Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

So Rio de Janeiro didn’t blow me away…

(Last Updated On: 14/03/2017)

I’m not that good when it comes to “must see” attractions and “best cities in the world”. While I appreciate them and in most cases enjoy I’m not completely crazy about them. But after really loving Cape Town last year I had my hopes for Rio de Janeiro slightly higher than usual. After all both cities seem to be similar: they have an incredible location where mountains meet the Ocean, they have difficult background and some of the most spectacular sights in the world. With that in mind I’ve been mildly optimistic but sadly Rio de Janeiro didn’t blow me away or gave me any reason to go crazy for it… It was just another pleasant city I’ve visited, nothing more.

Ipanema Rio

Even before going to South America I knew deep down that it will be Buenos Aires that I will fall in love with. But visiting Rio de Janeiro was one of the highlights of my trip anyway. This Brazilian city makes it to all the list of world’s biggest attraction and I was willing to give it a chance to see what it is about. I’m very well aware that I’m partly to be blamed for not enjoying it properly and two and a half days I’ve spent there were not enough to get to know the place but at least I could get a glimpse of it to have my own opinion about the place.

Ipanema Rio

I stayed in the downtown of Rio – since my budget was pretty tight that’s where I found the cheapest accommodation. But it actually turned out for the best: I was few steps away from the metro station (and that’s half of the success when getting around in Rio) and the area itself, usually overlooked by tourists was really charming. It was crazy busy as all the streets around Uruguaiana metro station were serving as a huge market where you could buy just about everything. But as soon as you look up above the stalls you could see beautiful, yet neglected houses dating to the beginning of 20th century or even earlier. That’s where I started discovering Rio de Janeiro and from the very first moment I was faced with the fact the city is completely different from what I’ve imagined. But it was a good surprise.

Rio downtown

A short walk further took me to Santa Teresa – the most bohemian part of the city, full of even more beautiful houses and villas, cozy cafes, quirky little shops and lots of street art. In a nutshell: my kind of place! I could have spent hours in Santa Teresa, just being there and enjoying the place, but there were still so many places I wanted to see in Rio and my time was running out. Besides, no matter how awesome this area was it was also terribly empty and didn’t feel like part of the big city – that made me feel kind of awkward and I already had some safety issues anyway.

Santa Teresa Rio

After a really good start in Rio I was ready to head to the beaches. Deep down I knew that I’ll hate the famous Copacabana (and as it turned out on the next day I was right) so my first choice was Ipanema which, on the contrary, I had a feeling I will love! Even if my first full day in Rio was cloudy and the surrounding mountains were hidden in clouds the beach took my breath away, and I’m not much of a beach person. The trembling sound of crashing waves, the smell of the Ocean, the long and wide stripe of the sand going all the way to the horizon where, at the very end, the favela of Vidigal dimly araised… It could be such a perfect place. Too bad the splendid beach is surrounded by busy street and high random blocks that take away all the beauty from it. I can imagine that living there, with this view to die for is a dream for so many people from all over the world – too bad it doesn’t really work the other way around and the look across the street can spoil the whole awesomeness of Ipanema.

Ipanema Rio

The next morning I headed to Ipanema again. The weather was perfect and I just couldn’t resist seeing the place in a different light. The beach looked even better, the Ocean showed its true turquoise color and the s warm and sunny day brought lots of fans of swimming, surfing and sunbathing to the beach. I bought myself a coconut and while sipping the coconut water I just stared at the magnificent view in front of me, trying to take it all in, remember every detail. I finally started realizing why so many people are crazy about Rio, with the good weather it was pretty stunning!

