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Top 10 Attractions in Rio

 

Top 10 Attractions in Rio de Janeiro

 

1. CORCOVADO


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The most famous postcard in Rio includes the Cristo Redentor / Photo: Gisele Teixeira


Corcovado mountain lies to the west of the city centre and towers over Rio de Janeiro at an impressive 710 meters (2,329 ft). The name in Portuguese translates as "hunchback" and it’s one of Rio's most famous icons and known worldwide for the iconic statue of Jesus that stands atop its peak – Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer – with his arms stretched out as if embracing Rio.

The Corcovado is without a doubt Rio's most famous landmark and a visit to Christ the Redeemer is an absolute must on your vacation in Rio. Not only for the unrivalled views of Rio de Janeiro, but also for being one of the tallest and most impressive monuments in the world. The project began in 1824 with the construction of a train track to the mountain top and it wasn’t until 1922 that the first stone of the Christ sculpture was placed, completed 9 years later, making it one of the most important engineering masterpieces in Brazil. In 2007, the Christ Redeemer statue was voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the Modern World along with other manmade structures such as the Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu in Peru.

A trip up Corcovado hill is the most popular Rio tourist activity, to see both the statue and enjoy the magnificent view of the bay and the city. To get the most out of your Rio sightseeing trip, be sure to choose a clear day.

 

How to get to Corcovado: 

Getting to Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer is easy from the city centre or Rio's South Zone. There are buses that run to the base of the mountain, or you can take a taxi. To visit the statue, you can take the train that takes you up to the top. This costs around $20USD (round trip for adults). Funicular trains depart daily every half hour from, 8:30am to 6:30pm. Tickets for the Corcovado Train can be bought online. Alternative ways to visit Christ the Redeemer include by van and hiking up Corcovado. Elevators and escalators with panoramic views make the final ascent to the statue accessible to everyone.

Address: Rua Cosme Velho 513, Rio de Janeiro. Phone 21-2558-1329.


Book now your guided tour to Christ the Redeemer!

 


 

2. SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Sugar Loaf Mountain is a must stop for anyone visiting Rio for the first time / Photo: Eduardo Baro


Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese or Sugar Loaf in English is a mountain located at the mouth of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. Sugar loaf Mountain, which is an instantly recognisable part of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic landscape, towers at an impressive 396 metres (1.299ft) and lies amongst two other smaller hills: the Morro da Babilônia (Babylon Mountain) and Morro da Urca (Urca's Mountain).

Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of several monolithic morros of granite and quartz that rise straight from the water's edge around Rio de Janeiro. Sugar Loaf Mountain received its name due to its resemblance to the traditional shape of a loaf of refined sugar and its image - along with the Bondinho (cable car) that connects it to the other two morros – has become famous around the world.

The sublime view of Rio from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain attracts thousands of visitors a year, most of them opting for the more convenient ascent by cable car, others however relying on ropes, climbing gear and plenty of perspiration to get to the top. Sugar Loaf Mountain is also hugely popular amongst rock climbers from around the globe who want to experience one of the largest urban climbing areas in the world with more than 270 climbing routes with varying levels of difficulty. One way to experience this is with a Sugar Loaf hiking tour.

Visitors can also get to the top taking a glass panelled cable car commonly known as the Bondinho do Pão de Açúcar. The Sugar Loaf cable car was the first cable system built in Brazil and the third in the whole world. For over a hundred years now, this glass-panelled cable car has connected Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) in the neighbourhood of Urca with the Morro de Urca and Sugar Loaf Mountain by a route of 1400 meters, with a capacity of 65 passengers.

From Sugar Loaf Mountain you can truly enjoy a spectacular view of one of the most beautiful sights of the world. A great tip is to arrive an hour before the sun goes down and watch a romantic sunset before seeing Rio de Janeiro’s city lights come on.

 

How to get to Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio

Getting to Sugar Loaf mountain is very easy; you can either take a cab to the Sugar Loaf gondola station at Praia Vermelha in the Urca neighbourhood or join a guided tour to Sugar Loaf Mountain. The cable car departs daily every half-hour from 8:10am until 10pm and has a cost of approx. USD$20.

Location: Av. Pasteur 520, Urca, Rio de Janeiro. Phone 21-2461-2700.


Enjoy a Private Sunset Tour to Sugar Loaf Mountain

 


 

3. THE HISTORICAL CENTRE OF RIO DE JANEIRO


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

In the centre of Rio are concentrated several of the historical constructions and monuments more outstanding of the city / Photo: Eduardo Baro


In Rio de Janeiro's centro or downtown you can find quite a few of Rio’s most important historical treasures where, as is the case with most major cities, they’re hidden away in the financial district. Some of the largest companies in Brazil have their head offices there, including Petrobras and Vale (formerly Companhia Vale do Rio Doce), two of the largest Brazilian corporations.

