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Things to do in Rio for free!

Rio de Janeiro can feel overwhelming when traveling for the first time, due to its large neighborhoods, crowded beaches, and humid climate. No worries, we’ve compiled a list of fun and free things to do in Rio de Janeiro. Things you’ll find while visiting the city without spending a dime include rainforest walks, lively street parties, free museums, and historic buildings. So, if you’re a budget traveler, Rio – aka The Marvelous City – is the place for you.

Explore the scenic MAR museum

A place where the old meets the new, Rio’s art museum MAR (Museu de Arte do Rio) means sea in Portuguese. Admire the unusual design of the museum, which is one of the Porto Maravilha projects (renewal of the old port), which houses three buildings from different historical periods under a wonderful curved roof. Impressive views of the Guanabara Bay, the massive 13km Niterói Bridge and the recently renovated Praça Mauá waterfront square can be enjoyed from the top floor of the MAR. MAR has an intriguing art collection and, since its opening in 2013, has hosted temporary exhibitions that chronicle Rio’s face in the 1700s and the history of the city’s first favelas. Music and cinema festivals are also held in MAR during the summer months, often resulting in parties spilling over into the square outside. Admission is free every Tuesday.

Top tip: If you want to experience Rio’s art history and then the fun, now is the time.

Do samba like it’s a carnival

Carnival tops the to-do list in Rio de Janeiro and takes place only once a year, from February to March. However, outside of the carnival season, you can enjoy a street party every Saturday with the samba troupe Samba da Ouvidor. Held in the old center of Rio, in a gorgeous and somewhat old neighborhood surrounded by bars and shops, the concert draws thousands of people to the concert venue on the corner of Rua do Ouvidor and Rua do Mercado. Rua do Ouvidor is one of the oldest streets in Brazil. So close to Paço Imperial, the center of Portuguese rule during colonial times, it’s no surprise that this is one of the favorite streets of the samba band – after all, carnival is one of those times when Cariocas (natives of Rio). He mocked the power, forgot the rules and conquered the streets. . At the Ouvidor party in Samba, you will have the chance to learn the most popular songs of the Cariocas and understand the true spirit of the carnival. The party starts at 17:00.

Top tip: This is one of the best ways to get even closer to the people of Rio!

Take a graffiti walk in Prazeres

Strolling around the Prazeres favela, you can climb the slope decorated with street art by 45 urban artists from Brazil and around the world. The walls of about 80 houses that go up to the top of the hill are decorated with colorful paintings, and the dazzling view of Sugarloaf Mountain awaits you at the top. Don’t forget to take a look at the intriguing architectural styles of the favela houses, each built by the people who live in them. The walk starts from Rua Gomes Lopes on Rua Almirante Alexandrino, one of the main streets passing through the Santa Teresa district. You can also find local guides if you wish.

Top tip: Walking around these neighborhoods alone can be even more dangerous for a stranger.

Imagine tomorrow at the Museu do Amanhã

The Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) is one of the wonders of Rio’s renovated old port area. Resembling a white skeleton designed by Santiago Calatrava, the building is breathtaking, with wing-like sections covered with solar panels that slowly move towards the sun. Even sitting by the giant reflecting pool at the end of the pier and enjoying a cold drink from the side food carts is a delightful experience. Not to mention that its interactive exhibits are also highly praised. Museum directors present visitors with five main themes: Cosmos (Universe), Earth (Earth), Anthropocene (Human Age), Tomorrow and Now. Through experiments and exhibits, visitors are encouraged to imagine the sustainable world we can build for the future of the human species. Admission is free every Tuesday.

Top tip: This part of Rio will help expand your imagination about the future even more.

Feel like a champion at Parque Radical de Deodoro

This olympic venue has already become an interesting place for visitors, although it is still a long time before the games begin. Built for canoe slalom, mountain biking, and eight other activities, Parque Radical de Deodoro has become a popular hangout for townspeople to enjoy the sun, mountain terrain, and giant swimming pool. A trip to the park is also a good opportunity to see the Northern District, one of the parts that tourists to Rio usually do not have a chance to see.

Take the yellow tram to Santa Teresa

This historic Bondinho de Santa Teresa tram line will take you from the busy city center to the heart of Santa Teresa, a historic bohemian neighborhood perched on a hill overlooking the city. The tram line starts near the Carioca metro station, passes over the Carioca Arch, and offers views of various architectural examples in Rio’s business district. The small, yellow tram then passes through the narrow cobbled streets of Santa Teresa, where visitors can find restaurants, bars, art galleries and gift shops. The last stop is Largo dos Guimarães, a short walk from iconic neighborhood bars such as Bar do Mineiro and Bar do Gomes. Trams run daily from 10 am to 4 pm and are free of charge.

Immerse yourself in the waters of the waterfall

Although six million people live in Rio de Janeiro, there are still places in the city that feel like a small town – the Cachoeira dos Primatas waterfall is a typical example. The waterfall is an hour’s walk from Rua Jardim Botânico, one of the busiest streets of Rio. When you reach the end of Rua Sara Vilela, you can reach this hidden and wonderful waterfall after a 30-minute walk by following the forest path. The reward for your efforts will be an exhilarating dive opportunity and a view of the huge Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. Don’t say we weren’t warned – you may encounter little monkeys to show you the way while following the trail, so be sure to store your food well! The best time to visit here is between 8 am and 5 pm during the rainy season when the pool is big enough to swim in. Another popular option is to visit the beach first and then stop by the waterfall to get rid of the salts that are covering your body.

Visit the Real Gabinete Português de Leitura library

Caught in a sudden pouring rain or just wanted to get away from the bustling city? You can get lost in the historical corridors of the fascinating Real Gabinete Português de Leitura library. Since 1887, the library has housed an extraordinary collection of Portuguese literature and first editions dating back to the 16th century. If you wish, you can browse through the pages of hundreds of books in the three-floor library free of charge, or simply enjoy the impressive dark wood interior design. Since this place is closed on weekends, you should schedule your visit during the week.

Top tip: A special place for those who want to be more interested in Rio’s history and literature.

Watch the sunset on the beach

Rio de Janeiro is one of the cities with a natural beauty, but if you think that the Cariocas do not appreciate it, you would be wrong. Visitors to the beaches of Ipanema admire the sunset every evening as the sun puts on its marvelous spectacle and continues its journey below the horizon. If you want to participate in this fascinating ritual, all you have to do is sit on the rocks of Arpoador (just off Ipanema beach) with ice-cold coconut water in your hand and admire the sun’s slow setting. When it gets dark, don’t leave right away! On weekends, you can find free concerts and parties on the beach or in the nearby park, or you can continue swimming at night if you wish. As the sun goes down, giant floodlights are turned on and turn the water into a seductive light blue, inviting those who miss the sun to enjoy a warm swim.

Top tip: For those who want to feel the naturalness of Rio to the maximum.


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