Brazil is the largest country in South America. No matter how much time you have, it is safe to say that it would be a massive challenge to get to know all the amazing things to do in Brazil in just one trip.
That’s why in this guide to Brazil, Daniel James from Layer Culture takes a look at some of the recommendations and places that anyone travelling here should add to their Brazil itinerary.
If you have more time these Brazil landmarks should be on your to-visit list.
- 15 Things to do in Brazil
- 1- Climb Sugarloaf Mountain and see Christ The Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro)
- 2- Marvel at Iguaçu Falls
- 3- Porto da Barra Beach (Salvador de Bahia)
- 4- Sit on Lapa Steps (Rio de Janeiro)
- 5- Visit Belo Horizonte
- 6- Explore Paraty on the green coast
- 7- Taste Feijoada in a traditional restaurant
- 8- Visit the First Lighthouse in Latin America
- 9- Discover Ouro Preto
- 10- Party at Pipa – The Love Beach
- 11- Get Lost in São Paulo
- 12- Feast on Brazilian desserts
- 13- Beaches and handicrafts in Recife
- 14- Experience the Nightlife at Campeche in Florianópolis
- 15- Find Paradise in Fortaleza
- Brazil travel tips
- 15 Things to do in Brazil
15 Things to do in Brazil
Is it the beach you love or do you fancy visiting some of Latin America’s most important UNESCO World Heritage sites? How about one of the most influential 7 wonders of the world? Brazil is one of the best countries to visit in South America for iconic sights.
If you’re travelling to Brazil and you’re looking for some inspiration, here are the best things to do in Brazil.
1- Climb Sugarloaf Mountain and see Christ The Redeemer (Rio de Janeiro)
Known as one of the first places encountered by the Portuguese arriving in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, Sugarloaf Mountain is on of the most famous landmarks in South America and the best place in Rio de Janeiro to for a breathtaking view of Guanabara Bay.
You’ll take a cable car up to the top and once you arrive there, there are various things to see including a park with hidden paths and lovely garden areas.
It’s the perfect place to catch some downtime after a day walking the streets.
Famously known as one of the 7 Wonders of The World, the Christ the Redeemer statue is one of the main reasons thousands of people visit Rio de Janeiro every day.
As it’s a busy spot, make sure to allow plenty of time to explore.
It would be wise to find a decent tour group and jump the queues that start growing longer from the minute the attraction opens its gates in the morning.
Even if you have to line up, the rewards are worth the wait as the view over Rio de Janeiro from the point of the statue is truly magnificent.
When looking for things to do in Brazil this should be at the very top of your list.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Here are 10 Cool Hotels in Brazil.
2- Marvel at Iguaçu Falls
Visiting Iguacu Falls is an experience for your Brazil bucket list and one of the 7 Wonders of The World.
Iguaçu Falls is a must-see in Brazil and there’s also the opportunity to cross over to the Argentina side of the attraction if you have enough time.
That means you can visit both Argentina and Brazil on the same day. How cool is that?
In my opinion, the Brazilian side of the waterfall has the best views, however, you won’t be able to get as close to the waterfalls as you can in Argentina.
In the park, you can take a boat trip to the falls but you will get wet so take a raincoat and something to protect all your electronics.
The park is so vast that you’ll need to take a shuttle to get to the waterfall attraction so make sure to allow plenty of time to explore. After spending a few hours here it’s likely you won’t want to leave.
3- Porto da Barra Beach (Salvador de Bahia)
Any trip to Salvador de Bahia should include a day at Porto da Barra Beach.
The beach is in the middle of the city and although it can get quite crowded, it’s large enough to accommodate the masses.
This is a rendezvous point for locals as well as tourists so you can expect to meet all types of people.
As the day progresses and the tide comes in, the beach area starts to shrink, so the earlier you arrive in the day, the better.
If spending the day on the beach just isn’t your thing, go at sunset to see the most stunning sunset in South America hands-down.
You’ll never go hungry or thirsty on Porto da Barra Beach as there are plenty of obliging beach vendors selling all kinds of food and drinks.
4- Sit on Lapa Steps (Rio de Janeiro)
Located between the lively neighbourhood of Lapa and the Bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, these tiled steps are one of the most popular and colourful attractions Rio de Janeiro has to offer.
