Best Rio de Janeiro Attractions and Points of Interest
You will be delighted with the wide diversity of Rio de Janeiro attractions which range from historic architecture to interesting neighborhoods to natural areas to incredible vistas. During the early portions of the 20th century the city went through a modernization process which led to construction of numerous buildings that range in style from Beaux Art to Neo-classical. The neighborhoods created during and after this process range from wealthy to some of the poorest and most densely populated areas in the world, each with its own separate history. There are plenty of venues that provide outstanding entertainment which highlight the national past times like samba dancing and soccer as well as plenty places to view unique art created by the artists of Brazil. There are parks you can visit that provide recreational and fitness opportunities as well as tranquil Atlantic rainforest gardens. Scroll down to see The map of Rio Attractions
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)
When you want to visit one of the more popular Rio de Janeiro UNESCO World Heritage Sites then you need to take a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain also known as Pao de Acucar. Located on the Urca peninsula overlooking Guanabara Bay, this 1,296-foot mountain is an iconic symbol rising above the Rio de Janeiro area. Accessing the top of the mountain involves taking a thrilling 4,600-foot glass walled cable car ride which first ascends to the top of the 722-foot Morra da Urca before making the trip to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. During the cable car ride and once on top of the mountain you will enjoy panoramic views of the area including vistas of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain, Morra da Urca and the Atlantic Ocean coastline which includes the beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana as well as Leblon.
Statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
Visiting the Statue of Christ the Redeemer also known as Cristo Redentor is the most popular Rio de Janeiro attractions for travelers who want to visit one of the Modern Seven Wonders of World. Located on top of Corcovado Mountain, this iconic statue was constructed over a nine year period and was completed in 1931. The 98-foot tall is constructed of reinforced concrete as well as soapstone statue with arms that stretch-out north to south for 92-feet and is perched on a 26-foot tall pedestal which is accessed by elevator or by climbing 223 steps. This is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and can be reached by automobile, a cog train or by a 4-hour hike on foot. Once there you will be treated to views of the area which include Sugarloaf Mountain, the Tijuca National Park and the beaches of Copacabana as well as Ipanema.
When you want to see the most iconic Rio de Janeiro attraction then you need to take a trip to Corcovado Mountain also known as the Hunchback Mountain. Located within the Tijuca National Park, this 2,329-foot granite peak is home to the Christ Redeemer statue that sits majestically above Rio de Janeiro. You can access the top of this mountain several ways which include driving, taking a 20-minute ride on the Corcovado Rack Railway or by taking a 3-mile roundtrip hike by foot. Once at the top you can witness one of the Modern Seven Wonders of the World and enjoy big views of the area which include a look down at Guanabara Bay, the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana as well as a stellar view of Tijuca National Park. Another popular activity at Corcovado Mountain is rock climbing where there are some 54 routes to climb.
Morro da Urca
One of the more unique Rio de Janeiro attractions that is listed as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site is to travel to the top of Morro da Urca. This 720-foot hill offers spectacular views of the surrounding area which includes Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain, Guanabara Bay, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as well as Sugarloaf Mountain. Situated within the historic neighborhood of Urca, there are a couple of ways to access the top of this hill which include riding a cable car system that will take you to the top before proceeding to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or you can make the 1.5-hour hike to the summit by way of a trail that begins Praia Vermelho better known as the Red Beach. Once on top of this turtle shell shaped hill you can enjoy the panoramic views, food concessions and souvenir shopping.
Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico)
When you are ready to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve that contains more than 9,000 tropical and subtropical plants as well as trees then you should go to the Botanical Garden also known as the Jardim Botanico. Created in 1808 at the foot of Corcovado Mountain, the Botanical Garden encompasses an area of 346 acres and is home to more than 900 species of palm trees, 1,500 species of flora and fauna as well as 140 species of birds. Once at the gardens you can indulge in viewing a Japanese Garden, over 8,000 specimens of orchids and bromeliads from over 1,000 species as well as the first tea, cinnamon and clove plants brought to Brazil. The garden is dotted by numerous statues, fountains as well as monuments and houses the nation’s most important research facility which resides within the Museo do Meio Ambiente.
