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The 5 Best Rio de Janeiro City Tours [2023 Reviews]

Known for its Carnaval, lively music, breathtaking beaches, vibrant culture, and more, it’s no wonder why Rio de Janeiro is one of the most visited cities in the southern hemisphere.

If you’re looking to make a visit, it can be overwhelming deciding what to do first or where to go! We highly recommend taking a tour that will show you some of the biggest attractions and give you a great overview of the city’s most appealing aspects.

By taking one of the best Rio city tours detailed on our comprehensive guide, you will get to know this beautiful city and its people much better. Let’s hop right in!

Best Rio City Tours

Private Tour, Full-day in Rio with Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron StepsRio Sunset Tour Including Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, Cathedral and SelaronFull Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch

Best Private Tour

Best Budget Tour

Best Full Day Tour

editors choice
Departure:Hotel pickup and drop-off includedHotel pickup and drop-off availableHotel pickup and drop-off available
Start:8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM12:30 PM8:30 AM
Duration:9 hours5 to 7 hours8 hours
Includes:Private transportation, Bottled water, Private Tour Guide, Reservation of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf tickets, SnacksGuided half-day tour, all taxes, fees and handling charges, professional guide with live tour commentary in English, Spanish & Portuguese, comfortable air-conditioned vanGuided full-day city tour of Rio de Janeiro, entrance fees to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Barbecue, buffet lunch at Brazilian steakhouse, guide with commentary, comfortable air-conditioned van

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking

Tour Information & Booking


Quick Answer: The 5 Best City of Rio de Janeiro Tours For 2023

  1. Private Tour, Full-day in Rio with Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron Steps
  2. Rio Sunset Tour Including Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, Cathedral and Selaron
  3. Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch
  4. The Best of Rio in a Full Day Tour – Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Selaron and more
  5. The Best of Rio de Janeiro in a Private Guided Tour

Rio City Tour Reviews

1. Private Tour, Full-day in Rio with Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron Steps

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off included
  • Departure Time: 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM
  • Includes: Private transportation, Bottled water, Private Tour Guide, Reservation of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf tickets, Snacks
Have you ever wished that you had a best friend in a foreign city to take you around and show you the ins-and-outs? That’s pretty much exactly what you can expect with the Private Tour, Full-Day in Rio with Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron Steps!

This 9-hour tour is one of the most comprehensive, put on by some of the best guides in the business! After taking this tour, we’re sure you’ll see this city in a whole different way. Start off by being picked up in your hotel or other accommodations earlier in the day.

Your transportation for the day is air-conditioned, comfortable, and you’ll have bottled water included to ensure you stay hydrated.

Your first stop of the day is up at Corcovado Mountain/Christ the Redeemer, which is an absolutely insane experience! This place will be a special experience for anyone, from the Redeemer itself, to the breathtaking views overlooking the bay and city down below.

You’ll have plenty of time to take photos, and the guides are always so great about offering to take some for you so no one’s left out.

Next, are the Selaron Steps, aka “Escadaria Selarón”, which are world-famous steps located in the bright and bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa. The mosaic tiles here are absolutely phenomenal and dedicated to the Brazilian people by Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón.

Check out the Real Gabinete Português De Leitura library and lusophone cultural institution, which is one of the most iconic buildings in the entire city!

Praca Quinze de Novembro public square, where you’ll see historic spots like Tiradentes Palace, Imperial Palace, Arco dos Teler, Ordem III do Carmo Church, among others. No Rio city tour is complete without a cable car ride over the picturesque Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay!

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


2. Rio Sunset Tour Including Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, Cathedral and Selaron

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 5 to 7 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off available
  • Departure Time: 12:30 PM
  • Includes: Guided half-day tour, all taxes, fees and handling charges, professional guide with live tour commentary in English, Spanish & Portuguese, comfortable air-conditioned van
Our next tour offers a bit more flexibility in terms of schedule and options, so you can fit it more easily into your schedule. The Rio Sunset Tour including Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer, Cathedral, and Selaron is one of the most budget-friendly options out there for the quality, too.

Lasting anywhere from 5 to 7 hours, you get to select the attractions which interest you most. Starting at 12:30 PM, you have plenty of time for breakfast before getting picked up at your hotel by air-conditioned van and your professional guide.

Your guide offers an educational commentary on everything you pass, so start off by passing by the two most legendary Brazilian beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema. Then, stop at the Visitors Center and learn more about the area on your way up to the infamous Christ the Redeemer.

Once up at the Corcovado Mountain, you’ll have plenty of time to admire the towering Redeemer and the phenomenal views of the bay and city. Next, check out the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian and its unique conical shape and gorgeous stained glass windows.

