Aerial view of Rio de Janeiro with Christ Redeemer and Corcovado mountain

Top 5 best places to stay in Rio de Janeiro [and things to do]

If you’re a fan of exuberant nature and bustling city life, Rio de Janeiro delivers the best of both worlds in a truly unique way. The picture postcard of “Cidade Maravilhosa” (Marvelous City) – that of lush green mountains that tower over the metropolis facing golden-sand beaches and a Cerulean blue sea – isn’t one that many big cities across the world can boast about.

It hosts one of the biggest events on the entire planet, “Carnaval” – a huge annual festival that brings Rio’s streets to life with music, dance and crowds dressed in colorful costumes – which is bucket list worthy.

It’s not all parties and caipirinhas (a traditional Brazilian cocktail), though – Rio also delivers a rich cultural experience – it’s the birthplace of samba and bossa nova, and home to fine museums. Are you a football fan? You’re in luck – Maracanã, in Rio, is one of the most famous football stadiums in the world where star footballers come to play regularly.

So, what’s the best place to stay in Rio de Janeiro? There’s a neighborhood in Rio for every taste – whether you’re into adventure or have a more refined taste – we’ve got you covered. We’ve also rounded up the best hotels in each city area that cater to every budget.

Copacabana

A Rio de Janeiro staple with a rich history and one of the most famous beaches in the world

Sunset view of Copacabana beach and Avenida Atlântica in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Whether in song or conversation, you’ve probably heard of the world-famous Copacabana beach – the view of the beautiful cobbled stoned boardwalk that stretches along the shoreline and calm waters that flow towards green-covered islands on the horizon is definitely one to see.

Filled with tourists, locals and vendors, it’s one of Rio’s busiest activity hubs, and offers a huge selection of restaurants, bars and shops. It’s also close to the city’s cultural attractions (that are easily reachable by metro), making it one of the best neighborhoods to stay in.

What to do in Copacabana

  • Visit the Copacabana Fort, a historic colonial building that has incredible sweeping views of Copacabana Beach.
  • Try one of the traditional bars/ eateries, “botecos“, well known for their fresh seafood snacks (“petiscos“) and cold beer.
  • Attend the grand annual firework show in Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve.

Places to stay in Copacabana

There is no lack of places to stay in Copacabana – we’ve narrowed the best down and listed one for every budget.

Royalty Copacabana Hotel
Hilton Rio de Janeiro Copacabana
Fairmont Rio de Janeiro Copacabana

Enjoy the benefits and special prices of Bon Viaggio Rewards Program.

Ipanema

Trendy restaurants, stores and bars, and the most fashionable crowd in Rio de Janeiro

Sunset view of Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ipanema has been immortalized by the classic bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema” – its opening verse, “tall, tanned, young and lovely” accurately depicts the locals who come to lounge on the sun-drenched stretch of sand. However, one of the great things about Ipanema Beach is that it welcomes people from all walks of life.

This neighborhood is ideal for travelers who enjoy the finer things in life, from high-end stores to sophisticated gastronomy. One of the main perks of staying in Ipanema is the breathtaking view of Christ the Redeemer, which towers over Ipanema, stately and mighty.

What to do in Ipanema

  • Take a stroll around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a picturesque lake that gathers wonderfully mixed crowds who like to run, skate and bike around its perimeter.
  • Watch the sunset from Arpoador, an iconic spot at the edge of Ipanema Beach that attracts huge crowds, who often clap as the sun goes down.
  • Visit the Botanic Gardens, which has more than 6,500 varieties of native plants and trees, and offers visitors the perfect shade on particularly warm days.

Places to stay in Ipanema

As one of the hubs of action in Rio, Ipanema has numerous options for quality hotels. Here’s our list of the ones that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Arena Ipanema Hotel
Ipanema Inn
Fasano Rio de Janeiro

Enjoy the benefits and special prices of Bon Viaggio Rewards Program.

Leblon

Cosmopolitan and with an understated glamour, Leblon is the most affluent region in Rio

Mirante do Leblon with umbrellas and chairs under coconut trees on a hot, beautiful, and sunny summer day
Leblon and Ipanema are neighbors, but Leblon tends to be a little quieter, with residential buildings far outnumbering commercial areas. It is perfect for travelers who want to relax whilst staying fairly close to the action.

A huge benefit of staying in Leblon is that you can go anywhere on foot and there are many delectable bakeries, as well as a plethora of high-end stores and restaurants to go to. At nighttime, the street “Dias Ferreira” is where stylish crowds come to bar hop.

