Nestled between the sea and the mountains, Rio de Janeiro is a truly stunning city that has been described by UNESCO as the staggeringly beautiful location for one of the biggest cities in the world, while naming it a World Heritage Site. The city offers so many things to do that you would need a lifetime to explore it in all of its glorious detail. Here are some of the top attractions in Rio de Janeiro that would blow your mind:
If you are traveling to Rio de Janeiro in winter, you’ll be lucky to witness one of the most famous pre-Lenten celebrations in the world. The celebrations that attract thousands of spectators from all over the world begin shortly after New Year. The extravagance and brilliance of the celebration reaches its peak in the four days before Ash Wednesday. The amazing street parades, dances, samba parties, and breathtaking shows are all a treat for the eyes and soul.
When it comes to beaches and seaside strolls, no other place can beat Copacabana. Blessed with a beautiful crescent-shaped beach that stretches four kilometers along with a backdrop of spectacular peaks covered with forests, the city is a popular tourist destination. The Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana Palace and the neighboring streets lined by fine hotels, century-old buildings, popular restaurants and cafés are the other attractions in the area.
Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca National Park that surrounds the Cristo Redentor statue protects the Tijuca Forest and various other viewpoints overlooking the city. The 3,300-hectare Tijuca Forest is one of the largest forests in the world that provides habitat for species of wildlife, including Capuchin monkeys, Brazilian raccoon, hawks, colorful toucans and magnificent blue butterflies. The Largo do Boticário, Morro da Vista Chinesa, Mirante Dona Marta and Museu do Açude are some of the interesting spots worth visiting in this area.
This is one of Rio’s recent tourist attractions that was begun in 1990 by Jorge Selarón, a Chilean-born artist, as a tribute to the Brazilian people. Also known as the ‘Selaron Steps’, the Escadaria Selarón is 125 meters of steps covered in bright tiles, mirrors and pottery that sits nestled between the bohemian neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa. Selarón started the project by using broken pieces of tiles that he got from construction sites and demolitions of old buildings. But as the popularity of the steps increased, people began sending him tiles and ceramics from all over the world. The Escadaria Selarón was featured in Rio’s 2016 Olympic bid video and is also a popular film location.
Ilha de Paquetá
The island of Paquetá, in the Guanabara Bay is a relaxing escape spot from the hustle and bustle of the city and is also a popular tourist spot. The modest beaches lined by palms and old colonial buildings add to the charm of the island. There are no cars on the island to invade the privacy and peace of the place. You can explore the island on foot, by rented bicycle, or in a horse-drawn cart.
Passeio Público and Cinelândia
Passeio Público is a beautiful park that stretches along Avenida Beira-Mar. The oldest public park in Brazil and one of the oldest in the Americas, it features pavilions with paintings by Leandro Joaquim and sculptures by Mestre Valentim. Other attractions around the park include The Baroque entrance, Parque do Flamengo, Marina da Glória, Monumento aos Mortos and the Museum of Modern Art. The Cinelândia district, neighboring the Passeio Público is one of the political and cultural centers of Rio. It has an array of impressive public buildings from the first decades of the 20th century.
Ipanema and Leblon
Extending from the four-kilometer strand of Copacabana are the beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, separated by the Jardim de Alá Canal, which empties the lagoon, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The seafront walkway consists of large hotels, posh apartment buildings, sidewalk cafés, and restaurants. Although famous for their beaches, this area also presents an active cultural life, with cinemas, art galleries, and an avant-garde theater. Praça de Quental in Leblon and Praca General Osorio are the other two main highlights of the area.
Nossa Senhora do Carmo and Monte do Carmo
The parish church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo used to be the Royal Chapel from 1808 to 1889 and the cathedral, until it was replaced by the modern church in 1976. Monte do Carmo, a second Carmelite church, begun in 1755 is connected to it by a passage. The key attractions of the church include its stone doorway, Baroque façade, and the gold and white carving by Mestre Valentim in the Chapel of the Novitiate. The chapel of Nossa Senhora do Cabo da Boa Esperança, located in a side street is the last surviving street oratory in the city.
Santa Tereza can be described as the most atmospheric neighborhood in Rio with a district of century-old houses and steep, slumberous streets. The cafés and restaurants of Santa Tereza are often the gathering places of artists and intellectuals. Even the streets are full of beautiful views and attractions, the church and convent of Santa Tereza, being two of them. The Museu Chácara do Céu houses a collection of Chinese sculptures dating back from the 17th through 19th centuries as well as arts, especially modern works, including those by Picasso, Miró, and Matisse. Parque das Ruínas, adjacent to Santa Tereza is a popular venue for art, music, and performance.
Quinta da Boa Vista
Located in São Cristóvão, Quinta da Boa Vista is one the biggest and most popular public parks in Rio, spanning over 155 thousand square meters. The park holds great historical importance as it used to be part of the gardens of the São Cristóvão Palace, the residence of the Emperors of Brazil in the 19th century. The Rio Zoo and the National Museum are the park’s other attractions. The National Museum has the largest botanical, zoological, ethnographic and archaeology collections in the country, adding up to more than a million items. The Rio zoo is home to more than 2,000 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles from Brazil as well as from around the world.
Located atop the hill just above the harbor are one of the most exceptional Benedictine complexes of all times – the church and monastery of São Bento. Constructed between 1617 and 1641, the monastery offers an excellent view over the city. The interior decoration was carried out by the finest artists of the Benedictine order. The simple facade hides a fancy interior, which is richly decorated in gold. Among its historic treasures are the exuberant wood carvings that covers the walls and ceiling, designed by a monk named Frei Domingos da Conceição. The silver work in the choir chapel was done by Mestre Valentim and 14 paintings by Ricardo do Pilar.
São Francisco da Penitência
Overlooking the Largo da Carioca is the Igreja São Francisco da Penitência, dating from 1726. It is divided into three sections, each with its own entrance. Behind the simple façade of this church hides the amazing rich interior. The construction of the interior, began in 1657 and was completed in 1773. Manuel and Francisco Xavier de Brito, two famous Portuguese sculptors and woodcarvers were among those who were involved in the decoration of the interior. The choir ceiling has the earliest trompe-l’oeil painting in Brazil, by Caetano da Costa Coelho.
Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)
Standing atop Corcodavo, the giant statue of Christ overlooking the city is a globally recognized symbol of Rio. The world famous landmark, erected between 1922 and 1931, is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, with a height of 30 meters and arms stretching 28 meters. At night the whole statue is brightly lit and is visible from nearly every part of the city. Inside the base of the statue is a chapel where baptisms and weddings are usually held.
Catedral de São Sebastião
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, also known as the Cathedral of St. Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro (Catedral de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro), is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. It was designed by Architect Edgar Fonseca, who took his inspiration from Mayan pyramids. Built between 1964 and 1979, the church with its 96-meter interior seats 5,000 people. The interior is lighted with brilliantly colored natural light, with the help of four stained glass windows that rise 64 meters from the floor. The church is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro.
With its high mountains, white sandy beaches, and colorful harbor, it’s no wonder that Rio de Janeiro is called the marvelous city. Blessed with one of the most stunning natural settings, the jaw-dropping landscape of Rio itself contributes to the many reasons why tourists are drawn to Rio. Moreover, the city offers plenty of exciting things to see and do for the visitors at any time of year.