Head through the jungle at Morro da Urca for the first stage of the Sugar Loaf mountain gondola. Then, take the second half to the very top of Sugarloaf Mountain for more incredible views and passionate stories from your guide!

If you’re looking for a fun group experience with a patient, friendly guide, then this is absolutely one of the top choices. Not only that, but it makes for a fantastic history lesson!

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


3. Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off available
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM
  • Includes: Guided full-day city tour of Rio de Janeiro, entrance fees to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Barbecue, buffet lunch at Brazilian steakhouse, rofessional guide with live tour commentary in English, Spanish & Portuguese, comfortable air-conditioned van
Next up is the Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch Tour. Rio de Janeiro is a bustling, busy city bursting at the seams with life, art, and music.

You’ll get to see plenty of that, but will also have time to escape into the serene natural beauty which surrounds the city on this 8-hour adventure.

Starting off at 8:30 am, you’ll be picked up in your hotel located in the South Zone or West Zone. Your transport for the day is a spacious, climate-controlled van that can fit up to 19 passengers. We found that this group size actually works quite well, and everyone was super friendly!

Pass by the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as your guide tells you all about their history and cultural significance in local and global culture. Before heading up to the enormous Christ the Redeemer, make a stop at the Visitors Center where you’ll learn about national park, gastronomy, and take in some great views of the city.

Of course, no views compare to those from the top of the Corcovado Mountain, where Christ the Redeemer stands watching over Rio. Take plenty of photos before heading onto Maracana and learn about samba dance and costume at the Sambodromo da Marqeus de Sapucai.

Then, it’s on to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, Selaron Steps, and the first cable car ride to Urca Hill.

Take a break eating tasty steaks at a Brazilian local steakhouse before taking that second cable car ride up to the top of the postcard-perfect Sugarloaf Mountain!

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience


4. The Best of Rio in a Full Day Tour – Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Selaron and more

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off available
  • Departure Time: 7:30 AM
  • Includes: Multilingual and licensed tour guide, tickets to Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf when selecting the option, barbecue buffet lunch when selecting the option, full day guided tour
If you’re searching for a budget-friendly tour all over Rio de Janeiro, this is one of those “best bang for your buck” scenarios. The Best of Rio in a Full Day Tour – Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Selaron and More explains the tour quite well.

With a multilingual, licensed tour guide to show you the way, you’ll fit so much knowledge and adventure in you won’t know what to do with it!

Your pick up will take place at your hotel lobby, so there’s no need to worry about booking separate transportation.

This full-day tour requires quite a bit of walking, so make sure you bring some comfy shoes and perhaps a jacket, depending on the season. Start off by passing Ipanema and Copacabana beaches as your guide points out specific points of interest along the way.

You’ll then make your way through the Tijuca Forest, with a stop at Paineiras Visitor Center so you can learn more about national culture and have the chance to grab some souvenirs, should you choose.

Then, it’s time to head up to Corcovado to see the Christ the Redeemer statue from up close! It’s impressive from any point of the city, but seeing this grandiose structure from a close distance is remarkable.

Then, take the cable car from Urca up to the top of the gorgeous Sugar Loaf Mountain, where you’ll get to kick back and enjoy one of the best steakhouses in the city.

Know that you’re refueled, you’ll visit the Maracana Stadium, along with the Sambadrome – both of which represent important sports/dance in Brazil.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

 


5. The Best of Rio de Janeiro in a Private Guided Tour

Tour Highlights:

  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Departure: Hotel pickup and drop-off available
  • Departure Time: Between 8:00 and 10:00 AM
  • Includes: Certified multilingual guide and driver, private tour for up to 14 people, transport by private vehicle
Have you ever wanted to customize your tour to suit your specific interests and leave out the rest? Well now you can, with the Best of Rio de Janeiro in a Private Guided Tour! Lasting around 8 hours, you’ll get to tell your guide what you’re interested in seeing and they’ll design your tour around that.

This private, personalized tour is lead by a local who knows the area like the back of their hand, along with a personal driver very experienced in driving in the city and its surroundings.

The guides recommend creating an itinerary around different themes, such as: food, history, sports, architecture, food, etcetera. You’ll be picked up at your hotel and set off for the first attraction of the day!

If you choose food, you’ll explore some of the city’s most legendary, traditional food spots – making sure you try a variety of classic dishes and drinks.  For nature views, you can’t miss the white-sand beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, or the breathtaking views from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

If you’re interested more in local sports, you may check out Maracana Stadium and the famous Sambadrome, which is the location of the Rio Carnival.

No matter which route you choose, you can be assured that your guide will pack loads of fun and knowledge in. They all tend to be very outgoing, friendly, and of course, knowledgeable in everything “Rio”.

