Top Attractions in Rio De Janeiro
While you may think you’ve heard everything there is to know Rio—its beautiful beaches, elaborate Carnival celebration, and extremely fit locals—there are plenty of other aspects throughout the city worth exploring. Take a hike through the one of the largest urban rainforests in the world or wander through the distinctly different neighborhoods of the city.
This year you might even catch an event at the Summer Olympic Games. Competitions will be held all over the 485-square-mile metropolis, and hopping from venue to venue may lend itself well to discovering areas you may not have visited otherwise.
If you choose to make your way to Maracana, the neighborhood where volleyball, soccer, and archery will be played, visit the Escadaria Selarón, Santa Tereza, Lapa, which are not too far away. In Copacabana, you’ll find many of water-based competitions, there are stunning white-sand beaches.
Those looking to get away from the crowds can opt for the multiple parks in the city. The Quinta de Boa Vista has large open areas to relax, and the Tijuca National Park is the perfect place to hike. You’ll find tons of wildlife and stunning scenery including rushing waterfalls.
No matter what you choose, Rio de Janeiro offers some of the best entertainment, beaches, and cuisine in Brazil. Take advantage of your time there, and don’t be afraid to venture away from the city center. You’ll find some of the best experiences in the small neighborhood clubs and restaurants scattered throughout.
Christ the Redeemer
Known as one of Rio de Janeiro’s most iconic landmarks, the Christ the Redeemer statue typically tops visitor’s must-see lists. It stands 98 feet tall and sits at the summit of Mount Corcovado. The lines may be long, but just be thankful that escalators and elevators have been installed. Before 2002, visitors had to climb more than 200 steps to reach the statue.
The 360-degreee views of Rio from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain can’t be beat. To reach the 1,299-foot summit, visitors first take a cable car to the top of the neighboring Urca Mountain (which also provides some spectacular views of Copacabana and Christ the Redeemer) before hopping into another glass-enclosed car climbing to Sugarloaf. Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll find restaurants and shops as well as lovely scenery.
Tijuca National Park
Those looking to escape the bustling city will love Tijuca National Park. It’s one of the largest urban rainforest in the world and is filled with luscious plants, waterfalls, and booming with wildlife. Many decide to venture into the park to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, but the forest has much more to offer. Choose to explore the many hiking trails and picnic areas. Those looking for thrills can opt for cycling, paragliding, and rock climbing.
If there is one beach that travelers know by name, it’s likely this one. The atmosphere is extremely vibrant with several beach bars and multiple sports facilities along the sand. Meet the locals and participate in a pickup game of volleyball or soccer. Be prepared to share this beach with plenty of other people, as it is extremely popular.
Another famed Rio beach, this lovely white sand is situated in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. There are galleries, theaters, and high-end shops sprinkled throughout the surrounding area. On Sundays, take advantage of the weekly market where local vendors sell all sorts of crafts.
Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theater) of Rio de Janeiro
This stunning Parisian-style theater underwent a $35 million renovation in 2010 and is as beautiful as ever. The shows, ranging from operas to ballets and symphonies, are performed throughout the year, but they aren’t the only way to experience the theater. Tours are also available to those looking to marvel and the architecture and history encompassing the space.
Named after Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, this set of stairs connecting the Santa Teresa and Lapa neighborhoods has become a hot tourist destination. After finding a home in Rio, Selarón spent his life covering each of the 250 steps outside his home in colorful mosaics filled with tiles brought to him by visitors from all over the world.
Santa Teresa Neighborhood
Located only five minutes from downtown, this neighborhood was built on a hill around the Saint Teresa convent, which dates back to 1629. You’ll find an abundance of restaurants, bars, and live music, as well as a colonial charm that has been preserved in the area’s cobblestone streets and architecture. Take a ride on the city’s only remaining “bonde” or tram and enjoy the lovely views.
Quinta da Boa Vista
Known as one of Rio’s most popular public parks, Quinta da Boa Vista was originally part of the gardens surrounding the São Cristóvão Palace, which housed Brazil’s emperors during the 19th century. Now, the grounds contain Brazil’s oldest zoo and the former palace serves as Latin America’s largest national history museum (Museu Nacional). Visit them both or lounge in the open areas where you’ll find a small lake, island, and open-air concerts in the summertime.
In the early 20th century, Lapa had a rowdy reputation, but once the crowds began focusing their attention on the city’s beaches, the Bohemian neighborhood began to crumble. Now, after much revitalization, tourists from around the globe are returning to experience the area’s thriving nightlife and authentic Brazilian music. Find a bar, learn to Samba from the locals, and dance until the sun comes up.
This small island off the coast of the city is notable for it’s bright green neo-gothic palace. While the building may look fit for a king, it was actually used as the headquarters for Brazil’s customs services in the late 1880s. Today, visitors tour the space to gaze upon its beautiful architecture and learn why Brazilians view it as a historically significant space. Hint: the palace is the location of the country’s last Imperial Ball where Emperor Pedro II dined just days before his exile and Brazil’s transition to a presidential republic.
Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro
Rio’s botanical garden features more than 8,000 plant species and offers a serene place for visitors to relax. Enter between two rows of towering palm trees and make your way to the lake where giant water lilies are scattered throughout. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, you can explore the greenhouses where there are more than a thousand species of orchids and bromeliads, most of which are Brazilian.
Mirante Dona Marta
Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer aren’t the only places in Rio to take in great panoramic views. The Mirante Dona Marta is a lookout and helipad located between the city’s popular beaches and Santa Teresa. Visitors can snap great photos of popular landmarks as well as the city below without the crazy crowds that flock to better-known sites.
Real Gabinete Português de Leitura
The Portuguese Royal Reading Room should be on any book lover’s must-visit list. Each book housed in the cathedral-like library is written in Portuguese, but that shouldn’t stop you from marveling at the massive amount of texts lining the three-story walls. It does house the largest collection of Portuguese works outside of Portugal after all. Additionally, you’ll find a number of interesting artifacts like statues, maps, and medallions as you explore. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
At the eastern edge of the Tijuca National Park you’ll find this public park where English-style gardens surround a colonial-style mansion—now the School of Visual Arts where you can enjoy the occasional free exhibitions and performances. Additionally, the café on site serves sandwiches, pastries, and coffee. It’s about perfect for a picnic.
Museu do Amanhã
Jutting out over the port of Rio de Janeiro, you may mistake the new Museum of Tomorrow for a spaceship. Designed with sustainability in mind by architect Santiago Calatrava, the museum aims to bring awareness to the issue of climate change and other ecological issues. Visitors will experience interactive displays designed to immerse guests in all things science from biology to the environment.