Rain may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Rio de Janeiro, the city famous for its sun, sea, and sand. However, Rio receives more than 46 inches of rainfall a year, which is more than double that of London, a city famous for its near-constant drizzle. The rainiest month of the year is December but the city experiences the ‘Aguas de Março’ or the ‘Waters of March’ during the Autumn months which are notoriously wet. However, as Rio is a tropical city the rain clouds are never too far away. When the heavens open, the Cariocas retreat inside, canceling all plans including those that would have been indoors. Here’s our guide to things to do on a rainy day in Rio (without having to get wet).
Understandably for a city obsessed with coffee, Rio has some fantastic cafes to while away a soggy afternoon and enjoy people-watching. The stunning Confeitaria Colombo in Centro has been around for 120 years and is arguably the most beautiful place to escape a downpour. Indulge in their extensive cake and pastry selection whilst soaking up the splendor of the stained glass windows and Belle Époque decor. A particular recommendation is a Belgian waffle, which stands out as one of the best in Rio for those with a sweet tooth.
Gonçalves Dias, 32 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20050-030, Brazil
A more hipster option is Sofá Café in Copacabana, known for its friendly staff, great coffee, and tasty snacks. The free wifi is a bonus for those looking to for a place to get a bit of work done without resorting to a Starbucks.
Av. Nossa Sra. de Copacabana, 300 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22020-001, Brazil
A spa day is a perfect option on a rainy day in Rio; not only can you escape the rain but also the hustle and bustle of the city. W Spa in Barra offers a comprehensive massage menu using ingredients sourced from all over the world. Hungover from the night before? The detox ritual will have you feeling like new again.
Av. das Américas, 7777 – subsolo, sala 13 – Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22793-081, Brazil
Viver Zen Spa in Zona Sul offers a half-day package, which is the perfect option to completely de-stress yourself on a rainy day in Rio. You can indulge in everything from mud wraps to acupuncture. With a massage specifically designed to alleviate jet lag, this place is ideal if you’ve just arrived and want to feel great.
Vinícius de Moraes, 250 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22411-010, Brazil
Warm up inside
Rio can be deceptively chilly in the rain and nothing warms you up quite like cachaça. The Academia da Cachaça in Leblon serves over 100 varieties of cachaca either straight or as a caipirinha. Soak it all up with some of their Brazilian comfort food, the
Rua Conde de Bernadotte, 26 – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22430-200, Brazil
For something a little more unusual why not try the banana beer at Banana Jack? It’s exactly as it sounds, beer made from bananas and whilst a bit of an acquired taste, it does really hit the spot. Banana Jack is a great place to chill out all afternoon, play some pool and enjoy one of their excellent hamburgers. With branches in Barra, Ipanema
Jangadeiros, 6 – B – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22420-010, Brazil
Read all about it
For all the bookworms out there Rio has some beautiful libraries to explore. The neoclassical Biblioteca Nacional or National Library is the largest in Latin America, housing over 9 million volumes and some rare treasures such as two copies of the 1492 Mainz Psalter Bible. Cultural exhibitions are sometimes held here (advertised on the website). Guided tours about the history of the library and it’s international importance are available in English.
Av. Rio Branco, 219 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20040-009, Brazil
The Real Gabinete Português de Leitura (Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading) is a library that was built in 1887 in the Gothic style that has been frequently described as a building that wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter film. Started by three Portuguese immigrants, it is home to the largest collection of Portuguese works outside Portugal and is a vital collection of that country’s history. Book lovers can enjoy exhibits such as the first edition of Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ complete with his scribbles in the margin. Guided tours are available daily in English.
Luís de Camões, 30 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20051-020, Brazil
Visit a museum
History buffs will love whiling away a soggy day at the Museu Histórico Nacional, or National History Museum. Housed in the 1764 colonial arsenal this excellent museum has over 350,000 different artifacts that depict life in Brazil from colonization to its start as a republic. One of the more thought-provoking sections contains paintings that show the horror of the war with Paraguay. For anyone interested in the history of Brazil, this museum is a must.
National History Museum, Praça Mal. Âncora, Centro, RJ, Brazil, +55 (21) 3299 0324
Rio has a wealth of culture and history within its many museums and they shouldn’t be missed from any visitor’s itinerary. However, they are perfect to explore on a rainy day. One of the most famous is Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), which, with its astonishing architecture, has become one of Rio’s most popular tourist destinations. Its digital displays explore ideas of sustainability and how the future will be affected. Enlightening and intriguing, it should not be missed.
Museum of Tomorrow, Praça Mauá, 1, Centro, RJ, Brazil, +55 (21) 3812 1800
Shop ‘til the rain stops and then watch a movie in English
For the kind of tropical downpours that can sometimes envelop the city and make going outside less of an inconvenience and more like an endurance test, do as the Cariocas do and decamp to a shopping mall. Barra Shopping is one of the largest malls in Rio and has almost everything you could wish for. From bikinis to homewares to a really good gelato, you can easily spend a day (and all your money) wandering around this labyrinthine mall. The mall is also home to numerous restaurants and a movie theatre, which has a large selection of movies that are played in their original language with Portuguese subtitles.
Getting to Barra Shopping can be a little tricky. Shoppers can either take an UBER (which should cost around R$20 – R$40 / one way) or take the metro to Jardim Oceanico and any BRT bus in the direction of Recreio (most BRT buses will stop right in front of Barra Shopping).
Av. das Américas, 4666 – Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22640-102, Brazil
For something closer to the center of town with a beautiful view across Guanabara Bay try Bossa Nova Mall. Right next to Santos Dumont Airport and with a terrace bar it’s a great spot to watch planes take off from the short runway known affectionately as ‘the aircraft carrier’. With lots of midrange Brazilian brands and a growing number of restaurants, it’s one of the nicer malls in the city.
Av. Alm. Silvio de Noronha, 365 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20021-010, Brazil
Elissa is a freelance writer based in Brazil. With 5 years’ experience working for the News UK print and online publications in drizzly London, she decided to move to Rio de Janeiro to write about the cidade maravilha, mostly whilst sitting on the beach.