Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep

Rio de Janeiro is a cosmopolitan city located in the southeast of the Brazil. It is one of the main economic, cultural and financial centers of the country. Rio is internationally known for some of its most popular icons such as the Pan de Azúcar, a prominent promontory that can be seen from anywhere in the city, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Maracana stadium, the beaches of Ipanema or Copacabana and the Carnival, perhaps the most popular show in all of Brazil. But what is the best area to stay in Rio de Janeiro?

Rio de Janeiro offers a wide choice of accommodation. However, it is a large city, and not all areas are touristy and not close to attractions. When analyzing the areas to stay in Rio de Janeiro, it is best to choose areas close to the beaches and with good public transport links.

Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep
Rio de Janerio in Brazil - Photo from Istock

Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is divided into four main areas. They are the historic center, the south area, the north area and the west area. Each zone is then further divided into neighborhoods.

The Old Town and South Zone have the best neighborhoods for travelers as they have the best mix of safety, attractions, restaurants, beaches, and nightlife.

Each neighborhood in Rio has its own lifestyle and culture, and each of them feels more like a quaint little town than a neighborhood.

Neighborhoods to choose from for those who love nightlife

The neighborhoods of Botafogo, Catheter e Limpet are the busiest areas of Rio for nightlife, where you will find many of the best samba bars and clubs in the city. These neighborhoods (all quite small and bordering on each other) are close to some of the city's most famous attractions, and in the evening, many of the streets and squares of these neighborhoods are teeming with young people, who congregate in the open-air bars and restaurants.

The best areas for the beach

If you want to be able to navigate straight from your hotel room to Rio's golden sands just across the street, stay at Copacabana, Ipanema e Leblon. Copacabana is very touristy and has hotels for all tastes and budgets, while Ipanema and Leblon are sophisticated areas full of trendy restaurants and boutiques.

Other neighborhoods to stay in Rio de Janeiro

  • Catheter e Flamengo: they are located farther from the beaches but are convenient for visiting Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer. In these neighborhoods you will find numerous budget hotels.
  • Santa Teresa: it is located near the Center but located on the hill. It is a sophisticated area with beautiful boutique hotels.
  • The district City Center is the business district of the city. Here is the Central Station of Brazil and it has good connections to the airport but it is not very safe at night.
  • Barra da Tijuca it is the wealthiest neighborhood in the city and one of the safest high-class barrios in Rio. Here, however, there are design hotels at an excellent price, however, it is located very far from the interesting points of the city.

Best neighborhoods to stay in Rio de Janeiro


Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep
Copacabana, the most famous beach in Rio de Janeiro -

✓ central ✓ public transport ✓ nearby attractions ✓ many accommodation facilities ✓ nightlife
✖ noisy ✖ crowded

Located south of the city, Copacabana is the main district of Rio de Janeiro and, together with that of Ipanema, one of the best known. Above all, for its beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of sand that has been nicknamed La Princesita by locals.

Copacabana is ideal for lovers of sand and sun and for those on a budget. It is the most touristic neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro and where there are more accommodation options of all types.

It is a zone very well positioned and connected to the rest of Rio by metro and bus, ideal for exploring its tourist attractions.

In Copacabana you will find everything: a large number of restaurants, cinemas, theaters and other leisure options. Among the architectural relics to see in Copacabana are the Fort, with its Army Museum and the 18th century Imperial Palace.

This neighborhood is definitely the best area to stay in Rio de Janeiro to enjoy the sea and resort-like hotels. Keep in mind that it comes to a noisy area where there are always a lot of people. And where the tourists are, there are also pickpockets. During the day the area is quiet but at night you have to be a little more careful, especially on the beach.

Find accommodation in Copacabana


Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep
Ipanema Beach -

✓ safe ✓ central ✓ nightlife ✓ public transport
✖ very touristy ✖ expensive

Located south of the Cidade Maravilhosa (the wonderful city as Rio de Janeiro is called), Ipanema is a exclusive neighborhood, popular especially with wealthy tourists.

It is an elegant and modern area, a little more chic than Copacabana. It is famous for its beautiful beach. It is a lively district where many popular bars and restaurants meet and there is a wide range of hotels.

Although Ipanema not the cheapest place, is one of the best areas to stay in Rio de Janeiro, and it's worth choosing a beachfront hotel with views of the sea and hills.

This is one of the best shopping areas, thanks to its many shops and boutiques. There are also spaces dedicated to art and history such as the Imperial Palace and the National Historical Museum.

It is a very safe area to stroll through its streets. In this neighborhood is the famous corner of the Bar Veloso, where Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes were inspired to compose the song Garota de Ipanema. AND vicina to Copacabana, so it is in a very convenient position. An ideal area for couples.

Find a hotel in Ipanema

Staying in Rio de Janeiro - Better Ipanema or Copacabana?

