Every year for my birthday in January I plan a trip somewhere warm. This year, I had my heart set on Brazil. It was magical as I always believed it would be. Stunning beaches, mouth-watering cuisine, warm people, and idyllic weather. Sadly, my husband and I only had a week to soak up the famous Brazilian culture, but it was a deeply memorable week. Rio de Janeiro enchanted us with its music, street food culture, and charming boardwalks, while Sao Paolo was a culinary extravaganza. From where to stay to where to eat, here’s our tour of Rio de Janeiro.
Where to Stay
Santa Teresa Hotel Rio de Janeiro – MGallery by Sofitel: While many tourists elect to vacation in the famed Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods, my husband and I elected to stay off the beaten path in Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is a charming, artsy neighborhood full of winding roads, cafes, and art galleries. Located on the top of the Santa Teresa hill, almost any spot in the neighborhood offers great views of the city.
The hotel itself is lovely, with a pool surrounded by trees frequently visited by monkeys and hummingbirds, a high-end restaurant, a spa, and a bar that offers jazz band Sundays. Our breakfasts were full of exotic Brazilian fruits, warm bread, and mimosas, while our pools days were complete with snacks from the kitchen and endless caipirinhas. Staff is kind and attentive. I highly recommend booking a massage if you have time! Although the hotel is not in the center of town, Uber is quite reliable in Rio, so it’s easy to get to the other parts of the city.
What to Do
When looking for where to eat in Rio de Janeiro, consider booking a food tour. While the Eat Rio Food Tour offers an excellent opportunity to taste dishes and ingredients unique to Brazil, there is more to the tour than just food. You will peruse the streets of Brazil, exploring localities such as Lapa, Glória, Flamengo, and Laranjeiras. You will visit historical highlights such as the Selarón Steps, a set of steps covered in tiles from all of the world, collected by famed artist Jorge Selaron.
Most notably, you will experience Brazilian culture by strolling through open-air markets, riding the subway, and visiting local establishments. Highlights of the tour include a sampling of Brazilian fruits, orchestrated by your friendly Eat Rio Food tour guide Tom. From the sweetest mangos you will ever have to the jackfruit, chiku, and cashew fruit your taste buds will be singing as soon as the tour begins.
Equally as exciting is the Amazonian soup you will get to enjoy. It’s an unusual soup, sour and savory, and brimming with jambu greens, which will numb your tongue as you chew! Beers and caipirinhas are free-flowing throughout the tour, which culminates in an epic meal in a local restaurant called Severina de Laranjeiras. After sampling paes de queso, coconut and tapioca desserts called cuscus, a bevy of juices, empanadas, savory tapioca crepes and more, it’s hard to believe you could have room to eat more but you will!
The food at Severina is delightful, with rice and beans, sweet mashed pumpkin, a delectable baked dish called Escondidinho de brocolis, where broccoli is smothered in mashed yucca and sprinkled with cheese, and more. Post- the Eat Rio Food tour, I recommend a nap before heading out to enjoy the Brazilian nightlife!
Christ the Redeemer Statue
Rio’s most famous statue is definitely worth a visit. Located at the top of the Corcovado mountain, this massive statute, which was constructed almost 100 years ago, is awe-inspiring. The drive to the statute is also amazing, as you will pass through the lush Tijuca Forest.
This peak is the best view of Rio’s mountains, beaches, and forests. Take the cable car in and breath in the unbelievable views.
Where to Eat
This casual Santa Teresa restaurant produces its own award winning beer, so while you enjoy the stunning views of the city and peruse the menu, be sure to nurse a cold beer. For your food, housemade cheese bread, called paes de queso, are the perfect nibble to enjoy with your beer. Next, try a fresh beet salad, grilled hearts of palm, which are wildly popular in Brazil, or one of their many rice dishes. All of it will make for a satisfying lunch or dinner. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is warm and friendly.
Located in the trendy Leblon neighborhood, this modern Brazilian restaurant is a real gem. The brainchild of Chef Felipe Bronze, Oro was selected by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants as the One to Watch, and for good reason. The food at Oro is wildly creative, with a focus on Brazilian ingredients presented in a contemporary, innovative, dynamic fashion. Your meal opens with symphony of nearly a dozen small plates, each one more visually delightful than the last.
A crunchy tapioca cracker, adorned with chayote caviar is an explosion of flavor, while a mini chickpea burger on a housemade bun is savory and nutty and perfect. Egg yolk gnocchi, sweet corn pudding, mini spring rolls and tiny churros are just a few of the many creations that we marveled at and devoured. Service is impeccable and the sommelier hosts a wine list that features a number of delectable Brazilian wines. Dinner is about $100 a person, not including drinks, but for the quality of food and exquisite fine dining experience, it is a steal.
Bazzar: Strolling along the beaches Ipanema is wonderful way to while a way an afternoon. While you do that, you may build up an appetite. Stop at Bazzar, a sweet spot with patio dining and a great wine list. We enjoyed a creamy corn soup, adorned with roasted mushrooms, pasta swirled in a homemade tomato sauce, and a divine dish featuring hearings of palm and plantain swimming in a coconut curry, crowned with breadcrumbs and served with local red rice.
Located inside the Santa Teresa Sofitel, this high-end restaurant offers exciting dishes like eggplant gnocchi, Brazilian breads with a series of housemade spreads, fresh hearts of palm drenched in a grapefruit vinaigrette, breaded goat cheese served with a cupuacu marmalade, and a traditional Brazilian bean soup.
Rio de Janeiro: The Verdict
Rio de Janeiro is an all around fantastic city. Simply strolling through the different neighborhoods, walking along the beach, and trying all the different local dishes is fun, exciting and delicious.