5 AMAZING Neighborhoods and Areas in Rio de Janeiro (2019)

This guide covers where to stay in Rio de Janeiro, and breaks down the best neighborhoods based on travel interest, things to do, & budget!

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Welcome to Rio de Janeiro – a city famous for its breathtaking landscapes, samba music, and Carnaval festivities. Lovingly called the Marvelous City by Brazilians, it’s full of culture, history, tasty cuisine, and friendly locals.

The Harbour of Rio de Janeiro is surrounded by unique and spectacular landscapes, making it one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Part of the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Cultural Landscapes.

With all these special designations, it’s no wonder that Rio is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere!

With a population of over 6 million people, Rio de Janeiro is the second most populous city in Brazil and the sixth most populous in the Americas! It’s a sprawling city with lots of different areas and neighborhoods, each with their own lifestyle.

Unfortunately, Rio is also famous for its crime, though don’t let that put you off. There are still many areas that are safe for travelers.

I’ve created this guide to help you decide where to stay in Rio de Janeiro. We’ve broken down each area by best things to do to help you decide which area is right for your trip. This way you can focus on the things that matter most – like learning to shake your booty like a Brazilian and eating all the feijoada in the world.

Let’s take a look at Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods and the best places to stay in Rio de Janeiro below!

 

Quick Tips -Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

  • Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro the first time – Copacabana
  • Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro on a budget – Centro
  • Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro for nightlife – Santa Teresa
  • Coolest place to stay in Rio de Janeiro – Ipanema 
  • Best neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro for families – Botafogo

 

In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:

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Copacabana
Copacabana is the most well-known area of Rio de Janeiro. In its heyday of the 50’s and 60’s, the name was synonymous with glitz, glamour, and luxury. Although its golden age has passed, it’s still the most popular area for travelers.
Places to Visit:
  • Dance until the sun comes up at Mariuzinn Night Club. Be sure to NOT arrive before midnight
  • Start your day with breakfast at Forte de Copacabana
  • Watch a live samba music from local musicians at Bip Bip

 

 

Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro – Our Top Picks for Best Places to Stay

Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Best Hostel in Rio de Janeiro: Tupiniquim

Tupiniquim aims to provide a fully immersed Brazilian experience. The cook only makes Brazilian food, the movies in the chill room are mostly Brazilian, and they play some of the best Brazilian music.

It’s located in Botafogo, which is centrally located near all of the best areas of the city, making it easy to bounce around. They also have a terrace with views of Christ the Redeemer Statue and a bar with all kinds of drinks.

It’s a wonderful option for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro, especially if you want to indulge in Brazilian culture while meeting other travelers.

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Best Hotel in Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Inn Hotel

Just a 3-minute walk from the beach, Ipanema Inn is stylish and perfect for those looking for a relaxing beach vacation. They offer a small continental breakfast that you can request to eat in your room. The restaurant and bar serve exotic caipirinhas and regional dishes. Plus, the drinks are half off during happy hour!

Chairs and towel for the beach are also provided to guests. The neighborhood is pedestrian friendly and has lots of shops and restaurants. It’s a perfect place for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro!

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Best Apartment in Rio de Janeiro: Sugar Loft Apartments

Located in the famous and bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, Sugar Loft is set in a 1930s building that has been renovated and modernized. Their apartments offer a practical dining area and full kitchen, and a supermarket is conveniently located in front of the property. 

The owners are helpful and friendly too! The best part about these apartments are the views of the city. Overall, this is an affordable apartment that caters well to couples and groups who are looking to be more selfsufficient on their trip to Rio de Janeiro.

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Rio de Janeiro Neighborhood Guide

Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

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Copacabana

  • Copacabana is the most well-known area of Rio de Janeiro. In its heyday of the 50’s and 60’s, the name was synonymous with glitz, glamour, and luxury. Although its golden age has passed, it’s still the most popular area for travelers.
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Centro

  • Centro is the area of the city with the largest variety of museums, and historic and cultural centers. These days, it functions as the business and financial center of the city, but it used to be the heart of the city.
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Santa Teresa

  • Santa Teresa is a hilltop neighborhood just outside of Centro with an artsy, Bohemian vibe. It’s here that you’ll find some of the best Carnaval blocos. In fact, I stayed in this neighborhood when I was in Rio for Carnaval and the blocos would pass right by my place!
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Ipanema