Ipanema Rio

I didn’t really want to leave Ipanema but the (in)famous and iconic Copacabana was just a short walk away and I wanted to see what it all is about, though I didn’t have my hopes too high. As it turned out all the bad things I’ve heard about it were true. The beach was narrow and crowded, I was constantly harassed by street vendors and overall I didn’t feel very safe. Again the place was surrounded by the busy street and random high blocks that probably offered an incredible view. Well, it’s a big city after all so I don’t know what I was expecting… Copacabana was the worst part of Rio for me, I managed to spend only some half an hour walking along the beach and all the pushing my way trough and constant cautiousness made me feel so exhausted. What’s more Copacabana didn’t offer such a spectacular views as Ipanema so I really saw no point staying there any longer and I quickly jumped into the maze of streets, finding my way to the nearest metro station. At least the Copacabana neighborhood turned out to be surprisingly pleasant, giving much needed shadow and the rest from the craziness of the beach…


I left the best for the end – a look at Rio from the above! Well, on the first day, when I visited Parque de Ruinas in Santa Teresa, I could already have a little preview of how amazing views Rio offer but I knew the highlight of my stay will be a visit to one of the most iconic viewpoints in the city. I had to choose between the Cristo Redentor and Sugar Loaf but since the famous statue of Christ was hidden in clouds there was no point going all the way up there and I went for the second option. I heard some horror stories of the long lines, sometimes you need to wait even few hours for the cable car that can take you to the peak. Luckily I experienced nothing like that, in 3 out of 4 cases the cable car was waiting for me when I was running late to catch it. That’s the bonus of off season travels.

Sugar Loaf

Even with the small haze the view from the top of Sugar Loaf was breathtaking and as incredible as various pictures show! The sense of space and freedom was overwhelming, the busy, big city was just there, coexisting with nature. It was one of the most memorable views I’ve ever seen! And I think that is the biggest advantage of Rio de Janeiro – its location that leaves you speechless every now and then! Even when the line to the cable car is long it’s worth all the way as seeing the city from the Sugar Loaf is one of the greatest things one can experience in Rio!

Sugar Loaf view

The last remaining hours of the day I had were spent wandering aimlessly around to Botafogo metro station and then around the downtown. That’s often part of travelling I enjoy the most – visiting some random places to get the feel of the city, its vibe. And Rio was pleasant yet it lacked something crucial that would make me go crazy about it… Before going to the airport to catch my flight to Iguazu Falls I went for the favela tour that gave me a good background to understanding the city yet it wasn’t enough to change my perception of it.

downtown Rio

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I totally can see why so many people are in love with Rio de Janeiro and how the city got its title of one of the most beautiful and worth visiting places in the world. It has everything that a tourist can wish for: breathtaking views, interesting background, iconic beaches, rich culture and fine cuisine. But that wasn’t enough for me! Rio got me really tired (and I’m a city person!), it pushed my senses to the maximum especially when it comes to safety (which, by the way, wasn’t as big problem as you hear). I enjoyed it (some parts much more than others) but overall can’t say I was really impressed. It was just another city I’ve visited during my travels, the one I’m not sure I would like to go back to. It was just fine and fine isn’t enough for me…

Kami in Rio

What’s your image of Rio? Would you like to visit it? Which famous place did disappoint you?

Are you looking for a place to stay in Rio de Janeiro? Look no further! Book your accommodation in Rio de Janeiro here!

If you think of visiting Brazil or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:

If you’re looking for articles about any place in particular this map with posts might be useful for you. Or just take a look at the “destinations” page.


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  • 1
13 Sty '15

There are 36 Comments.

  1. Asia | Byłem tu. Tony Halik.
    00:49 14/01/2015

    I have totally different impressions. I loved Rio. I loved its botanic garden and parks with orchids, the walks across Tijuca rain forest. I loved nearby of Lapa and little restaurants in Santa Teresa (where I stayed twice) and weird concrete architecture of the “center”. I adored the views and multiply horizons of mountains, especially from the Pão de Açúcar and Christ Redeemer hills (yes, a “touristic must see” but still amazing spot) and during my gliding flight. There was some rain during my first stay in Rio, though during the second visit it was quite shiny. And although I didn’t stayed on the famous beaches or take part in the Carnival, I enjoyed this city very much. But I can imagine, that people are different and enjoy various things.
    Best, Asia

    • kami
      23:31 23/01/2015

      I enjoyed all the places and things you’ve mentioned too. I just didn’t really “feel” the city and sometimes it happens even with the greatest destinations. I’m not saying Rio is bad, I’m just saying it lacked some kind of spirit for me. It was just ok

  2. Blondynka z Krainy Teczy
    12:25 14/01/2015

    Scenery reminds me of Cape Town… Except Cape Town blows my mind every time I go there ;-)

    • kami
      23:29 23/01/2015

      I for most of the time I was in Rio I couldn’t help thinking how much it reminds me of Cape Town! But I really enjoyed Cape Town more, it’s spectacular!

