17 Amazing Things to Do in Brazil

I must admit, I was a little scared to go to Brazil. I’ve read it over and over again – Brazil can be unsafe and, some blogs claim, the people aren’t friendly. However, what I read and what I found, couldn’t be further apart. The people of Brazil are kind, generous, and welcoming. Traveling in Brazil is safe, as long as you exercise common sense and listen to the advice of local residents. The culture is thrilling, the art is like nowhere else in the world, the food is delicious – Brazil is unique and exceptional. To help you plan a visit to this amazing country I put together this list of my favorite things to do in Brazil. At the bottom, you will a Brazil itinerary, Brazil travel tips, and Brazil safety tips. And finally, two downloadable attraction maps. Let’s get started!

Rio – the view from Christ the Redeemer statue, early morning.

Before we travel to Brazil, I would like to extend a huge thank you to my friends and sponsor – Vero Social Network. On Vero you’ll find all of my adventures as they happen, including a ton of behind the scenes videos and place recommendations. Be sure to follow me on Vero – @traveltipster.

Please note: This blog post may contain some affiliate links. More info.

Packing Travel Tip:

I have been scouring Amazon for the highest quality, most helpful travel items. From the softest leggings (perfect for the flight) to the most stylish suitcase, these are the best travel products on Amazon, designed to make your vacation even better. Go check out these great finds!

Heads up: Although two the items on my list can only be done during carnival week (February 21 through February 26 in 2020), you can cover the rest of my list any time of the year.

Reflections, Paraty Brazil

1. Celebrate Rio Carnival in the Sambodromo

Where:  Rio De Janeiro, State or Rio De Janeiro

The world-famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival culminates in breathtaking performances inside a specially built stadium – the Sambodromo.  It is hard to describe the experience of attending the Carnaval in Rio. The flurry of light and sound, the visual overload, the intense creativity and the athleticism of the dancers… the music, the dedication, and the stunning, elaborate floats. It all conspires to transport you, the viewer, into a magical world of samba where everyone is gifted and anything is possible. The performance starts around 10 pm and lasts for 8 hours – well into the wee hours of the morning. You must see the Carnaval in Rio believe it, and this experience is my number one choice of things to do in Brazil.

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A float in Brazil Carnival at the Sambodromo, March 2019

When: Rio Carnival 2020 is from Friday, February 21 to Wednesday, February 26

To attend the performances in the Sambodromo, it is best to plan ahead.  Pre-book your tickets online – I used www.rio-carnival.net. Don’t forget to also book a hotel room several months in advance.  In Rio, hotels are packed during carnival and prices can get really high.  

Also, check out my blog post Rio Canival 2020.

2. Enjoy the Stunning Views At Sugar Loaf Mountain

Where:  Rio De Janeiro, State of Rio De Janeiro

It is incredible, striking and it towers over Rio – the famous Sugarloaf mountain. It is a symbol of Rio and Brazil and from the top, it feels like you can see the world. Here, you stand, the entire city laid out as though in a painting, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer presides over the distance. If you come first thing in the morning, you’ll have the opportunity to experience near solitude. As clouds float beneath you, the mist rises, and the scene takes an otherworldly appeal.

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Second ascent point, Sugarloaf mountain.

If early morning is not your cup of tea, Sugarloaf at sunset means breathtaking colors over the horizon, and Rio bathed in a warm, golden glow. In the evening, make a reservation to dine at Classico Beach Club Urca, and enjoy a great meal with your sunset.

3. Wander the Colonial Streets of Paraty

Where: Paratay, State of Rio De Janeiro

About halfway between Rio and Sao Paolo, you’ll find the tiny, well preserved colonial town of Paraty. One of the earliest colonial towns in Brazil, Paraty has a complex history. In the 1500s, the Portuguese established the colony of Brazil. Shortly thereafter, they started to bring slaves to mine the natural resources of the country. It was those slaves, and later their descendants who brought the freshly mined goods from inner Brazil to the new coast town of Paraty. And from Paraty, still more laborers shipped the resources into Rio and onward to Portugal.

