Top Tourist Attractions To Explore In Rio De Janeiro

Top Tourist Attractions To Explore In Rio De Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro was founded by Portuguese colonists during the mid-1500s. It became a port as gold was shipped from the inland mining areas. It is the second major city in Brazil and was its capital from 1763 to 1960. The city of Rio has many physical assets, and it has been its part throughout its history.

The mountains and the sea of Rio de Janeiro makes the city so spectacular that UNESCO cited it as a World Heritage Site calling it “the staggeringly beautiful location for one of the world’s biggest cities”. It was not just because of the city’s natural setting that UNESCO gave Rio this title, but also because of the urban culture landscape, the mix of architecture, and planned green space which made the city to grow.

The prime tourist attractions here are the soaring mountains, Sugarloaf towering above its harbor, and long crescent beaches. These landscapes have been enhanced with distinguished buildings from each era of its history. The additional urban parks and open spaces give it a modern look. The city has so much to offer and below is the list of top tourist attractions to discover Rio de Janeiro.

1. Cristo Redentor (Christ The Redeemer)

Cristo Redentor is a giant statue of Christ which overlooks the city from the 709-meter summit of Corcovado. It is widely recognized symbol of Rio just like the distinctive shape of Sugarloaf. It was erected between 1922 and 1931 and this world-famous landmark was financed by the contributions from Brazilian Catholics. Paul Landowski, a Polish French sculptor, created this Art Deco statue and it was built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French engineer Albert Caquot.

The statue is made with concrete and soapstone and is 30 meters tall with its arm stretching to about 28 meters. The entire figure weighs 635 metric tons. There is a chapel inside its eight-meter-high base where it is not surprising to find a wedding and baptisms taking place. The Corcovado rack railway runs from Rua do Cosme Velho to the statue which is a 3.5-kilometer track. The tracks run through the Tijuca National Park. To avoid the crowd, visit the monument during early morning with a guide. An upgraded tour includes a cable car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain from where you can enjoy a stunning view.

2. Sugarloaf

Towering 394 meters above the harbor, the rock peak of Sugarloaf is the best-known landmark in Rio de Janeiro. The Sugarloaf sits on a point of land that is on a bay and is surrounded by its harbor. A low strip of land connects it to the city. A cable car runs from Praca General Tiburcio to the top of the Morro da Urca which is a lower peak. From here another cableway runs straight to the summit of the Sugarloaf.

From the top of the Sugarloaf, you can see the entire mountainous coasts that rings the bay and its islands. Below is a 100-meter Praia da Urca beach which is near to Rio’s original nucleus between the Morro Cara de Cao and the Sugarloaf. There are three forts on Cara de Cao of the 16th century. Fort Sao Joao, a star-shaped fort, is open to the public.

3. Copacabana

There are few cities which are blessed with beautiful sand beaches at its heart, but some have a beach that stretches 4 kilometers along one entire side of its downtown. Few steps away from this golden sand beach are Avenida Atlantica, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, and neighboring small streets where you can find some appealing century-old buildings, fine hotels, and popular restaurants, and cafes.

The renowned Copacabana Palace is unquestionably the monarch of the area and of the Rio hotels. It was built in the 1920s and is now considered as a national monument. Copacabana Palace was featured in a 1933 film, Flying Down to Rio, and has been a host to many royal and glamourous movie stars. It recalls the halcyon days of power, wealth, and elegance when Rio was the capital of Brazil.

Far away, at the end of the beach is Copacabana Fort. It was built in 1914 and in 1922 it was a scene of revolt when some officers took over the fort and turned its artillery in the city. The revolt was short-lived and ended the next day when the government bombarded the fort with their battleships. There is a museum here now called Museu Historico do Exercito (Museum of the History of the Army) which throws light upon this incident and other military history. There are artillery pieces outside on the fort grounds from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

4. Ipanema

The beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, which continue from Copacabana’s four-kilometer strand, are separated by the Jardim de Ala Canal. It drains the lagoon Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Along the walkway of the seafront are many large hotels, sidewalk cafes, and restaurants. Both these districts are well known for their beaches have a lively cultural life. There are many art galleries, cinemas, and an avantgarde theater. Every Sunday, Praca de Quental in Leblon hosts an antiques market, and Praca General Osorio hosts Feira de Artesanato de Ipanema where crafts, music, art, and local food is featured.

