My second visit to Budapest, this time on a business trip and at the peak of summer, surrounded by beloved colleagues. I was even able to go visit the charming nearby town of Szentendre.
After that I spent a short, but very important, week in Brazil. I had the honor to be bridesmaid at the wedding of two close friends in Búzios, a beach town near Rio. It was hands down one of the best weekends of the year!

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Wedding in Búzios, Brazil

AUGUST: Saxon Switzerland (Germany)
A weekend touring the national park near Dresden and its surroundings, with relatives from Brazil. There is a post here telling everything about this destination.

SEPTEMBER: Sofia + Plovdiv (Bulgaria)
Another weekend trip, this time to a destination that is a bit out of the ordinary. I’ve shared everything about this visit to Bulgaria in this post.

OCTOBER: Poznan + Wroclaw (Poland)
Not even the lack of company stops me from traveling on a long weekend. 😛 So me, myself and I went to visit Poznan and Wroclaw, two Polish cities that are relatively close to the border with Germany.

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Poznan, Poland

NOVEMBER: Stettin (Poland)
Poland, we meet again! This time it was just a day trip from Berlin. There’s nothing like doing something different with dear friends on a Saturday, even in chilly (but sunny) weather.

DECEMBER: Göttingen (Germany) + Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Opening homecoming season, I went to visit the town that was my first home in Europe: Göttingen. It was wonderful to see my friends there again, and to be back in my favorite Christmas market.
And of course, in December I fly to Rio, my first home ever, hehe. What amazing holidays these few weeks were!

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Christmas market in Göttingen, Germany

Thinking about it, the general balance of 2016 was pretty positive! Last year many bank holidays happened to be on weekends, but 2017 looks promising, with several long weekends!

Have great trips this year, everyone! 🙂

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Weekend trip to Bulgaria

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St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia

As you might know, I have the habit of looking for cheap flights to travel from Berlin, where I live. In one of these ‘treasure hunts’, I found flights that were not only super cheap, but also for the perfect times: leaving Friday night and returning Sunday night. Exactly for the weekend. A rare finding.

The trip was to Bulgaria, for 43 euros round trip with Ryanair. To give you an idea of how cheap it was: this is the usual price for a train ride in Germany (round trip) that takes about two hours each way, if you have the card that gives 50% discount, because the normal price is double. In other words, flying for this price is not bad at all. I called a dear friend of mine who always joins me in these adventures and we got the tickets.

Two colleagues of ours who are from Bulgaria had told us that one day is enough to see the capital, Sofia, where we flew to. And several websites with traveler reviews also suggested visiting the second largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv, which is 2 hours from Sofia. So, that’s what we did: we spent the Saturday in Plovdiv (day trip) and the Sunday in Sofia.

Bulgaria was the first country I visited whose language has another script (they use the cyrillic alphabet). Besides this, almost no one speaks English there. One thing that really helped was having written down the names of the cities we were going to visit in their alphabet, so we would be able to recognize them on signs.

It was a slight adventure – but I wanted to visit Bulgaria precisely for being a country that is a bit different from what I was used to.


Sofia (София)

You can go from the airport to the center of Sofia by bus or subway. We found it easier to take the subway, but it’s good to know that the station is in terminal 2, and the low-cost airlines (like Ryanair) use terminal 3, which is apart from the main airport building. There is a van that transports passengers between terminals 2 and 3 for free, but it’s not available all the time.

In Sofia we did the free walking tour, which was excellent, covered the main landmarks and told us a lot about the history of Bulgaria. The tour departs daily at 11 am and 6 pm from the Palace of Justice and lasts 2 hours.

POINTS OF INTEREST:
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (the main landmark of the city), Sofia Public Mineral Baths, Russian Church, National Palace of Culture (NDK), Ivan Vazov National Theatre (and the park around), Royal Palace, Vitosha mountain (a huge mountain very close to the city center), Vitosha Boulevard: the main pedestrian street, full of restaurants and shops (and tourists).

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Vitosha Boulevard and Vitosha mountain in the background

Plovdiv (Пловдив)

HOW TO GET THERE:
It is better to go by bus – the journey takes 2 hours while by train it takes 3 hours. The ticket costs 14 leva (7 euros) each way and can be purchased right before the trip at the bus station, which is right next to the train station. The buses usually leave every hour. To guarantee our return  tickets, we bought them as soon as we arrived in Plovdiv. We stayed in this city from 11 am to 6 pm and it was enough. The bus is quite simple, but it takes you there.

