Brazil’s culture blends a mix of traditions from all kinds of people including Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans. Everyone joins in when the most famous carnival in the world takes place each year. All over Brazil, the streets come alive with colorful parades, music, and dancing. The Feast of the Carnival is most vibrant and lively in Rio de Janeiro. This second-largest city also reveals the huge gap between the rich and poor people in Brazil. The vast slum areas around the edge of Rio de Janeiro are called favelas. These ghettos exist just a short distance away from modern, high-rise buildings and sophisticated nightclubs. Sugar Loaf Mountain earned its name in the days when sugar was sold in pointed and solid blocks. The statue of Christ the Redeemer is the symbol of Rio and Brazil and besides being an architectural marvel it provides access to the most beautiful views of the Guanabara Bay.
When To Go:
If you want to enjoy Rio at its best, plan your holiday between December and March when the climate is warm and sunny enough to swim in the ocean. The city’s enticing samba beat and idyllic views exist all year long but everything ramps up in February or early March to celebrate the Carnival. This four-day celebration brings thousands of guests and locals to the streets and happens in the days right before Fat Tuesday.
Discovering an affordable accommodation for a visit during the Carnival might be troublesome; you ought to consider booking your lodging and flight up to a year ahead of time.
In the middle of January and March, daytime temperatures can rise to and surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cannot tolerate the humidity it is advisable to plan your visit during spring (September and October) when the temperature falls once again to the 70s throughout the day and the 60s during the evening.
Here are the top
things to do
when in the city of Rio de Janeiro:
Cristo Redentor (Statue of Christ the Redeemer)
Statue of Christ the Redeemer
is one of the most important and iconic places to visit in Rio. From there, you can admire the entire panorama of the city and the bay, as well as the picturesque mountain called Sugar Loaf. You also get a nice view of the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and the huge bowl of the stadium “Maracana.” At the top of Mount Corcovado, where this statue is located, there is an electric railway (the first in Brazil), with the miniature train called the Corcovado. It was built by engineers Pereira Passos and Terceira Soares long before the Christ statue was constructed in 1882-1884.
It later played a major role in the construction of the monument and answered the need to deliver the construction materials that were used to build the huge monument. To get to the statue you can also drive on amotorway that passes through the Tijuca National Park. The Tijuca Forest is the largest forest area in the world that is also located in a city. Visit early in the morning to have a great picture of the Cristo Redentor without the crowds.
Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)
Sugar Loaf Mountain
, unusual views and experiences are guaranteed. The mountain consists of two parts. Basically, you must get there by taking two glass-walled cable cars. First, you go up to the Morro Urca. Here you will find a museum and restaurants where it is possible to sit and dine with views of the city.
The second part of the trip is getting to the observation deck of the mountain. Spend a few hours in order to see Rio in daylight and wait till sunset to admire the Rio night-lights. Better yet, reserve 4-5 hours to fully enjoy the stunning views (Christ, the beaches, and surrounding mountains) and to tune in to the interesting walks along the green paths. No need to bring food as there are lots of restaurants and a café that bakes delicious cheese bread. The place is worth a visit even if you are very afraid of heights, although tickets might be expensive.
The railway of the
consists of a small train with two red wagons that run up the slopes of a hill leading to the statue of the Christ the Redeemer. The well-known statue is always full of tourists and there will be a long line to climb and descend the mountain. The best way to get there fast is by riding this electric cog train. It runs every 30 minutes and in the morning there are usually fewer people. The view from the top is magnificent. If you go by train, then you can improve the best views to photograph: if you sit on the right, the views from the top will be even steeper.
In Rio, plan to stay for a few days at least to be sure of some cloudless weather, and then ascend this mountain to enjoy the most spectacular views of the city. Looking down on Rio you will finally understand why the people of Brazil chose to create here the standing statue of Christ that is now one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock)
offers much that will make you consider it as one of the essential must-see places in Rio. It has free access, parking, and is very approachable on an easy, well-marked trail that starts in the Tijuca Forest. From the top there are fantastic views across the waterfront of the beautiful city and you can also see the mysterious, ancient giant face carved into the Pedra da Gávea. This area is an important center for hang-gliders and paragliders; instructors will be happy to offer you a trip (prices may vary from one to the next.) Surprisingly, this place may not be too crowded; it is certainly an awesome destination for spending a beautiful day.
One of the popular things to do is to climb the beautiful rock with a group of friends and make a picnic up there — it is one of the cheapest and most beautiful walks that Rio de Janeiro can offer. The trail is easy, access is free and when you reach the top, the view is breathtaking. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most beautiful places in Rio with a perfect scenario to take lots of pictures.
