Aerial view of Ipanema, Arpoador and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro

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How to spend a day in... Rio de Janeiro

Get the best out of the Marvellous City during a port day with our guide

Updated July 2020

By Angelina Villa-Clarke

Set to a soundtrack of bossa nova and fringed with idyllic beaches and towering peaks, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most spectacular cities. Originally the capital of Brazil, the city remains the nation’s cultural and spiritual centre, fusing Latin and African cultures and jam-packed with unique things to see and do. It’s impossible to think of Rio without preconceptions – a place intrinsically linked with a carnival vibe and jet-set glamour. You’ll soon be caught up with the local Cariocas’ passion for life: from dancing at beach bars to finding the ultimate feijoada, the local black-bean stew. Make the most of your time here with this guide and tease out the best of Rio.

The day you arrive...

Palms and Two Brothers Mountain on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil.


12pm-3pm First, head south to Rio’s beaches, Ipanema and Copacabana. Here you can watch the city merge in all its guises on the sand – stop by the kiosks serving street food and blaring infectious music for a glimpse of local life. An extension of nearby Fasano, one of Rio’s luxury hotels, Quiosque Marea is a stylish place to find a snack. On Ipanema Beach, it has elevated the simple beach shack concept with its cool décor and all-day menu – from acai bowls to oysters.

3pm-6pm Tick off one of Rio de Janeiro’s most famous sights – and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World – by seeing the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on a Princess shore excursion. The 20-minute trip on the gentle cog train takes you up Corcovado Mountain, giving spellbinding views over the city below. Insider tip: sit on the right of the train on the way up for the best vistas, as the route will also take you through the lush Tijuca Forest.

Samba dancing at Ginga Tropical Show at Leblon Theatre

Leblon Theatre

6pm-9pm Time to head back to the ship to get ready for your Princess excursion, which will take you to the Leblon district for the Ginga Tropical Samba Show at Leblon Theatre. Through high-energy dances and performances, it will let you get to the heart of Brazil’s culture. From the elegant Brazilian martial art of capoeira to the uplifting lambada and samba, the evening promises to be one of dynamic revelry.

The next morning...

9am-10.30am After breakfast onboard, a visit to the bohemian Santa Teresa neighbourhood is sure to impress. There is lots to discover in the area – including ambling around the Parque das Ruínas, a park built around the ruins of a colonial mansion. And the famous Escadaria Selarón steps are a must. Covered in 2,000 brightly hued mosaic tiles from around the world, the 215 steps are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón – and are a tribute to the Brazilian people.

Santa Teresa Bondinho (tram), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America

Robert Harding

10.30am-12pm For a classic scenic view over Guanabara Bay, make your way to the top of Santa Teresa hill. From here, not only can you take in the sweeping views, but you can hop aboard the ‘bonde’ city tram. Built in 1877, the bright yellow tram takes visitors to and from the city centre and allows you to soak up the rhythm of the city.

In the afternoon...

Interior of the Museum of Tomorrow

Robert Harding

12pm-2pm Head to the redeveloped old port area, which is home to cultural attractions including Museu de Arte do Rio and the extraordinarily futuristic Museum of Tomorrow, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. The latter mixes art and science to address the future of the planet, including a thought-provoking look at the dangers of climate change. Take time to explore before returning to the ship.

Spend more time ashore in Rio

While most cruise lines allow passengers to visit a port during the daytime, Princess’ More Time Ashore programme offers added shore time in the evenings – and Rio de Janeiro is one such port, which means you'll have more time to really get to the heart of the city. Other destinations where you can benefit from added time to explore include the two-night Panama Canal experience or an overnight stay in Hong Kong.

Create a perfect day of your own in Rio

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About the Author

Angelina Villa-Clarke

Angelina Villa-Clarke

Angelina has been a travel journalist for the past 20 years, having caught the travel bug when she was a child. Before going freelance nine years ago, she was associate editor on British Airways' High Life Magazine and travelled widely. She now writes for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Her next assignment is in NYC and later this year she's headed to Mekong Delta in Vietnam.