5. Carnaval (Carnival)

Every winter Rio de Janeiro witnesses one of the world’s most famous pre-Lenten celebrations. This celebration is also quite famous in Venice and New Orleans. The celebration begins soon after New Year. The splendor and extravagance of the celebration reaches its spectacular climax in the four days just before Ash Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of spectators get attracted to it and join the street parades, samba parties, and shows. Other cities in Brazil too celebrate Carnaval. It is considered as a major tourist event in Bahia and Recife. Rio celebrates it most lavishly than any other city.

The parades of the samba schools are the most spectacular. It is held in a unique venue which is designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. The Sambodromo is a long parade route where you can see people competing in brilliant dance costumes. The parade route is lined by stadium-style boxes which is designed to accommodate 50,000 spectators who can watch the parade. The parade route is about 13 meters wide and 700 meters long. It was used in 1984 for the first time and was later updated for 2016 Olympic Games.

6. Tijuca National Park

Tijuca Forest and many other viewpoints which overlooks the city is protected by Tijuca National Park. It surrounds the giant-sized statue of Christ on Corcovado, Cristo Redentor. To explore the park, step down of the train which lead to Corcovado at a midpoint and walk on the road through the forest. The Tijuca Forest is one of the world’s largest forests within a city. The forest covers 3,300 hectares of land.

It was planted in the late 1850s on the land which was destroyed by coffee plantations to protect the springs that supplied Rio de Janeiro with water. Most of the trees grown here are native species and provides habitat for Capuchin monkeys, quatis, colorful toucans, hawks, brilliant blue butterflies, and many other species of wildlife. You will explore all these wonderful sights while traveling through its trails and roads.

One of Rio’s most picturesque squares is near the station of Corcovado railway, Largo do Boticario. It is surrounded by colonial-style houses. At Morro da Vista Chinesa there is pagoda-style pavilion which is 380 meters above the shore. From here you can see the amazing views of the Municipal Park, the Botanic Garden, and a long stretch of the south coast. You can enjoy more mesmerizing views from Mirante Dona Marta which is on a spur of rock above Botafogo Bay.

You can see many waterfalls from the forest springs which includes the 30-meter Cascatinha Taunay. Near the park is an extensive garden where you can visit Museu do Acude. Here you will see valuable porcelain collections of the West India Company. These collections include old views of Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian and foreign artists, azulejos, and traditional Portuguese tiles from the 17th century to 19th century.

7. Jardim Botanicao (Botanical Garden)

Jardim Botanicao covers 350 acres of land at the foot of Corcovado. It is a combination of ecological sanctuary with show gardens and a scientific laboratory. The view is amazing and has a beautiful park-like setting. The two major highlights of this garden are the Orchidarium and the Japanese Gardens. The Orchidarium is an iron and glass greenhouse which was built in 1930s and is filled with more than 2,000 species of orchids. In the Japanese Garden you can see cherry trees, wooden bridges, koi ponds, and Bonsai.

There is a Sensory Garden with aromatic plants and hers which are signed in Braille. Jardim Botanico is a UNESCO biosphere reserve which is the habitat for more than 8,000 species of plant life, birds, and animals. There are also Marmoset monkeys and toucans. You can either walk through the gardens and enjoy the shade of soaring royal palms and pau-brasil tress, or take a ride on an electric cart tour.

8. Maracana

If you are in Rio and are a football fan, then you cannot miss the opportunity to watch a soccer game in Maracana. It is Brazil’s largest stadium where opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games were held. For the FIFA World Cup 2014, the whole stadium was completely renovated. It can accommodate up to 78,000 fans. Major football clubs like the Flamengo, Botafogo, Fluminense, and Vasco da Gama, play their matches in this stadium. Even concerts are held here. Football fans should not miss a brief tour of this stadium.

Near Copacabana and Ipanema is the shore of Lagao Rodrigo de Freitas. Many Olympic events took place here. The shore is lined up by parks and sports clubs. This place is also popular for regattas and other water sports.

9. Santa Tereza And Escadaria Selaron

Santa Tereza is a district of steep and quiet streets with hundred-year-old houses. It has an atmospheric neighborhood. The cafes and restaurants have a Bohemian vibe as it is frequently visited by artists and intellectuals. The best way to explore the district is through wander in its streets which open out onto beautiful sites. There are many other attractions and things to do here which includes the church and convent of Santa Tereza dating to 1720.

You can see modern artwork by Picasso, Miro, and Matisse at Museu Chacara do Ceu. There is also Chinese sculpture from the 17th to 19th century. Adjacent to this place is Parque das Ruians which is the shell of a socialite’s mansion that fell into despair and is now an art, music, and performance venue.