  • Fashionable and trendy, Ipanema is known for its iconic namesake beach. It’s a place to see and be seen. Located right next door to the famous Copacabana Beach, Ipanema is slowly stealing the spotlight as the cool place to be thanks to its younger crowd, stunning natural views and great bars and restaurants.
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Botafogo

  • The neighborhood of Botafogo is centered around its namesake half-moon bay and is a very up and coming ‘hood in Rio. The sandy beach offers a nice view of Sugarloaf Mountain and there are lots of entertainment options from shopping malls and cinemas to trendy bars and restaurants.
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Rio de Janeiro is split into four main zones. They are the Historic Center, the South Zone, the North Zone, and the West Zone. Each zone is then further broken down into neighborhoods.

The Historic Center and the South Zone have the best neighborhoods for travelers as they have the best mix of safety, attractions, restaurants, beaches, and nightlife.

Each nighborhood in Rio has its own lifestyle and culture, making the neighborhoods feel more like small towns than neighborhoods.

Centro is the neighborhood for lovers of all things cultural. Its vibrant museums and architecture will keep you entertained for hours. Catch the Ballet at the Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theater) or visit the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) to take in the impressive collection.

At night the streets come alive with all-night street parties where you can dance the night away to Samba music.

Lapa is the star neighborhood in Centro, and where to stay in Rio de Janeiro for nightlife. The beautiful Escadaria Selaron Steps are the iconic mosaic steps of Rio and shouldn’t be missed. The area around the Lapa arches hosts some of the most famous street parties during Carnaval season.

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro Macarana

The Maracanã is the legendary football stadium in Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa is definitely the coolest neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro thanks strong bohemian vibe emenating throughout the streets. Many artists who reside there paint awe-inspiring murals along the walls. There are lots of boutique shops and galleries to peruse, and it’s perched on a hill so the views of the sea are incredible.

Botafogo is full of fun restaurants and bars that get hoppin’ on the weekends. It’s located amongst the hills just south of Santa Teresa and is known for its attractions such as the Native Brazilian Museum, Casa Rui Barbosa and the Villa-Lobos Museum. There’s also a food fair with live music at Cobal Public Market. It even has its own beach with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain. 

As you move further south, you’ll come into the areas most popular with travelers seeking a beach vacation. Leblon, Copacabana, and Ipanema are all neighborhoods with world-class beaches and nightlife.

Lagoa is the neighborhood situated around the salt-water lake. It has a bike path that goes the full circle around the lake and a never-ending list of entertainment possibilities.

You’re sure to have an amazing time wherever you stay in Rio de Janeiro but given the massive size of the city, it’s best to stay in the ‘hood that suits your interests. I’ve broken those down below.

 

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5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a sprawling city but there is a metro making it easy to get from one point to the other. There are also lots of buses and taxis. Plus, Uber is there.

However, you’re going to have a much more enjoyable time if you have the things that are most important to you right around the corner. So let’s take a closer look and what all you can do in each area!

 

1. Copacabana Neighborhood – Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro for the First Time

Copacabana is the most well-known area of Rio de Janeiro. In its heyday of the 50’s and 60’s, the name was synonymous with glitz, glamour, and luxury. Although its golden age has passed, it’s still the most popular area for travelers.

The biggest draw is the 2.5 miles of golden beach right at its doorstep. The nightlife is over the top with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs that don’t stop until the sun comes up.

Visitors to the area spend the day basking in the sun on the beach. I would also highly recommend strolling the sidewalk and checking out some of the handicrafts for sale before hitting up a happy hour for a caipirinha and a snack.

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach | Photo by Sasha Savinov

 

Top things to do in Copacabana:

– Stroll down the famous Avenue Nossa Senhora de Copacabana in the early hours before tourists arrive.

– Bake in the sun on the golden Copacabana beach or take up a game of beach volleyball.

– Climb the Morro do Leme for incredible views of the sea and surrounding areas. Check out the Forte do Vigia at the top.

– Music lovers should stop by Bossa Nova e Companhia to peruse the vast collection of Bossa Nova music CD’s and music instruments.

– Dance until the sun comes up at Mariuzinn Night Club. Be sure to NOT arrive before midnight!

