A Fun 3 Days in Rio de Janeiro Itinerary

15 min read
Side view of lush green mountains along a white sand beach lined with buildings
Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, a beautiful city in South America

Rio de Janeiro is a renowned coastal city in Brazil that is known as one of the most beautiful places in South America. Rio attracts millions of tourists annually thanks to its rich history, delicious food, world-famous landmarks, spectacular beaches, and stunning architecture.

Even if you only spend 3 days in Rio de Janeiro, you can see all the best landmarks and attractions. This Rio de Janeiro itinerary will take you to beautiful beaches and tourist hotspots like the Christ the Redeemer statue. You can also explore Lapa, Catacumba Park, and Tijuca National Park.

If you are unsure when to plan a trip here, the best time to visit Rio de Janeiro is between December and March, Rio's peak season. If you wish to experience the famous carnival, you must visit in February, although the event date changes yearly to coincide with the start of lent. To enjoy milder temperatures and fewer crowds, visit in fall or spring.

Does Rio sound like the perfect destination for you? If so, keep reading for some top Rio travel tips, and to discover all the things you can do when in Rio de Janeiro for 72 hours!

  • 3 day itinerary
  • Average of 6 stops per day

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3 Days in Rio Itinerary

Rio de Janeiro Map

A map of Rio de Janeiro. Use the map to explore all the days and stops.

Enjoy Rio de Janeiro's Breathtaking Natural Landscape

© iveklitch.gmail.com via Depositphotos
A statue of Jesus on a mountain overlooking buildings, a harbor, and other mountains
Rio de Janeiro offers a mix of stunning natural landscapes and modern city views

The first day of your three days in Rio de Janeiro itinerary will allow you to get lost in the city's stunning nature and see some of the best places to visit in Brazil. The scenic lookout point, Mirante Dona Marta, is your first stop of the day, which offers picturesque city views.

Next, you get to visit the most famous attraction in Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer. After seeing the iconic statue, you'll visit Parque Lage, where you will be able to relax a little after a busy morning.

Your afternoon will be spent in Tijuca National Park, where you can discover waterfalls, caves, and rainforest trails. When the evening approaches, head towards the Sao Conrado neighborhood to enjoy the beach and local bars. To make the most of your day and ensure you have time to see everything, start the day early, around 8 AM.

A panoramic view of a city with buildings surrounded by hills and water at sunrise
Mirante Dona Marta provides a panoramic view of the magnificent city of Rio

Mirante Dona Marta

Mirante Dona Marta is the perfect place to start your first morning in the city! The peak is not as high as Corcovado, but it still offers magnificent city views. Being at a lower level than Corcovado also means that the views from the lookout point are usually less foggy.

Famous city attractions to see from here include Maracana Stadium, the Santa Teresa neighborhood, Guanabara Bay, and Christ the Redeemer. You can reach Mirante Dona Marta by car, and the hike to the lookout is easy and relatively short.

© A1804 via Depositphotos
An aerial view of a tall statue of Jesus on top of a mountain with tourists around it
Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco statue in the world

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer, or Christo Redentor in Portuguese, is one of the most well-known places to go in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue stands at the top of Corcovado Mountain, and visitors can enjoy fantastic views of the city and its suburbs when at the lookout point.

Completed in 1931, the statue is 30 meters tall, making it the largest Art Deco statue in the world. In 2007 the sculpture was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. After admiring the statue and the views and taking lots of photos, you can get a quick bite to eat at one of two eateries atop the mountain.

To reach the statue, you will have to take the inclined train. On the train ride up, you can also enjoy spectacular views! Try to arrive before noon to avoid larger crowds. Buying a Christ the Redeemer entry ticket in advance is recommended too.

A staircase leading to an ancient stone mansion surrounded by trees and green grass
Parque Lage is famous for its architectural structures surrounded by tropical plants

Parque Lage

Parque Lage is tucked at the foot of Corcovado in the Jardim Botanico do Rio de Janeiro (Rio Botanical Gardens.) The stunning and tranquil public park is known for its magnificent architectural structures and trails surrounded by tropical trees and plants.

Another can't-miss feature is the park's decorative pool that sits next to Greek-style pillars and a charming cafe. The picturesque views of Christ the Redeemer from here are a highlight too!

You can hike down from the Christ the Redeemer to the park. Another option is to take a Rio Botanical Garden and Parque Lage tour.