As the two most popular areas, many wonder whether it is better to stay in Copacabana or Ipanema. The truth is that both neighborhoods are excellent for staying in Rio de Janeiro, although there are some differences between Copacabana and Ipanema and that depends on each one's tastes.

Copacabana it is more popular and commercial and is always very busy. There are even more options for nightlife. Also Ipanema it has constant movement, but it is a bit quieter than the first and its atmosphere is more elegant and chic.

The small peninsula "Pedra do Arpoador" separates Copacabana and Ipanema and is an area of ​​beautiful beaches right at the intersection of both neighborhoods.


Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep

✓ shopping ✓ good food ✓ safe ✓ luxury hotels
It is expensive

Leblon shares the same crescent-shaped stretch of coastline with Ipanema and is home to some of Rio's wealthiest inhabitants. The beach and the sea here are quieter, so it's more popular with families.

Prices in Leblon are not cheap and are often in line with major cities such as London or New York. That doesn't mean Leblon isn't worth checking out; the area exudes charm and is the place where the most important people go to be seen. Not to be missed Rua Dias Ferreira for fine cuisine and extravagance. The prices here are high.

The hotels are luxury in this neighborhood and if you're traveling on a tight budget, it's probably best to look elsewhere. But if you're on a budget and want to bask in a great hotel this is the right neighborhood to stay in Rio de Janeiro. Accommodation in the neighborhood ranges from apart-hotels to design boutique hotels.

Find accommodation in Leblon


Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep
Botafogo -

✓ shopping ✓ close to major attractions ✓ safe ✓ cheap accommodation
✖ less touristy

The neighborhood of Botafogo is centered around its namesake crescent bay and is a neighborhood that is becoming trendy. The sandy beach offers beautiful views of Sugar Loaf Mountain and there are many entertainment options from shopping malls and cinemas to trendy bars and restaurants.

Botafogo is experiencing a moment of development. Overflowing with funky cafes and hipster hangouts, the neighborhood isn't well known to tourists, who usually head to Rio's famous beaches. But with an alternative scene and many young people moving here for cheaper rents, the area is growing.

There is a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere in the neighborhood, which makes it a great place to stay if you want to get a taste of local life more. Botafogo offers a great cultural diversity and a large concentration of cafes, theaters and cinemas.

This neighborhood is featured in many of Rio's postcards which include Guanabara Bay and the image of Sugar Loaf Mountain in the background. Therefore, this is where they are located the best views of Rio de Janeiro.

The area is also served by excellent means of transport and from here you can easily reach the main districts of Rio. It is ideal for visiting it with family and / or friends a cheaper alternative compared to other areas.

Botafogo is one of the best areas to stay in Rio de Janeiro for young travelers.

Find accommodation in Botafogo

Santa Teresa

✓ quiet area ✓ many hotels ✓ excellent views ✓ nightlife
It is poorly served by transport

Santa Teresa is certainly the coolest neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro thanks to the strong bohemian vibe that emanates on the streets. Perched around the former convent of the same name, Santa Teresa is Rio de Janeiro's artists' quarter.

Although the area is poorly served by transport, the detour is worth. Often compared to the Montmartre district of Paris, it is located on the heights of the city and includes numerous hotels that are worth a visit, both for their beauty and for their services.

This charming area is a tourist attraction for its views of the city, its many cultural spaces, restaurants and bars.

One of the urban icons of Santa Teresa is il cable car, Rio's last electric tram that's 145 years old but still runs and crosses the Arcos de Lapa, a picturesque urban aqueduct.

Other icons of the area are the Largo de Guimarães square, the Convent of Santa Teresa with its Seleron Stairs, the main landmark of the neighborhood, as well as the Chácara do Céu Museum and the Parque das Ruinas Cultural Center.

In the Santa Teresa neighborhood there are many accommodations for all types of budgets, from hostels to bed and breakfasts, to wonderful boutique hotels, all with breathtaking views over the city.

Despite being close to the Centro district, Santa Teresa is super safe.

Find accommodation in Santa Teresa

How to get to your hotel from the airport?

Again, Rio is very big. The airport is therefore quite far from the center. Although there are several options, the taxi remains the safest and easiest form of transport to reach a desired point.

Reach Rio de Janeiro from the airport by shuttle

You will need to find the BRT stop (the fast bus line to downtown Rio). Make sure your bus stops at the desired stop. Therefore I recommend the shared taxi or shuttle solution (click here for more information on the shared shuttle).

Get to Rio de Janeiro from the airport by taxi

There are many! The safest solution when you don't speak Portuguese is to use one of the many private taxis. They are all the same and the prices are more or less equivalent. You can also take a yellow taxi, the traditional taxis, which are located outside the airport. There is a surplus to pay for the suitcases. If not, opt for a group shuttle.


Where to stay in Rio de Janeiro: the best areas to sleep
Tourist map of Rio de Janeiro
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