You can find the website for the trains here (available also in English) and for the buses here (only in Bulgarian! This is when you compare the scripts to find the city you want, or use an online translator).

POINTS OF INTEREST:
Plovdiv is full of Roman ruins scattered throughout the city. The most impressive one is the ancient Roman Amphitheater – a huge auditorium built some time B.C., and that is still used until to host concerts and events. There is also the Roman Stadium (underneath the main street in the city center) and the Roman Forum.
Walk through the old town exploring its buildings (such as the Ethnographic Museum) and views to the city center. Near the train and bus stations, there is the Tsar Simeon Park, where a show of the ‘singing fountains’ occurs at night.

In Plovdiv there is also a free walking tour starting at 11 am daily in front of the city hall, in the main street.

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Ancient Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdid

Bulgaria may not be one of the first destinations that come to mind when thinking about Europe, but it’s certainly worth the visit. Most of its streets and buildings have a very simple and humble appearance, but there are several points of interest for tourists. It’s a country where you spend very little, and it’s possible to visit the two largest cities during a weekend.

For more photos of Bulgaria, click here.

The Bastei and the Saxon Switzerland National Park

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The Bastei bridge and the Lilienstein mountain in the background

Saxon Switzerland (in German, Sächsische Schweiz) is a region and national park located 43 km southeast of Dresden. It got this name because the landscape full of mountains may resemble Switzerland – but it’s actually Eastern Germany, almost at the border with Czech Republic.

The most popular attraction of the national park is the Bastei – a sandstone rock formation formed during the Cretaceous period (100 million years ago). There, one can see the famous Bastei bridge (Basteibrücke), 194 meters above the Elbe river. There are a few viewpoints at the Bastei that allow a nice outlook of the bridge and the mountains around.

On one end of the bridge is the Felsenburg Neurathen – the ruins of an old rock castle. Admission is only 2 euros. It is an open-air museum with beautiful views to the region in suspended bridges.

The access to the Bastei is easy and no real hiking is needed to get there – only climbing stairs, if you don’t go by car. But those who want to go hiking or trekking have several options throughout the national park. Besides the Bastei, another popular landmark of the region is the Königstein fortress. We prefered to visit the small town of Pirna by the river instead.

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Entrance to Felsenburg Neurathen

How long to stay:
One day was enough for us to visit the Bastei and Pirna. If you want to see other spots or go trekking, add more days.

How to get there:

By car: drive towards the Bastei Berghotel, where the entrance to the Bastei is. Since only guests staying at the hotel can park their cars there, leave your car in the parking lot of the national park, 3 km before getting to the hotel. From there, a bus can take you to the entrance of the Bastei (and the Berghotel) for 2 euros (return ticket).

By train: take the S1 in Dresden direction Bad Schandau (it takes 30 minutes), get off at Kurort Rathen and take a ferry to cross the river. From there, climb the stairs up until you reach the Bastei.

We went by car and the access was quite easy (we rented a car in Dresden for 22 euros per day). But we saw many people climbing the stairs up to the Bastei. It looks tiring, but it’s doable. The stairs are wide and relatively new.

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Entrance to the Bastei bridge
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View to the Elbe river

Saxon Switzerland is an area where one can wander around nature and admire the views to impressive rock formations. Dresden is 2h30 away from Berlin, and there are quite cheap buses doing this route. So it’s a very feasible option for a weekend trip from Berlin – or a day trip from Dresden or Leipzig.

Four years in Europe… But how long are 4 years?

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I like symbolisms. The other day I was looking at my eraser (yes, the one I use to erase stuff when I write with a pencil), and I thought: ‘wow, my eraser is really old and tiny!’. I can barely hold it anymore when erasing something. And then I remembered that I purchased this same eraser right before I moved to Europe. I must have thought ‘I’m going to do a Master’s abroad, I need a decent eraser’. Four years later, it remains my loyal rubbery companion.