Going to Tijuca National Park has to be on your Rio de Janeiro itinerary
A trip to Tijuca National Park has to be on your Rio de Janeiro itinerary

Tijuca National Park

Exploring Tijuca National Park, also known as Tijuca Forest, is one of the top things to do in Rio. The park comprises 39 square kilometers of tropical rainforest and is home to various animals, such as iguanas, squirrel monkeys, and coatis.

A fun and adventurous way to explore the park is to go on a Tijuca National Park jeep tour. This tour will take you through the rainforest and allows for a one-hour hiking excursion. Your guide will also offer more information on the ecosystem of the park.

If you get hungry, you can stop at Restaurante Os Esquilos in the park or Bar da Pracinha on the park's outskirts.

High-rise buildings next to a road overlooking a white sand beach and the ocean
Sao Conrado Beach is one of the less crowded beaches in Rio

Sao Conrado Beach

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro is Sao Conrado. The area features a tranquil beach, stunning shopping malls, and chic bars. It is also one of the best places in Rio de Janeiro to go hang-gliding!

When in the area, going to Sao Conrado beach is a must. It is a perfect place to take a relaxing stroll, sunbathe, and watch the sunset. The beach is also much less crowded than other Rio beaches.

If you want to stop for refreshments, there are several bars along the beach with incredible cocktails and a lively atmosphere. San Conrado is an ideal place to stay as well. If you're booking an Airbnb in Rio, be sure to keep this area in mind.

The Highlights of Central Rio

When spending 3 days in Rio de Janeiro, Selaron Steps is a must-see landmark
Selaron Steps is a must-see landmark when spending 3 days in Rio de Janeiro

On the second day of this 3 day Rio itinerary, you will see the best central Rio De Janeiro attractions. You will also learn more about the city's history and culture.

The first stop is Etnias Mural. After admiring the artwork, continue to Boulevard Olimpico and visit Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow) to learn about various science topics. After a visit to the museum, you will have lunch, explore Lapa, and see the iconic Escadaria Selaron.

The last stop of the day is Flamengo Beach, where you can take a stroll or a dip in the ocean before enjoying drinks at a beach bar.

The best thing about your second day is that you can walk to all your destinations! If you get tired of walking, you can also use public transportation.

© dabldy via Depositphotos
A long wall covered with a colourful street art mural and a street and trees in front
Etnias Mural is the largest piece of graffiti in the world

Etnias Mural

One of the top things to do in Rio de Janeiro is visiting Etnias Mural. The street art covers 3,000 square meters of wall and is the largest piece of graffiti in the world. The mural is also one of the most photographed things in the city center.

Painted by the artist Eduardo Kobra, the mural is named "Todos Somos Um," which means "we are all one" in English. The mural incorporates representatives of native tribes across the globe, including those in Asia, the Americas, and Africa. It took over three months to complete the mural and over 2,500 liters of paint and 3,000 spray cans of paint!

Visiting in the morning is a good idea as the area around the artwork is less crowded. If you enjoy seeing Etnias Mural, consider taking a Rio urban art walking tour to see more fantastic street art.

Boulevard Olimpico

Boulevard Olimpico is a promenade that stretches from the AquaRio aquarium to the Museum of Tomorrow. It is mainly known as being home to Etnias Mural but also features other fun attractions and great views.

After exploring the area, stop at one of many cafes in Maua Square for refreshments. You can also stop by Pier Maua, a busy port with cruise ships and spectacular bay views.

Another option that allows you to see everything the area offers is going on a guided tour of Boulevard Olimpico. Your guide will take you to the best attractions, including the Museum of Tomorrow, and teach you about the area's history.

© rmnunes via Depositphotos
A white, tilted, futuristic structure surrounded by tourists and a blue sky
The Museum of Tomorrow is an interesting science museum with unique architecture

The Museum of Tomorrow

Near Pier Maua, Museo do Amanha, or the Museum of Tomorrow in English, is a fascinating science museum. This attraction is also well-known for its futuristic design created by architect Santiago Calatrava. If you have been wondering what to do in Rio de Janeiro with kids, a trip to the Museum of Tomorrow is a great idea!

The museum is divided into five parts: Cosmos, Earth, Anthropocene, Tomorrow, and Us. You can learn more about science by participating in hands-on activities and watching experiments. All exhibitions focus on ecological living and sustainable cities.

A great way to explore the museum is by going on a Museum of Tomorrow guided tour. You will be given more information on all of the exhibits and will also get to visit Boulevard Olimpico and Maua Square.

