The seaside city of Rio de Janeiro is a stunning location with pristine beaches and crystal-blue waters. If you’re planning a short trip, take a look at this suggested itinerary and ideas for spending 2 or 3 days in Rio de Janeiro to discover how to make the most of your time.

Christ the Redeemer on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain

Friday Evening

When you arrive on Friday, you’ll have 72 hours in Rio de Janeiro. Start with dinner at one of Rio’s popular restaurants or bars, such as Vizinno Gastrobar, a high-concept location with signature Brazilian drinks and delicious dishes with local ingredients.

After dinner, take in the views of the city by night with a cable car tour of Sugarloaf Mountain. The glass-walled cable cars offer a thrilling and unforgettable experience soaring over the mountains, especially as the sun is setting. There are some other great places to see the sunset, such as Mureta da Urca, a waterfront community that dates back to colonial times. You’ll also find bars and restaurants in the area.

To get in touch with the local culture, take an evening walking tour of Pedra do Sal. The charming neighbourhood with cobbled streets is not only known for its architecture, but it’s also a hub for samba music in the city.

Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning, you’ll have 48 hours remaining in Rio de Janeiro. Have a hearty breakfast by the pool at Pergula, an elegant restaurant with rich dishes like salmon and caviar. You’ll also like Confeitaria Colombo, a historic spot with espresso, pastry, and fruit.

For your first day in Rio, you must visit Christ the Redeemer. The iconic Christ statue is perched high on a mountain over the city. Be sure to bring your camera. You could also visit Ipanema Beach to soak up the sun or shop in the fine boutiques by the beach, or explore art deco wonders and laid-back beach life in Copacabana.

For lunch, visit Chez Claude for classics like scallops with heart of palm or quail with chard. You can also refresh with fresh fruit blends at Bibi Sucos, a popular juice bar with native ingredients like graviola and carambola. You’ll also like Bar Carioca de Gema, a bohemian spot with dishes like coxinha and polenta with oxtail ragu.

Cityscape of Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro at night

Copacabana

Saturday Afternoon and Evening

After lunch, spend some time exploring Tijuca National Park, a vast rainforest with waterfalls, lush greenery, and unique wildlife. In addition to the scenery, the park offers spectacular views of the city and its famous landmarks.

On Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, you can experience the best of the city’s nightlife. Head to Massa + Ella for fresh pasta or pizza. There’s also a partner pizzeria in the botanical garden. If you’d rather have Japanese, you can have dinner at Pabu Izakaya, where they serve dishes like pork gyoza dumplings and grilled beef tongue.

After dining, work off your meal with a samba class. There’s no better place to learn the passionate Brazilian dance than in Rio de Janeiro. Samba is a symbol of Brazil and Carnival, and you can find samba joints throughout the city that offer lessons suitable for all skill levels and ages. After class, have a night on the town at the famous nightclubs in the Lapa district.

Sunday Morning

On Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll have 24 hours left for sightseeing. Start with breakfast at the Gringo Café, a diner-style breakfast restaurant with bottomless coffee and classics like pancakes and French toast. There’s also Cafeina, a coffee bar with a wide range of lattes, espresso, and cappuccinos.

After breakfast, visit Leblon for upscale shopping in chic designer boutiques. There’s also the Leblon Beach, a pristine shore with calm waters for hours of sunbathing, swimming, and relaxation. You’ll also like Santa Teresa, which is filled with art galleries showcasing local and international masterpieces from emerging and prominent artists.

For lunch, head to the jungle for Sud, O Pássaro Verde Café, a unique restaurant with flavourful but unusual dishes on its tasting menu. If you want to cool down or have something sweet, visit Mil Frutas for tropical sorbets with rare and native fruits like umbu and mangaba.

Street in Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa

Sunday Afternoon and Evening

After lunch, see the iconic Escadaria Selaron, a famous staircase with colourful and ornate mosaic tiles. You could also see the Carioca Aqueduct, an elegant 18th-century aqueduct that’s a stellar example of colonial architecture and engineering.

On Sunday night in Rio de Janeiro, you can take in any experiences you may have missed. Start with dinner and drinks at Bar do Momo, a casual spot with creative burgers and a lively atmosphere. If you prefer something more upscale, you can visit Oro Restaurante, an acclaimed restaurant specializing in molecular gastronomy with shareable dishes.

For a unique night out, enjoy a boat party on the Bahia de Guanabara. Party boats are fully equipped with drinks, DJs, and lively dancing, so you can practice your Latin dance moves and sip cocktails on the water. You could also take a nightlife tour to visit the bars and clubs the locals frequent and listen to talented live performers.

Ready for the perfect weekend getaway?

Now that you have the ideal weekend itinerary for a fun-filled trip to Rio de Janeiro, it’s time to start planning. Take a look at deals on Rio de Janeiro vacations on Expedia to make the most of your experience!