Where to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
Starting in Centro, or Downtown Rio, we will follow from Guanabara Bay to the ocean beaches on the South and West Sides. This is roughly how the city grew over the centuries. Rio is a historic and cosmopolitan city with lovely green parks, lush mountains, and gorgeous beaches. We are sure you will find the perfect neighborhood to call home!
To make things easier, we present Historical Rio as the area surrounding Guanabara Bay all the way to Centro. South Side ‘bairros’ with ocean beaches are the second alternative, including staples like Ipanema and Copacabana. Barra and the West Side is another favorite area with great lodging options.
Historical Rio de Janeiro
Rio was founded around Guanabara Bay, protected by mountains all the way around. The first structures were erected on a hill named Morro do Castelo. The city grew around it, and this original core expanded to what today is generally called Centro and Santa Teresa.
Centro has well-known neighborhoods like Lapa, Praça Quinze, Cinelândia, Central, and many others. The area has parks, colonial churches, historic buildings, and museums. The latest additions are the ‘Museu do Amanhã’ and ‘MAR’ (Museu de Arte do Rio).
The famous South Side beaches are easily accessible by subway if you choose a hotel near a station (see map).
We will incorporate Flamengo, Gloria, and Botafogo into this charming Old Rio. They offer similar attractions and are bathed by gorgeous Bay beaches with a view of the Sugarloaf and a sprawling green park. Santa Teresa is uphill, with this privileged view of historic Rio.
Old Rio is particularly convenient during the Carnaval season. You are close to the Sambódromo and most mega-blocos. You are also right next to the Domestic Airport SDU.
There are hotels in all price ranges, including a few lovely novelties. Santa Teresa features a couple of upscale boutique hotels. In Botafogo or Urca, you are more likely to find private-owned apartments for short-term rental.
South Side Ocean Beaches
Leaving behind scenic Guanabara Bay, we are going to neighborhoods bathed by lovely beaches you may have heard of. This area concentrates a large number of hotels in all price ranges. There are also many private-owned apartments for short-term rental.
Leme, Copacabana, Arpoador, Ipanema, and Leblon have subway stations, giving you quick underground transportation to all areas.
Forte do Leme guards the coast of Leme and Copacabana uphill. At sea level, Forte de Copacabana is right next to the fishermen’s wharf, where locals can buy fresh fish every day early in the morning
Praia do Diabo also faces west, and part of it is a military area. It shares the Arpoador Rocks with the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon. Although smaller than Copa, these are desirable areas to stay.
They are divided by a canal named Jardim de Alá. This canal gives access to Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which includes the Botanical Garden, the Jockey Club, and various attractions.
Following the coast along Avenida Niemeyer, we pass by Praia do Vidigal on the way to Praia de São Conrado. Follow the next tunnel, and you will pass by Elevado do Joá on your way to Barra (see map).
Barra da Tijuca & West Side Rio
Once we cross the next tunnel and the panoramic overpass Elevado do Joá, you have reached Barra da Tijuca on the West Side of Rio.
Barra is our longest beach, stretching for over 10 miles. In addition to the lifeguard stations, Praia da Barra has well-known references such as Praia do Pepê, Praia da Reserva, and Praia do Recreio.
Barra has many private condos, giant malls, and protected parks, including Prainha, Grumari, and Parque Chico Mendes.
Due to its sheer size, Barra is a neighborhood conceived to be explored on four wheels. Distances are not negotiable on foot.
The subway stop at Jardim Oceânico connects you to the other parts of the city. Other than this, you depend on ground transportation.
Many hotels in Barra, Recreio, and Jacarepaguá were erected for the 2016 Olympics. There are several excellent options. Being close to the subway station is a plus (see map).
Hotels or Apartments?
In Rio, you can choose hostels, hotels, and private-owned apartments. Selecting a good area is your best start. Now, the options are hotels, hostels, and privately owned apartments. They can be booked online, so let’s see the pros and cons of each.
Hostels, youth hostels, or ‘albergues,’ are usually the most economical choice. Shared rooms are not for everyone, yet some properties offer a couple of ensuite rooms, usually for double or twin occupancy.
A big pro is access to community spaces such as a pool or a game room populated by like-minded travelers. A con is a constraint to your privacy and personal space.
‘Adult hotels’ are used chiefly for ‘romantic’ encounters, not as lodging alternatives.
Hotels are the most popular choice. You will find them in all price ranges. You may expect some essential services at hotels; the rates usually include breakfast.
The large majority of rooms are suitable for either double or twin occupancy. Make sure to select the correct option when you are booking. They may not be able to accommodate changes once you arrive. Most hotels have restrictions if you decide to ‘entertain’ in your room (see safety).
Private-owned apartments are available for short-term rental at well-known apps. They are a good choice if you want more privacy or enjoy cooking. However, the quality is more complicated to control, so read all reviews before committing.
Bairros in Rio de Janeiro
Rio’s neighborhoods are named ‘bairros.’ In Centro, for instance, there’s Lapa, Santa Teresa, Castelo, and others. Each has a different character. Areas of ‘Old Rio’ are represented by black icons. The blue icons are South Side areas with ocean beaches, from Leme to São Conrado. Icons in orange are on the West Side, from Barra and beyond.