Pedra da Gavea
If you like visiting natural wonders that could possibly be the largest monolith directly on a coastline in the world, then a must see Rio de Janeiro attraction is Pedra da Gavea. Located within the Tijuca National Park, this 2,762-foot monolith also known as the Rock of the Topsail was first spotted by Portuguese explorers in 1502 as they entered Guanabara Bay. This gigantic rock has a flat face which plummets into the Atlantic Ocean that has been transformed by nature over time to resemble a human face. Activities here include a challenging 3.5-mile hiking trail to the top which involves several steep sections where ropes are usually needed and generally takes 6-hours to complete. Once on top you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the South and West Zones of Rio de Janeiro. Other recreational opportunities such as rock climbing are very popular on the mountain side.
Tijuca National Park
When you are ready to get out into nature in perhaps the world’s largest urban forest then you should plan a visit to Tijuca National Park. This Atlantic tropical rain forest area was first created in 1861 and declared a Brazilian National Park in 1961. The park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and encompasses an area of 13 square miles with the most notable attraction within the park being the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer which resides on top of Corcovado Mountain. Once at the park you will find activities which range from wildlife watching to hiking to rock climbing and there is a launch pad for gliding sports on top of Pedra Bonita. Other interesting items within the park include waterfalls like Cascatinha, Pedra da Gavea, a pagoda style kiosk located at Vista Chinesa and the Mesa do Imperador which is a giant granite picnic table.
If you are interested in finding a perfect vantage point to view many of the natural and manmade Rio de Janeiro attractions then you should plan a trip to Pedra Bonita. Located within Tijuca National Park, the Pedra Bonita is a 2,283-foot high granite peak which is accessed by hiking a 1-mile trail to the top. The climb to the top of the peak is assisted by several steps that offer an easy climb to the top even with the dramatic change of elevation. During your climb wildlife sightings are possible from monkeys to butterflies to several species of birds. Once on top of the peak you will be rewarded with views of Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, Barra da Tijuca and Sao Conrado Beach. The mountain is also home to a launching pad for paragliders and hang glider who take advantage of the steeply sloped peak for take-offs.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon
The Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon is one of the most popular Rio de Janeiro attractions for travelers looking for recreational activities that range from bicycling to rowing to jogging. Located in the center of the Zona Sul within the upscale Lagoa District, the lagoon consists of one square mile of surface water and is surrounded by the districts of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana. The lagoon was first inhabited by the Tamoio Indians who would be eventually killed by small pox infected blankets to make way for a sugar plantation and the Engenho d’El-Rey or the King’s Mill which currently houses the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden Visitors’ Reception Center. Today you will find over 4.5-miles of biking trails and numerous rowing clubs that offer recreational activities to visitors. Along with recreational opportunities you will find several food kiosks serving Brazilian cuisine.
At over 1,247-feet high along the Alto da Boa Vista, the Vista Chinesa is an ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction which offers fabulous views of the city. Situated within Tijuca National Park, the Asian style gazebo was constructed in 1903 to commemorate Rio’s Chinese immigrants who played an integral role in the development of the city. This award winning pagoda is recognized as one of the most majestic monuments in South America ever built to honor the people of Chinese heritage. Once there you will be afforded with vistas that range from Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain to Leblon to the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana as well as much of the South Coast of the city. During the 2016 Summer Olympics the Vista Chinesa was featured in the road cycling course as one of the most demanding climbing portions of the circuit.
Mirante Dona Marta
The Mirante Dona Marta is the best Rio de Janeiro attraction for travelers who want a perfect panoramic view of the city’s iconic landmarks. Towering 1,188-feet into the air the lookout boasts vistas of the Atlantic rain forest to white sand beaches to superb landmarks like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. From the top of the platform you can be inspired with great views of Guanabara Bay, Copacabana, downtown and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. The platform is popular with visitors during sunrise as well as sunset and if you want to see more from above in the sky catch a helicopter tour that departs from the associated helipad.