– Grab a board and get slotted on some tasty barrels at the Arpoador or just take in sunset if you’re not a surfer.

– Start your day with breakfast at Forte de Copacabana.

– Watch a live samba music from local musicians at Bip Bip.

 

Best Hostel in Copacabana: Walk on the Beach

Walk on the Beach has the best atmosphere and place to meet other people. It’s the kind of hostel that makes travelers extend their stay just so they can spend more time making friends and enjoying the company.

The staff is really what make Walk on the Beach such a great hostel. They are friendly, welcoming, and great bartenders! Travelers staying at Walk on the Beach can also hang out at the sister hostel Chillin’ on the Beach. It’s our top recommendation for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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Best Hotel in Copacabana: Acapulco Copacabana Hotel

The Acapulco Copacabana Hotel is perfectly located a block away from the beach! The rooms are clean and spacious, the beds are large and comfortable.

They provide a buffet breakfast that many guests rave about. In addition to the breakfast, they also offer 24 hour room service. The lobby bar provides free coffee and mineral water for guests. It’s a top choice for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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2. Centro Neighborhood – Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro on a Budget

Centro is the area of the city with the largest variety of museums, and historic and cultural centers. These days, it functions as the business and financial center of the city, but it used to be the heart of the city. As such, it’s full of beautiful, colonial architecture and old alleyways dotted with cafes and shops.

Nightlife options are available almost every night of the week. Happy hours begin around 5 pm and goes until late in the evening. You’ll see lots of Brazilians relaxing over a drink at the end of the workday.

The street parties really get going near the small neighborhood of Lapa. The Lapa Arches are one of the most famous landmarks in the area. Not only is this one of the best places to stay in Rio de Janeiro on a budget, you will also get your culture and nightlife fix here!

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

The stunning Theatro Municipal | Photo by Sasha Savinov

 

Top things to do in Centro:

– Dance in the street by the Lapa Arches at one of the many street parties.

– Enjoy the ballet or opera at the Theatro Municipal (Municipal Theater).

– Take in the impressive collections at the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts).

– Learn about ways to avoid climate disaster, environmental degradation, and social collapse at the Museum of Tomorrow.

– Attend an event at the Sambadrome – a massive structure built just for the Samba parade during Carnaval. They also have other events throughout the year and it hosted many Olympic events.

– Watch a soccer game at The Maracanã – the legendary football stadium that also hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

– Stroll around the Quinta da Boa Vista park and visit the Rio de Janeiro Zoological Gardens. This is also where the National Museum of Brazil was located. It was devastated by a fire last year.

– Take in more than 287,000 items at the National Historical Museum including the largest numismatic (currency) collection in Latin America.

– Visit the Saint Sebastian Metropolitan Cathedral and marvel at the unique architecture inspired by the Mayan Pyramids of Mexico.

– Get a taste for Baroque style architecture by visiting the Candelaria Church and admiring the marble interior.

– Enjoy a delicious lunch at the Confeitaria Colombo, a Parisian style cafe serving pastries and desserts mixed with high tea downstairs and a buffet upstairs.

– Learn to Samba dance at the Rio Scenarium or just sit and enjoy the live music while chowing down on some pub grub.

 

Best Hostel in Centro: Books Hostel

Books is a fun, sociable hostel located in the Lapa neighborhood of Centro where all the best bars and nightlife are. This is the place to make life-long friends as well as find companions to explore the city with.

They offer a free breakfast plus lots of different day tours for waterfalls, hiking, and trips to the beach, free of charge. There’s even an onsite bar with a great happy hour. This is a perfect choice for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro!

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Best Hotel in Centro: 55 Rio

The 55 Rio Hotel is great for those who want to be in a happening part of Centro. It’s located in a small neighborhood called Lapa that is well-known for its bars, clubs, and overall nightlife. The rooms are charming and beautiful and include a minibar and air conditioning. There is an onsite restaurant and bar where the cocktails are quite famous in the area. It’s a great choice for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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3. Santa Teresa – Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro for Nightlife

Santa Teresa is a hilltop neighborhood just outside of Centro with an artsy, Bohemian vibe. It’s here that you’ll find some of the best Carnaval blocos. In fact, I stayed in this neighborhood when I was in Rio for Carnaval and the blocos would pass right by my place!