The Escadaria Selaron, one of Rio’s newest tourist attractions, is at the edge of Santa Terza where it joins the Lapa neighborhood. From 1990 until his death in 2013, Jorge Selaron, a Chilean-born artist, covered the steps in front of his home with mosaics which were made from tiles, pottery, and mirrors. These were in blue, green, and yellow color which depicts the color of the Brazilian flag. He used broken tiles that he recovered from construction sites and demolitions of old buildings.

The long flights of steps in Jorge Selaron’s home drew attention of the tourists who started to bring him pottery and tiles from around the world. The 250 steps in his house are decorated with pieces from more than 60 countries which covers 125 meters of stairs. These steps can be seen in many movies as they are quite popular.

10. Sao Bento

Sao Bento is one of the finest Benedictine complexes in Brazil. There are church and monastery of Sao Bento on the hill just above the harbor. Earlier in 1617 the church was without aisles. Later in the second half of the 17th century, it was enlarged by adding eight side chapels. The decoration of the interior was done by the finest artists of the Benedictine order. A monk named Domingos da Conceicao did exuberant carvings on the walls and ceilings. He was responsible for the figures of St Benedict and St Scholastica on the high altar.

Silver work is done by Mestre Valentim at the choir chapel. A monk named Ricardo do Pilar was the foremost Benedictine painter of colonial Brazil. The chapel is decorated with 14 of his paintings. Senhor dos Martirios, his masterpiece, is in the sacristy of the monastery.

11. San Francisco Da Penitencia

There are separate entrances to the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco de Penitencia which is divided into three sections. The riches are stored in the simple façade of this church. It was in 1657 when the interior work began and got completed in 1773. The interior of this church is a riot of gilded wood carving.

Two leading Portuguese sculptors and woodcarvers, Manuel, and Francisco Xavier de Brito, contributed to the decoration of the interior. They had a similar technique of style known as Brito. They used decorative forms that influenced Aleijadinho and other masters of Brazilian Baroque. The choir’s ceiling has the earliest trompe-I’oeil paintings in Brazil which was completed in 1736. Later, Caetano da Costa Coelho painted the ceiling of the nave in the same style.

12. Teatro Municipal (Municipal Theater)

Inspired by the Paris Opera of Charles Garnier, the grand Municipal Theater was built in the early 20th century. The interior of this theater is even more ornate and luxurious than the dramatic towered facade. The sculptures by Henrique Bernardelli and paintings by Rodolfo Amoedo and Eliseu Visconti are the highlights of the theater. The drop curtain, the proscenium frieze, and the ceilings, are admirable and cannot be missed. Guided tours are available and some of them are in English. You can also attend the classical concerts and ballet performances here.

13. Quinta Da Boa Vista

The gardens, villas, and imperial palaces of Sao Cristovao have now been converted into public parks and museums. Quinta da Boa Vista being the first conversion. Earlier during 1808 to 1889, the palace was the residence of the royal and the imperial family. It was later renovated and rebuilt as the Palacio de Sao Cristovao. It is now the National Museum with the largest zoological, botanical, ethnographic, and archaeology collections present in the country. It has a total of more than a million items.

There are gardens with lakes, woodlands, and caves in the expansive park. You can reach thee via a miniature railway. There is also a zoo inside the park with more than 2000 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles which are from Brazil and other parts of the world.

14. Nossa Senhora Do Carmo And Monte Do Carmo

Nossa Senhora do Carmo was a parish church and a Royal Capel from 1808 to 1889. In 1976, the cathedral was replaced with a modern one. Monte do Carmo is a Carmelite church which is connected to Nossa Senhora da Carmo by a passage. The Baroque face, stone doorway, and the white and gold carving by Mestre Valentim in the Chapel are its highlights. The former cathedral is richly decorated with carvings and has a silver high altar. Nossa Senhora do Cabo da Bia Esperanca is a chapel on the side street which is the last surviving street oratory in the city.

15. Catedral De Sao Sebastiao

Architect Edgar Fonseca designed Rio’s new cathedral. He took inspiration from Mayan pyramids and interpreted their soaring forms in a modern context. It was built between 1964 and 1979. It is often referred as the New Cathedral to differentiate it from Nossa Senhora do Carmo, its immediate predecessor. The church can accommodate 5000 devotees and has 96-meter interior. The glass windows are 64-high from the floor and are four in number. The church is brilliantly filled with natural light.

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