Rio de Janeiro is one of the most expensive cities in Brazil. The cost of living or even just touring the city is very high which can make weekend activities a money drainer.
Rio de Janeiro has a lot of beautiful beaches with amazing blue waters to spend the day, but if the comfort of the sand and the hot sun are not in your plans, we may have the right tips of other inexpensive (and free!) programs to do in this wonderful city.
1. Riding a bike through the South region
The shoreline of Rio de Janeiro is beautiful and very long. If you ride a bike (or even if you walk) you can go through several Rio neighborhoods while enjoying the fascinating view. From Glória to Leblon, for example, you can ride for 15km through 7 neighborhoods and many other famous sights in Rio. You will be presented with incredible views of the Sugar Loaf, Pedra da Gávea and Morro Dois Irmãos, and, besides that, there are a lot of good options if you want to stop for a snack or a good rest. If 15km is too much for you, you can start your ride anywhere you like, since there are bike rental stations (Bike Rio) scattered throughout every corner of Rio de Janeiro.You can also ride a bike around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, which has a bike lane with a total length of 7.5 km and offers a very pleasant trip.
The daily use of bicycles at Bike Rio is $5 reais, but you can also opt for the monthly pass, valid for 30 days, for only $10 reais. There are hundreds of bike rentals stations in the city, running between 6am and midnight. For more information on Bike Rio, visit http://www.mobilicidade.com.br/bikerio.asp.
2. Visit the Mirante da Paz, in Cantagalo
On the exit C of General Osório subway station in Ipanema (Barão da Torre Street) it is possible to gain access to the Mirante da Paz. From there, you can see Ipanema, Copacabana, Lagoa, Corcovado and many other places from the top. The visit is completely free.
3. Feira do Lavradio
The Feira do Lavradio (Lavradio’s Fair) occurs every first Saturday of the month, beginning at 10am on Lavradio Street, Centro. You can find about 400 exhibitors over there who sell decorative objects, clothes, jewelry and lots of antiques. Other than the fair, there are many stores and restaurants on the same street – it’s a trip that can last the entire day. The exhibitors also promote concerts, photography exhibitions and dance presentations.The event is free, but of course you’ll want to go shopping for a little bit…
4. Forte de Copacabana
Beside a breathtaking view, visiting the Copacabana Fort is also a great choice for those who like museums and history. In the Army Historical Museum (Museu Histórico do Exército) there’s a permanent exhibition of documents and old objects that tells the Brazilian army’s history and there are also other rooms where you can find a few collections of original objects from the colonization era. Besides that, there are other activities available inside the fort, such as a visit to a replica of Our Lady of Copacanaba Church that used to be in that same place years ago; cultural programs and temporary exhibitions for each time of the year. On the outside there are stores, coffee shops and bathrooms; there is also a branch of the Confeitaria Colombo – a traditional pâtisserie from downtown Rio – where you can find a wide variety of sweets and snacks.Entrance price: $6 reais (children, students and older than 65 years old pay $3 reais).
Located in Jardim Botânico, the Parque Henrique Lage is a 52 hectare park founded in 1811 and the right choice for a place to spend your day. Within the area, there are activities for all ages, including a children’s playground, hiking paths – leading to Christ the Redeemer – a fountain, an aquarium, a few picnic and rest areas and a parking lot. Access to the park is free.Inside the park there’s also the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage (School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage), which has occupied the main Palace of the park since 1975 and exhibits students’ art to the public.
6. Pista Cláudio Coutinho
For those who like walking, Pista Cláudio Coutinho, in Urca, is the right place. Surrounding a beautiful landscape with a view from the Sugar Loaf Mouintain (Pão de Açúcar) and the charming Praia Vermelha, the lane is 1.25km long with a lot of athetles liking to go over there to run. Besides that, you can access the trail to Morro da Urca from there, it’s a 40 minute hike until one of the most amazing views of Rio, where you can see almost the entire city.You can do the hike for free, as well as walking or running around the lane. You don’t have to pay to enter the Morro da Urca premise as well. If you want to go to up to the Sugar Loaf Mountain via cable car from Morro da Urca, you can buy a ticket for $40 (children, students and older than 65 years old pay $20 reais), but this ride is optional.
The Pista Cláudio Coutinho opens daily, from 6am to 6pm.
Lapa is a neighborhood in the Central Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Over there you can find numerous bars, restaurants, nightclubs and theme pubs for all tastes in between its 13 streets. Lapa is known as the nest of carioca’s bohemian life. It is also known for its architecture, beginning with the Aqueduto da Carioca (Arcos da Lapa), its main reference and landmark.Lapa’s night is for anyone – you can find music and gastronomy for every sort of person. And if you’d rather stay on the sidewalks, drinking your own beer and enjoying the nearby music, you can do just that. Lapa’s sidewalks usually welcome many groups of friends who go over there to hang out, so you don’t necessarily need to go to a restaurant or a bar for that. You can just ask any carioca: Lapa is the right place to go out at night, it doesn’t matter what your interests are – listen to good music, dancing or hanging out with friends.