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The colonial streets of Paraty.

When you visit this UNESCO heritage site today, you will find many of the original roads and buildings. In order to preserve the unique look and feel, the town mandates that all new buildings must look like the old. Wander Paratay’s ancient streets on this must-not-miss stop in Brazil.

4. Explore the Art of Beco De Batman – The Graffiti Street

Where: Sao Paolo, State of Sao Paolo

Sao Paolo is a city famous for prolific street art. And in this city well known for outdoor murals, you’ll find the most amazing art on our next stop – Beco De Batman. It all started a few years ago when an artist painted a batman sign over a door of an alley. Other artists added their own touches on nearby walls, and others followed, and today the entire alley is densely covered with murals.

The Murals of Beco De Batman - a street densely covered with murals, including a picture of batman, things to do in Brazil.
Beco De Batman – a Sao Paulo avenue covered with murals.

The painters update the artwork often, and so you’ll discover a new look each time you come. To this day, a Batman sign looms over the alley. See if you can find it on this amazing stop of things to do in Brazil.

5. Visit Mount Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer Statue

Where: Rio De Janeiro, State of Rio De Janeiro

One of the most recognizable symbols of Brazil, Christ the Redeemer is the largest art deco sculpture in the world. Constructed in the 1920s, the statue was originally supposed to include more religious symbols – including a Christian cross. Instead, the city picked the version we see today – open arms to symbolize peace.

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Mount Cordovado and Christ the Redeemer Statue. This is the view from Sugarloaf.

Recently restored, the statue welcomes millions of tourists per year. The best time to visit Christ the Redeemer is in the early morning when the crowds are lightest. To get up you can take the train, a van or even hike – from Parque Lage. If taking the train, try to take the first ride of the day at 7.30 am (book the tickets in advance). Be sure to sit on the left side and enjoy a stunning view over Rio as you slowly climb Mount Corcovado.

6. Experience Full Moon Flooding

Where: Paratay, State of Rio De Janeiro

Paratay, the well preserved colonial town between Rio and Sao Paolo holds many secrets. But the biggest secret of all is that Paratay floods every month – on purpose. Back in the 1500s, when the founders planned this town below sea level, the flooding was a street cleaning strategy.

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A flooded street in Paraty. This was after a rain, the streets get even more water during the full moon.

When: Full moon or any time after heavy rain

Streets would not have to be cleaned, founders thought, because the garbage would just float out to the sea. The sidewalks, however, are elevated about a foot above the roads. And so, for 500 years daily life goes on even when the town is transformed into a river. Of course, today the streets in town are cleaned regularly, and the flooding is just one more unusual thing you can experience in Brazil.

7. Witness a Version of the Future in the Museum of Tomorrow

Where: Rio De Janeiro, State of Rio De Janeiro

The world is full of wonderful museums, but perhaps one of the most unusual museums in the world is the Museum of Tomorrow. Although the name evokes a vision of science fiction and world’s fair, this museum is created around a very different kind of tomorrow – one that is more probable. The museum tackles the issue of Earth’s limited resources – and what we must do to sustain, and to evolve.

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The museum of Tomorrow, Rio.

Beautiful architecture, creative and engaging exhibits, all serve both to enhance the impact – and to entertain. Additionally, the museum’s vantage view point creates a perfect selfie opportunity.

8. Feel the Magic in the Portuguese Reading Room

This is the first of two times I mention Harry Potter in an article about Brazil – but I promise there is a good reason! That reason is the stunning Portuguese Reading room – my number 17 thing to do in Brazil. This place is pure magic and one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. You will find this historic library in center town.

Potugese Reading Room - dimly lit, rows of books all the way to the ceiling. Things to do in Brazil
Portugese Reading Room is Pure Magic.