You’ll get more out of your sightseeing tour in downtown Rio if you visit on weekdays when most of the venues, places of interest, restaurants and cafes are open and there is more security in the area. On weekends, however, you can often find cultural activities or specific exhibitions in the various cultural centres.

 

Important landmarks in Rio's Centro

Places of interest in Rio's historical centre include the Paço Imperial built during colonial times to serve as a residence for the Portuguese governors of Brazil and later turned into an important cultural centre. There are also many historical churches, such as the beautiful Candelária Church, the incredibly eye-catching, modern-style Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Cathedral and the Colonial Cathedral, one of Rio de Janeiro’s most important historical buildings.

The historical centre of Rio has one of the most interesting spots in the city, Floriano Square, better known as Cinelândia square (cinema-land) as it used to be surrounded in the early 20th century by the best cinemas in Rio de Janeiro. A lot of the old cinemas have closed their doors now, but the stunning belle-époque buildings still stand around the lively square, filled with cafes and restaurants. Cinelândia is surrounded by the splendid Municipal Theatre, the National Library and the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts).

If you like art and history you will certainly enjoy visiting the Museu Nacional (National Musuem), a former Imperial Palace built by the King of Portugal Don Jõao VI to encourage research on the new continent. The museum nowadays holds one of the largest collections of the Americas, consisting of animals, insects, aborigine utensils, Egyptian mummies and many other archaeological findings of Brasil and South America.

Also enjoy a lovely walk outdoors along the Passeio Publico, an 18th-century carefully designed public garden. Don't miss the stunning arches of the Rio Aqueduct also known as the Arcos da Lapa (Arches of Lapa), located in the beautiful and lively neighbourhood of Lapa. This famous Rio landmark is a Roman-style aqueduct built around 1750 in order to bring water from the Carioca River to the city. Up until recently it could be traversed aboard the Bondinho de Santa Teresa, a carriage that departed from the city centre station, across the aqueduct – which was converted into a tram viaduct in 1896 - and rambled through the cobbled streets of the beautiful neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. The Santa Teresa Tramway was shut down for repairs, but has recently started operating on a shortened route, with hopes to have to fully functional soon.


Book here a Historical Rio Bike Tour!

 


 

4. RIO’S BEACHES


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Copacabana beachside boardwalk is about 4.15 km and runs along the beaches of Leme and Copacabana / Photo: Eduardo Baro


It's no secret that Rio de Janeiro is all about its breathtaking beaches. Voted as one of the top ten beach cities by National Geographic, Rio de Janeiro’s beaches are where cariocas and travellers come to spend their leisure time and anyone who has ever been to Brazil will tell you, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world! Catching some rays, surfing, jogging, playing soccer or simply cracking open an ice cold beer, Mate (Ice Tea) or, even better, sipping on a refreshing Agua de Coco (coconut water) while watching the world go by, are some of the pleasures you can enjoy on the beaches in Rio de Janeiro.

The best beaches in Rio de Janeiro include:

 

Copacabana

Beautiful Copacabana Beach is what usually comes to mind when one thinks of beaches in Rio de Janeiro. It's located adjacent to the neighbourhood with the same name and is a stunning long, wide, crescent shaped stretch of beach, great for sunbathing and swimming. Copacabana's famous sidewalk is decorated with black and white tiles, forming waves on the pavement and makes for the perfect promenade to stroll along and take in the view of the beautiful beach. Copacabana’s main street, Avenida Atlantica, is where the largest number of Rio de Janeiro’s hotels are located, including the luxury Sofitel Rio Palace and the exclusive Copacabana Palace Hotel, the oldest one in the city, built in 1923. Copacabana beach has over 4 kms of white sand to relax on and plenty of beach activities including volleyball, water sports and of course beach parties. However, even though it is one of the most touristic areas of Rio, the social differences of Brazil are ever present, as there are four slums or Favelas in this upper-class neighbourhood. So make sure you stay alert, don't take any valuable objects with you to the beach and you’ll be sure to have a wonderful experience enjoying this urban paradise.