If you’ve always wondered what an eraser looks like after 4 years of use, it’s something like this:

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My eraser: before (for illustration purposes only) and after (real)

Besides symbolisms, I also like looking back and making comparisons. This helps me observe and analyze the trajectory of events from a wider perspective. Moving to Europe was a big ‘before and after’ landmark in my life. And the eraser purchased in this exact landmark enabled me (completely unintentionally) to observe how an object has changed since I came here.

Four years ago, I:
a) left my parents’ house
b) started living alone (and paying all my bills)
c) moved to Europe
d) got my Bachelor’s degree and started the Master’s

All at the same time. Sometimes people start paying their own bills but keep living with their parents; or leave home but stay in the same city; or even move to another country but to live with another person. I, apparently, went and ticked all theses boxes at once.

Today the blog has its 1st year anniversary. I decided to start it when I realized that soon it would be 3 years since I had moved to Europe and I had a lot to tell. And now, one more year has passed, making it my 4th Euro-versary.

But how long are four years?

Well, four years is the amount of time that it takes to wear out a brand-new eraser almost completely.

It’s the duration of a Bachelor’s program, or a PhD (at least in Brazil). It’s the amount of time between two Olympics, World Cups, presidential elections, leap years. When I arrived in Europe, the Olympic Games of London 2012 were finishing, and now the same is happening to the ones of Rio 2016. From now on, I won’t watch anymore any of the major regular world events for the first time since I came to Europe – they will now all be repeated. That’s how you realize that four years is quite a lot.

But at the same time, four years is nothing. They go by very fast.

I don’t know what the future holds, don’t know how many more anniversaries I will still have in Europe… All I know is that I’ve learned A LOT during these last 4 years, and I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve lived here so far.

And as to my eraser, it is still working and being used on a daily basis.

Malta travel itinerary

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Valetta seen from Sliema

As said in the previous post, Malta was a special trip. And, as my travel planning is usually proportional to my excitement, you can imagine that I did quite some preparation for this trip. Summing everything I learned by researching and visiting this destination, I put together a time-efficient itinerary with the best points of interest in Malta.

This guide is ideal for 6 days – but, if your stay is shorter than this, you can simply prioritize the places you want to see the most.


  • Day 1: Valetta + Sliema + St. Julian’s + Paceville

Valetta
Malta’s capital city – the smallest capital in the European Union.
Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens, with views to the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities on the other side. At the Upper Barrakka Garden, a cannon is fired daily at noon and at 4pm by the saluting battery.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Republic Street: main shopping street
Explore the deserted old town side streets

Sliema
Promenade along the coast with great views of Valetta, several restaurants and swimming spots, going all the way to St. Julian’s

St. Julian’s
A big ‘love’ sculpture at the entrance
Many restaurants and bars
St. George’s Bay (beach): easy to reach, therefore usually crowded with tourists
Paceville: the youth party zone

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Blue Lagoon
  •  Day 2: Blue Lagoon + Millieha or Golden Bay

Blue Lagoon
Probably the biggest must-see in Malta!
This natural pool with transparent waters is located on the island of Comino. How to get there: drive or take a bus to Cirkewwa, and from there take a boat to the Blue Lagoon. All the boats make a few stops on the way back, showing the local caves. It’s recommended to go in the morning, when it’s less crowded.
There, you can rent a chair and umbrella to sit on the small sandy area, or simply take a seat on the rocks. We chose the second option because (a) it was free; (b) it was still easy to get in the water; and (c) we even had a great view to the Blue Lagoon from above.

If spending half a day in Blue Lagoon is sufficient for you (it was for us), you can still go relax on another beach on the main island for the rest of the day. But, of course, compared to the Blue Lagoon, they are not as impressive.
Some options near the disembark area in Malta are the Milleha Bay or the Golden Bay. In the Golden Bay, there are 3 beaches next to one another to choose from: Golden Bay per se (most easily reachable and most crowded), Gnejna and Ghajn Tuffieha (a bit more hidden and less populated).

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Azure Window, Gozo
  •  Day 3: Gozo

The neighboring island deserves a full-day visit.
How to get there: take a ferry that leaves from Cirkewwa. The ride takes about 25 minutes and there is no need to buy a ticket before boarding – you only pay on the way back. (More information and fares here).
Board with your car if you have one. If you’re using the public transport, it might be worth it to get one of the hop-on hop-off buses to visit the points of interest on the island.