Although it looks quite big on the picture, it is not huge and it gets so many tourists, that the librarians had to block off the books with rope. Unfortunately, there is not much to do here as you aren’t allowed to touch the books unless you hold a library card. However, the library is so stunning I think its a must visit in Brazil – even if that visit is fairly short.

9. Try Exotic Fruit Only Available in Brazil

Where: Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo

If you love fruit, one of the best ways to try Brazil’s many unique offerings is on a visit to the Mercado (market) in Sao Paolo. The architecturally significant building has played host to food sellers for several hundred years. And on his visit to Sao Paolo, the late, great, Anthony Bourdain feasted here.

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The Wide Array of Fruit Offerings in the Mercado, Sao Paulo

On the first floor of the Mercado, you’ll see dozens of fruit sellers. Their delicious wares elaborately arranged in towers, you’ll notice that you are not familiar with many varieties on display. Don’t feel bad – neither are most Brazilians. The sellers will be happy to offer you a sample piece of something simple, like a mango. If you express an interest they’ll take cut up a more expensive and exotic fruit as a sample. If you commit to buying a couple of pieces, the most exotic fruit comes out. In the end, the prices you will pay are sky high – I paid almost $30 for four pieces of fruit. But the experience is absolutely worth it.

10. Experience a Bloco at Carnival

Where: Any major city in Brazil during Carnival Season.

You won’t find this item on many things to do in Brazil lists – and I am not sure why. One of the most Brazillian, authentic and incredible experiences of my entire trip was attending a Bloco during carnaval week in Rio. A bloco is essentially a block party – but on a scale far grander than anything I’ve ever seen. Just picture it, thousands of people squeezed into a few relatively small city blocks, samba bands and dancers marching in the middle. Incredible costumes are everywhere, everyone is dancing, and the glitter permeates everything around you.

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Happy revelers coming home from a bloco near the Botanical Gardens, Rio.

If you are visiting Brazil during the carnaval season you’ll find no shortage of blocos to attend. They run around the clock and some start as early as 7 am. Some tourists don’t go to blocos because of safety fears, but I did not find them to be dangerous. I did take some precautions. I spoke with the local residents about best blocos to attend, I did not bring my expensive camera equipment, and I had my phone and money tucked in a money belt under my clothes. Blocos are the most fun and safest with a group, so if you are traveling alone consider staying in a hostel where you’ll always find a group to attend a party with.

11. Study Priceless Art in the Museum of Arts of Sao Paulo

Where: Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo

Imagine, priceless art floats in mid-air as though by magic, and museum visitors stroll in its midst. This might sound like a fairy tale or a really cool sci-fi movie but in Sao Paulo its the reality in the Sao Paulo Art Museum (MASP). The museum layout is as incredible as the art. In the main exhibit hall, all the artwork is placed inside individual plexiglass stands, giving the viewer the illusion of art floating in mid-air.

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Priceless Art That Looks as Though it is Floating in Mid Air.

The artwork is arranged from the earliest at begining of the exhibit to the most modern in the back. This arrangement gives you a brilliant overview of how art has evolved through the ages.

12. Check out the World’s Largest Flower Market

Where: Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo

It might still be dark out on the streets of Sao Paulo, but far from the center, twice a week, you can catch a stunning show of sights and smells. Every Tuesday and Friday morning, Ceagesp, (the largest market in South America) hosts the largest flower market in the world. It starts at 6 am but once you are inside, it will be worth it. Here, you’ll find a huge gallery filled to the brim with flowers from the most mundane to the most exotic. The market is over by 8:30, so get here early!

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A stall in the flower market in Ceagesp.

Ceagesp is located on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, so get here by uber. Inside the market is perfectly secure, but don’t walk around the neighborhood as there is a favela close by. After the flower show come inside the main building. Here you’ll find an endless array of goods, catering primarily to the wholesaler. People are friendly and welcoming and happy to pose for pictures.

