A guide to going off the beaten path during Brazil’s biggest event of the year.
The Olympic torch is lit and you’ve bought your tickets. But navigating a city as overwhelming to the senses as Rio—along with 500,000 other travelers—goes more smoothly with insider info. Here are a few tips for traveling deeper during the Summer Olympics.
1. Ditch the Subway
Throughout the four principal regions of the games—Copacabana, Barra, Deodoro, and Maracanã—you’ll find Bike Rio stations where you can snag an orange cycle for an hour or more. A 24-hour pass is R$5 reals, about US$1.50. You can also rent a bike in Botafogo, then ride along the famed beachfront promenades in Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon. (Just say yes to frequent pit stops for caipirinhas and açaí.) Want a less populated route? Head away from the beaches and ride around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a lake surrounded by parks, gardens, and food carts. Stop for a tapioca pancake filled with carne seca, a salty cured beef, and melted cheese.
2. Go Green
Rio’s location at the base of the Tijuca Forest makes for accessible, and wholly satisfying, outdoor adventures. Escape the flow of spectators with a hike up Sugarloaf Mountain—Dehouche leads half-day hikes up the steep face—or walk through the English-style gardens of Parque Lage before ascending the Corcovado trail to the base of Christ the Redeemer. For a high-octane adventure, take on the Pedra da Gávea hike, which ends at an adrenaline-spiking, Insta-ready cliff that overlooks the entire city. (Hint: go at dusk.)
3. Hunt Down Authentic Eats
After a long night spent watching the opening ceremonies or futbol at Maracanã, hit the creative neighborhoods of Santa Teresa, Glória, Centro, and Porto on a food tour with Culinary Backstreets. You’ll sample fish and honey from local vendors and eat sweets with eighth-generation Portuguese pastry chefs. For a more relaxed, self-guided food tour, start in Flamengo at Tacacá do Norte with crab and mangaba juice then ask your server for tips on where to eat next. When attending events on the Barra side of the mountain, seek out feijoada—a traditional stew made with pork, sausage, and bacon and served in a ceramic pot—at Academia de Cachaça.
4. Shop Local
As of May 1, one U.S. dollar was valued at 3.50 Brazilian reals. Despite the general uptick in costs during the games, your money should still go a long way. Splurge on something designed locally and crafted at Arquivo Contemporâneo. The four-story housewares shop features next-level designs that preserve Rio’s traditional, tropical vibe. Find funky lamps designed by Rejane Carvalho and bookshelves made from lignum wood by Lia Siqueira. Samba and jazz aficionados can dive into Rio’s rhythmic soul at Toca do Vinicius, a vinyl, sheet music, and CD store that hosts live concerts with renowned bossa nova musicians.
5. Meet an Argentine Mixologist at a Beach Bar
Rio has upped its craft-cocktail game with the help of an Argentine mixologist. Tato Giovannoni of Buenos Aires’ Florería Atlántico opened Rio’s first upscale quiosque beach bar, located on the eastern end of the Barra beach strand. Go for house-infused gin cocktails with grapefruit, peppermint, and eucalyptus paired with Portuguese octopus and other lunch items. Giovannoni is also rolling out a mobile beach bar that he’ll park in Botafogo’s central square, a short walk from the beach volleyball arena. (We’re cheering for you, Kerri Walsh Jennings.)
6. Dance. All. Night.
If you want to samba like a local in the “cidade maravilhosa” (marvelous city), then you’ll be spending your nights in the artsy Lapa and Centro neighborhoods, both a 20-minute ride from Copacabana. The dance clubs, called orgafieiras, are always packed—the dancers pause only for shots or cachaça-based drinks. Drink, dance, and be merry late into the night at Rio Scenarium, a hip venue for samba and chorinho (instrumental) music. Don’t miss the beiju, a tapioca cake. Two blocks away, dancers of all ages roll their hips to jazz and ballroom beats at Estudantina Musical. And for the ultra-discreet venue where musicians and dancers hang, head to Semente.