 

Ipanema


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

In Ipanema Beach it is usual to celebrate the sunset with applause / Photo: Eduardo Baro


Ipanema is the second most famous beach in Rio. It starts at Pedra do Arpoador (Arpoador Rock), on the limit with Copacabana, and ends at Jardim de Alá (Alah’s Garden), a complex of squares and gardens along the canal that connects Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas to the sea. The relaxed Ipanema beach is quite different to its busy neighbourhood. It is one of the most expensive and elegant places to live in Rio. Ipanema beach stretches for 7.5 kilometres (4.6 miles) and is considered the sexiest beach, with cleaner water, a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, sexy tanned people, tiny bikinis and a lot of surfers. Its cool blue waters invite swimmers to have a dip, just be careful to not pass the control breakers as the waves can be quite rough at times.

Ipanema's most famous stretch of beach is around Posto 9 (9th Stand – Ipanema beach is marked from stand 7 to 11). It’s a meeting point for many Brazilian football players and celebrities. Between Posto 8 and 9 lies Rio’s official gay friendly beach with its rainbow coloured flags. Ipanema beach is one of Rio’s most popular beaches. Sundays are an excellent day to spend on Ipanema beach, as the main coastal road that runs along the beach is closed to traffic, transforming it into a playground for rollerbladers, joggers, surfers and tourists from all over the world wanting to share the typically carioca activities of people-watching and sunbathing.

 

Leblon

Leblon beach is separated from Ipanema by the Canal do Jardim de Alah (canal of Allah's Gardens), a channel that connects the ocean with the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake. Leblon is an even more exclusive neighbourhood than Ipanema with a beach that is more tranquil and cleaner than the other two. The area of Leblon is without a doubt Rio’s most expensive and most chic neighbourhood and its beach is often preferred by families and all those looking for a peaceful patch of sand to quietly exercise, read or take a nap on. However there can be strong undercurrents on Leblon beach, so best not to swim too far out, especially on rainy days.

 

Barra de Tijuca

The neighbourhood of Barra de Tijuca is a little off the beaten tourist track and located southwest of Rio de Janeiro’s centre. It’s a new neighbourhood that over the last three decades has earned itself the nickname Miami of Brazil. This is where you can find Rio’s largest beach. The beach of Barra da Tijuca stretches along a stunning 18km long coastline and is one of the most sought after beaches by surfers, windsurfers, body boarders and fishing enthusiasts. Even though it is slightly further out, this beach is well worth a visit and with the city’s government facilitating transport (including expanding the Metro) to Barra da Tijuca, its beaches become more and more popular every year. It is bound to be even more popular in the upcoming time period as the neighbourhood of Barra de Tijuca will host the Olympic Village for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, as well as many Olympic events.


Explore Parks and Beaches with a Bike Tour

 


 

5. SANTA TERESA


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Santa Teresa cable car is a last living memory, tourist attraction and historical relic of a nostalgic transportation / Photo: Gisele Teixeira


Santa Teresa is the name of a beautiful neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, which towers above Centro and Lapa on the morro (hill) Santa Teresa. Its winding cobbled streets, picturesque Portuguese architecture and majestic colonial mansions are famous amongst local artists and tourists visiting Rio. The area has recently been rediscovered as one of Rio de Janeiro’s top tourist landmarks, even though it was one of the first neighbourhoods to be established in the city of Rio.

It originated around the Santa Teresa convent in the late 19th century. The Portuguese settlers built their first mansions there, allowing them to strategically oversee the city and any ships coming into Guanabara Bay.

Later in the 1960's-70's – as the upper class started moving to more modern areas like Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca – Santa Teresa ceased being the privileged neighbourhood it always had been, but has remained a favourite amongst Rio’s bohemian and artistic population.

It’s a great day-time sightseeing activity in Rio; a trip back into Rio de Janeiro’s past. Discover the art and craft shops and the many traditional bars, cafés and restaurants Santa Teresa has to offer, as you wander along the picturesque cobbled streets.

A great Rio insider tip is to walk up to the Parque das Ruinas (Ruins Park) where you can enjoy a breath taking 360 degree view of Rio de Janeiro - a perfect opportunity to take some stunning pictures on your travels to Rio.

 


 

6. BOTANICAL GARDEN OF RIO


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Botanical Garden is a great option for those who want to relax, study and enjoy nature / Source


Jardim Botânico, the Botanical Garden, lies at the foot of Corcovado Mountain below the right arm of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and is a stunning 140-hectare (1.4 square km) botanical park that contains more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants, including 900 different types of palm trees.

Rio’s Botanical Garden was created by Dom Joao VI with the objective to acclimatise some of the plant species that were brought to Brazil during the colonisation from the West Indies. It’s a stunning place to visit in Rio and is one of the largest nature sanctuaries in the world. The Botanical Garden is the perfect place for a lovely walk while enjoying the company of the exotic birds and playful monkeys that roam around the garden.