13. Delight in Unique Street Food

Where: Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo

If you are a fellow foodie, you probably already know all about the joys of devouring unique street food. But in Sao Paulo, take your street eats game up with an entire avenue dedicated to food trucks. Tucked into the popular east village-like neighborhood of Rua Augusta, Calcado Ubanoid is our next stop.

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Calcado Urbanoid, the Street Food Avenue, Comes Alive in the Evenings.

Here, elaborate food trucks line a closed street. Each truck offers a seating area, and much thought has been put into the decorations and atmosphere. The street opens in the afternoon and really comes alive at night – stop here for a party and foodie atmosphere like no other, on this, 13th stop of things to do in Brazil.

14. Wander the Rainforest like Botanical Gardens in Rio

Where: Rio De Janeiro, State of Rio De Janeiro

rio botanical gardens - best things to do in brazil

The Botanical Gardens are a a little jungle inside the concrete jungle of Rio.

Quick, when I say “Rio De Janeiro” what comes to mind? Whatever it was, I bet it was not crooked paths lined with ancient trees, a bird sanctuary or a medicinal plant collection. Yet, all these things can be found in Rio as well, on our 14th stop of things to do in Brazil – the Rio Botanical Gardens.

In Rio, the jungle inside the urban jungle is the perfect getaway from the noise and buzz of the city. Located in a swanky area, the enormous botanical gardens goes on for many miles. Seriously, don’t get lost – I did. There is plenty to see here, from a medicinal plant exhibit, to the Japanese gardens, to the amazon corner and of course plenty more. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by rio this is the perfect spot to help get your chill back. The area is very secure, so the only thing you need to watch out for are the 6 legged residents.

16. Explore the Beaches of Brazil by Boat

There is so much to do in Brazil, it is easy to spend months traveling the country. However, even if you are here for just a week, be sure to explore Brazil’s unique nature. One of the best ways to do so is by boat from Paraty. Miles of endless beaches, waterfalls and a dense jungle await you. Most boat tours out of Paratay take up the whole day and make 5 to 6 stops.

The jungle as seen off a boat in Paratay. Green trees, water.
Exploring Beaches and Jungle by Boat in Paraty

Every itinerary is a little different, and each captain has his own secret spots. On my boat tour out of Paraty, we stopped by a hidden water cave, several pristine wild beaches and a seaside restaurant serving the freshest grilled seafood. Arrange the tour in advance on Viator or in town, after you arrive.

17. Browse One of the Largest Bookstores in South America

Where: Sao Paulo, State of Sao Paulo

If you are a fellow book lover, you might miss the old bookstore culture. Do you remember spending hours in a comfortable environment browsing fresh titles, or sipping a cup of coffee while selecting a novel? Unfortunately, we have few physical bookstores left in the states, but things are different in Brazil. Livravia Cultura is a large South American book store chain and their flagship store is located in Sao Paolo.

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Livarvia Cultura – a great place to spend a few hours in Sao Paulo.

Spread over several floors, the well-appointed bookstore reminded me of the library in a Harry Potter novel. In this store, you’ll find quirky sections and decorations, a staircase painted with the names of old classics and a children’s section. Livravia cultura hosts a large Spanish and an English section. Here too you’ll find a little coffee shop and plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy a new find.

Brazil One Week Itinerary

One Week in Brazil Itinerary – Day 1 – 2:

Arrive in Sao Paulo. In Sao Paulo visit: Beco De Batman (#4), Livaravia Cultura (#8), The Mercado (#9), MASP (#11), Flower Market (#12).

One Week in Brazil Itinerary Day 2 – 4:

Move from Sao Paulo to Paraty via Bus. Check out Brazil travel tips for options on how to get around Brazil. Paratay – Old Town (#3), Full moon flooding (#6), Brazillian beaches by boat (#16)

One Week in Brazil Itinerary Day 4 – 7:

Move from Paraty to Rio via Bus. In Rio: Sugar Loaf (#2), Christ the Redeemer (#5), Museum of Tomorrow (#7), Botanical Gardens (#14), Portugese Reading Room (#17). If you are visiting during Carnaval season attend Sambordromo (#1) and a bloco (#10). Fly back to Sao Paolo Via GOL and depart for home.