What to do in Leblon

  • Enjoy strolling and people-watching by Leblon Beach on Sundays, when the main road closes and locals can enjoy doing physical activities, walking their dogs and playing with their kids freely.
  • Take a stroll in Shopping Leblon, a stylish mall that has many Brazilian high-end stores and some international ones, too.
  • For a more adventurous outing, hike the trail up Dois Irmãos hill for an amazing panoramic view of the South Zone of the city.

Places to stay in Leblon

There’s no shortage of lavish hotels in Leblon – here’s our selection of the finest ones, from the more affordable to the most luxurious.

Ritz Hotel Leblon
Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort
Janeiro Hotel

Enjoy the benefits and special prices of Bon Viaggio Rewards Program.

Barra da Tijuca

The most expansive neighborhood with a beautiful wide beach that is far from crowds

Aerial view of Two Brothers Mountain (Morro Dois Irmãos), Pedra da Gávea and Favela Vidigal in the summer, daytime

Whilst most tourists tend to stick to the most well-known parts of the city – like Copacabana and Ipanema – a few souls, eager for more peace and quiet, flock to the less-advertised Barra da Tijuca. Far more extensive than its counterparts, “Barra” as locals call it, offers an alternative experience of Rio, with arguably more adventure and more contact with nature.

Don’t get it wrong – Barra is far from a desolate spot – but what it offers is a less touristic, more local experience with far less crowded beaches just as beautiful (if not more) than the rest.

It has lots of options for outdoor activities in stunning nature spots that surround the neighborhood – like hiking up the highest coastal mountain in the world (Pedra da Gávea) or visiting some of Rio’s most secluded beaches, like Prainha and Grumari.

What to do in Barra da Tijuca

  • Try a surf class in one of the many surf schools at Barra da Tijuca Beach.
  • Visit the ‘hidden’ island – Ilha da Gigóia, which can only be accessed by boat and has incredible restaurants that overlook lush natural sceneries.
  • Hike or do a picnic at Parque Nacional da Tijuca, one of the largest urban forests on the planet and is easily reachable from Barra.

Places to stay in Barra da Tijuca

Here’s our find of the best hotels in Barra da Tijuca – from budget-friendly options to more refined ones.

Wyndham Rio de Janeiro Barra
Windsor Barra Hotel
Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro

Enjoy the benefits and special prices of Bon Viaggio Rewards Program.

Santa Teresa

Colorful and artsy neighborhood with colonial architecture reminiscent of the “old Rio de Janeiro”

Yellow train on a cobblestone-paved area in Santa Teresa, a neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Perched on a hill and favored by artists and bohemian types, this charming neighborhood offers picturesque views of the city and a quiet area to escape to from the hustle and bustle. With cobbled-stone streets, brightly painted houses and colorful street art, it’s a unique place to stay in Rio de Janeiro that is loved by tourists and locals alike.

It has a vibrant nightlife and offers a wide variety of quirky art galleries, cafés and bars. It’s also close to the cultural hub located in the city’s center, making it a great place to stay during your visit to Rio.

What to do in Santa Teresa

  • See the most famous city landmarks like Guanabara Bay, Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf from the Dona Marta lookout in Santa Teresa.
  • Take the historic Santa Teresa “Bonde” (tram) for a unique experience that takes you back in time to what Rio’s transport used to be like.
  • Visit the “Museu das ruínas”, a cultural center that used to be a private mansion, and which offers stunning views of Guanabara Bay.

Places to stay in Santa Teresa

You’re guaranteed great views of the city from wherever you stay in Santa Teresa. Here’s our list of hotels to suit every budget with the most breathtaking views.

Rede Reserva Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa Hotel
Vila Santa Teresa

Enjoy the benefits and special prices of Bon Viaggio Rewards Program.

Is Rio de Janeiro safe to travel?

Even though the city attracts a huge number of tourists – around two million each year – there are some travelers who are scared to travel to Rio. While it’s true that like other major cities around the world, Rio has some violence, what tourists should watch out for is theft and pickpocketing.

However, there are measures you can take to prevent these, like keeping your phone and other personal belongings tucked away at all times, making liberal use of the Uber app (which is widely available and cheap for most travelers), and never walking in areas you’re not familiar with, or at night.

The slums (“favelas“) spread across the city aren’t something many tourists have encountered before, and it may come as a shock. Whilst the glaring social inequality in the city is saddening, most favelas are peaceful places and as long as you don’t venture out into one without a tour guide, they aren’t something to fear.

Finally, by heeding our recommendations of the best neighborhoods and hotels in Rio de Janeiro, you’re sure to have a safe and fun time. Rio is a must-see destination, and we hope that the tips we’ve offered help you to enjoy the city and all that it has to offer.

We provide a diverse selection of exceptional hotels in Rio de Janeiro, featuring easy booking options for a delightful and comfortable stay in the Marvelous City.