The Rio de Janeiro botanical gardens are incredibly well-insulated from Rio's noises. You’ll feel like you’re far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s also the perfect place to escape to on a hot day as the dense tropical vegetation creates cool and shaded hideaways throughout the park. Highlights include the majestic avenue of Royal Palms and the stunning Orchid House. There is also a museum, an outdoor cafe, a gift shop and a sensory garden for the visually impaired. This is a lesser known, but nonetheless un-missable Rio de Janeiro activity! Highly recommended!

The Botanical Gardens of Rio are open daily from 8am-5pm (except Christmas and New Year's Day). The entrance fee is R$9.

Rua Jardim Botanico 1008, Rio de Janeiro. Phone 21-3874-1808.


Learn about Brazilian flora and sightsee Rio's natural attractions with a Botanical Garden Jeep Tour!

 


 

7. LAPA


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Arcos da Lapa is the largest architectural work in Brazil during the colonial period / Source


Lapa is a neighbourhood that lies just off Rio de Janeiro’s city centre, hidden away from the beachfront tourist hotspots of Ipanema and Copacabana. Since the early 1950s, Lapa has been famous for its lively cultural life and with its many restaurants and bars, Lapa has always been a popular meeting place for Brazilian artists and intellectuals.

Lapa at one point wasn’t one of Rio’s safest neighbourhoods, but has been revitalised in recent years making it one of the trendiest and most popular parts of town.There’s a huge variety of samba bars, Forró and concert venues, such as the beautiful Rio Scenarium, Democráticos, Circo Voador and Fundição Progresso (where many international bands play). At night the bars spill out into the cobbled streets, mixing with street performers, turning the whole neighbourhood into an outdoor party. A Friday night out in Lapa is probably the most authentic taste of Brazilian nightlife you could experience in Rio de Janeiro!

Lapa’s most prominent landmark is the beautiful Carioca Aqueduct, or Arcos da Lapa, an impressive aqueduct built in 1780 to transport water from the Carioca River and other small streams to the several fountains throughout Rio de Janeiro. Along the Aqueduct is where the Bondinho de Santa Teresa runs, transporting people from the centre, over Lapa up to the neighbourhood of Santa Teresa.

A visit to Lapa after the sun goes down is an unmissable experience on your vacation in Rio and is the favourite place for locals and tourists in Rio to enjoy a delicious fruit cocktail or Caipirinha while listening to great music. However, remember to stay alert and keep an eye on your belongings, as Lapa can get very crowded at night.


Book this Pub Crawl in Lapa for a night of Samba and Caipirinhas!

 


 

8. MARACANA STADIUM


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Maracanã Stadium was the scene of an epic moment in world football: The thousandth goal of Pelé / Source


It’s no secret that football in Brazil is huge and plays a very important role in Rio’s culture and daily life. If you’re a passionate football fan, or just a curious tourist, you don't want to miss the chance to see a soccer match in Rio de Janeiro at one of Rio's most famous landmarks: Maracanã Stadium. Experiencing Brazilian football live at the Maracanã truly is a unique and unmissable activity in Rio.

Rio’s iconic stadium was built to host the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. However it didn’t bring the national team much luck that year and almost 200,000 Brazilians had to watch their team lose the World Cup to Uruguay. It is one of the biggest football disappointments in history widely known as the Maracanãzo or the Maracanã Blow.

As the home of the Campeonato Carioca (Rio de Janeiro's Championship) and official stadium of the four biggest football teams in Rio: Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama, the Maracanã has also hosted many other football highlights, such as Pele's 1,000th goal in 1969.

The Maracanã is one of the most important venues in Rio de Janeiro where grand events such as the huge masses held by Pope John Paul II and many other international concerts and sporting events have been held. And in 2014 Brazil once again hosted the FIFA World Cup, with the Brasil 2014 World Cup Final, between Argentina and Germany, taking place in the newly refurbished Maracanã Stadium. For Rio 2016 Olympics, the Maracanã will play host to most of the sporting events.

 

How to get to Maracanã Stadium

Address: Avenida Presidente Castelo Branco, s/n. – Maracanã.

The stadium can be reached by taxi or subway. If you're taking the subway, to reach the east side of the stadium, get off at São Cristóvão station, or at Maracanã station to access the west side of the stadium.

Visit the official site of the Estádio de Maracanã.


Book your Football Tours with us!