Visiting the Lapa Steps in Rio is one of the interesting things to do in Brazil because each tile tells a story.
Most people who visit are in a rush and few bother to climb to the top.
If you have time, get yourself to the top of the stairs to see the enormous Brazilian flag that sits there.
The idea is to get there as early as possible and to avoid going during the night (as it isn’t safe), especially with expensive camera equipment.
Jump on the historic tram at the top of the Lapa Arches to the Bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa.
The Santa Teresa neighbourhood offers delicious street food, swanky restaurants, cafes and bars.
The architecture is truly magnificent and this is the place where Rio de Janeiro’s old mansions are still inhabited by locals today.
5- Visit Belo Horizonte
Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) is one of the many delights of Brazil and one of the definite must-see locations of the Minas Gerais state.
Known for its coffee production and its Freedom square (a large park-filled plaza).
You don’t have to spend a long time here to get a feel for its charm and the scale of what the city has to offer.
Other than taking in the magnificent view of the palm trees at freedom square.
You can sit in the timeless cafe overlooking the famous sculptures at the Art Museum above the lake in Pampulha or head up to Parque Mangabeiras, where you can get a magnificent view of Belo Horizonte and watch the sun setting from above.
The city is full of green spaces and picture-perfect garden that will keep you entertained as you get to know the beauty of Belo Horizonte.
6- Explore Paraty on the green coast
If you’re thinking of travelling further south but still within the State of Rio de Janeiro, make sure to add Paraty to your list of places to visit in Brazil.
Located on the green coast, Paraty is known for its historic town, beaches and lush mountain range.
One popular thing you can do in Paraty is to visit a Cachaca distillery where you’ll learn the process of how the spirit is made as well as taste various types of Cachaca, which is Brazil’s finest liquor.
8km from Paraty is the Toboggan waterfall, which is a delight to explore and the chance to have fun sliding down the rocks into the water or to just relax on the rocks.
All in all, Paraty is a quiet and beautiful town to visit in Brazil and an easy place to spend a couple of nights without getting bored.
7- Taste Feijoada in a traditional restaurant
Sampling local food should definitely be on your list of things to do in Brazil.
You’ll quickly get used to the smell of garlic wafting out from one of the many kilo restaurants around Brazil.
If you are a keen meat eater, one dish you can’t leave Brazil without trying is Feijoada, pronounced (fey-jwah-duh), which is a hearty stew of black beans, pork and beef, served with rice, collard greens and kale.
Traditional feijoada is often served with orange slices and topped with toasted cassava flour.
It’s a rich and deliciously satisfying meal and I recommend you try this in a traditional restaurant, such as Bar do Mineiro, which you’ll see when you hop off the tram at Santa Teresa.
You’ll experience an authentic introduction to traditional Brazilian cooking in a local setting.
8- Visit the First Lighthouse in Latin America
The Farol da Barra Lighthouse and the area around it is a lovely spot in Salvador de Bahia and.
Not only is this one of the first lighthouses in Latin America but one of the few places in Brazil where you can see both the sunrise and sunset at sea.
All you have to do on arrival is grab yourself a coconut, find a spot on the grass verge, and take in the view.
It’s the perfect stop to unwind whilst gazing at one of Brazil’s most iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Enter the lighthouse to take advantage of the view and visit the maritime museum, which has displays in both English and Portuguese.
9- Discover Ouro Preto
Ouro Preto is a picturesque old mining town and Brazil’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
Located about 100 km from Belo Horizonte, seeing the stunning 18th-Century Baroque architecture is one of the top things to do in Brazil if you love history.
Wear your best walking shoes to navigate the steep cobblestone streets.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine in this well-preserved Brazilian town.
If you do manage to get bored looking around at one of the 25 churches, head to the market where there are plenty of interesting objects to keep you entertained.
10- Party at Pipa – The Love Beach
The good thing about the Love Beach at Pipa is it’s not overly crowded, and there’s access from this beach to various other beaches on foot.
The view of the steep cliffs and the way the beach cuts in and out of the sea is one of its cool features.
There are also a few bars and huts selling refreshments along the beach.
This is the kind of beach that is perfect for surfing, so don’t expect the ocean to be calm and best of all, Pipa’s Bohemian party scene is the place to get your groove on.
