We had planned to go to the Redeeming Christ hiking through Parque Lage, however when we got there, we were informed by local police that the risk of being assaulted was quite high! Some Internet browsing later confirmed that indeed over 100 people (mostly tourists) had been attacked since the start of the year.
On the ground, the Parque Lage itself is really beautiful and quite safe, with free entry and lots of little monkeys, iguanas and magnificent birds sharing the rainforest. Next door to it is the Botanic Garden, it will cost you R$15 to get in and you can spend a whole afternoon there, wandering around the many exotic species of fauna and flora exhibited.
Redeeming Christ overlooking Parque Lage
However, you shouldn't give up on Christ (literally), voted one of the seven wonders of the Modern World in 2007, it is jaw-dropping. A couple of safe alternatives exist: the old train from Corcovado or the bus from Largo De Machado.
We opted for the first one, and bought our tickets in the Rio Sul shopping mall at their kiosk (you can also go online, but you will need access to a printer). Be careful, same day tickets cannot be purchased so you have to get it at least one day ahead. The total cost for 2 was of R$134.20, we booked an early departure for the following morning.
Since our plans had to change, we decided to walk back from the Botanic Garden to Copacabana, through the mythic beaches of Leblón & Ipanema. We arrived there just on time to catch the amazing sunset over the favela of Vidigal. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are about 2 kms and 4 kms long, walking on both beaches can be quite long, but you can always stop and lay down on the beach if tired!
Sunset on Ipanema
Every occasion to sell you something is used in Brazil, from colourful Congas (long soft carpet-like pieces of textile used to sit on the beach) to printed T-shirts, Ray-bans that are too good to be true, insanely ice-cold beers (with little frozen chunks at time), sweet or savoury snacks...anything really... refuse once and you'll be offered the "unofficial" articles for sale - ones that finish in smoke...;-)
Selling Congas on Copacabana
People use every occasion to make a living, our favourite one was the "sand-sculptor", that you can photograph only if you contribute!
Sand Sculpture on Copacabana
By the time we got back to Copacabana (where our friend's apartment is located), the night had fallen. All the beaches usually empty very fast when the sun goes down and some alleged cases of assaults on tourists wandering around have been reported. Personally, we didn't even chance it, we sat down on a bench to eat an amazing Milho Verde (boiled sweetcorn, check it out here) & got back home to enjoy an ice-cold beer, the Brazilian way! Apart from what we had read previously, we never felt a threat or any sort of pressure.
At night, our friend took us around to a couple of bars. A good few had live music playing out on the terrace. Depending on your mood, you can relax on soft Bossa Nova or party with locals on Carnival music!
That's what we did, we had such a great time listening to the crowd singing along and dancing, all of them sharing 600ml bottles of beer between friends, drinking off tiny frozen glasses to keep the beer as cold as possible (a must in Brazil).
A standard 600ml bottle of Brazilian blond beer will cost you R$6 to R$10 in a supermarket against R$10 to R$15 in a bar (you can pretty much double that if you want local craft beer, imported special beers go for crazy money, with the exception of the Dutch long-neck lager in a green bottle and red star, quite cheap...).
The rest of the night belongs to history, not to this website ;-)