Superbly located on the South Atlantic coast, Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro appeals to travellers thanks to its laid-back atmosphere, its long sandy beaches, fantastic landscape and joyful annual carnival.
The harbour of Rio de Janeiro, which is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, is surrounded by breathtaking geographic sites such as Corcovado Peak and Sugar Loaf mountain.
Rio de Janeiro is not the capital of Brazil, but is the most visited city in the country. It is famous for being home to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, the impressive statue of Christ the Redeemer, the Maracanã stadium and the colourful Carnival. We’ve put together fifteen of our top picks for Rio de Janeiro to help you to start planning your trip.
# 1 Christ the Redeemer
Positioned atop the 710m high peak of Corcovado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer gazing over the city is an impressive landmark to visit. Its construction began in 1922 at the very peak of the Art Deco movement. Christ the Redeemer is considered to be the largest concrete statue of that genre in the world. The base of the summit is reached through a vertical cog train, after which visitors have to climb hundreds of steps or can use the elevators and escalators in order to reach the top. The view towards Rio de Janeiro from the top is a site to behold.
# 2 Sugarloaf Mountain
A monolith of granite and quartz, Sugarloaf Mountain rises 400m above Guanabara Bay. Visitors can reach its top through the glass walled cable car called bondinho or teleferico. The cable car ascends every 20 minutes starting from the foot of Babilonia Hill, climbing to the top of Morro da Urca Hill. Once there visitors have to take a second cable car up the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
# 3 Maracanã Stadium
The most popular sport in Brazil is football and the most important landmark for football fans in Rio de Janeiro is the Maracanã Stadium. Completed in 1950, it used to be one of the largest stadiums in the world with capacity for more than 200,000 people. Today that capacity has been reduced for safety reasons and offers seats for 80,000 visitors, which still makes it the biggest stadium in South America.
# 4 Copacabana Beach
Copacabana Beach is located to the west of Ipanema Beach. The famous beach area is favoured by locals (called cariocas) who love to play beach volleyball and football, enjoy surfing or just relaxing. Copacabana has a nice promenade that borders the 4km long sandy beach. The walkway was built during the 1930’s and has a nice design in black and white stones. Along the shoreline can be found many hotels, cafes and restaurants, as well as nice kiosks that sell snacks and drinks. In addition, there is a military base and a wartime museum Fort Copacabana, situated at the end of the beach.
# 5 Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach is situated in the modern South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, between the beaches of Leblon and Copacabana. It is divided into several areas, for example families prefer posts 11 and 12, while sunbathers and artists prefer post 9.
Ipanema Beach is among the most popular tourist spots in Rio de Janeiro. The long strip of soft white sand and the rolling waves is often rated among the best beaches in the world. Along the beach you will find many shops, cafes and restaurants, plus an array of theatres, galleries and clubs.
# 6 Barra da Tijuca Beach
Barra da Tijuca is the longest beach in Rio de Janeiro, tempting tourists and locals with its sparkling white sand and clear sea water. This beach is less crowded than the that of Copacabana and Ipanema. Barra da Tijuca Beach is preferred by surfers, body surfers and kite surfers. The area features a large shopping mall with various stores, cafes and restaurants. The neighbourhood around is modern and home to many young people.
# 7 Prainha Beach
Prainha Beach is a very peaceful half moon shaped beach situated close to Rio de Janeiro. It is bordered by hills of dense forest. The beach is far from the crowds, has clean sands and clear waters. It is very popular with the good surfers. There is a strong undertow here from the ocean, so swimmers should be very careful. The beach features a small open-air restaurant and several kiosks for drinks and snacks.
# 8 Santa Teresa Neighbourhood
Santa Teresa Neighbourhood is located on a hill that overlooks the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. Travellers love to visit this district as it has preserved the faded elegance of the city with its cobblestone streets and 19th Century plantation mansions. Today the neighbourhood has a wonderful vibe and is a preferred place for musicians, artists and writers. It features many nice boutiques and trendy night clubs.
# 9 Lapa Neighbourhood
Lapa neighbourhood is situated in the central part of Rio de Janeiro. Once a red-light district, today it is known for its beautiful architecture and its busy nightlife. Lapa neighbourhood is famous with its choro and samba bars, lively parties and street dances during the weekend nights. The district is ideal for meeting friends and dining outside. Here you can try the local cuisine and drink caipirinha – the famous Brazilian cocktail made of sugarcane liquor and lime. Lapa neighbourhood is connected to Santa Teresa neighbourhood through the famous set of steps Escadaria Selaron.
# 10 Lagoa Neighbourhood
Lagoa neighbourhood is among the finest residential areas in Rio de Janeiro, part of the popular and expensive Zona Sul district. The area features the large lagoon Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas with the 4-mile-long path that encircles it, which is ideal for riding a bike and jogging. The path is dotted with nice restaurants and open-air cafes, revealing lovely views to the lagoon and the beaches.
# 11 Jardim Botanico
The famous botanical garden of Rio de Janeiro, known as Jardim Botanico, is positioned to the west of Lagoa neighbourhood. It was built in the early 1800’s and features more than 8,000 species of plants, including 600 species of orchids. In the garden are also to be found many fountains and monuments, a pond with water lilies, a beautiful Japanese garden, as well as the Museu do Meio Ambiente.
# 12 Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca National Park is among the largest city forests in the world. It spreads over a large area of mountainside and is often visited by hikers who climb to the Pico da Tijuca peak, where-from lovely views towards the city and the Guanabara Bay are revealed . The park was almost destroyed in the early 1800’s by the coffee plantations, yet it was replanted later with 9 million trees. While here, visit the 100 foot Cascatinha Waterfall and the Mayrink Chapel.
# 13 Parque Lage
Parque Lage is located at the foot of the Corcovado mountain and is surrounded by a rainforest. It features lovely gardens and walking paths, as well as a small aquarium. The park is home to a beautiful palace which houses an art school with free art exhibitions. There is a café in the park with a lovely view towards the statue of Christ the Redeemer. There is a trail which starts from the park and goes up to the statue. The trail is not easy, so hiking is advisable only with a local tour group.
Other interesting sites not to be missed
# 14 Theatro Municipal
Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro or the main opera house in Rio is situated in the centre of the city. This beautiful building has neoclassical architecture with green onyx staircases, marble columns and gilded mirrors. You can buy tickets for one of the performances or go on a guided tour.
# 15 Lapa Arches
Lapa Arches, also known as the Carioca Aqueduct, were built in the mid-18th Century in order to supply Rio de Janeiro with fresh drinking water. The aqueduct was shut down at the end of the 19th Century but since 1896 its arches have been used to carry a tram that connected Santa Teresa neighbourhood to the city centre. The arches are a popular meeting point and a place that is very lively with many street vendors, dancers and musicians.
Rio de Janeiro and the music
Rio de Janeiro has it all – shimmering beaches overlooked by lush forested mountains, lovely shoreline and many outdoor adventures including hiking, rock climbing and surfing. Rio de Janeiro is also the city of music, living in the rhythm of samba, bossa nova, hip-hop and funk. The city has many live music halls and samba dance clubs. In fact, samba is the main music played during the annual Carnival with its endless parades and street parties. In addition to Carnival, travellers can attend the celebrations after the big Flamengo soccer game, weekend samba parties, baile funk parties and boat parties on the bay.
Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.