If you’re not down for the party life, then still, it is the perfect place to be with a loved one.
11- Get Lost in São Paulo
São Paulo is the largest Portuguese city in the world and is not for the faint-hearted but if you’re looking for the most exciting things to do in Brazil in a city environment, you’ll find them here.
Here you can gaze in awe at Brazil’s tallest skyscrapers and if you love art, you’ll not be disappointed in São Paulo.
Walk around the streets of Sao Paulo to see some of the best street art in South America, especially in Batman alley.
São Paulo also has the most stylish and chic restaurants and hotels in Brazil.
For example, Hotel Emiliano, with its all-inclusive weekend brunch where you feast on black truffle omelettes and drink Champagne while gazing at orchard gardens and a vertical jungle wall.
So if you’re looking for a cool city experience, add São Paulo to your list of things to do in Brazil.
12- Feast on Brazilian desserts
In Brazil, you’ll find local desserts, sweets and pastries everywhere in bakeries or sold right on the street.
Two things you’ll see all over Brazil without even trying are pão de queijo (cheese bread) and acai (a fruit that is sold as a cold refreshing smoothie in a bowl or a glass).
Even if you don’t speak Portuguese, walking around buying food from the locals is a fun thing to do in Brazil.
Another popular favourite is pe de moleque, which is a bar of toasted peanuts in sugar syrup (similar to peanut brittle) and if you’re salivating for a taste of Brazil, here’s a traditional Brigadeiro recipe to make Brazilian fudge balls at home.
Whatever you do in Brazil, don’t miss out on a chance to try one of these local specialities.
13- Beaches and handicrafts in Recife
Pack your sunscreen and head to Recife, which has one of the most beautiful stretches of beachfront in Brazil.
Frequented by both locals and tourists, Boa Viagem and its wonderful beach is most definitely the place to be.
Despite its shark attack warnings, which are sign-posted all over the beach, it is still safe to enter the water, just don’t go too far out.
The beach is perfect for long walks and you can take your time walking and stopping to visit stalls along the way.
14- Experience the Nightlife at Campeche in Florianópolis
Who said big waves and Caipirinha don’t go together?
Campeche, which is in Florianopolis in the state of Santa Catarina, is a hot-spot on one of the larger beaches in Florianopolis.
Expect music, food and a cool beachside vibe.
Campeche is the perfect place for swimmers and surfers and when the sun goes down, it’s a great starting point for a big night out on the island.
Florianopolis is famous for its exuberant nightlife scene, where you’ll find bars, beach parties and nightclubs overflowing with beautiful people.
15- Find Paradise in Fortaleza
Whether you’re looking for Bohemian beaches, or want to cool off in the Brazilian water park at Porto das Dunas, Fortaleza has something waiting for you.
Located in the northeastern part of Brazil you’ll soon see why it is so popular with European tourists, who come here for its golden beaches.
Aside from catching rays on the beach, a popular thing to do here is to visit the Central Market.
The market is the hub of the city and has over 600 stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs.
Another famous landmark in Fortaleza is the historic José de Alencar Theatre, where a guided tour will educate you about its history while you admire the Art Nouveau style of the century-old building.
Fortaleza is a great starting point if you plan to work your way down to the south of Brazil.
Brazil travel tips
Although massive in size you’ll be glad to know that Brazil is easy to get around. Here are some travel tips:
- For anything longer than a four to six-hour bus ride you may want to consider flying.
- Rio de Janeiro is a good place to start if you’ve never been to Brazil so head to Rio de Janeiro first if you are undecided on where to start your adventure in Brazil.
I hope this guide should have given you the inspiration and added confidence to start exploring today.
For more things to do in South America see:
- 20 Things To Do In Argentina
- 15 Things To Do In Buenos Aires
- 15 Things To Do In Ushuaia
- 20 Things To Do in Peru
- 15 Things To Do in Lima
- 15 Things To Do in Patagonia
- 15 Things To Do In Santiago
- 15 Things To Do In Quito
Daniel James took his first backpacking trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2012 and that ignited the whole purpose for his travel blog Layer Culture and love for travel in Latin America over the past six years. After returning to Brazil around four times since then, with the last trip been August 2018, he has travelled in both the north and south of the country.