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Best Hidden Gems in Rio de Janeiro

By: Cityseeker
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Nova Capela

This unpretentious bar in the heart of Lapa is a lifeline for hungry party-goers. Open 18 hours a day, seven days a week, the 100-year-old bar serves wonderful bar snacks such as crispy bolinhos do bacalhau (codfish balls) as well as hearty main meals. The lamb with brocolli rice and garlic has been named best bar dish in Rio by the Brazilian guidebook Guia Quatro Rodas and makes a perfect stomach-filler before a night out in the clubs and bars of Lapa. Head here at the start of the night for a tasty dinner, then do as the locals do and pop back in again at 4a for a sunrise beer and snack before making your way home.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Helisight

Explore the stunning landscapes of Rio de Janeiro as you soar over its skies with Helisight. Established in 1991, the operator offers eight thrilling and unique tours that take you around some of the city's most popular attractions including the breathtaking Christ the Redeemer Statue. The tours start from four different points in the city and offer numerous durations based on your preference.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Museu Chácara do Céu

This museum with 360 degree views of the city and the Guanabara Bay is worth visiting just for the location alone. The present structure was created in 1954 by famed architect Wladimir Alves de Souza and the art contained inside is primarily European, but with works from some famous names like Modigliani, Matisse, Miró and the pointillist Seurat. Aside from the Europeans, the museum also has plenty of works from local Brazilians, both famous and not-so famous. This is another museum that falls under the patronage of the organization Castro Maya, named after the philanthropist and empresario extraordinaire, Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Leviano

Lapa is an area of Rio famed for its nightlife, and Leviano has quickly established itself as one of the most popular nightspots here. Brightly lit and with a large patio that spills out onto the street, Leviano is not easily missed. It's quite difficult to find place on the upstairs dance floor, where tourists and locals alike groove to the beats of Música Popular Brasileira (Brazilian Popular Music), funk and samba. Cocktails like the apple mojito are popular.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Le Spa at Hotel Santa Teresa

Exuding a lovely tropical vibe, Le Spa is a luxurious haven of relaxation at Santa Teresa Hotel. The spa menu features a range of procedures designed to soothe and invigorate, be it a candle massage or perfumed hammam treatment. Those who have just landed in Rio are sure to love the 40-minute Jet Lag massage, and those looking to enjoy a local specialty should try the Banho Amazônia, a revitalizing bath with Amazonian aromas, followed by a massage with Amazonian oils.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Centro Excursionista Brasileiro

Outdoor types itching to explore Rio's lush, mountainous terrain should make a beeline for this one-stop-shop in the city's downtown area. Here you can register for guided treks, mountain-climbing excursions and more, and there's equipment for hire as well. The dense nature of the jungle surrounding Rio makes guides a must for all but the most experienced of explorers, and the English-speaking guides here will make sure your adventures are risk-free.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Santa Teresa

Named for Santa Teresa Convent from the 1750s, this neighborhood, with its winding streets and hilltop views, is a major attraction for tourists and artists alike. Although no longer the affluent area it once was, Santa Teresa is still home to some mansions, one of which is the Chácara do Céu, which was once home to art collector Raimundo Otoni Castro Maya. It now serves as the Museu da Chácara do Céu. Visitors should definitely take the tram ride that starts at the city center and takes them through the streets of Santa Teresa.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Escadaria Selarón

The Escadaria Selaron, or Lapa Steps as they are widely known, were created as a tribute to the people of Brazil by Chilean artist Selaron. He has decorated the long, wide stairway between Lapa and Santa Teresa with green, blue and gold (the colors of the Brazilian flag) ceramic tiles to create a stunning mosaic. The walls of the stairway are a similar color, with the artist using tiles from around the world as a base on which to paint his own, unique images. U2, along with Snoop Dogg and Pharrell, are among the famous artists to have filmed here.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Museu da Imagem e do Som

Museu da Imagem e do Som (Museum of Image and Sound) in Rio was the first of its kind in the country and was established in 1965, after which several others followed suit in other cities. It has an impressive collection of images and sound that includes in various forms such as caricatures, recordings, gramaphones, musical instruments, drawings, books and discs that are related to the cultural history of Brazil. Most of these media documents were donated to the museum. There are also some personal mementos of artists such as Ernesto Nazareth's piano, Elizeth Cardoso's costumes and more. The exhibits also showcases forgotten artists belonging to Brazil's Golden Age of Radio such as the Batista sisters. Museu da Imagem e do Som regularly conducts educational videos, lectures and other activities to promote cultural awareness among Rio's citizens.

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Pé de Boi

Colorful, beautifully-crafted artesan products from across Brazil compete for space in your suitcase at Pé de Boi. This combination shop and art gallery stocks traditional handicrafts that include hand-crafted vases, jugs and bowls; wonderfully soft hammocks and colouful ceramics, all bought directly from individual artists across the country. Pé de Boi has been a huge success since its inception in 1985, and items sourced by the store have been exhibited at New York's Guggenheim Museum and the Cartier Foundation in Paris. If you're looking for a souvenir that is more than mass-produced tourist tat, Pé de Boi should be your first port of call. - Lucy Bryson

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Saveiros Tour

Discover the stunning natural beauty of Rio and its surrounding areas through the fantastic boat tours by Saveiros Tour. From two-hour tours of the Guanabara Bay to group charters that last the entire day, they offer a wide variety of excursions to suit all tastes. Besides this, Give your night out a twist, with the numerous boat parties on offer. The tours depart from numerous points across the city. Check website for more.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Rio Hiking

Explore Rio's spectacular natural landscapes through the exhaustive hiking and adventure tours offered by Rio Hiking. Established in 1999, the setup has been delighting adventure enthusiasts with their exciting tours that go beyond most guidebooks. From hiking tours in Tijuca and Pedra da Gavea to scuba diving and hang-gliding, they have something for everyone. Group packages are available, and they can also arrange for accommodation. Check website for details.

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