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The view – Sao Paulo

Brazil Travel Tips

  • Updated on March 19, 2019. Today, news came out that an Evisa is no longer necessary to travel to Brazil.
  • You can access the biggest towns in Brazil by plane. GOL is the airline I used to travel between Rio and Sao Paolo. The trip itself was great – lovely attendants, new plane. However, communicating with the airline prior to departure was crazy – they kept calling me, emailing me, and trying to speak with me in Portuguese! They changed my take off time about half a dozen times. You’ll need a bit of patience to deal with them, but once you are in the airport everything is smooth.
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A man in Paraty, enjoying a chat with his horse. The horse seemed like a good listener 🙂
  • You won’t find airports in most small towns, such as Paraty. One way to get here is via a long distance bus. In Brazil, the long-distance bus network is large, comfortable and organized. I booked some tickets online prior to arrival and others on location. For safety, do not travel on the long-distance buses after dark.
  • Another efficient way to get around Brazil is with a carpool app. A fellow traveler told me about Bla Bla Car, a great way to travel and to meet people. It also helps limit your carbon footprint.
  • The Metro is the fastest and the cheapest way to get around big cities such as Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo. It is very safe and reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Uber is cheap! Its only costs a few dollars to travel over large distances. Taxis are available everywhere but are much more expensive.
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Vila Madalena, a high end area in Sao Paulo
  • Pack a rain jacket. You might think of Brazil as sunny, but it actually rains quite a bit (remember, its called the rainforest for a reason). During my stay in Brazil, it rained about 50% of the time. Don’t worry – it doesn’t slow anybody down. The party still goes on! A light rainjacket shell is perfect for Brazil.
  • Lots of attractions are closed on Mondays.
  • Few people speak English. Download an offline English to Portuguese app on your phone. It’ll be a life saver!
  • Book tickets to major attractions in advance online. Lines for tickets can get very long – especially during Carnaval season.

Brazil Safety Tips

  • Talk to the locals. The best way to stay safe in any place in the world is to just ask local people – is it ok to go there? Is it safe? For instance, many people told me not to bring my camera equipment to blocos. I listened and was grateful I did. My trip to Brazil was 100% incident free because I listen to what the experienced people told me to do.
  • Base yourself in safe areas. Most major cities have safe neighborhoods and not so safe neighborhoods. In Rio, Copacabana is considered very safe. In Sao Paulo, I stayed in Vila Mariana. Even though you might not get as much hotel for your money, always pick the safest areas to stay in Brazil.
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In Sao Paulo, I stayed in Vila Mariana, sort of like the Park Slope of Brazil. But with much better street art.
  • When in doubt take Uber. I love to walk, but I am not familiar with the big cities in Brazil, so when I wasn’t sure where I was going I took an Uber. It is cheap and very safe.
  • Don’t flash your equipment or money. I am a photographer, so I travel with a camera, a tripod, 3 lenses, and several cell phones. You get the point – I can be a target for the occasional bad apple. Instead of having my camera on my neck I put all my equipment into my very modest looking backpack – I use this backpack everywhere I go. It folds into itself, dries quick and doesn’t look like a camera bag. This might be the best $13 I ever spend.
  • Don’t carry your passport, take a copy instead. If you prebooked tickets you’ll need a copy of your passport to pick them up.
a woman on a float in rio carnaval, 2019 - brazil safety tips
Rio Carnaval, 2019

Attractions Map – Sao Paulo

This attractions map lists all the landmarks I mention in Sao Paolo – and many more. You may find it helpful to download it before your trip.


Attractions Map – Rio De Janeiro

I hope you have enjoyed this list of things to do in Brazil and found it useful. Please don’t forget to share on social, and see you on the road!

Viktoria aka Traveltipster

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17 Amazing Things to Do in Brazil – Pinterest Graphic

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