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon
Church of Our Lady of Candelaria
One of the best Rio de Janeiro attractions for lovers of art, architecture and craftsmanship is to visit the Church of Our Lady of Candelaria also known as the Candelaria Church. Constructed between the years of 1775 and 1811 the church would become the tallest building in Rio de Janeiro. The architectural style incorporates a Baroque facade that is flanked with Neo-classical accents displayed by two bell towers. The dome between the towers is topped with eight sculptures made of Lioz stone which was imported from Lisbon. The interior of the church features Neo-Renaissance elements with Italian marble columns, German stained glass and the two bronze pulpits consist of an Art Nouveau style. Although the church has seen some controversial incidents in and around the premises including the Candelaria Massacre in 1993, the square in front was adorned with the official cauldron during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Photo by marcusrg
Guanabara Bay is one of the more popular Rio de Janeiro attractions for all types of travelers who want to experience everything from beaches to incredible views of the built environment from the sea. The bay measures 159 square miles making it the second largest bay in Brazil and is home to more than 100 islands. Situated between Sugarloaf Mountain and Papagaio Peak the bay contains both of Rio’s airports, the cities of Sao Goncalo and Niteroi as well as the Port of Rio de Janeiro. Visitors usually take advantage of exploring the bay by water where you can enjoy views of Botafogo, Urca and Flamengo as well as lounge on the beaches on Niteroi. Other interesting items include the fortresses of Santa Cruz and Sao Joao which are two of the original four forts constructed to defend the bay in the late 1500s by the Portuguese.
When you want to visit one of the oldest and wealthiest areas of the city that still exhibits its original charm then the best Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to see is the Urca neighborhood. Situated on a small curved piece of land at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain, the neighborhood began to be developed in the 1920s and most of the homes are still owned by the original families. The neighborhood displays a variety of original architecture that ranges from Art Deco to unusually painted Tudor style to a Spanish-Colonial style that is often referred to as Manuelino. The area has a great location with west facing views of Guanabara Bay while overlooking other areas such as Flamengo and Botafogo. Notable residents of the past include singer Carmen Miranda who was discovered by a Hollywood director while visiting the Urca Casino.
Photo by Kai Hendry
Barra da Tijuca
If you like the flash and style of Miami then an ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit is Barra da Tijuca which features wide palm lined streets with plenty of entertainment. One of the newer neighborhoods to be constructed in the city this area features a 10-mile long beach front that offers a backdrop of modern high-rise buildings, shopping malls which include the largest in South America with 700 stores known as BarraShopping and plenty of restaurants as well as entertainment venues. The beach front is perfect for lounging on the sand and is a favorite for watersport activities that range from surfing to kite boarding to wind surfing. The neighborhood is considered to be the safest in the city and was host to almost 50% of all competitions during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Photo by Leonardo Shinagawa
When you want to experience the finest samba dancing in the world as well as a unique venue which has perfect sight views from every seat then a great Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit is the Sambadrome. During Carnival this 90,000 seat stadium is transformed into an incredible spectacle that can last up to 10-hours nightly with seven samba schools performing for 80-minutes down a 3,000-foot alleyway. The event includes numerous floats and music as well as impressive samba dancing that will leave lasting memories of the colorful Brazilian culture. If you are not visiting during Carnival the stadium has a small museum which highlights the various samba schools that have been crowned champions over the years through a series of lively exhibits. During the off season the stadium has been used to host concerts by artists such as Pearl Jam, Coldplay and the Rolling Stones.
Photo by Sarah.Ahearn
The Parque Lage is an oasis that sits at the bottom of Corcovado Mountain and is a prefect Rio de Janeiro attraction for travelers looking for a quiet surreal garden area. Once the residence of Enrique Lage and Gabriella Besanzori, this colonial style mansion with Italian Revival accents is now surrounded by Atlantic rain forest which features walking trails and plenty of wildlife. The park offers visitors a beautifully landscaped English style garden in the courtyard which has a tranquil pool as well as plenty of benches to help you relax while you absorb the scenery that has a backdrop of the Christ the Redeemer in the sky. The park which was the setting for Snoop Dogg’s music video entitled Beautiful is home to the Escola de Artes Visuals which is open to the public and you can indulge in a meal at the cafe.
Selarón Staircase (Escadaria Selarón)
The Escadaria Selaron also known as the Selaron Staircase is one of the most colorful Rio de Janeiro attractions and is pure eye candy for art lovers. This iconic landmark was the creation of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron who started work on the 215 stairs in 1990 to honor the Brazilian citizens of his adopted city. The steps are a vibrant piece of artwork that contains more than 2,000 intricate mosaic tiles which were collected from 60 countries around the world and are highlighted by the colors of the Brazilian flag at every level. One unique aspect of the steps is the 300 hand painted tiles by Selaron that depict a pregnant African woman and over the years the steps were updated with tiles donated by visiting artists to the city. The steps are also a place of tragedy for Jorge Selaron where he was found dead 2013.
