Best Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro’s location between the mountains and the sea is so spectacular that UNESCO spoke of “the stunningly beautiful location of one of the world’s greatest cities” when it listed Rio as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO’s awards apply not only to the natural environment but also to the urban cultural landscape and the combination of built and planned green spaces that characterize urban development.
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest city and was the capital of Brasilia from 1763 to 1960. The city was founded by Portuguese colonists in the mid-1500s and became a port for the delivery of gold from inland mining areas.
Throughout its history, Rio de Janeiro seems to have been aware of its tangible assets – the towering mountains behind it, the Sugarloaf towering above the harbor, and its long, crescent-shaped sandy beach as a major tourist attraction – and its diverse extraordinary architecture. This is a period to enhance the landscape. It is steeped in history and has many city parks and open spaces. Explore the city’s best places with our list of the Best Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Rio de Janeiro:
Rio de Janeiro’s most famous landmark is Sugarloaf, which rises 394 meters above the harbor. It is located on a piece of land extending towards the bay and surrounding its port and is connected to the city by a low landline.
From Praça General Tibúrcio, you can reach the summit of Morro da Urca by cable car, to a lower peak from where a second funicular exits to the summit of Sugarloaf. From here you can see the entire mountainous coast surrounding the bay and its islands.
Below, the 100-metre-long Praia da Urca beach is located between Morro Cara de Cão and Sugarloaf, near the original core of Rio de Janeiro. There are three castles in Cara de Cão, of which the star-shaped castle of São João from the 16th century is open to the public.
Few cities have a beautiful sandy beach that stretches for four kilometers, let alone one side of the city centre. Just a short walk from the golden sands are Avenida Atlântica, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana and adjacent side streets where you’ll find charming centuries-old buildings, luxury hotels, and trendy restaurants and cafes.
The esteemed ruler of the region and the Rio Hotel is the famous Copacabana Palace, built in the 1920s and now protected as a national monument. Featured in the 1933 movie “Fly to Rio,” Copacabana Palace hosted royal and charismatic movie stars reminiscent of the quiet days of power, wealth and grace when Rio was the capital of Brazil.
At the end of the beach, Fort Copacabana dates back to 1914 and was the site of the 1922 officers’ uprising that captured the fort and aimed cannons at the city. The brief uprising ended the next day when the government sent warships to bombard the fort. You can learn about this and other military histories at the Museu Histórico do Exército (Military History Museum) located here. Outside, on the castle grounds, there are late 19th and early 20th century artillery.
Address: Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco, Rio de Janeiro
3. Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
The colossal statue of Christ overlooking the city from the 709-meter-high Corcovado hill is considered a symbol of Rio de Janeiro, almost as much as the unique shape of the sweet bread. This world-famous landmark was built between 1922 and 1931 and was financed almost entirely by donations from Brazilian Catholics.
The Art Deco sculpture was created by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot. Made of reinforced concrete and talc, the statue is 30 meters high, with 28-meter arms outstretched and weighs 635 metric tons. Within its 8-meter-high plinth is a chapel, where weddings and baptisms are not uncommon.
The Corcovado Rack Railway departs from Rua do Cosme Velho and follows a 3.5km path through Tijuca National Park to the statue. You can view this monument without the usual crowds and early morning guided entrance to the Christ the Redeemer statue and an optional tour of the Sugarloaf. Tour upgrades include a cable car ride to Sugarloaf Mountain for even more breathtaking views.
Continuing west from the 4 km Copacabana beach, Ipanema and Leblon beaches are separated by the Jardim de Alá channel, which empties the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. Along the promenade are major hotels, roadside cafes and restaurants.
While both areas are known for their beaches (one of them is famous for the song “The Girl from Ipanema”), the cultural life here is vibrant with art galleries, cinemas and avant-garde theatres. Praça de Quental in Leblon is an antique market every Sunday, and Praca General Osorio hosts the Sunday Feira de Artesanato de Ipanema, featuring crafts, music, art and local cuisine.
5. Carnaval (Carnival)
One of the world’s most famous pre-Lent celebrations – as famous as the festivals in Venice and New Orleans – takes place every winter in Rio de Janeiro. The festivities kicked off shortly after New Year’s, but the pomp and luxury reached a spectacular climax in the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to street parades, samba parties and performances. Other Brazilian cities celebrate Carnival; this is also a major tourist event in Bahia and Recife, but Rio de Janeiro is the most extravagant.
The most spectacular event is the samba school parade, which takes place in a unique venue designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Sambódromo is a long parade route lined with stadium-style boxes that allow up to 90,000 spectators to watch the parade of costumed dancers during the games. The parade route is 700 meters long and 13 meters wide. It was first used in 1984 and was updated as a venue for the 2016 Olympics.
