5 beach-free ways to enjoy Rio de Janeiro

Rio di Janeiro

Brazil’s biggest city, Rio de Janeiro, is home to some of the world’s most indisputably beautiful beaches, that’s for sure, but this bustling city has plenty more to offer than its golden coast.

While many travellers will be sure to not only head to the beaches, but also tick off other key attractions such as Christ the Redeemer, Rio in fact has a wealth of cultural, historical and natural treasures just waiting to be discovered. Read on to discover five of the places that’ll make you fall in love with Rio:

Escadaria Selarόn

The vibrant neighbourhood of Lapa is probably best known for its samba clubs, and becomes truly alive at night, but a visit to the area during the day is worth a visit, purely to see the Escadaria Selarόn. First opened in 2013, the Escadaria Selarόn is the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarόn – a series of mosaic-covered steps made from individual colourful ceramic tiles, linking Lapa to the Santa Teresa above.

Theatro Municipal

Dating from 1909, the lavish Theatro Municipal is a grand theatre modelled after Paris’ Palais Garnier, looking better than ever after a renovation in 2010. By day you can enjoy a guided tour, where you can take in the beauty of the gilded interior, decorated with paintings by a Brazilian pioneer of art nouveau, Eliseu Visconti. By night, treat yourself to an entertaining evening of opera, ballet or classical music.

Ilha de Paquetá

Every two hours or so, you can take the ferry from downtown Rio’s Praca XV terminal and make the scenic 70-minute journey to Ilha de Paquetá, a tranquil island situated in Guanabara Bay. As you wander past colonial buildings and unpaved pathways, you’ll find yourself in a vastly different place to the metropolis on the mainland – hire a bike or even a horse-drawn cart to explore this largely car-free island in style.

Parque Lage

If you’re looking to escape to a quiet corner of Rio, Parque Lage has exactly what you’re looking for. Featuring beautifully landscaped gardens, grottos and a series of small lakes, the park is a wonderful place to relax. Visitors can also enjoy an unassuming café, as well as an art school, where there are periodic exhibitions of the students’ work.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Glόria do Outeiro

Everywhere you look in Rio, you’ll find an example of a colonial church, outlining the city’s importance in the early days of the colonial period, when the Portuguese first settled in Brazil. Dating from 1739, this baroque beauty was a favourite of the Portuguese royals, and is still a favourite among travellers today. After you step inside, you’ll discover the extremely fine details that make up the interior, from the elaborately carved altar to the fine Portuguese tiles, fineazulejos. From the outside, the church overlooks the Gloria neighbourhood and Guanabara Bay.

See our full collection of Rio hotels here


Andrew is a firm believer that travelling like a local inevitably leads to the best off-the-beaten-path finds which truly make a destination remarkably more memorable. From traditional Indian festivals in humid Hyderabad to fresh seafood pasta by the Sorrentine Peninsula, he appreciates variety when travelling. He hasn't been everywhere, but it’s on the list.