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon
When you are looking for a bohemian style area of the city that is teeming with entertainment venues then the best Rio de Janeiro attraction to visit is the Lapa Neighborhood. This area of the city is known for its diverse music scene which offers numerous venues from nightclubs to bars where you can listen to samba as well as forro bands. The neighborhood really comes to life in the evening where revelers fill Rua da Lapa or Rua Joaquin Silva while samba dancing and partying in some of the hottest venues of the city. You will be pleased walking the area during the daylight hours which contains colonial architecture, the brightly colored Selaron Ladder as well as the Lapa Arches or Arcos da Lapa which is an 18th century aqueduct that stretches almost 200-feet into the air and is supported by 42 arches.
Photo by Jean-Phi92
One of the more colorful and art filled neighborhoods within the city is Santa Teresa which is an excellent Rio de Janeiro attraction for trendy travelers as well as lovers of the fine arts. The neighborhood rests on top of a hill with the same name and offers people a chance to wander cobblestone streets that are engulfed with art as well as numerous elaborately constructed mansions of upper class residents. This area has become a haven for artists in recent years and offers you numerous opportunities to view outstanding art as well as enjoy a quite meal in one of the several street side cafes. Also within the neighborhood there are several interesting places to visit such as Museu da Chacara do Ceu once owned by art collector Castor Maya, Museu do Bonde and Parque das Ruinas where you can listen to live music in an idyllic park.
The Flamengo District offers travelers an excellent alternative to the more pricey areas of the city and is a nice Rio de Janeiro attraction to visit for exercising as well as sport activities. The neighborhood is dominated by Flamengo Park which at 300 acres is the largest park in the city and offers sporting opportunities from jogging to biking to tennis to basketball to soccer. You can visit several interesting places within the park such as the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art, the Carmen Miranda Museum as well as a sculpture that is dedicated to the fallen Brazilian soldiers of World War Two. Within the neighborhood you will find plenty of restaurants as well as places to visit which include Flamengo Beach where you can catch an excellent view of Sugarloaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado Mountain.
Photo by Cyro A. Silva
If you are searching for the perfect place to exercise in the outdoors then a great Rio de Janeiro attraction for you is Flamengo Park also known as Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes. With almost 300 acres of green space this is the largest park within Rio de Janeiro and is referred to by locals as simply Aterro or landfill because the park was created by the reclamation of a portion of Guanabara Bay. Within the park you will find plenty of jogging and biking trails as well as numerous modern facilities that offer sporting options that range from basketball to soccer to tennis to volleyball. Also residing within the park is the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art, a sculpture that commemorates the fallen Brazilian soldiers of World War Two and the Carmen Miranda Museum.
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon
One of the most populated favelas in all of Brazil is the Rocinha which is an interesting Rio de Janeiro attraction for travelers looking to view a city within a city. The favela has an estimated population of more than 180,000 people who live within an area of less than 1-square mile in shanty style houses that were originally constructed of whatever materials could be found. Today the favela is considered to be an urbanized slum with most of the buildings constructed of concrete along the steep cliff side. In the past this favela was considered to be unsafe for outside travelers to visit but through a series of projects that included hostels as well as nightclubs and there are now guided tours which allow travelers to learn more about how these people conduct their daily lives in this diverse and fascinating community.
Santa Marta Favela
If you are looking for a colorful and police controlled favela to visit that is safe for travelers then the perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction is the Santa Marta Favela. This favela was the first to be pacified by local officials and offers travelers a chance to become familiar with living conditions in the highly densified favelas of the city. There are approximately 8,000 residents that live within 500 wooden and 2,000 brick homes that sprawl upwards on a steep cliff side. The homes are quite colorful thanks to a painting project conducted by the Dutch duo of Hass and Hahn. The favela secured a place in popular culture after being featured in the music video They Don’t Care About Us by Michael Jackson. Within the main square of the favela there is a bronze statue of Michael Jackson which has been visited by super stars such as Madonna.
Bairro Cosme Velho
There is more to Bairro Cosme Velho than just the starting point to traveling to the statue of Christ the Redeemer and is an ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for people who want to be immersed in the old time charm of the city. Once within the neighborhood you will be treated to numerous 1920s Neo-colonial style homes which were constructed with materials taken from the several modernization projects in the central area of the city. The main street in the neighborhood is Rue Cosme Velho were you will find plenty of quaint restaurants and shopping boutiques. The neighborhood is home to the Corcovado Rack Railway which will take you to the top of Corcovado Mountain. Another pleasant area within the neighborhood is Boticario Square where you can relax and enjoy the jungle covered built environment that surrounds the square.
Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias
Sao Bento Monastery
Whether you are a person of faith or a lover of art and historic architecture one of the more interesting Rio de Janeiro attractions to visit are the Sao Bento Monastery and the Church of Nossa Senhora de Montserrat. Founded by Benedictine monks in 1590, the church and monastery were constructed by slaves over a period of several decades and completed in 1671. The complex is composed of several buildings including one with a Mannerist style facade with three archways, a triangular gable and is flanked by two towers with pyramidal type spires. The interior is an intricate Baroque style with seven side chapels where you will view incredible craftsmanship completed mostly by monks and some of Brazil’s greatest artists. Features of the interior include gold leaf gilded ceilings, 200 pound silver chandeliers, rococo wooden carvings and several statues created by Inacio Ferreira Pinto.
Photo by Rafael Ferreira Pimentel
When you are ready to experience the excitement of Brazil’s national past time then the best Rio de Janeiro attraction for you is to make a trip to Maracana Stadium also known as Mario Filho Stadium. Constructed for the 1950 World Cup games the stadium holds the world record for attendance when almost 200,000 spectators viewed the final game that year. Today the stadium comfortably seats 103,000 patrons who bring more excitement to the game at times then the four Rio de Janeiro teams that call the stadium home. Fans come prepared to cheer on their respective team with pounding drums, chants as well as fireworks and attending a soccer game here is a must for sports fan around the world. Within the stadium you can visit the sports museum which highlights the achievements of Brazil’s greatest players such as Pele through a number of interesting exhibits.
The Teatro Municipal is an impressive musical venue not only for the quality of performances but also for the architecture of the building and is a great Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit. Constructed over a four year period beginning in 1905 the theater features a unique Beaux Arts style enhanced by Art Nouveau accents and was fashioned after the Paris Opera. With a seating capacity of over 2,300 the theater has played host to operas and musical performances by artists such as Igor Stravinsky, Maria Callas and Sarah Bernhardt. The building is a marvel with several statues on the roof and an eclectic facade that displays the grandeur of craftsmanship. Inside you will find marble staircases, intricate ironwork, gilded ceilings, stained glass, mosaic tiling and several friezes as well as statues which were created by the most important Brazilian artists.
Photo by Marinelson Almeida - Traveling
The National Library of Brazil is the ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for researchers, people who like books as well as historic architecture buffs. The library was first founded in 1810 after a devastating earthquake in Portugal led to the transfer of the library from Lisbon to Brazil. Over three phases the collection in Lisbon was transferred to Rio de Janeiro which is now the largest library in Latin America and the seventh largest in the world with 9 million items on hand. Significant collections within the library include over 25,000 early 19th century photographs from Teresa Cristina Maria and Mortiz Lamberg as well as over 200,000 pieces of Brazilian popular music which ranges from samba to sertanejo. The library is housed within a 1910 constructed Beaux Art style building with Greek Revival accents on the front facade. The interior includes gilded ceilings, marble staircases and intricate handcrafted ironworks.
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon
Cinelandia is a testament to the modernization of the city that took place during the early 20th century and is a perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction to view a public plaza surrounded by many of the city’s finest historic buildings. Originally housing a convent for women in the early 1750s, the public square today has been completely redesigned and is often referred to as Praca Floriano Peixoto because of a bronze statue of Marshal Floriano Peixoto. During the early 20th century the convent was raised and the area was made a public square which was surrounded with several buildings constructed in a Beaux Arts style. These buildings, still visible today, included the Brazilian National Library, the Municipal Theater and the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes or the National Museum of Fine Arts as well as a number of cinemas which are now mostly closed, hence the name Cinelandia.
Sitio Roberto Burle Marx
If you like to mix beautiful landscapes and learning about a historic individual that left his mark on numerous green spaces within the city then a great Rio de Janeiro attraction is the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx. Once you arrive at this National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute site you will find more than 3,500 species of plants and trees mainly from Brazil. Considered to be one of the greatest landscape architects in the world and early champion of the rain forest, Roberto Burle Marx transformed this 41-acre former banana plantation into a Modernists landscape dream with five reflecting pools, seven out buildings and a museum with more than 3,000 artifacts. Within the main house you will find period furnishings and personal items such as folk art, pre-Columbian pottery as well as several art collections.