Uruguaiana Market

Uruguaiana Market, also known as Mercado Popular da Uruguaiana, is one of the city's most popular markets and one of many Rio de Janeiro sites you must visit. You can buy an array of items here at highly affordable prices.

Established in 1904, Uruguaiana Market was the first place in Rio where street merchants could sell their goods in one centralized location. Today, the market sells clothes, traditional souvenirs, and carnival masks. You will also find numerous food stalls selling the best street food in the city. If you really want something, don't be afraid to haggle!

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A colorful tiled staircase with the words "Rio De Janeiro" and "Escadaria Selaron"
Selaron Steps feature more than 2,000 colorful tiles and pieces of mirrors

Selaron Steps

Selaron Steps, known as Escadaria Selaron in Portuguese, is another location you must visit on your trip to Rio de Janeiro. Nestled between the neighborhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa, Escadaria Selaron is one of the most well-known attractions in the city. Escadaria Selaron was designed by Jorge Selaron and features 215 steps.

The staircase is covered in more than 2,000 colorful tiles and pieces of mirrors, with blue, green, and yellow, the colors of the Brazilian flag, being prominent. Selaron created the steps as a tribute to the Brazilian people, but they have influences from all over the world. For example, the tiles come from over 60 countries around the globe, signifying optimism and togetherness.

Visiting the stairs to take some iconic photographs is a must! However, as a popular tourist attraction, do note that there may be crowds, especially on a nice day.

© master2 via Depositphotos
White arches with buildings behind them and palm trees and a street in front of them
Lapa is home to the well-known Carioca Aqueduct, also called the Lapa Arches

Lapa

Lapa is one of Rio's most vibrant and bohemian neighborhoods. It is filled with bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and unique buildings, and it is well-known for its fantastic nightlife.

The area is home to colonial architecture, with the Carioca Aqueduct, more often referred to as the Lapa Arches, being the most famous. Along with seeing the unique architecture here, you can also visit Passeio Publico, the first public park in Rio de Janeiro. Near the park, you will find several restaurants serving traditional Brazilian food.

Because there's a lot to see in this area, taking a Santa Teresa and Lapa tour is a great idea. You can see the best landmarks in the area, including Selaron Steps.

If possible, head back to Lapa in the evening, especially on a Friday or Saturday. There are many great bars and clubs to check out, plus street music and bar carts on the weekends under the Lapa Arches.

Flamengo Beach

You'll finish your second day in Rio with great cocktails at Flamengo Beach. Located in the neighborhood of Flamengo, the beach also offers excellent views of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Flamengo Beach is a narrow sandy beach and is much quieter and laid back than other beaches in the area. Along the shore, you can find various high-class beach restaurants and bars known for having the most delicious cocktails in the city. You can even take away your beverages and drink at the beach!

The Scenic Side of Rio de Janeiro

A mosaic sidewalk by a beach with patio umbrellas and palm trees against a green hill
Rio de Janeiro is full of picturesque areas, like Ipanema

Your last day of this Rio in 3 days itinerary will be very relaxing and allows you to enjoy spectacular city views. Additionally, this day will have fewer stops than the last two, meaning you can sleep a little later too!

The day's first stop is going to one of the most famous landmarks in Brazil, Sugar Loaf Mountain. From the mountain peak, you can admire magnificent 360-degree views of Rio. Afterward, you will head to Copacabana Beach, where you will have a chance to try out surfing or go for a long bike ride along the coast.

Later, you will visit the National Park of Catacumba, filled with scenic trails and great spots to take photos. Lastly, you will head to renowned Ipanema Beach, where you can watch the sunset and enjoy some drinks.

All locations are close to each other and can be reached by public transportation. However, renting a car or hiring a driver to take you between attractions could make your day less stressful.

A mountain surrounded by green trees with the ocean to the side
Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the most famous landmarks in Brazil

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Sugar Loaf Mountain, called Pao de Acucar in Portuguese, is one of the most iconic sites in Rio de Janeiro. The 396-meter-high mountain offers breathtaking views of Copacabana Beach, Christ the Redeemer, and the city as a whole.

You can reach the mountain in several ways, such as by taking a cable car that stops at a smaller peak (Urca Hill) before continuing to Sugarloaf Mountain. If planning to take the cable car, be sure to book a Sugar Loaf Mountain ticket in advance.

You can also hike the peak by walking up to Urca Hill and then taking the cable car from there. The hike is relatively easy and shouldn't take more than 40 minutes. If you want to be more adventurous, hike from the bottom to the top.