 


 

9. RODRIGO DE FREITAS LAGOON


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

On the banks of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, the locals and visitors enjoy sports, picnics and moments of relaxation / Photo: Gisele Teixeira


Lagoa Rodrigues de Freitas, more commonly referred to as simply Lagoa, is a natural lagoon in the South Zone (Zona Sul) and is one of Rio’s most picturesque landmarks. It’s a lake which is connected to the ocean by a narrow canal which runs through the Jardim d’Alá park and is surrounded by the important districts of Ipanema, Leblon, and Jardim Botânico.

It is a wonderful place to go for a walk and to enjoy the romantic and relaxing lake-side atmosphere at one of the locals’ favourite hangouts. The Lagoa Rodrigues de Freitas has a 7.2km long cycling and walking path around it. Enjoy a guided bike tour of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, or hire a bike near Parque Brigadeiro Faria Lima. Another great way to enjoy a unique view of Rio is to hire a paddle boat on the lake. This activity is especially memorable over Christmas time when the lagoon attracts a large number of visitors that come to see its traditional and enormous Christmas Tree, built on a floating platform that moves around the lagoon.

For those who more interested in laid-back people-watching than pedalling, the kiosks in Parque dos Patins offer an impressive choice of lake-side dining, serving anything from Italian to Japanese food. After 9pm you can enjoy live Brazilian and jazz music being played at the stands around the lagoon.

How to get to the Lagoon Rodrigo de Freitas:

Between Avenida Epitacio Pessoa and Avenida Borges de Medeiros, Rio de Janeiro. It is a short walk from Ipanema beach.

 


 

10. TIJUCA FOREST


Top 10 Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro

The Tijuca Forest is one of the largest forests in the world / Photo: Eduardo Baro


This is by far one of the highlights of Rio de Janeiro and part of what makes this city so unique. The Tijuca Forest is part of the Tijuca National Park, the world's largest urban rain forest, located in the middle of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

By the mid-19th century, the Tijuca Forest was practically deforested to make space for coffee plantations. In 1861, the government recognized that deforestation was affecting local rainfall leading to a critical shortage of potable water and developed a project replanting the forest. In 1961, Tijuca Forest was declared a National Park.

Nowadays, the Tijuca forest is one of the city's most important natural protected areas and the "green lung" of Rio. It is bursting with Amazonian vegetation, waterfalls and lagoons and if you are lucky enough you’ll catch a glimpse of monkeys and tropical butterflies.

The Forest contains a number of attractions, most notably the iconic sculpture of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain. Other attractions include the Cascatinha Waterfall; the Mayrink Chapel, the Lago da Fada (Fairy Lake), the Acude da Solidão (Solitude Dam) and several caves. Take into account that the minimum amount of time needed to visit the highlights of the Tijuca National Park is about 2 days, as some of its best landmarks such as the Pedra da Gavea (Gavea Stone) will take you a whole day to get there and back.

There are also various stunning view points throughout the park, like the unmissable Rio tourist hot spot Vista Chinesa (Chinese Belvedere) and the giant granite picnic table called the Mesa do Imperador. From there you can enjoy a truly breathtaking and unforgettable view of Rio de Janeiro and the Guanabara Bay. Don’t miss out on this sightseeing highlight on your vacation in Rio!

 

How to get to Tijuca Forest

The Tijuca forest has 7 access gates:

1. Sumaré (Sumaré Road)
2. Dos Caboblos (Almirante Alexandrino St.)
3. Macacos (Dona Castorina Road)
4. Passo de Pedras (Vista Chinesa Road)
5. Sapucaias (Redeemer Road)
6. Solidão (Açude da Solidão Road)
7. Cascatinha (Waterfall)

Some suggested routes are:

The Corcovado Section: includes the Christ Redeemer, Paineiras, Dona Marta viewpoint. Approx. 3 hours by car.

The Macacos section: Chinese viewpoint, Mesa do Imperador, Chinese viewpoint, Mesa do Imperador, Macacos Waterfall. Approx. 2 hours by car.

Tijuca Forest section: Cascatinha waterfall, caves, Excelsior look-out. Approx. 2 hours by car, however parts of the road can be closed off for vehicles.

Jacarepaguá: Mateus Throat, Pretos Forros Hill, Ciganos dam.

To visit Tijuca, we recommend you take a guided tour as even though there are plenty of signposts and walks, the place is so big that many people who want to explore it further get lost in the forest.


Visit the Tijuca Forest with a complete Corcovado, Santa Teresa & Tijuca Jeep Tour

 


 

<<Check out all our Travel Guides about Rio de Janeiro>>

 

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