If you want to experience one of the newer sections within the city which was once a buffer zone for downtown and Copacabana Beach then a perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction for you is the Botafogo Bay. Situated within Guanabara Bay and bookended by Sugarloaf Mountain and the Urca Peninsula, the bay offers a variety of pleasures from numerous restaurants to shopping at Botafogo Praia Shopping Center to watching beach games played on the sand. Out in the bay you will see hundreds of boats nestled in the clam waters and if you walk through the neighborhood you can view several Colonial style mansions constructed for the Portuguese royalty of yester year. Other attractions in this upper middle class neighborhood are the Museum of the Indians, the Villa-Lobos Museum and if you drive to Pasmado Overlook you can relish panoramic views of the city.
Photo by Frank Gabriel Garcia
Whether you are a nature lover, beach goer or water enthusiast one of the better Rio de Janeiro attractions for you to visit is the Cagarras Islands. Situated 3-miles offshore of the Ipanema Beach, this set of five islands: Ilha de Palmas, Ilha Filhote, Ilha Grande, Ilha Cagarra and Ilha Comprida form one of Brazil’s top protected natural monuments. Once at this archipelago you will find numerous activities to keep you occupied whether that is scuba diving around one of the numerous shipwrecks, snorkeling while viewing hundreds of tropical fish or climbing to the top of Ilha Cagarra which is the tallest of the islands at 259-feet above sea level. Nature lovers can watch hundreds of species of marine life as well as birds and beach goers can enjoy a quiet beach on Ilha Comprida and Ilha Filhote offers a natural pool that is perfect for swimming.
Photo by Cyro A. Silva
Praça Quinze de Novembro
One of the more interesting Rio de Janeiro attractions which signifies the history of the country and will allow you to experience numerous historical buildings is the Praca Qunize de Novembro. The square is situated in the center of the city’s historic district and is surrounded by incredible buildings such as Arco dos Teles, Palacio Tiradentes with its splendid Corinthian columns, the former city cathedral and the Paco Imperial. Once there you can view the place where the Freedom of Slavery Act was read to the country as well as where Pedro I declared the country’s independence from Portuguese rule. The square is emblematic of Brazilian history and was once the first place that greeted visitors as they arrived on boat to the city. Today the Colonial appeal of the area is still alive with visitors enjoying numerous restaurants, street performers and Brazilian culture at its finest.
Photo by fbar
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral
One of the most impressive feats of architecture and a great thing to do in Rio de Janeiro for many reasons is to visit the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. Constructed in the 1960s and 1970s this cathedral projects 315-feet into the air and exhibits a Mayan pyramid style on the outside. This Modernist designed cathedral is adorned on the inside with a 350-foot hollow circular nave that can seat 5,000 as well as accommodate 20,000 standing visitors during any given service. The walls of the cathedral contain four panels of stained glass windows which stretch from the floor to the ceiling with a cross-shaped skylight at the top that allows for plenty of natural light. Dedicated to St. Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro, this cathedral has received three papal visits since construction was completed.
Photo by WM 2014
One of the top Rio de Janeiro attractions for people that like history, historical architecture, art exhibits and live performances is the Paco Imperial also known as the Royal Palace of Rio de Janeiro. The palace was constructed in 1743 with a Colonial architectural style that exudes Baroque accents and is now a listed treasure by the National Artistic and Historical Heritage Institute. The palace was home to many political figures from King John VI of Portugal to the Empire of Brazil rulers. The palace has seen several important historical events such as Pedro I refusal of Portuguese rule in 1822 and the Freedom from Slavery Act was signed by Princess Isabel at the palace. Today the palace holds a series of rotating art exhibits, live concerts as well as cultural events and is the home to the Paulo Santos Library which focuses on art, architecture and engineering.
Casa Franca Brasil
The Casa Franca Brasil is the perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction for people who like to mix historical architecture, culture and art into one stop. Constructed in 1820 the building became the first Neo-classical designed property within Rio de Janeiro giving the city a cosmopolitan feel and is listed with the National Artistic and Historical Heritage Institute. Over the years the building was used for many purposes from a customs house to an archive depository for the Italian-German Bank. Today the building turned museum offers a wide range of material that explains the cultural history of Brazil through a series of exhibits which lean heavily on contemporary and modern artworks. Past exhibitions have included work by Laura Lime, Cristina Iglesias and Miguel Rio Branco. The museum holds numerous lecture series, seminars and educational programs to help nurture the historical value of Brazilian culture.