Tropical plants surround the hiking trail, and you might be able to see a wide variety of wildlife, including monkeys, lizards, and tropical butterflies. While there are great restaurants at your next stop, if you're getting hungry, going to Bar e Restaurante Urca near the mountain is recommended.

Tall white buildings along a white sand beach with a blue seashore to the side
Copacabana Beach is an iconic Rio beach and the ideal place to sunbathe or swim

Copacabana Beach

When you think about places to go in Rio, Copacabana Beach is one of the first attractions that come to mind. It is one of the city's best and busiest beaches and must be visited during your Rio de Janeiro trip!

This iconic beach is four kilometers long and offers many activities, such as surfing, watersports, and biking. If you want to relax, there are plenty of walking trails along the coast, or you can find a nice spot on the white sandy beach to sunbathe with a caipirinha.

Beyond that, the beach is full of kiosks and street vendors selling everything, from swimwear to various snacks. You can also find many fun beachside bars.

If you have additional time and want to do something more active, hiking from Copacabana to Dois Irmaos is recommended. You can get incredible views of Rio from the peak and will be able to see landmarks like Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain.

A body of water surrounded by buildings and greenery-covered hills
Catacumba Park is home to an array of amazing viewing points, like Sacopa Viewpoint

Catacumba Park

Catacumba National Park isn't very well-known to tourists but is well worth visiting. Due to it being off the beaten path, you will be able to enjoy some tranquillity amongst the peaceful nature within the park.

It is believed that those native to Brazil buried their dead here before the Portuguese arrived in the 1500s. Today, Catacumba National Park offers a great escape from the hot weather and allows you to see some Brazilian plants and wildlife.

The park's numerous jungle walking trails lead to various viewing points, which offer views of Ipanema. Outside the park, you will find small coffee shops and restaurants where you can get a refreshing drink before moving to another destination.

A mosaic sidewalk with shrubs on the left and a road and tall buildings on the right
Ipanema is one of the most photographed places in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ipanema

Everyone has heard about "The Girl from Ipanema," so it's no wonder this neighborhood receives millions of visitors annually. The area is known for its various parks, black and white tiled pavements, and the renowned Impanema Beach. Ipanema is also home to numerous theaters, restaurants, bars, and luxury hotels.

You can also find little alleys filled with beautiful houses and colorful hanging gardens. You can wander around the neighborhood for more than two hours and still find something you haven't seen yet! If you are looking for a perfect place to take Instagram photos, Ipanema is one of the best places to snap pictures in Rio.

A white sand beach with buildings and greenery-covered mountains behind it
Ipanema Beach is a perfect spot to sunbathe and enjoy a delicious cocktail

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach is another famous beach in Rio de Janeiro, popular among locals and tourists. It is a perfect spot to relax, watch the sunset and sunbathe with delicious cocktails.

Located in the high-class Ipanema neighborhood, the beach is filled with street art, souvenir stalls, bars, and restaurants. Ipanema Beach is two kilometers long and stretches from Alah to Arpoador, a rocky peninsula that separates Ipanema from Copacabana Beach.

Just before sunset, taking a stroll to the Arpoador is a must. You can watch the sunset over the ocean and surrounding mountains. After that, head to one of the beach bars to enjoy the last evening of your Rio de Janeiro vacation.

In Summary

Rio de Janeiro is a magnificent city with something for every traveler. However, it can be a bustling and noisy city that can become overwhelming if you don't adequately plan your trip. Hopefully, this 3 day itinerary for Rio de Janeiro will make exploring the city easy and relaxing, especially for first-time visitors.

The itinerary covers all the main attractions of central Rio, from iconic landmarks and scenic lookout points to national parks and beautiful beaches. So whether you want to hike to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, explore Lapa and Santa Theresa, or hang out on Ipanema Beach, you can do it all with three fun days in Rio!

Have more time in Rio de Janeiro? There's lots more to see, including museums and other neighborhoods. You can also spend more time in Tijuca National Park or take a day or overnight trip to discover areas outside the city, like Ilha Grande or Buzios. Whatever you decide to do, you'll have a blast!

This article was edited by Alli Sewell.

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Written by Agne Civilyte

031226hug WRITER I am a Lithuanian living in the UK and trying to travel all around the world. I love visiting places that are still not well-known to tourists. My favourite part of the world is Southeast Asia as I can find beautiful mountains and temples there. My absolute favourite country is South Korea as I feel at home there.


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