Santa Teresa is a traditional neighborhood which you’ll notice from the beautiful mansions and the old-school cable car taking residents up and down the steep hills. Visitors can walk up to the viewpoints at the top of the hill for incredible views of the harbor and surrounding neighborhoods.

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

Aerial view of a bloco (Carnaval street party) in Santa Teresa | Photo by Sasha Savinov

 

Top things to do in Santa Teresa

– Climb the colorful Escadaria Selarón (aka Lapa Steps) admiring the tiles from all around the world.

– Check out the Mercado das Pulgas every first and third Saturday of the month. Contrary to its name, it’s actually a Samba celebration complete with local drummers where locals dance in the streets while sipping Caipirinhas.

– Take in the impressive collection at the Museu da Chácara do Céu – one of the city’s most comprehensive art museums.

– Enjoy old-school Brazilian ambiance while sipping on a Brazilian beer at Armazém São Thiago – Santa Teresa’s trendiest restaurant and bar located in an old warehouse.

– Ride the tram from downtown up to the top of Santa Teresa then learn about the detailed history of the tram at Museu do Bonde.

– Visit the Parque das Ruinas to enjoy the art and the views built around the ruins of an old mansion.

 

Best Hostel in Santa Teresa: Mambembe Hostel

Located in the lively neighborhood of Santa Teresa is Mambembe Hostel. This is the best place to stay for a social atmosphere and being close to the action. It’s the kind of hostel that has everything you need including a fully equipped kitchen, free wifi, guest computers, living room with smart TV, bar and several outdoor chill areas. Each bed has personal power outlets, reading lights, and lockers. This is where to stay in Rio de Janeiro!

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Best Hotel in Santa Teresa: Mama Shelter Rio de Janeiro

The Mama Shelter Rio is located in the heart of Santa Teresa. It’s almost like a boutique hotel due to the modern and unique decor in each room. There are terraces all around the hotel for guests to relax and enjoy the views and the area is quiet but not far from the action.

Some of the rooms include the buffet breakfast but for those who opt out, there is still the option to eat at the restaurant. This is a great option for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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4. Ipanema Neighborhood – One of the Coolest Places to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

Fashionable and trendy, Ipanema is known for its iconic namesake beach. It’s a place to see and be seen. Located right next door to the famous Copacabana Beach, Ipanema is slowly stealing the spotlight as the cool place to be thanks to its younger crowd, stunning natural views and great bars and restaurants.

Considered the “little Paris” of Rio, Ipanema is also renowned for its bookstores, movie theatres, and avant-garde galleries. You’ll also find high-end fashion boutiques, fine-dining restaurants and relaxed bars playing bossa nova.

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro Ipanema

Sunset over Ipanema Beach

 

Top things to do in Ipanema:

– Head to the famous Ipanema beach to sunbathe or join in a game of Frescobol.

– Shop at the Hippie Fair every Sunday for the best souvenirs and to try delicious local specialties such as Acarajé – a croquette, fried in Dendê (Palm) oil, filled with spicy shrimp.

– Check out the Girl From Ipanema Cafe to see where the famous song was penned.

– Learn how to surf with lessons from a surf school near Arpoador, a rock at the end of the beach jutting out into the ocean where people gather to hang out.

– After a day of surfing, stick around Arpoador to watch the most beautiful sunset in Rio.

– Get an enlightening glance into the history of human communication at Oi Futuro – the Museum of Communications.

– Get classy with a night out at Fasano Club, a luxury nightclub that is frequented by celebrities and famous athletes. Entry is free so you can check it out even if it doesn’t fit your budget.

– Check out the unique concept of Galeria Cafe – a boutique clothing and jewelry shop complete with classes by day and a fun nightclub with live DJ’s come nightfall.

– Learn how to fight like a Brazilian by taking a Jiu Jitsu class at Brazilian Black Belt.

– Try feijoada – the famous dish of Brazil – prepared all kinds of ways at Casa da Feijoada.

– Enjoy an afternoon of wine and a special Brazilian cheese called Canastra at Canastra Bar.

 

Best Hostel in Ipanema: Che Lagarto Hostel Ipanema

Che Lagarto Hostel is located just one block from Ipanema beach. They offer free caipirinhas every day for half an hour to start the night! You really can’t beat that.

