Having a few days in Rio de Janeiro was a lucky break for me. I originally only had a quick stopover here in my South American adventure and was lucky enough to be able to extend it. I now had just three days in this magnificent city, and I wanted to make the most of them. So, where to start?
I arrived mid-morning, and my first afternoon I needed to discover what was so magical about Rio de Janeiro. I joined in on a free walking tour of Downtown and Lapa. What an introduction! The local guide spoke perfect English, was engaging and was full of local stories and interesting histories. We went from the beautiful Colombo Bakery, with its Parisian-style architecture and delicious snacks, to one of the most important squares of the city. XV Square is home to the Imperial Palace, the old port, and some stunning churches that prompted some great local stories from our guide.
We visited the ‘Brazilian Broadway’, theatre, library, and Lapa — one of Rio de Janeiro’s most bohemian neighborhoods. As I wandered the streets listening to our tour guide, I realized just how much I needed to discover over the up-and-coming days. The Selaron Stairs had to be the best discovery about my first day — It was the perfect combination of city and art that I was looking for in Brazil. I spent more time and energy than I care to admit running up and down the 200 stairs finding tiles from all around the world. After collapsing in my hotel for the evening, I realized I had to do the two things that cannot be missed in this city the next day before become too distracted with the rest of this charming city.
I awoke and began the trek to Corcovado. This mountain is the home of Christ the Redeemer. Most people take the cog train to the top, but I decided to hike the stairs through the Tijuca Forest. Starting at the Parque Lage, I arrived at the foot of the statue in awe. This massive statue sands at a whopping one hundred feet (30m) high and keeps watch over the city. It truly is an amazing place, and I spent all morning getting the perfect panoramic view of the city, alongside the impressive statue. When exploring the rest of the city, I would constantly look over my shoulder and see Him looming in the background. What a statue!
After a delicious local lunch along the stunning Ipanema beach, and some time exploring the art galleries and museums here, I headed over to the infamous Sugarloaf Mountain. Taking the cable car up this iconic landmark at sunset, I was offered some perfect views and a gorgeous restaurant and shop at the peak. I was able to watch the most stunning pink and orange hues fall over Rio de Janeiro, and, as I admired the view, I was excited, yet solemn, knowing I only had one more day to try and explore all the rest that Rio de Janeiro had to offer.