Things to see and do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Travel tips and guide

THE ONE DRINK

The caipirinha, made from cachaça (a rum-adjacent spirit made from sugarcane juice), lime and sugar is utterly ubiquitous in Rio. This applies whether supping it in fancy cocktail bars or shambolic but charming huts at the edge of the beach. Where it gets interesting are the zillion-and-one fruity (but ferociously potent) variations on the theme. Try the fresh lychee version.

THE ONE BEACH

Copacabana or Ipanema? It's the eternal big fight in Rio, but if you have to pick one, then Copacabana nudges it on people-watching and energy. It's likely to be crowded, but that crowd includes dozens of people playing beach volleyball, a wide array of posers, kids kicking footballs and hustlers selling drinks. Ipanema is arguably the better beach, and is a little more stylish and chilled.

THE ONE NEIGHBOURHOOD

Leblon and Ipanema merge into each other to a certain degree, but Leblon is where the well-heeled and fashionable will go for dinner. Several bars and restaurants cluster around Rua Dias Ferreira. Zuka's a good encapsulation of the vibe, majoring on grilled meats, but with considerable tarting up including ghee and goat's cheese with tenderloin steaks. See zuka.com.br

THE ONE HOTEL

The Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel is where a lot of visiting dignitaries get put up, and it's the closest you'll get to a proper resort in the city. A high rise in its own secluded bay next to Leblon Beach, the pool is humungous and there are several eating and drinking options. It also has a small beach essentially to itself. See Marriott.com

THE ONE STAIRCASE

Connecting the two hip inner city areas of Lapa and Santa Teresa, the Escadaria Selarón was the brainchild of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. He started covering the steep steps up the hill with colourful mosaic tiling, and since his death in 2013, several other artists have taken up the reins adding more to an ever-expanding art installation.

THE ONE MOUNTAIN

Sugarloaf Mountain, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, is an icon for good reason. It's best visited in the early evening when a magically photogenic light bathes the city. Getting there is part of the fun, too, with a series of cable cars running in stages from the southern suburb of Urca. The stations have cafés and walking trails nearby to make breaking the journey worth it. See bondinho.com.br

THE ONE STATUE

The other big symbol of Rio is the 38-metre high statue of Christ The Redeemer, his arms spread in welcome, on top of the Corcovado hill. It seems higher than it is because Corcovado rises up sharply from the city. Visible from all over Rio, the statue is best reached via the cog railway that takes the steep chug up to 710 metres above sea level. See tremdocorcovado.rio

THE ONE STADIUM

The gargantuan Maracanã stadium was inaugurated for the 1950 World Cup – and it broke the record for an attendance at a football match that still stands today. Capacity is now down below 80,000, but it is still one of the world's great stadiums and home to several Rio teams in the world's greatest footballing nation. Tours are available for those who can't snaffle match tickets. See tourmaracana.com.br

THE ONE FOREST

The mountainous outcrops are a big part of what makes Rio so stunning, but another major factor is that it is a city essentially built into the gaps of a rainforest. Often quoted as the world's largest urban forest the National Tijuca Park offers 39,000 hectares for strolling through in the heart of the urban area. Rio Adventures runs tours – look out for birdlife and Capuchin monkeys. See rioadventures.com

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ONE MORE THING

English-speakers are surprisingly thin on the ground for such an international city. The same applies to Spanish-speakers, should you be relying on some basic Spanish picked up in other South American countries. Be prepared for some muddling through in restaurants and taxis.

MORE

www.traveller.com.au/brazil 

www.visit.rio 

The writer travelled at his own expense.

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