  3. Wiola Starczewska
    16:28 14/01/2015

    I totally love Rio. I used to live there for 3 months, so I now every corner. You should don’t be afraid and go to the top of Vidigal to see Rio from Dois Irmaos hill, this is amazing and cost nothing in contrary to Sugar Loaf.

    • kami
      21:05 26/01/2015

      I can imagine how amazing living there must have been! guess I didn’t have enough time to find the real face of the city, I’ve just seen what it offers to tourists. And all these talking about safety etc made me so anxious first but as it turned out it wasn’t that bad after all! What did you do there?

  4. Travelling Milady
    17:15 14/01/2015

    Ostatnio wyszło mi w jakimś internetowym teście, że to idealna destynacja dla mnie. Mam nadzieję, że sprawdzę to kiedyś na żywo.

    • kami
      21:06 26/01/2015

      bo ogólnie to złe miasto nie jest! tylko chyba spodziewałam się czegoś lepszego! Trzymam kciuki, żeby udało się pojechać jak najszybciej :)

  5. Karol Werner
    18:52 14/01/2015

    Taka ładna góra, a tak ją oszpecili tą kolejką…

  6. Hannah
    21:38 14/01/2015

    Hmm you aren’t the first person I’ve heard of having a similar reactions (or maybe lack there of) to Rio. I have yet to visit myself so can’t comment on that, but good to know for future that Ipanema beach is the beach to hang out at! Love the views from above by the way, awesome!

    • kami
      21:09 26/01/2015

      The location and the views were probably the best thing about Rio! It wasn’t such a bad city overall, but after hearing about it for years I’ve been expecting something so much better! Hopefully you will be able to go there soon and see yourself :)

  7. Sam
    15:00 15/01/2015

    I can totally understand why you’re not so interested in “must sees”. I’m just the same – in fact, if someone tells me I have to visit such-and-such a place, I actually turn a bit rebellious and actively don’t want to go usually! My husband and I didn’t go to Rio (or anywhere in Brazil for that matter) when we were in South America, partly because of that (also because we don’t speak Portuguese and wanted to improve our Spanish, and because we’d heard it’s super expensive!) but maybe one day!

    • kami
      21:12 26/01/2015

      I do go to all these top destinations if I have a chance as I think there must be something that make people so crazy about them, that they are famous for a reason. And usually I’m just like whatever about them, I’m so much more into off the beaten path places! Rio was nice but that’s not good enough for me, I’ve been expecting something so much better seeing how many people fall in love with it! If you have a chance go there, you might actually like some parts of it, and the street art scene is really good!

  8. Marta
    18:15 15/01/2015

    Mimo wszystko- chciałabym to wszystko zobaczyć!

    • kami
      21:15 26/01/2015

      jasne, na pewno warto! Tylko jak od zawsze słyszy się co to za cuda w tym Rio to spodziewałam się czegoś o wiele lepszego! A tak to o, zwykłe miasto bez większego szału, które miało swoje momenty. No i położenie powala!

  9. Ellie Quinn
    01:09 16/01/2015

    Totally agree! Again maybe my fault for only going for 3 days and arriving just after new year because it was so busy but yes I enjoyed it but it didn’t move me!
    Buenos Aires (where I currently am) is really impressing me!

    • kami
      21:16 26/01/2015

      Buenos Aires was amazing! I was there after Rio and I loved it from the very first moment! I think I might have done the mistake of staying only so shortly in Rio but then I’ve also felt I’ve seen enough… oh well, we can’t love every city!