This experience really exceeded our expectations, and gave us a wonderful insight into this beautiful city.

More Information & Tour Booking

100% refund for cancellations within 24 hours of tour experience

 


Rio De Janeiro Tour Guide

Best City of Rio de Janeiro Tours

Getting There

Rio de Janeiro is a popular destination, no matter the time of year. However, flights are even more expensive during Brazilian summer, which is from December to March. Carnival happens on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, so if you’re coming in February, plan on big crowds and book further in advance!

Most major airlines serve Rio’s Antônio Carlos Jobim Airport, aka “Galeāo Airport” with some including a layover in São Paulo. Located just 12 miles from downtown Rio, it’s not too difficult to get into the city from the airport.

Getting Around

As Brazil’s second biggest city, Rio de Janeiro is complex and full of sights and sounds. Despite this, it’s surprisingly easy to move around!

Metro – We love Rio’s metro system! Their 3 lines all feature AC, are easy to use, and are extremely clean. Line 1 runs from Ipanema-General Osório to Uruguai in the north. Line 2 kind of crosses over line 1, going from Botafogo to Pavuna. Line 3 goes between Ipanema-General Osório and the east side of Barra da Tijuca.

Bus – Rio’s BRS runs in Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and Barra. It’s easy to see the key destination as it’s lit up in the front of the bus.

Bicycle – Rio de Janeiro features tons of bike paths – particularly along the coastlines. The orange city Bike Rio cycles are all over the place, and you can use them via app. Most include English instructions.

Light Rail – Launched in 2016, the light rail has seen much success with its 26 stations located around the city.

Taxi – Yellow taxis are easy to hail, thanks to apps like 99Taxis or Easy Taxi. These are generally very safe, affordable, and easy to use.

Moto Taxi – Some places (usually in the favelas) will have moto taxis which are great for short rides. However, you’ll likely not be hanging out in this area.

Where to Stay

Finding cheap AirBnBs or hostels is easy in Rio, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we recommend those areas. The coastline in the south is typically the best, so look at these areas: Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.

Leme – Relatively small, laidback, and easy to get to Copacabana from. It’s nice, but there isn’t much to do.

Copacabana – Generally more expensive, much more to do, noisier, but you have tons of options for whatever you’re looking for.

Ipanema – Similar to Copacabana in that there’s a ton to do, you have the beach right there, though it’s a bit more expensive as well.

Leblon – This is probably the priciest area of the bunch, and further from the main tourist attractions and downtown areas. However, it’s very nice, safe, and easy to get to other areas with public transportation.

Restaurants and Eating Out

Brazil is known for its blend of African and European traditions, which is reflected heavily in local food.

  1. Feijoada – If you ask a carioca what their favorite typical dish is, most likely, it would be feijoada. This comforting bowl of stewed beans, pork, gravy, potatoes, and more is savory and rich in flavor.Best feijoada – Cantinho do Senado or Feira do Lavradio
  2. Churrascaria – You’ve likely been to one of these before in your home country, but if you haven’t, it’s pretty much an all-you-can-eat steakhouse! You get to select which meats you want, and the server will come over to you with a skewer and serve the amount you want.Best churrascaria: Verne Provenzano, Gaucha Churrascaria, Fogo de Chao, or Churrascaria Palace.
  3. Pāo de Queijo – These delicious, warm cheesy bread balls are truly addictive! The texture is half the pleasure, with a crispy outside and chewy inside. You can find good pāo de queijo pretty much anywhere.
  4. Coxinha de Galinha – These delicious chicken fritters are deep-fried and filled with parsley, onions, mashed potatoes (at times), and are dipped in ketchup, chimichurri, and other tasty options. You can find them at a lot of bars, but Bar Bracarense and bar Teto Solar have some particularly delicious ones.
  5. Brigadeiro – Here’s one for those with a sweet tooth! Brigadeiro is a round little hot chocolate cake with butter and condensed milk. They’re often known as “Brazilian truffles” due to their similarly rich texture.

 

Nightlife and Entertainment

Rio definitely has a crazy nightlife, and there’s something for everyone!

The neighborhood of Lapa has insane street parties every weekend, and is definitely worth checking out – even if you aren’t much of a partier!

Lapa – Located in central Rio, the neighborhood of Lapa is known for its wild street parties every weekend! Not only that, but it’s lined with plenty of bars and nightclubs, depending on what you’re looking for.

Botafogo – If you love kicking back with a beer or two, you’ll enjoy the main street of Botafogo: Voluntarios da Patria. It’s also great if you’d like to go out on a weeknight.

Samba – Samba is definitely the owner of Rio’s nightlife, and we highly recommend you check out a traditional samba club while you’re there. Trapiche Gamboa is the top of our list and is known for its great music, friendly locals, and delicious bar food.