Photo by Halley Oliveira
Bank of Brazil Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil)
For travelers looking to view an incredibly restored Neo-classical building with an interior that features an Art Deco style and is packed with some of the best artworks in the world then the ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit is the Bank of Brasil Cultural Center also known as the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. This museum regularly lands on the world’s top 100 list of most visited museums and contains numerous galleries exhibiting art from around the world. When you visit you will also find a cinema and a theatre where you can watch live performances.
Photo by MAHM
Museum of Tomorrow
If you are interested in learning more about mankind’s effects on the natural environment then a perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit is the Museum of Tomorrow. Set on the shoreline of Guanabara Bay this museum concentrates on environment awareness of the planet through a series of exhibits that are created with state-of-the-art technology. With the use of simulators, videos and interactive displays visitors will learn more about the natural disasters of the past connected to mankind’s activities on the planet as well as what we can do to help save the planet for future generations.
Museu Historico do Exercito e Forte de Copacabana/Copacabana Fort
The ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for travelers wanting to learn more about Brazil’s military from the past to present is the Museu Historico do Exercito e Fort de Copacabana also known as the Museum of the History of the Military located at Fort Copacabana. The fort was constructed during World War One on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean and defines the military history of Brazil from the days of Portuguese colonization to present day international engagements. As you stroll through the fort you can view historical artillery pieces and numerous exhibits about the Brazilian military.
Photo by Rick McCharles
National Fine Arts Museum/ Museu Nacional De Belas Artes
If you want to view on of the finest collections of Brazilian paintings then the ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for you is the National Fine Arts Museum or the Museu Nacional De Belas Artes. Situated in a Neo-classical building, the museum is home to over 16,000 pieces of art which were created by such Brazilian artists as Pedro Americo, Lasar Segall, Di Cavalcanti and Victor Meirilles de Lima. In addition to the large collection of Brazilian artwork there are numerous pieces from European artists which were moved to Rio de Janeiro by the Portuguese royal family in 1807.
Photo by Pedro Paulo Palazzo
Museum of Modern Art (Museu de Arte Moderna)
Although the Museum of Modern Art or the Museu de Arte Moderna was the victim of a fire in 1978, the museum is still one of the premier Rio de Janeiro attractions for travelers. Destroyed during the fire were the paintings from Salvador Dali, Picasso as well as Miro which have since been replaced with the 4,000 piece collection of Gilberto Chateaubriand and the photograph collection of Joaquim Paiva. While you are there you can view the Moderne style facade with numerous pillars, a courtyard garden, theater and a terrace that overlooks Guanabara Bay as well as Sugarloaf Mountain.
Museu de Arte do Rio – MAR (Museum of Art of Rio)
One of the newest Rio de Janeiro attractions that is perfect for history and art lovers is the Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR) or the Museum of Art of Rio. Constructed in 2013 with an award winning eclectic style complete with a suspended walkway, the museum is dedicated to the city’s history that ranges from conflicts to contradictions to challenges to social expectations and the social fabric of life. When you visit you will treated to numerous exhibits that mix contemporary art and history as well as learn how the museum supports art in schools.
Photo by Marcio Okabe
Chacara do Ceu Museum
The Chacara do Ceu Museum is a fascinating Rio de Janeiro attraction which holds the private art collection of businessman Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya. Residing in a house which was remodeled in the 1950s with a lustrous Modernist style overlooking Guanabara Bay, the museum is home to part of Castro Maya’s 22,000 piece collection of European and Brazilian art. The museum features artwork by well-known artists such as Henri Matisse, Candido Portinari, Miro, Di Cavalcanti and Georges-Pierre Seurat. The home also displays period furnishings in several rooms to keep the historical value of the house intact.
Photo by Rodrigo Soldon
Instituto Moreira Salles-IMS
The Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) is a popular Rio de Janeiro attraction that combines historic architecture with the vision of celebrating the culture and art of Brazil. Located adjacent to the Tijuca National Park in the former family residence of Moreira Salles, the modernist style house is a monument within itself with perfect geometric patterns. The museum inside the home concentrates on four areas of art which are literature, music, iconography and photography through a series of exhibits, lectures, educational workshops as well as showcasing movies in the theater.