Citadel: located in the capital city of Gozo – Rabat, or Victoria (many cities in Malta have two names). A medieval fortress, with a cathedral and a view to the surroundings.
Azure Window and Fungus Rock in Dwejra Bay: the famous and imposing rocky arch, where Game of Thrones filmed the scene where Daenerys gets married to Khal Drogo. As the rock is still under erosion, it is believed that the arch will disappear in a few decades.
Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary: a large church, where many believers have left messages being thankful for the cure of their illnesses.
Ramla Bay: a cozy beach with reddish sand. The Calypso Cave viewpoint has a beautiful view to the Ramla Bay.
Xlendi Bay: another beach, with several restaurants around it (including a great ice cream shop). Ideal for a pit-stop to eat.
Ggantija Temples: Gozo’s megalithic temples. If you already plan to visit the other temples on the island of Malta, maybe you can skip this one.

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Marsaxlokk
  • Day 4: The Three Cities + Marsaxlokk + St. Peter’s Pool

The Three Cities
Birgu (or Vittoriosa), Bormla (or Cospicua) and Isla (or Senglea) – (remember that in Malta many cities have two different names?)
Take a boat from Valetta to the entrance of the cities (the crossing is already a pleasant ride on its own) and explore their streets and waterfront views. If time is short: Vittoriosa is considered the nicest one.

Marsaxlokk
A quite lovable fishing village, with dozens of small colorful fishing boats by the bay. On Sundays, there is a fish market.

St. Peter’s Pool
A big natural pool, amazing to swim and jump into the water. It’s very close to Marsaxlokk, but the walk all the way up probably takes about 1 hour. So it is better to go by car or taxi.

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Entrance of Mdina (or should I say King’s Landing?)
  • Day 5: Mosta + Mdina + Rabat + Dingli Cliffs

Mosta
Rotunda of Mosta: the third largest church in Europe, with a big dome. During the second world war, a 50 kg bomb fell inside the church but did not explode – which was considered a miracle.

Mdina
Known as the ‘silent city’, it’s a medieval town surrounded by walls. The entrance of Mdina was shown in Game of Thrones as the gateway to King’s Landing.
Fontanella Tea Gardens: a tea house offering a famous chocolate cake and a view to the surroundings (including the Rotunda of Mosta).

Rabat
A charming town across from Mdina.
Roman Villa
Church of St. Paul
St. Dominic Convent (was also a Game of Thrones filming location)

Dingli Cliffs
The highest point in Malta (253 meters) and considered the best spot in the island to watch the sunset.

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Blue Grotto seen from above
  • Day 6: Blue Grotto + Hagar Qim & Mnajdra

Blue Grotto
Boat ride through a few grottos and caves, including the Blue Grotto, with bright blue waters. The ideal is to go in the morning to capture the most impressive shade of blue of the sea. The ride is beautiful, but we found it quite short (about 20 minutes) and felt that the boat driver, although very nice, rushed through the stops (maybe because there is a line of boats behind him).
It’s also possible to see the Blue Grotto from above, from a viewpoint next to a bus stop called Panorama.

Hagar Qim & Mnajdra
Near the Blue Grotto, you can find the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, some of the oldest standing monuments in the world (around 3000 BC). The ticket allows visiting both temples, which are next to each other.


For more photos of Malta, click here.

And this was the first trip where I not only took pictures, but also made a video record! (I said Malta was special…). Most places mentioned in the itinerary are shown in the video. Watch it here!  🙂

Traveling to Malta: general information

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I’ve traveled quite a few times in my life, but this trip to Malta at the end of June was one of my most desired and anticipated trips so far. I did a lot of research on this destination before going, and had the opportunity to get to know the country with a group of 4 friends that included a Maltese, besides being hosted by a Maltese lady (my first time on Airbnb). For this reason, I had the privilege to dive into the local culture and live experiences beyond tourist guide books.

Malta is one of the smallest countries in Europe (and in the world), with 316 km2 and a bit over 400,000 inhabitants. It’s an archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and the north of Africa. The biggest and main island is called Malta; the neighboring island is Gozo; and the tiny island between both – too small to be populated – is Comino.

