Brazil is a family-centric culture, and Rio de Janeiro is no exception – families are well received anywhere, and even though it's a big, chaotic city, Rio is easier to navigate with little ones than you might imagine. It's all about knowing where to go.
If you're considering a family holiday in Rio de Janeiro, here’s our guide to discovering the best places to visit with kids, and our top tips to make your family's travels to Rio de Janeiro as marvelous as the Marvelous City itself.
Is Rio de Janeiro good for kids?
Rio de Janeiro is a major metropolis unlike any other – the city sits inside of a jungle, sandwiched in between limestone hills and breathtaking beaches.
This unique landscape means that, along with the typical urban offerings of a cultural capital, Rio also has an endless number of outdoor adventures and natural immersions available right in the middle of town.
Plus, cariocas (residents from Rio), might rate as some of the friendliest, most outgoing people on earth, happy to welcome families at any venue, be it a museum, restaurant, concert hall or the like.
That doesn't mean there aren't any downsides. Rio is still a big, chaotic city, and for about half of the year, it's very, very hot.
Accessibility can vary greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. While the beachfront boardwalk is stroller friendly, for instance, most city streets are not. Knowing where (and when) to go can help to ensure that your family holiday in Rio is a success.
What are the best Rio neighborhoods for kids?
Which is the best neighborhood in Rio for kids? It depends on the age and interests of your children. Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, near the beaches, are the best for lovers of swimming, sand and sunshine.
Jardim Botânico, Horto or São Conrado are the best for outdoorsy families who love waterfalls, jungles and hiking; and Santa Teresa and Centro are the best neighborhoods for families who love art, culture and history.
Best things to do in Rio with babies and toddlers
Spend the mornings at the beach
Most baby and toddler parents from Rio hit the beach super early to make the most of the cooler temperatures and quiet of the day.
You can get chairs, umbrellas and fresh coconuts on the beach at a barraca (vendor). When you've had your fill of seaside bliss, wash off in the freshwater showers on the sand and head for a lovely bunch at La Bicyclette, The Slow Bakery or Empório Jardim before wandering through the Botanical Gardens. Follow things up with a stroll through the beautiful mansion-turned-art-school in the jungle, Parque Lage.
Beat the heat by heading to a museum
Avoid the afternoon heat by heading indoors – grab your baby carrier and continue on to a museum. Favorites are the family-friendly Centro Cultural Banco Brasil (CCBB) or the Museu de Arte Rio (MAR) in Rio's Center, or the Parque das Ruínas and the Museu da Chácara do Céu in Santa Teresa. For those with tots, a cultural excursion can be followed by a stop at AquaRio, Rio's aquarium (beware of the lines).
Ride share cars are cheap and plentiful (Uber or 99Taxi are the best apps), and the best way to avoid the stress and heat of public transport if you've got a baby on board.
Best things to do in Rio with school-age kids
Work up a sweat on a picturesque hike
Kids have energy to burn, and luckily Rio has plenty of outdoor activities to make sure they sleep like angels. Head to the Horto neighborhood for a waterfall hike – Cachoeira dos Primatas or Solar da Imperatriz are both less crowded waterfalls easily accessible for most fitness levels.
Another Horto option is the trek up Pedra Bonita. A taxi can take you to the trailhead, where you can watch the paragliders launch into the skies before climbing up the 40-ish minute trail (watch for monkeys!) to see exceptional views of the city.
Then head down to São Coronado Beach to chill at Soga Beach, where you'll find great snacks and afternoon vibes.
Dying to see the Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)? There is a trail where you can walk up the first hill located right at the edge of Praia Vermelha in the Urca neighborhood, which is conveniently considered one of the quietest, safest beaches in Rio.
In the afternoon, head to Santa Teresa and ride on the Bonde – Rio's iconic yellow tram car – to Largo das Neves, where on Friday evenings you'll find heaps of kids' activities for children playing in the square.
Best things to do in Rio with teens & tweens
Visit outdoor markets for a taste of Brazilian culture
Rio is a hotspot for culture, and getting your teens into the scene will open their eyes to new worlds. Start the day at one of the outdoor markets – Praca XV has a flea and antiques market on Saturday mornings, which is best followed by a boat ride to the small, car-free island of Paquetá.
On Sundays, head to the Feria da Gloria for the coolest local shopping, which easily ends in a bike ride along the Aterro do Flamengo oceanfront park; or stay at the market in the afternoon to enjoy some of the best samba in the city.
Take a street art tour through Santa Teresa, where you can learn about the urban culture and get to know some of the iconic graffiti artists of the city. Then, head over to the Parque das Ruínas - a steampunk style outdoor mansion-turned-cultural center, for a breathtaking sunset with 180 degree-views of the Marvelous City.
Remember that Rio's summer is from December to February. The city is crowded thanks to Carnival and New Years celebrations, and the temperatures are very, very hot. Unless that's your vibe, aim to visit between April and October.
When in town, you can rent bicycles to explore the beaches and the lake, and take the metro to many of the main tourist sites. If you're in a pinch (or it's nighttime, for safety), take a ride share car, which are inexpensive and prevalent. For local, kid-friendly events going on, follow @RioComCrianças on Instagram - or for the best kid-friendly bars to drink at in the city, check out @MãeBoemia.