8. Samba do Ouvidor
A free activity for those who like samba, Samba do Ouvidor is a samba jamming session that happens on the corner of Ouvidor and Mercado streets. It happens every other Saturday, from 5pm to 10pm and usually welcomes hundreds of people. If you want to know more about their schedule, visit their blog at http://sambadaouvidor.blogspot.com.br/.
9. Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil
CCBB RJ has an area of 15.046 m² with multiple spaces for different cultural attractions, such as music, theatre, cinema and exhibitions. Besides that, there’s a library and a video library open to the public, as well as the Arquivo Histórico and the Museu Banco do Brasil, which offers historical exhibitions for documents and other historical objects. Admission is free for exhibitions and educational programs, with stand-by tickets handed out 1 hour before the events.Address: Rua Primeiro de Março, 66 – Centro.
Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) is a Science museum. It’s a space devoted to issues of sustainability and coexistence, promoting exploration, reflection and planning of possibilities for the future and the next 50 years. The Museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10am to 6pm; the box office closes at 5 pm. Entrance is free on Tuesdays. But if you can’t go there this day of the week, the full price of the tickets is $20 reais and you can buy it online to avoid lines at https://ingressos.museudoamanha.org.br/#!/home. The museum is located on Praça Mauá, which after 4 years of revitalization, now offers a quality public place to spend the day with family and friends.
11. Floresta da Tijuca (Parque Nacional da Tijuca)
You can access the park from the South Zone, West Zone and North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca) protects the biggest urban forest grown by man in the world, with a 3.953ha extension of Atlantic forest. It receives more than three million visitors a year, including Brazilians and foreigners of all ages.
Divided into three visiting sectors – Forest, Serra da Carioca e Pedra Bonita/Pedra da Gávea – the park offers activities options for all audiences: from picnic and barbecue areas to gliding, rock climbing, hiking and other activities. There’s also a waterfall and a few creeks where you can refresh. You can access the park for free.
12. Bondinho de Santa Teresa
A tram is an ancient urban transportation, which is almost extinct today. In Rio, the Santa Teresa tram connects the neighborhood to the Rio’s downtown. In addition to being an touristic attraction in the city, it is also a real transportation for residents and for those who want to visit the tourists sights of Santa Teresa.The ride is pleasant and nostalgic, since it goes through many old buildings in the city. Also, when the tram passes over the Arcos da Lapa, you can have a panoramic view of the city. From 11h to 16h during the assisted operation, no fare is charged.
Its final stations is close to Carioca subway station.
13. Mercado Municipal do Rio
The Municipal Market of Rio de Janeiro (Mercado Municipal do Rio de Janeiro), also known as CADEG, offers a wide variety of services and products to meet the needs of the public. Located in Benfica, it is the best place to buy flowers, fruits, drinks, pastries, cereals and even clothes. It also offers services such as banks, restaurants, pharmacies, craft stores and much more. The Municipal Market is a large shopping area where you can find almost anything – a great variety of products with very good price. Hours of operation depends on each store.
14. Escadaria Selarón
The staircase is located between the Joaquim Silva Street in Lapa and Pinto Martins Street, in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood. It’s just a 5 minutes walk away from Arcos da Lapa. The staircase, decorated with numerous colored tiles, is the work of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón and is a well-known tourist spot in Rio, visited by many people who like to take pictures.
15. Parque das Ruínas
Parque das Ruínas is a cultural center that features an auditorium, exhibition hall and a cafeteria, also used for concerts, happy hours and readings of literacy texts. There is a 360-degree observation deck on top of the old house with an admirable view of Rio de Janeiro. In outdoor areas there is a special program for children on the weekends. It runs from Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 8pm. Admission is free.
16. Pedra do Sal
Every Monday and Friday, there’s a very famous ‘roda de samba’ in Saúde, a neighborhood near Centro. It’s a street party where musicians come together to play samba. Everybody gets around them for drinks, dance and chat. It’s a very carioca thing to do and everybody loves it. It’s free as all street parties in Rio. Pedra do Sal itself is a rock on Morro da Conceição, the place where the event happens. Get there around 9pm and enjoy the fun for free. Address: Rua Argemiro Bulcão – Saúde.
Now there is no excuse for lack of money, you already have places to go for the next few weekends. Oh and another tip, take your own snacks and drinks with you so you can spend even less. Also remember that this is only a short list, you can find many other options of free or almost free activities in Rio, including Museums, parks, cultural activities and other events, you just have to look around or ask!