Address: Rua Marquês de Sapucaí, Rio de Janeiro
Official website: www.sambadrome.com
6. Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park protects the Tijuca Forest and several viewpoints overlooking the city, and surrounds the colossal statue of Christ, Cristo Redentor, in Corcovado. To explore the park, you can stop the train to Corcovado halfway and follow the path through the forest.
One of the largest urban forests in the world, the 3,300-hectare Tijuca Forest was planted in the late 1850s on land destroyed by coffee plantations to protect the resources that feed Rio de Janeiro. Many of the trees are native species and provide habitat for capuchins, quatis (Brazilian raccoons), colorful toucans, eagles, bright blue butterflies and many other wildlife species as they explore trails and paths.
Close to Corcovado train station is Lago do Botticario, one of Rio’s most beautiful squares surrounded by colonial-style houses. From the pagoda-style pavilion in Morro da Vista China, 380 meters from the beach, there are long views of the municipal park, the botanical gardens and the south coast.
More views can be enjoyed from Mirante Dona Marta, a viewpoint on a rocky ledge above Botafogo Bay. Several waterfalls descend from forest springs, including the 30-metre high Cascatinha Taunay.
Set in extensive gardens near the park, the Museu do Açude is home to a valuable collection of porcelain from the West India Company, ancient landscapes of Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian and foreign artists, and azulejos, traditional Portuguese tiles from the 17th to 19th centuries.
7. Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden)
Set on 350 acres of land at the foot of Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Jardim Botânico combines an ecological reserve, exhibition gardens and scientific laboratories in a beautiful park-like setting. The Orchidarium is an iron-glass conservatory built in the 1930s and filled with over 2,000 orchids, and a Japanese garden with cherry blossom trees, wooden bridges, koi ponds, and bonsai.
The sensory garden of aromatic herbs and herbs is signed in Braille. The garden is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is home to more than 8,000 plant species, as well as the birds and animals that make up its habitat, including marmosets and toucans. You can walk through the gardens, stroll under the towering Royal Palms and Pau Brazil Trees, or take an electric car tour.
Address: R. Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil’s largest stadium was the site of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. It has been completely revamped for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and has over 78,000 fans.
The stadium is used for games and concerts between Rio de Janeiro’s main football clubs Flamengo, Botafogo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama. The short tour will attract rabid fans, but others should miss it.
The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas beach is close to Copacabana and Ipanema, where many other Olympic events are held, is surrounded by parks and sports clubs, and its waters are popular for sailing and other water sports.
Address: Av. news. Castel Blanco in Rio de Janeiro
9. Santa Tereza and Escadaria Selarón
Santa Teresa is Rio’s most atmospheric neighborhood, with its steep, quiet streets and century-old houses. Favorite of artists and intellectuals, its cafes and restaurants add a bohemian atmosphere. While its biggest attraction is to stroll its streets, often with beautiful scenery, you can choose from St. Petersburg, which dates back to 1720. There are several attractions and activities, including the Teresa Church and Convent.
The art collection of the Museu Chácara do Céu is dominated by modern works, including works by Picasso, Miro, and Matisse, as well as Chinese sculptures from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The adjacent Parque das Ruínas is the shell of a neglected socialite mansion that is now a venue for art, music and performance.
On the edge of Santa Tereza, connected to the Lapa community, is Escadaria Selarón, one of Rio’s newest tourist attractions. Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón filled a long staircase in front of his house with mosaics of tiles, pottery and mirrors from 1990 until his death in 2013; most of these are the blue, green and yellow colors of the Brazilian flag.
Selarón got to work with broken tiles salvaged from construction sites and demolition of old buildings, but when his footsteps caught the attention of tourists, people began bringing him pottery and tiles from all over the world. Artifacts from more than 60 countries are now on display on the 250 steps that cover the 125-meter staircase. The steps are a popular filming location.
Address: Rua Manuel Carneiro, Rio de Janeiro (near Rua Joaquim Silva)
10. São Bento
On the hill above the harbor is the Church and Convent of São Bento, one of the best Benedictine complexes in Brazil. The original 1617 church had no aisles until it was expanded in the second half of the 17th century with the addition of eight side chapels. The best Benedictine artists took part in the interior decoration.
The exuberant carvings lining the walls and ceiling are mainly due to St. Benedict and St. It is the work of a monk named Domingos da Conceição, who is also responsible for the Sculacaka figures.
In the choir church, there are silver works by Mestre Valentim and 14 paintings by Ricardo do Pilar, a monk who was the most important Benedictine painter of the Brazilian colonial period. His masterpiece Senhor dos Martírios (The Crucifixion) is in the cloister of the monastery.
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Rio de Janeiro. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Rio de Janeiro, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.