7 Romantic Things To Do In Rio De Janeiro

Rio De Janeiro, the “Marvelous City,” gained recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural landscapes. It’s got the Bossa Nova, cool clubs, and a hotel on the Conde Nast Hot List. From awe-inspiring landmarks like the Christ the Redeemer statue to the festive atmosphere of its street carnivals, Rio offers a broad palette of attractions and activities.

Don’t you want to sing Girl from Ipanema on the very beach that inspired that song? Or be whisked atop a rock formation that protrudes from the sea like a giant breaching whale? Or pretend to grab the 125 ‘ tall Christ the Redeemer’s outstretched hands? You can do all that here.

Here’s our curated list of the best things to do in Rio De Janeiro for couples.

Ipanema Beach at sunset, Rio BrazilIpanema Beach at sunset, Rio Brazil

Where Is Rio De Janeiro?

Rio de Janeiro is a vibrant city located in southeastern Brazil, flanked by the South Atlantic Ocean. Known for its lush landscapes, the city is famously nestled between steep, green mountains and crystal-clear seas. Rio is divided into several districts, including the well-known Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods. The iconic Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain and the Sugarloaf Mountain are some of its most famous landmarks. The city is also renowned for its annual Carnival, which draws millions of tourists from around the world.

How To Travel To Rio De Janeiro

For travelers from the United States heading to Rio de Janeiro, the primary point of entry is Galeão International Airport (GIG), which handles the bulk of international flights. Several U.S. airlines operate direct flights to Galeão from major American cities. Once you land, you can reach the city center via taxi, ride-sharing services, or public transportation options like buses and the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).

Requirements For Travel To Rio De Janeiro

American citizens traveling from the United States to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, generally require a valid passport with at least six months of validity beyond the planned date of departure. A tourist visa is usually not required for stays under 90 days, but this can change, so it’s advisable to consult the Brazilian Consulate’s website for the most current information.

Regarding health considerations, while Brazil does not mandate specific vaccinations for entry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccinations against diseases like Yellow Fever, especially if you plan to visit certain regions.

Christ the Redeemer Rio De Janeiro Brazil

Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

VISIT: Christ the Redeemer

The 125-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ/ is the symbol of the city – which can be accessed by train and then licensed vans at the entrance. Escalators shepherd crowds up quickly to the base of the statue – where you’ll see plenty of Instagrammers absorbed in capturing the strange and humorous perspectives of friends grasping Christ’s outstretched hands. Sundays are chaotic – so come midweek if you’re crowd-averse.

High atop the mountain, the vistas of the surrounding city and ocean are unparalleled. Spend some time drinking it all in.

Sugarloaf - Rio de Janero
Sugarloaf – Rio de Janero

TOUR: Sugarloaf Mountain

It takes two cable car rides to get to the top of this loaf-shaped landmark mountain, where you can then take your time climbing up and down stone stairs, enjoy a beer, and stare agape at Rio from other vantage points. Fans of 007 will recall Roger Moore squaring off with Jaws in Moonraker – the villain biting through the cable to get to James Bond. A bit of trivia: the cable was really just licorice.

Rio Beachfront

WALK: Copacabana Beach

The sidewalk, peppered with tourists, beach babes, and food stalls selling everything from alcoholic beverages to full meals, is paved with Portuguese stones in a wave-like pattern. Join the party on the beach – rent a cabana, buy a beach bauble, or just watch volleyball or soccer players doing their thing.

GO: Hippie Fair, Ipanema

If you’re in town on Sunday, head a few blocks from the beach to General Osorio Square for a cool craft fair that began selling “hippie” head-shop stuff but has morphed into a decent venue for local crafts and art.

Sunset on Ipanema Beach Rio Brazil
Waiting for Sunset on Ipanema Beach Rio Brazil

SUNSET: Ipanema Beach

So, this is what six of us did. We had to. And I’m sure it’s done multiple times a day on this very beach. One of us Googled the English lyrics to Girl From Ipanema and then walked on the sand and filmed ourselves while singing it. (I will spare you the result). Next, we joined hundreds of other spectators on the Ipanema side of the Copacabana Fort (separating Copacabana Beach from Ipanema Beach) to watch the sunset: a ritual you don’t want to miss.

Museum of Tomorrow Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Museum of Tomorrow Rio de Janeiro Brazil

EXPLORE: Wonder Port

Revitalized for tourists, the Port area was once the main point of arrival for black slaves from Africa. Rio does not scrub this shameful history, but incorporates it into the area, with historical archeological sites. The most dramatic structure seems to rise like a falcon over the edge of the water – The Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Spanish starchitect, Santiago Calatrava. Even if you don’t go inside, it’s a sight to see.

Rio Scenarium Lapa Neighborhood Rio
Rio Scenarium Lapa Neighborhood Rio

NIGHTLIFE: Lapa Neighborhood

Though you’ll find many clubs here, arguably the funkiest is Rio Scenarium – a three-story extravaganza of curio items, samba bands, and general-store-ish drink counters. Be sure to try the Brazilian national cocktail – Caipirinha – served everywhere around the place.

Roof Infinity Pool, Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil
Roof Infinity Pool, Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil

Best Hotels In Rio De Janeiro For Couples

STAY: Emiliano Hotel – Copacabana Beach

This mod beauty sits right on Copacabana Beach – with direct sea views from your balcony. Lazer-cut shutters that open like closet doors do double duty keeping the sun out and creating a unique, abstract hotel façade. In fact, these shutters are Emiliano’s most identifying feature.

Library Living Room Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil
Library Living Room Hotel Emiliano Rio De Janeiro Brazil

The small lobby is deceivingly simple. You might wonder what’s the big whoop. Just head around the corner to the “library” living room – with sculptural wood walls and a soaring living wall patio. Everything is styled to the max.

View from Room, Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil
View from Room, Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil

But the cool-kid aspect doesn’t end there – the Emiliano Rio wasn’t placed on Conde-Nast Traveler’s Hot List 2018 for nothing. The roof-deck infinity pool–bar has got to be one of the most romantic spots in all of romantic Rio, especially on a clear, full moon night. It’s for guests only – a great perk that keeps the throngs out.

Moonlit Night Hotel Emaliano Rio Brazil
Moonlit Night Hotel Emiliano Rio Brazil

Rooms are beach bright – in hues of white midday sun and sand. Turndown includes yet another perk – a pair of Havaianas flip-flops, in your size, to take with you when you leave.

STAY: Belmond Copacabana Palace

Overlooking the iconic Copacabana Beach, the Belmond Copacabana Palace exudes old-world charm. Think chandeliers, marble flooring, and a grand swimming pool. The sea-facing suites offer a mesmerizing sunset view that is perfect for a romantic evening. And it offers a private butler, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and spa treatments for couples.

STAY: Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro – Ipanema Beach

If a modern and sophisticated ambiance is your idea of romance, Hotel Fasano is the place to be. The rooftop pool offers a 360-degree view of Ipanema and is an ideal setting for a dreamy sunset cocktail. Plus, the resort offers beachfront service, gourmet dining, and a rooftop bar.

STAY: Santa Teresa Hotel RJ – MGallery

Set amidst the cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa, this boutique hotel feels like a secluded oasis. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of Rio’s popular beaches but offers an equally captivating view of the city.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.