  10. Margherita Ragg
    00:27 17/01/2015

    I did enjoy going to Rio, and found the city indeed beautiful, but like you I was underwhelmed. I liked Sao Paulo so much better – there’s so much more art and culture! Maybe it was because we only spent a short time there… to enjoy such a city of contrasts to its fullest, you need to devote it some time.

    • kami
      21:28 26/01/2015

      true, I think one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy Rio all that much was because I didn’t have enough time there. But at the same time I’ve felt I’ve seen everything I wanted to see… I also wish I had more times in Sao Paulo as it seemed like a city I’d enjoy. Oh well, I need to go back I guess :)

  11. Alli
    17:27 17/01/2015

    I really enjoyed reading this post. My experiences on Ipanema were the exact same as yours, including the coconut sipping :) That’s okay you weren’t floored by this city like you anticipated, so long as you were able to take away the positives, like you have, it will make for excellent story telling!

    • kami
      21:59 26/01/2015

      Thanks! It was really a decent city and had its moments, I was just expecting something much better :)

  12. Frank
    15:04 18/01/2015

    Didn’t like Rio one bit! That photo from Sugarloaf is great and it is a stunning visual city (on a clear day). You don’t mention the people or persona experiences though and that’s where I didn’t like the city: http://bbqboy.net/why-we-didnt-like-rio-de-janeiro-brazil/.
    We were looking so forward to going to Brazil and it ended up being the one place in the world where we would not return (Costa Rica actually is a 2nd but far behind Brazil..)
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • kami
      22:01 26/01/2015

      I didn’t have all that much contact with locals and when I did they were also just random, not good, not bad, only ok. I’d love to go back to Brazil and see more, I just don’t really need to return to Rio, no matter how breathtaking its location is!

  13. Escape Hunter
    13:51 20/01/2015

    I would love to visit Rio one day… When I’ll do it, I’ll make sure I take a plethora of photos from all sorts of angles and from various viewpoints.

    • kami
      22:42 26/01/2015

      Definitely do that! The location and landscape are the best in Rio!

  14. Steph
    22:45 14/05/2015

    I’ve lived in Rio for 7 months (and will be here for 2 more years).. and I understand what you’re saying. The feeling of unsafety in some parts (especially as a woman) is a major drawback.
    I think the “magic” of Rio is really dependent on the weather, too.. During the high season, with bright blue skies and tons of sun, it feels like a city in paradise. But I think it is a city that takes time to find the good parts, as the tourist places that are so publicized, are actually the worst points (like Copacabana, yuch! The continuation of the beach turns into Leme and is soooo much better), or even the Corcovado, while a tourist must-do, is soooo far surpassed by little known Pedra Bonita in my opinion.

    • kami
      23:29 19/06/2015

      I think you’re right. If I had spent much more time in Rio (at least a week) I’d probably have loved it so much more. But the first impression can be overwhelming and disappointing. I’m kind of glad I didn’t go to Corcovado as I’d most likely have hated it too!
      That’s so cool you’re living there! It must be pretty interesting place to live in!

  15. Paulina
    03:28 22/01/2016

    A mnie dla odmiany Rio zauroczyło totalnie. I z każdym kolejnym pobytem podoba mi się coraz bardziej. Może warto dać mu jeszcze jedną szansą? ;)

    • kami
      21:00 22/01/2016

      zdecydowanie warto! i mam nadzieję, że jeszcze będzie okazja :) ale w sumie nudno by było gdyby każde miejsce nas zachwycało :)

  16. Ahmed @ Traveler Corner
    09:59 12/03/2016

    Wow! You capture some really great photograph of Rio, I love their beaches.

    • kami
      22:30 18/03/2016

      thank you! yes, beaches were definitely one of the highlights of Rio, especially Ipanema

  17. Bruno
    10:18 03/05/2016

    Completely understand where you coming from regarding safety – not a big deal after all in my opinion – but I think it’s a lively and vibrant city. The views were amongst the best city views I’ve ever seen, at the very least. But hey, glad we all don’t like blue! :D

    • kami
      21:00 03/06/2016

      It would be boring if we all liked the same things ;) Rio was OK but I guess I expected something much better. But the views were indeed pretty spectacular!