Photo by A C Moraes
Museu da Republica (Museum of the Republic)
When you are interested in learning more about the political strife and achievements of Brazil combined with historic architecture then a superb Rio de Janeiro attraction is the Museum da Republica (Museum of the Republic). Housed in the Palace of Catate which was completed in 1867 with a Neo-classical design, the palace was home to 18 former presidents who played an important role in shaping the past and future of the country. Inside you will find numerous exhibits explaining political events as well as rooms that are packed with period furnishings which displays the grandeur of the palace.
Photo by Ministério da Cultura
Centro Cultural Municipal Parque das Ruinas/Ruins Park
One of the more eclectic Rio de Janeiro attractions that combines an outdoor venue of art with a mixture of music concerts is the Centro Cultural Municipal Parque das Ruins or Ruins Park. Residing on a hillside, the once abandoned Epoque Belle style mansion owned by Laurinda Santos Lobo has since been cleaned up with modernist accents added to enhance the facade and is complimented by a public park. The outdoor space features picturesque views of the city center as well as Guanabara Bay, an outdoor concert venue, a restaurant and hosts numerous art exhibits throughout the year.
Photo by Wikimapa
Just a short ferry ride across Guanabara Bay is the city of Niteroi also known as the Smile City which is another interesting Rio de Janeiro attraction for history buffs, romantic couples and travelers looking to get away for the day. Once there you can indulge in viewing one of the finest collections of artwork at the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum which is housed within a unique modern spiral building that affords excellent views of Rio de Janeiro as well as the bay from large panoramic windows. There are numerous beaches such as Itacoatiara or Charitas Beach to lounge upon and watch a stunning sunset as well as enjoy your favorite watersport activity. One of the most visited places is Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra which was constructed in the 16th century as the point of main protection for Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio de Janeiro. Today you can wander the grounds of the fort while viewing artifacts, antique weaponry, the Chapel of Santa Barbara as well as numerous watchtowers and even take a glimpse at the cells within the dungeon.
When you want to get of the hustle and bustle of the city then a perfect Rio de Janeiro attraction for you to visit is the idyllic city of Petropolis also known as the Imperial City. Only 42-miles to the northeast of the city within the Serra dos Orgaos you will find a charming European style village that was occupied by the royal family of Brazil during the summer months and is often referred to as the de facto capital for the Empire of Brazil. First constructed in the 1840s by German immigrants, the Imperial Palace resembles a European mountain chalet and now houses the Imperial Museum which concentrates on explaining the Imperial history of the country through a series of exhibits, artifacts and period furnishings. Another notable building is the Crystal Palace, which is now used as a concert venue was originally a greenhouse constructed for Princess Isabel in France and brought to Brazil so she could cultivate orchids. The Santos Dumont House Museum is another must see where you can gaze into the life of the disputed inventor of the first airplane through a series of exhibits, period furnishings as well as several of his other unique inventions.
Ilha Grande or Big Island is an ideal Rio de Janeiro attraction for beach goers searching for a paradise of more than 100 beaches with sand that ranges from white to black. Situated within Brazil’s Costa Verde the island is lightly populated with no roads or vehicles and was once home to a leper colony as well as a high-security prison. Today, the island has more than 80,000 acres of protected Atlantic Rainforest which makes for great outdoor adventures from hiking within Ilha Grande State Park to spotting wildlife like brown howler monkeys to climbing Pico da Pedra d’Agua to lounging on one of the unspoiled beaches like the red sands of Vermelha Beach or the black sands at Preta Beach. Watersport enthusiasts can surf at Lopes Mendes Beach, go snorkeling at the Blue Lagoon and scuba divers can explore the submarine cave at Gruta do Acaia.
Angra Dos Reis
One of the best Rio de Janeiro attractions for beach goers is Angra Dos Reis or the Bay of Kings where you will find 2,000 beaches scattered amongst 365 islands. Less than a 2-hour drive from the city this area of Brazil’s Costa Verde offers plenty of white sand for sunbathing, tropical landscapes for hiking and turquoise waters dotted with shipwrecks as well as loaded with marine life. Watersport activities range from sailing to swimming to scuba diving to snorkeling and surfing is popular at Lopes Mendes Beach. The largest of the islands is Ilha Grande where you will find 106 beaches including Feiticeira Beach where you can walk to a waterfall that has a swimming hole and natural slide. Other great places like Botinas Island is ideal for scuba diving as well as snorkeling and on Gipoia Island you will find numerous floating bars offshore around Jurubaiba Beach.
Map of Top Rio De Janeiro Attractions