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There are flights from several European countries to Malta International Airport (MLA), also by the low-cost airline Ryanair. Almost all locals speak English (the official languages are Maltese and English), and the local currency is the euro – which makes it very convenient for tourists.

What to expect from Malta
Malta is a destination both for beaches and for sightseeing in historical places. Everywhere you can see stone houses with their beige color, typical of the Mediterranean and Middle East. There are several paradise beaches with crystal clear water. But, contrary to what one might imagine, it’s not a very green country, especially in the summer – the landscape is sandy and dry, full of cactus, almost like a desert. Some regions are fancier, but in general the atmosphere is quite simple and casual. The nightlife is concentrated in Paceville, an area in St. Julian’s, mostly attended by very young folks (~15-20 year-olds) and/or tourists. The traffic is sometimes slow, as there are not many options of roads from one place to the other. Despite being one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it’s common not to see so many people on the streets in some cities. By the way, they are in fact cities, but with the size of neighborhoods. The Maltese people are extremely friendly and welcoming, and many times I felt as if I were back home in Brazil.

When to go
Malta has mild temperatures and is generally sunny all year long, but between October and May it might not be warm enough to enjoy the beaches. Therefore, it would be ideal to visit between June and September. July and August are always the most crowded months, as it’s the tourist peak season. We went at the end of June and it was already quite warm (over 30°C during the day and around 25°C in the evening).

How to get around in Malta
You must decide between renting a car or taking the public transport.
Having a car available is, without a doubt, more advantageous, both for the freedom and the convenience. But keep in mind that Malta uses the British driving system, as it used to be a UK colony. The driver sits on the right in the car and drives along the left lane. If that is not an issue, renting a car is the most recommended option, as you will be able to visit more places during the time you have there.
But it’s also possible to get to know Malta only by using its public transport system, and sometimes cabs. The problem is that some buses don’t come by very often and, for many routes, you need to change buses and wait for the next one, even if it’s not the most direct way to your destination. So the ride certainly takes longer than by car, and more planning and time management is needed, but you will also reach your destination.
Each bus ticket can be used for up to 2 hours and costs 2 euros in the summer or 1.50 euros in the winter during the day, and 3 euros at night. If you’re staying for around 5 days or more, it’s probably worth buying the Tallinja Card ‘Explore’, which costs 21 euros and allows unlimited trips for 7 days. More information on the official website of the Maltese public transport.

How long to stay
I’m the type of tourist who doesn’t like to waste time, and my suggestion is to spend at least 5 full days there. We saw everything we wanted to see in 6 full days, plus an arrival evening and a morning to leave (so 7 nights). But this was because we were spoiled by our Maltese friend, who took us to most places by car. So, in case you have a car: 7 nights or 6 full days are enough to see all the points of interest in Malta. If you are using the public transport system, you should add about 2 more days to that – or, instead, leave out a few tourist spots for a future visit.

Where to find accommodation
The cities with the best location for tourists are: St. Julian’s, Sliema and Valetta. If you’re counting on public transport to get around, I would recommend staying in Valetta because, for many routes, you need to change buses there anyway.


The second semester of 2016 is just beginning but I already think that Malta will be my favorite trip of the year! Highly recommended! 🙂

Check out here the full itinerary of what to see and do in Malta!

Top tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro: also known as Cidade Maravilhosa (Wonderful City) – my beloved city where I was born and raised. ❤

Rio offers thousands of interesting possibilities for tourists. Here, I put together a list with my main recommendations, or the things you shouldn’t miss during your first visit. These tips can serve as a basis for an itinerary, depending on the amount of time available and the traveler’s interests.

→ Important note for foreigners:
Brazilian cities are not like European cities, where most of the tourist attractions are located in the city center. The city center of Rio is a huge district, with some points of interests for tourists, but also filled with office buildings and people rushing around. Most of the tourist attractions in Rio are located in the south zone (zona sul), where you will probably spend most of your time.


WHAT TO SEE/DO IN RIO:

Beaches
There are several, including: Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, São Conrado, Barra. (I would say the most famous ones are Copacabana e Ipanema.)

Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer
The Christ statue (Cristo) is on a hill called Corcovado. You can get there by funicular or van, leaving from different locations in the city. Infos (unfortunately only in Portuguese) here.

Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar)
Infos about the cable car ride to the top here.
From there, one can go walk around Praia Vermelha, Pista Claudio Coutinho and Urca.