Pedra do Sal is known as the birthplace of samba, though, and every Monday and Friday night they throw massive samba street parties where all kinds of street vendors and entertainers show up!

If you’re into something more lowkey, Bip Bip is a fantastic choice. It’s nothing grandiose, but features great live music and cheap beer.

Nightclubs – Rio has so many clubs, it’s hard to name or even visit them all. As we just mentioned, most of the big ones are located in Lapa. One of the most notorious is Rio Scenarium with all kinds of interesting décor like carnival masks and Asian ceramics .

Fosfoboxis a unique underground spot and the music style changes seemingly every night! From rap to electronic to reggaeton, you’ll meet some cool characters here.

Casa de Matriz and Teatro Odisseia are managed by the same people, but equally fun for the younger crowd!

Bars – Perhaps you want something swanky or just want some high-quality, tasty drinks. We first recommend Explorer Bar, located in the trendy Santa Teresa neighborhood. It’s perfect if you’re a craft cocktail connoisseur or enjoy fantastic terrace views .

Bar da Cachaça in Lapa is one of the best places to try the famous Brazilian liquor, and has easily the biggest selection of flavors. We recommend the açai and ginger types! If you’re looking for a spot to prepare yourself mentally before a night at a club, this is it. You’ll find people from all backgrounds here, and everyone’s welcome.

Mundeco Bar is known as “the bar of the world” and is fantastic if you’d like to meet locals or other tourists. It has local and international food with all kinds of delicious drinks to try.

Weather

In Rio de Janeiro, summers tend to be short yet intense. They can be quite wet and cloudy, while winters are long yet more comfortable. It doesn’t rain much in the winter, with usually clear skies. The good news is it will never really get too hot nor too cold. We recommend going from mid-may to late September for the best weather.

Attractions

Christ the Redeemer – By far, the biggest tourist attraction in Rio is Christ the Redeemer. Sitting on top of the already-tall Corcovado Peak, the statue started in 1922 and required a vertical cog train to reach the base of the summit unless you want to climb hundreds of steps to reach the top. Today, you can simply use an elevator or escalator to get there.

Copacabana – Copacabana’s like the more “sporty” neighbor of Ipanema. Surfing, soccer, volleyball – you’ll find it all here. Fort Copacabana former military base with a wartime museum is also quite interesting to check out!

Ipanema – We all know the song, and when you see the soft white sand and beautiful blue waves, it’s no wonder why it inspires so many. There’s the “upscale” area in the south and you can find plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants, art galleries, clubs, and more entertainment here.

Sugarloaf Mountain – Rising 1,300 feet over Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf can be summitted by a glass-walled cable car with full, 360 views! The view from the top is absolutely worth it.

Jardim Botanico – Looking for amazing photo ops? Perhaps an area where you can just let your mind go and soak in all the beauty? This botanical garden is definitely what you’re looking for. With over 8,000 species of plants, a water lily pond, and fantastic museum, it’s great for a date or for going on a relaxing nature walk.

Maracana Stadium – Brazil has one of the most legendary soccer histories, and it all starts here. It could once hold the highest capacity of any soccer venue in the world: almost 200,000 people in 1950 when it opened!

Parque Lage – This is an absolutely gorgeous, tranquil palazzo which houses the school of visual arts along with delicious coffee and “hidden gem” views of Christ the Redeemer in the distance.

Tips

  1. Make sure to watch the weather forecast. Most of the top attractions aren’t quite as, well, attractive, when it’s rainy. However, the crowds are much smaller, if nonexistent on these days!
  2. Get the Rio Card. This prepaid card covers the VLT, buses, and metro and you don’t have to worry about buying a ticket each ride.
  3. Try hiking up Urca Hill. The Sugar Loaf bondinho ride has 2 sections, and the first half is Urca Hill. If you’re looking for a rather easy hike, try hiking up it! Then you get the reward of cruising to Sugar Loaf with the endorphins pumping through your veins.
  4. Don’t drink the tap water. Just drink bottled water, and make sure the cap is actually sealed before drinking it.
  5. Dress down. Cariocas are very casual, laidback people. Pack some flip-flops, shorts, and you’re ready to go!
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The Private Full-day in Rio with Christ Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Selaron Steps is our Editors Choice for the best Rio city tour

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Robert Baker

Robert is a content writer and editor at World Guides to Travel where he shares his love for the great outdoors. He also writes in-depth travel blogs for other websites around the world. Robert is passionate about the environment and uses his writing to educate people about the advantages and importance of sustainable living. Robert enjoys creative writing. In 2009, his children’s novel Sally Hemings & the Good Associates won the Children’s Fiction section of the You Write On Book of the Year Award.
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