An Insider’s Guide to Brazil Holidays in Rio

Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most famous cities, conjuring up images of beaches, football and carnival whenever it is mentioned.  The famous view from the Christ the Redeemer statue of white buildings nestling between green hills, golden sands and the blue ocean is instantly recognisable but there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy Brazil holidays in Rio.

daytime view of ipanema beach in rio

City Beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema

It’s a shame that you can’t even mention Copacabana without a certain 70s song popping into your head, but you can’t visit Rio without visiting this world-famous beach. In fact, most people on Brazil holidays in Rio choose to stay in Copacabana as most of Rio’s hotels are here. The famous beach is at the heart of this popular district, and it’s a good idea to start off your tour of the area with a stroll along the palm-tree lined promenade. Copacabana is also home to some of Rio’s best-loved buildings, including the famous Copacabana Palace, the landmark hotel that opened in 1923 and really put Rio on the world stage. The list of famous guests is unending: royalty, film stars, musicians and politicians have all stayed here and so even if you can’t stretch to staying here yourself, it’s worth dropping in for afternoon tea on the terrace so you can close your eyes and imagine Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire sitting at the next table!

The next beach over from Copacabana is also one of Rio’s most famous, and the inspiration behind the song “The girl from Ipanema”. Ipanema is a bit more upscale than Copacabana, and a little more relaxed – in many ways it sums up everything that’s great about Brazil holidays in Rio: it’s cool but very laid-back. It’s also less touristy than Copacabana and has some of Rio’s best bars and restaurants, so head to the streets heading away from the beach towards the Praça da Paz, such as Maria Quiteria, where you’ll find funky bars aplenty, or walk to the beach itself and enjoy watching the sunset with a refreshing caipirinha in your hand.

Rio Carnival

Of course, every year, the whole of Brazil goes completely bonkers, and Rio is no exception. The Rio Carnival is one of the most popular times for Brazil holidays and it’s something everyone should experience at least once in their lives! The spectacle of the giant floats, parades of dancers and drummers, and the party atmosphere have to be felt to be believed. The downside is that during the Rio Carnival, hotel prices go through the roof, and most hotels insist on five-night minimum stays. If you want to avoid this then a great alternative is the Winners Parade which takes place the week after the main carnival. This is where the champion samba schools parade one last time through the famous Sambodromo to celebrate their victories. Many people feel that it’s actually more enjoyable than the main carnival, as the dancers and musicians are more relaxed but you still get the same spectacle and atmosphere. What’s undeniable is that it’s much cheaper, without the sky-high hotel rates. So if you’d love to enjoy the carnival atmosphere but your Brazil holidays are on a budget, it might be one to consider!

festival dancers decorated in gold paint

Dancing the Night Away

Even if your Brazil holidays don’t coincide with carnival, Rio is famously a party city at any time of year, and the nightlife is some of the best in the world. Many locals will start the evening with a caipirinha or an ice-cold beer as they watch the sun go down from the one of the beaches, before heading to the bars of districts like Ipanema and Leblon. These are open until the early hours, but if you really want to strut your stuff then you need to get a taxi over to the samba heartland of Lapa. This is where the best carnival samba schools practice and is home to Rio’s best clubs – informal, friendly and all about the dancing!

Rio is definitely one of those cities that re-pays a bit of research before getting there, as many of the things that make Brazil holidays in Rio so fantastic aren’t immediately obvious, and if you just stick to the standard tours of the Corcovado and Sugarloaf mountains then you’ll miss out on some great sights. Specialist operators like Real Brazil Holidays will help you get the most out of this fabulous city.