Copacabana beach is an enthralling place to start your Rio de Janeiro short break. Take in the throng of sun-worshippers at a beachfront shack over a cold coconut juice. Grilled-cheese vendors and sarong sellers jostle for business along the glistening bay of white sand. The palm-lined Avenida Atlântica curves past Art Deco monuments to the western fringes of Copacabana where a short walk takes you to fashionable Ipanema beach.
Nearest Metro Arcoverde
Ipanema’s style disciples congregate around beach post 9, heading west along the gleaming shore. Inland from here, dotted around the Praça da Paz, are informal comida a kilo restaurants where you pay according to the weight of your food. After a relaxed lunch, take a taxi to Estação Cosme Velho where a cog train meanders up Corcovado hill to the vast statue of Christ the Redeemer. Breathtaking views of dazzling white bays, moulded around the foothills of lush tropical mountains, expand to the horizon.
Nearest bus Avenida Vieira Souto
From Corcovado loop back to the southern beaches and Ipanema’s chic neighbouring district of Leblon. Here, smartly dressed locals gather in open-air restaurants for traditional Brazilian fare like moqueca (seafood stew in coconut sauce). Porção, Leblon’s most upmarket churrascaria (steakhouse), is a joy to behold – bow-tied waiters run between tables carving slabs of sizzling barbecued cuts on to your plate. A cluster of upscale late-opening bars surrounds nearby Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva.
Nearest bus Estação Cosme Velho
Start your day with a sugar rush at the Art Nouveau Confeitaria Colombo in the Centro – an ornate café from Rio’s belle époque. A couple of blocks south Rio’s only remaining bondinho (tram) winds up the hillside to the tranquil bohemian enclave of Santa Teresa. After exploring the area’s artists’ studios and eclectic boutiques, stop for lunch at rustic Aprazível café and join the locals sitting on long wooden benches.
Nearest metro Uruguaiana
From Santa Teresa, swing back to the centre and head south on a bus to Urca. The gentle azure waters of Urca’s sheltered cove help to refresh from the city centre’s hustle and bustle. From the nearby Praça General Tibúrcio, a sedate cable car journey takes you to the summit of Pão de Açúcar (sugar loaf) hill where the setting sun bathes the shimmering coast and rocky headlands in gold.
Start: Santa Teresa
Nearest tram Petrobas
Returning down Pão de Açúcar, a short bus ride north takes you to the lively nightlife district of Lapa where fast-paced samba drummers and accordion-led forró musicians lead crowds of revellers from bar to bar. For more relaxing dancing and traditional Brazilian food and music, head to the beautifully restored townhouse of Rio Scenarium. Try one of their infamous caipirinhas cocktails before heading back to your Rio de Janeiro hotel.
Start: Pão de Açúcar
Nearest bus: Urca