Off the beaten track: 5 things for students to do in Rio

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities in the world, and no year has been more hotly anticipated in the city than the year that the great football nation will host the FIFA World Cup that has just started now in Brazil.  However, whether you’re a lover or a loather of “the beautiful game”, there are many things aside from football to keep you occupied in the city dubbed the “cidade maravilhosa” (or the wonderful city).  Here I’ve compiled a brief top-five list of things to do in Rio while you’re here!

1. Visit less known beaches

It is highly unlikely that you’ll be coming to Rio without knowing about the golden sands of the Copacabana and Ipanema.  Beauty surrounds you on these beaches in the form of blue seas, golden sands, towering mountains and toned, tanned bodies.  However, if you want to get away from the bustle, consider going to Prainha which is a surprisingly secluded beach within a couple of hours from the south zone of the city.  You will find a small, peaceful hideaway with clean sands and blue waters, surrounded by the rainforest.  If you don’t want to face the lengthy trip to Prainha, consider visiting Praia Vermelha, next to Sugarloaf Mountain. It is a small, quieter beach with stunning views of the mountain and neighboring Niteroi.

Sand Art on the world famous Copacabana Beach

Sand Art on the world famous Copacabana Beach

2. Explore the park life

Rio is so famous for its beaches, that it’s easy to overlook it other areas of natural beauty.  In all fairness, the beaches are so stunning that you can be forgiven for spending all day, every day on the sands. But if you want to venture further afield, take the Metro on the green line to São Cristovão where you can discover the charm of Quinta da Boa Vista park. The park was part of the gardens of the São Cristóvão Palace and used to be exclusively for the enjoyment of the Emperors of Brazil in the 19th Century. The old palace building has now been turned into a museum and the Zoological Garden is also situated in the park, hosting over 2000 species of animals as its inhabitants.

3. Take a hike to Rio hills!

If you go to Rio, you simply have to visit the Cristo Redentor or take the cable car up to Sugarloaf Mountain. But in my opinion, you should also consider hiking in the Tijuca rainforest to take in a panoramic view of the city. There are many trails and paths but please, do this in a group with a guide or someone who knows the way. You can also go to the Air France memorial in Parque Dois Irmões which is at the end of Leblon beach. As you reflect at this very poignant memorial, you can take in a stunning view of Ipanema beach in a not-often frequented spot which even many locals don’t know about.

4. Volunteer in a community of Rio de Janeiro

Not many visitors realise that you can have a rich experience participating in one of the many NGO projects in Rio’s poorer socio-economic communities. Rio contains many such communities, or favelas (slums), a word locals don’t like to use. There are great NGOs that help out the communities by providing a safe place for learning and personal growth where children and even adults can participate in a variety of activities including language lessons, sports, art, drama or even fashion classes. Spending time helping the community will give you a real insight into the real Rio de Janeiro and the beautiful people that live in these neglected yet fascinating and lively areas.

Selaron Staris of Lapa

Selaron Staris of Lapa

5. Enjoy the nightlife!

In Rio’s many nightclubs, you can dance until well past sunrise. However, the attraction of Rio’s nightlife is the option to enjoy a night out without spending fortune. Most people will make their way to the neighborhood of Lapa on a Friday night.  It has many cool bars and restaurants which spill onto the streets and you can go any hour of the night and stroll through the stalls selling food and drink and by musicians playing on the streets. Just be careful, be sensible and always take taxis. Try also going to one of the many samba schools. The atmosphere is electric and the night is cheap. Usually these samba schools are out to the north part of the city so if you do intend on going on a night out there, organize a group and always go by taxi.


Originally from Scotland, Stuart Maciver completed the Bridge IDELT course in Rio in 2009 and loved the city so much that he decided to make it his home. He has been working with Bridge for over two years in total and for nearly a year in the role of English Coordinator. He has travelled round most of South America but chose Rio as the place to settle down as he loves the lifestyle and the natural beauty of the city itself.
View more information on Bridge Brazil, or search for language courses on the IALC website.

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Members of IALC share their insights on the language travel industry. Contributors are owners, directors, managers, teachers or administrative staff of IALC-accredited language schools worldwide.

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