  18. Rodrigo
    14:03 14/10/2017

    Hi there, I really think that you should have spent more time there. I have been to over 60 countries so far and haven´t seen a more beautiful city yet! I must admit though, that it is horribly ran by the extremely corrupt Brazilian government.The current socialist government has been on a crusade to destroy the country! Even though Rio has many historic areas (and from what I have read you haven´t really seen most of them) the city used to have many more.Many areas have been regentrified for the olympics, many great museums have been built or restored so on and so forth. If you look at old pictures of Rio from the 1920s-1950s, the city looks more like Budapest or Paris than the concrete jungle it is today! Rio used to surpass Buenos Aires when it comes to great historic buildings! It still has many of them, but people don´t take the time to visit them, they are more concerned about the beaches. The modernist movement actively destroyed hundreds of Buildings and built socialist concrete blocks on top of hundreds of palaces in order to erase the European past of Brazil and replace it by the architecture of “the people” (whatever that means!). The city used to be called the Paris of the Tropics since it is the only city outside of Europe to ever become the capital of an European Empire. Yes It was the capital of the Portuguese Empire for a while. I think that maybe you weren´t having a few good days when you were there and let all the bad press you’ve come across get to you! Bad press have almost ruined my trips to Thailand, Bali and Mexico City. I was so scared in all 3 places from reading so much crap about it that it took me a couple of days or more to warm up to these places. Love at first sight doesn´t happen always! Sometimes we need time to let the city grow in us, sometimes we don´t. It depends on our vibes and the vibes of the place at that time. You might go back and feel something totally different. I Remember the first time I went to Istanbul…I absolutely hated that city in the first 2 days I was there, yet today, Istanbul is one of my all time favourite cities! Seriously, on my first 2 days I was like “I want to leave now”. I am sure it was because I had read so much bad press about it I literally thought everyone was out to trick me. Funny you’ve mentioned crime in Rio. I am going to spend 3 months in Cape Town in 2018 and according to official statistics, Cape Town is the 13th MOST DANGEROUS CITY in the WORLD whereas RIO isn’t even in the TOP 50! Check this out from the business insider; http://www.businessinsider.com/most-violent-cities-in-the-world-2017-4/#13-cape-town-south-africa-had-6077-homicides-per-100000-residents-38 , not only that, but Cape Town is considered to be the rape capital of the world! I’m going there with female family members so I’m like “WOT!??”. After reading so much bad press about it I decided to STOP! When it comes to Rio, it has incredible architecture too. Palaces, incredible theaters, concert halls, baroque monasteries, paradisiac islands and incredible nearby towns. 2 of the world’s top 30 most beautiful libraries are there, one of the world’s 10 most beautiful cafés is there, incredible gold leaf churches, amazing vistas. Amazing mountains nearby like the Finger of GOD and the Devil’s needle. The is so much to do! OMG! Next time you go, visit the “central European” towns of Teresopolis, Petropolis and New Friburgh up in the mountains as well as Buzios and Arraial do Cabo by the sea 3 hours north of the city! Also visit Paraty, a typical Portuguese Colonial town a couple of hours south of the city, by the sea. The Portuguese Emperor married an Austrian queen, that’s why Rio is surrounded by towns settled by dozens of thousands of Austro-Hungarians that came along when she moved to Rio! Rio is stunning, the city’s problems are stunning too, but once you learn its history, you can make sense of it all! Once you get to understand the city you’ll come to love it. I must agree though that in the future, when Brazil has overcome its corrupt socialist government, Rio will become so much better administered than it is today. It will be not only one of the most beautiful, but one of the best cities in the world to live in. I only wish I’d live to see that, only time will tell! Let’s not forget that NYC, London and Paris were hellholes 150 yrs ago so….xoxoxoxo

    • kami
      18:10 27/12/2017

      Thank you for your long and interesting comment Rodrigo! I enjoyed it a lot! Maybe I should have spent more time in Rio but then sometimes we don’t feel connected with places everyone loves and that could have been my case with Rio maybe. But for sure I would love to return and experience it better!

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