The Ultimate One Day City Tour: Rio De Janeiro

We fell in love with Rio De Janeiro very quickly. It is one of those rare places where you have the best of both worlds, it can be both a city break and a beach break all in one. Rio is a vibrant city intertwined with beautiful beaches, rainforests and mountains and we cannot recommend it enough.

City tour rio de janeiro

You are bound to have seen pictures of the iconic Christ the Redeemer (aka the ‘Big Dude’), Sugarloaf Mountain and Escadaria Selaron. The best way to see all these iconic landmarks is to book an organised city tour of Rio De Janeiro, especially if you are short on time.

Rio has so much to offer which is why we want to share with you the best city tour of Rio De Janeiro we went on during our time there. It was the easiest way to see the best of Rio De Janeiro in one day.

Big Dude City Tour: Rio De Janeiro

After a lot of research through friend recommendations and through Tripadvisor we decided to book our city tour of Rio De Janeiro with Brazil Expedition. They get 4.5 on Tripadvisor and rank very highly for city tours in Rio De Janeiro so we felt very confident with our choice.

For us, we wanted to see the big ticket, iconic landmarks and  so chose to go on the ‘Big Dude Tour’. This allowed us to see so much of Rio De Janeiro in just one day. It was lead by a professional English speaking guide and lasted 7 hours – a very efficient way to see the city!

Here is what we saw on our Big Dude City Tour of Rio De Janeiro!

Sao Conrado Beach

We were picked up from our AirBnB by the guide in a small minibus and driven to Sao Conrado beach which took about 30 minutes. We had some spectacular views along the way as the guide gave us a full and fascinating introduction to the city.

Sao Conrado beach is known for being the hang gliding landing area. You can watch the hang gliders take off in the distance from Pedra Bonita and fly from the mountains, out over the ocean, before coming in to land on the beach. We would have loved to try this ourselves but did not have time, however it was very cool to see!

City tour rio de janeiro

From here, we head on to Tijuca National Park…

Tijuca National Park

One of the things we loved most about Rio is the contrast of environments. You can go from beautiful beach, to bustling city and to lush tropical rainforest all within half an hour.

Tijuca National Park is considered to be one of the worlds largest urban forests at 32km2. Here you can expect to see waterfalls, tropical plants, exotic trees and some local wildlife. One of the hotspots and best viewing points here is known as the ‘Chinese View’. This looks out over the southern zone of the city and was truly spectacular!

24 hours in Rio: The Best City Tour, Rio De Janeiro

Once we had finished in Tijuca National park we took a stop for lunch (not included) in Ipanema before heading to Christ the Redeemer!

Christ the Redeemer Statue (aka ‘The Big Dude’)

This was one of the stops that we were most excited for. When we think about Rio De Janeiro this is one of the first things that comes to our minds and perhaps the highlight of our city tour. The ticket price is all included in the package, normally you would have to pay for transport up to the statue, queue and pay for tickets etc so this was much easier.

Christ the Redeemer is a stunning 30 metre statue of Jesus mounted on top of the Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park looking out over the city.

city tour rio De Janerio
The Big Dude!

It is considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and has become not just a cultural icon of Rio, but also of Brazil as a whole. Both the statue and the surrounding views are incredible to see.

Of course everyone wants to get the perfect shot with the statue and this is no easy feat. However you will find that they have some ingenious floor mats with head rests up near the statue that you can lie down on to take that perfect shot! For us, the wide angle of our Go Pro worked perfectly.

From here we drove through the traditional neighbourhood of Santa Teresa before arriving in Lapa to see another icon, the Escadaria Selaron.

Escadaria Selaron: Lapa

You might recognise the Escadaria Selaron (or secret Lapa steps) from Snoop Dogg and Pharells music video for their song ‘Beautiful’.

The steps are a beautiful work of art and a tribute to the people of Brazil from Chilean artist Jorge Selaron.

city tour rio De Janerio
Selaron Steps

There are 215 steps completely covered in ceramic tiles and mirrors. Selaron started with just yellow and green tiles (colours from the Brazilian flag) but now you will see a unique range of tiles from all over the world. Look carefully through all 2000 tiles and see if you can find one that represents your country! We were very excited by what appeared to be the Manchester bee!

Sugarloaf Mountain

As the end of the day approaches, you are given two options; return to your hotel or be dropped off at Sugarloaf Mountain for sunset.

city tour rio De Janerio

For us this was an easy choice and we chose the latter. The cost of the ticket to go up the mountain is not included as part of the tour but is only $15. You can buy tickets at the entrance at Praia Vermelha (Red Beach). The cable car runs between 8 am and 9 pm every 20 minutes. We highly recommend going at sunset though!

Sugarloaf Mountain stands at 396m and will give you the best 360o views of the city, the surrounding Guanabara Bay, mountains and rainforests. Up at the top you will find cafes and restaurants where you can sit back with a drink and enjoy the sunset. There are also a lot of very cute (and mischievous) tiny marmosets up on the mountain.

The view says it all:

city tour rio de janeiro
Now this is a view!

How much did the City Tour of Rio De Janeiro cost?

The tour with Brazil Expedition cost $40 per person (160 Brazilian Real) which we thought was excellent for a 7 hour tour, all transport, access to Christ the Redeemer etc.

What should you bring?

This is a difficult one and packing for Rio can be a challenge! Take a look at our ‘Rio de Janeiro Packing Guide‘ to get prepared!

After the City Tour

After a 7 hour jam-packed city tour, we wanted a nice relaxing evening with some good food and quality wine. After researching on TripAdvisor we booked a table at Restaurante Emile, part of the Hotel Emiliano. This is fine dining at it’s best! The a la carte menu has an extensive selection of meat and fish dishes, from tuna sashimi to an excellent, perfectly cooked to order wagyu steak. The decor is beautiful aswell – this is definitely a place to dress up! We highly recommend this restaurant!

Alternatively, if you still have energy to spare, you might want to check out Rios vibrant nightlife (we were pretty worn out!). Check out our guide below for all of our recommendations.

We can’t recommend travelling to Rio De Janeiro enough, it is truly spectacular and make sure you get yourself on a city tour to see as much as possible!

Want to read more about Rio De Janeiro? Take a look at our Gay guide to Rio:

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24 hours in Rio: The Best City Tour, Rio De Janeiro

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    I never really thought about Rio De Janeiro having so many different types of environments, but I think I would love that too. Tijuca National Park sounds really fun to visit!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      Yes we were really surprised too! Apparently it’s often called “where the city meets the sea/ocean” – we can see why now!

  2. Yara

    Nailing a city in one day is a hard task! Thank you for putting together such a great and easy to follow list on spending a productively jam-packed day in Rio de Janeiro!

  3. David

    $40 is a bargain for a day trip that long! I visited Rio a few years ago now and really wanted to go to the Tijuca National Park but I just didn’t have the time. Glad to see you guys enjoyed it!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      We thought so too! Definitely worth it to see everything in the shortest time. Hope you enjoyed your time in Rio too 🙂

  4. Jennifer

    Rio de Janeiro looks like such a beautiful place to visit. One day maybe I’ll get to come here. I’m going to add this to my bucket list of travel places before I turn 50.

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      It really is a stunning city! We hope you get chance to visit soon 🙂

  5. Yara

    Tackling a city in a day is a major task! You both have done a lovely job outlining the best of Rio – tours are sometimes the best way to get stuff done quick. Thanks for sharing, will look into this for my next trip!

    1. The Globetrotter Guys

      We completely agree! Tours are definitely the best way when you are short on time! Glad you found it useful 🙂

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