Theatro Municipal Do Rio De Janeiro
This is an amazing theater building located in the old city center and fully decorated in onyx, making it look pompous and solemn. Located in the historic center of Rio (Cinelandia Square) the theater is the ideal starting point for a wonderful walking tour of Old Rio. The
Theatro Municipal Do Rio De Janeiro
is for those who love history, art, and literature.
Much of the history surrounding the construction of the Brazilian republic took place around this theater. It was modeled after the Paris Opera, and has undergone extensive renovations to restore all its original beauty. Be sure to go to a show during your visit to Rio. You should really go inside to appreciate not only the majestic building but also a good performance and the elegant interior ambience of the place. There are guided tours that can be arranged in advance to have a tour of the theater.
Reputed to be one of the most beautiful and clean Rio beaches, the Prainha Beach is the favorite of surfers especially when the sea is rough. This beach lovers’ paradise is just an hour’s drive from Rio, past the endless beaches of Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca. Prainha is nestled in a lush landscape, an ideal spot for surfers and lovers of nature. There are no buildings or resort places and no electricity.
At one end of the beach you can eat in the restaurant that offers tasty dishes, mainly based on fish. There are two other beaches close to each other that are suitable for kids but also for those who want to soak up the sun. Prainha is also one of the beaches in Rio that is perfect for diving from the rocks. This natural spectacle of giant boulders rising out of the sand creates great impact and reminds us that the geological side of Rio is fundamental to its stunning landscapes.
Petrópolis is a quaint city with several attractions that highlight the history of the Brazilian imperial period. Among the selection of parks and historic buildings throughout town, visits to the museum and the imperial brewery should definitely be on your list. Also worth seeing are the house of Santos Dumont and the Wax Museum which is directly opposite. Late June is the festival celebrating the original German settlers (Bauernfest), which is a lively time.
This is a welcoming city with a pleasant temperature in summer but very cold in the winter. The area has more interesting attractions like the Crystal Palace, the Imperial Museum, the Cathedral, chariot rides, and for an unusual digression you can observe knitting as a busy trade in the famous Tereza Street. It is a city with a bit of a European flair. It is easily accessible and less than 60 miles from the capital. It is worth the ride even if you need to return the same day. In summer, escape the heat and head up the river to have a glass of wine, enjoy a pleasant climate, visit the Bohemia Brewery and tour the entire region to see all of its beautiful attractions.
Sao Bento Monastery
Listening to the Gregorian Chants in
São Bento Monastery
is a delightful way to spend an afternoon and a good option to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The monastery epitomizes the art and form of Baroque church construction and the wealth of detail is impressive. It is extremely ornate, although a bit dark which slightly overshadows the beauty of the interior. This well-preserved sanctuary offers tranquility and beauty in the midst of the corporate jungle. The solemn monastery has a small library and a beautiful garden with a gazebo at the entrance where you can spend a quiet afternoon in peace. The monks are always solicitous throughout the masses and prayers. During Sunday mass when the monks are singing Gregorian chants, it all echoes in the walls, don’t miss it.
Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park
is very much worth a walk or a bike ride. If possible, include the Chinese view to see its gorgeous gazebo. This forest was hand-planted to help restore the water resources of Rio de Janeiro. Today they are well established and water gushes from the mountains of the Tijuca in waterfalls and streams. A somewhat chilly bath in the waterfall is always invigorating. The park is a great place to take a stroll with family and friends. Entrance is free and the park provides tables and grills scattered along the trails for picnics and weekend get-togethers with friends and family. It is a great place to escape the urban area without going too far.
The forest is an oasis within the metropolis with its marked trails, picnic grove areas, greenery, birds singing and the most pleasant temperature that is much lower than the city of Rio. If you plan to explore and walk, be aware that the Tijuca Forest is actually very big — the largest urban forest in the world. You can see waterfalls, small animals, and other groups of tourists along the trail. However, do not go alone, hire a guide and a vehicle to make the tour and the ascent to the summit easy to accomplish. Despite the problems of accessibility and security, it is still a major tourist attraction.
Forte de Copacabana
Located on Copacabana beach, the old fortress is truly vintage with its strong walls and a beautiful view of the ocean. At the
Forte de Copacabana
, it is interesting to explore the military history of Brazil where every corner breathes its own story about the country’s army. The old fort is now decommissioned but has still kept and preserved its powerful cannons.
You can see how the main caliber guns were charged and where they kept the projectiles. There is a museum with a lot of underground passages that is devoted to the history of the fortress and those who were responsible for its construction. It is an unusual landscape that is surrounded by a sandy beach — stylish and spotless, and with fewer crowds. On the waterfront side, it features beautiful views of Copacabana and the Sugarloaf Mountain.