In addition to that awesomeness, they have a fully equipped kitchen, free wifi, computers for guest use, lockers for all beds, air conditioning, and tourist information. The staff keep the atmosphere lively by playing music and always offering a friendly smile. It’s a great choice for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro in one of the coolest neighborhoods around.

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Best Hotel in Ipanema: Ipanema Inn Hotel

Located just a 3-minute walk from the beach, Ipanema Inn is stylish and perfect for those looking for a relaxing beach vacation. They offer a small continental breakfast that you can request to have in your room.

The restaurant and bar serve exotic caipirinhas and regional dishes. Plus, the drinks are half off during happy hour! Chairs and towel for the beach are also provided to guests.

The neighborhood is pedestrian friendly and has lots of shops and restaurants. It’s a perfect place for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro!

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5. Botafogo Neighborhood – Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro with Family

The neighborhood of Botafogo is centered around its namesake half-moon bay and is a very up and coming ‘hood in Rio. The sandy beach offers a nice view of Sugarloaf Mountain and there are lots of entertainment options from shopping malls and cinemas to trendy bars and restaurants.

where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

View of Botafogo from Sugarloaf Mountain

 

Top things to do in Botafogo:

– Head to the summit of Morro Dona Marta for the best panoramic view of the city.

– Enjoy an afternoon at Parque Lage sipping on tea or coffee by the pool surrounded by a mansion while enjoying the views of Christ the Redeemor Statue above.

– Get a real taste of Brazilian life and culture by joining the Santa Marta Favela Tour.

– Take the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain to enjoy the views of the incredible landscapes.

– Visit the iconic Christ the Redeemor statue the looks over the city.

– Get some exercise in nature by going for a hike up Corcovado Mountain.

– Learn about graffiti and urban art at GaleRio where you can see the works of some of Brazil’s best street artists.

– Take in a Brazilian film at Estação Botafogo, a cinema that screens movies made by Brazilians filmmakers and actors.

– Shop for Brazilian brands at Shopping Rio Sul – this is the most popular shopping mall in the South Zone.

– Learn about indigenous societies at the Museum of Indigienous People.

 

Best Hostel in Botafogo: Tupiniquim

Tupiniquim aims to provide a fully immersed Brazilian experience. The cook only makes Brazilian food, the movies in the chill room are mostly Brazilian, and they play some of the best Brazilian music.

They have rooms to suit all types of travelers including families, super budget travelers, and solo female travelers. They also have a terrace with views of Christ the Redeemer Statue and a bar with all kinds of drinks. It’s a wonderful option for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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Best Hotel in Botafogo: Yoo2 Rio de Janeiro by Intercity

The Yoo2 Rio de Janeiro is located just a short walk to to the beach in Botafogo! Some of the rooms offer amazing views of Sugarloaf Mountain, the ocean, and Corcovado Mountain.

There is a rooftop bar and pool also with sweeping views of the city. Some of the rooms are pretty small so make sure you read all the details before you book. A buffet breakfast is included in the cost of the room. It’s one of our top recommendations for where to stay in Rio de Janeiro.

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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro can be overwhelming. This is a massive city and while it’s relatively easy to get around, you want to make sure you’re in the safest and best areas for your stay. With the help of this guide, it doesn’t have to be difficult to figure out where to stay in Rio de Janeiro!

Just to recap, our top hostel recommendation is Tupiniquimthanks to the fully immersed Brazilian experience they provide.

For the best hotel in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll want to book a room at the Ipanema Inn Hotel so you can enjoy a relaxing beach vacation.

Have you been to Rio de Janeiro and think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below! Cheers!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

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This guide covers where to stay in Rio de Janeiro, and breaks down the best neighborhoods based on travel interest, things to do, & budget!

3 Comments

  • Avatar MARK COOPER says:

    this is awesome,i had no idea.i was close minded,hotel,beach,hotel,beach etc.,thanx for opening up rio,i feel great,so xlnt,thanku!!!

  • Avatar Bjorn says:

    I am going to live in Rio de Janeiro for 5 months. Does anybody have a good recommendation for housing? I prefer something on travel distance from PUC-RIO and I love to live together with other people. Please let me know! Cheers, Bjorn.

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