Pedra do Arpoador
A huge rock that separates the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The classical must-do is to watch the sunset from there (and clap at the end!).
Close by is the Copacabana Fortress (Forte de Copacabana), which can be visited. Many like to go to the Confeitaria Colombo café inside. And next to the fortress, on the Copacabana beach sidewalk, you can find the statue of the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

Mirante do Leblon (viewpoint)
Next to posto 12 (lifeguard watchtower #12), offering a view to the Leblon beach.

Mirante Dona Marta (viewpoint)
To me, this is by far the best viewing spot in Rio de Janeiro. It’s located just below the gateway to the Christ, so both views are similar – only in Mirante Dona Marta you can also see the Christ, and without the hundreds of tourists around you. An amazing spot for photos, and for free!

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View from Mirante Dona Marta

Santa Teresa
A residential and bohemian neighborhood, loved by foreigners and considered one of the most charming ones in Rio. Since it’s located on a hill side of the city, it offers beautiful views, both to the city center and to the south zone.
Points of interest: Largo dos Guimarães, Curvelo, Chácara do Céu, Parque das Ruínas, and the famous yellow tram (bonde) riding through the district.
Recommendations: Bar do Arnaudo (Brazilian Northeastern food) and Bar do Gomes (official name: Armazém São Thiago).
One suggestion is to go sightseeing in Santa Teresa and, from there, walk down to Lapa.

Lapa
Points of interest: the Arches (Arcos da Lapa – the old aqueduct) and the cone-shaped cathedral behind; Escadaria Selarón.
At night: some of the most popular night clubs (with live music) are Clube dos Democráticos, Rio Scenarium and Lapa 40 Graus.

City center
Points of interest: Teatro Municipal (Concert, Ballet and Opera House), Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã) and Rio Art Museum (MAR) at Praça Mauá, Olympic Boulevard, AquaRio, Banco do Brasil Cultural Center (CCBB), live samba music (roda de samba) at Arco do Teles.

Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon (Lagoa)
After a walk by the lagoon, one can also visit Rio’s Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico), and Parque Lage.

Tijuca Forest (Floresta da Tijuca)
The world’s largest urban forest.
Points of interest: hiking trails, picnic spots, waterfalls. Close by: Mesa do Imperador, Vista Chinesa (viewpoints).

Hang gliding or paragliding
Those who are feeling adventurous and would like to jump from Pedra Bonita with an instructor should look for the training academy Escola São Conrado de Voo Livre. It’s an amazing experience!

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Hang gliding in Rio

Go trekking (and enjoy the view)
Relatively easy: Dois Irmãos, Pedra Bonita
Difficult: Pedra da Gávea

Waterfalls
There are several ones in Tijuca Forest and in the neighborhood of Horto.

Pavilion of Northeastern Culture (Feira de São Cristóvão)
A huge space with restaurants, bars, shops and live music, dedicated to the Northeastern culture of Brazil. Infos (in Portuguese) here.

Maracanã Stadium
The biggest football stadium in Rio, host to World Cup and Olympic matches, can be visited for a game, or in a tour (or even just seen from the outside).

Sambadrome (Sambódromo)
During Carnival, it’s worth going there to watch one of the samba schools parades. Out of season, it can also be seen from the outside while passing nearby by car.

Casual bars and botecos
Those who wish to do like the cariocas (people from Rio) and go have a beer or ten in a very casual and laid-back way, outdoors and standing up, have several options, such as: Baixo Gávea, Praça São Salvador, Urca, Lapa, Santa Teresa, Baixo Botafogo (the end of the Voluntários da Pátria street).


HOW LONG TO STAY:
At least one week to see the main tourist attractions of the city. This duration should be increased if one wishes to visit other destinations in the state of Rio.

WHERE TO STAY:
For those who want to stay in a great hostel, with amazing location (right next to Botafogo subway station), with nice and cheerful people, I recommend the Rio Soul Hostel.
For those looking for a more “staying at home” flair, in a Bed & Breakfast or Airbnb-style accommodation: the Casa Dois Irmãos is very spacious and stylish and offers an unbelievable view to the city, together with the warm reception by the siblings Kris and Jo.


If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.
Have a great trip and enjoy Rio!! 🙂