Time is of the essence, so there can be no staying in bed until midday. A perfect start to the day is a quick breakfast in Lagoa - the lagoon that borders the botanical gardens, Ipanema, Gávea and Leblon. It’s an idyllic location for a stroll, with the water itself used for water-skiing and taking a ride on a swan-shaped pedalo.
Even when you’re only in Rio for a couple days you must pay a visit to the markets. Feira do Rio Antigo in Lapa on Rua do Lavradio has some great little finds; antiques, silverware and other miscellaneous delights. Also worth a visit, for those who can’t get enough of quirky markets, is Feira da Praça XV in Centro, which always has some amazing furniture treats to offer.
Then it’s time for some culture! Centro has some great museums, including the Museu de Belas Artes and the Museu Histórico Nacional, not to mention the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, which holds excellent free exhibitions.
Of course, you can’t visit Rio and not pay Cristo Redentor a visit, one of Rio’s most famous icons and one of the seven wonders of the modern world. We recommend going early to avoid the masses that flock without fail every day. The best route up is the scenic tram ride from Cosme Velho.
And if you still can muster some energy at the end of the day, an evening in Lapa will give you a taste of Brazil’s bohemian nightlife. On a Friday and Saturday night there is a great atmosphere by the Lapa Arcs, and Circo Voador is home to great authentic concerts.
Onto Sunday now, and for the adventurous among you, the Parque Nacional da Tijuca is definitely worth a visit. A 5-hour hike through the Tijuca Forest is a perfect activity for a Sunday, providing you with astonishing views of the city. The hike culminates at Pico da Tijuca, after leading you through the Mayrink chapel, caves and waterfalls.
Sugar Loaf during the sunset is truly breath-taking. Take the cable car from Urca’s Praia Vermelha to the summit and watch the sun go down from the best vantage point in the city. Beach-wise, you’re spoilt for choice. Leme and Ipanema are home to beautiful beaches, and walking along the ocean edge from Copacabana to Ipanema makes for a splendid stroll.
And for an incredible end to a jam-packed weekend, Leblon’s Rua Dias Ferreira is home to some of Rio’s best restaurants, after which live samba and bossa nova will provide a smashing soundtrack to the rest of your night.