13 Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Rio de Janeiro

Last Updated on January 12, 2021 by Darrif William

Sunshine, samba and sports – how better can you describe Rio de Janeiro, the carnival city of Brazil. Nicknamed ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ or the ‘Marvellous City’, Brazil’s second-largest city is a world of wonders. From scenic mountain top vistas and endless beaches to carnival parties and sunsets, Rio de Janeiro’s splendour never fails to disappoint. A perfect getaway for those seeking tropical vibes, more than one million foreign tourists come every year to the city founded by Portuguese in 1565. Rio de Janeiro has a lot to offer travellers, ranging from natural parks, protected monuments, beaches, mountains, cultural centres and statues. While planning the holiday, also make sure that you are in Rio De Janeiro between December and March, when the average temperature ranges between 25- 27ºC. April and May are also good for visitors as days are little cooler at this time of the year. Here, we have picked up 13 most popular tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro that you need to visit while in the city.


1. Admire the Christ the Redeemer


Made by Polish-French stone carver Paul Landowski, the mammoth statue of Jesus Christ rising above the city was completed in 1931, financed mostly by Brazilian Catholics. Made of high-consecrated cement and soapstone at the peak of the 700-metre Corcovado Mountain, the figure itself is 30 meters tall with arms extending 28 meters; weighing 635 metric tons. The base is a house of prayer, where it’s normal to hold weddings and baptism services. You can see this landmark, one of the ‘new 7 Wonders of the World’, without a guided tour in the morning light while exploring Sugarloaf Mountain Tour. Your visit to the statue includes a cable car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain for more spectacular views.


How to Reach: Take a train, van or hike. However, the Cog Train is the best way to reach Christ the Redeemer. Travel through the Atlantic Forest atop Corcovado Mountain. The train leaves approximately every 30 minutes and the ride up takes 20 minutes.

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2. Soak Up the View at Sugarloaf Mountain


Sugarloaf Mountain, one of the Rio de Janeiro’s famous milestones, is a 396-metre peak at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. It strategically projects out into the harbour and encircles the city. You can take a cable car from Praça General Tibúrcio to the highest point of the Morro da Urca, a lower peak from which a second cable car goes to the summit of the Sugarloaf. From here, you can admire a 360-degree view of the rugged coast that circles the shores and its islands. Below, the 100-meter Praia da Urca coastline can be seen sizzling with people and shops. At Cara de Cao, there are three 16th-century forts, out of which the star-shaped Fort Sao Joao is accessible to the public. The mountain is protected by the Sugarloaf Mountain and Urca Hill Natural Monument, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site


How to Reach: From Central, take Train 107 that goes straight to the Sugarloaf. To take the subway, go to Metro Botafogo and take the connecting bus 583 that will take you straight to Sugarloaf.

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3. Get in the Party Mood at Copacabana


Not many cities are honoured with a wonderful golden sand seashore at its heart, stretching four kilometres along the downtown. A couple of steps from the main city is Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, simply known as Copacabana Beach. One of the best places to visit in Rio De Janeiro, the beach’s surrounding is vibrant and the crowd is lively. To the left, you can view the lofty Sugar Loaf Mountain and the iconic Fort Duque Caxias. You’ll also spot old structures, dining establishments and well-known cafes. Not to forget the eminent Copacabana Palace, now preserved as a national landmark. Stroll along the beach to marvel at some of the most unbelievable sand sculptures and when you get thirsty, sip agua de coco or coconut water straight from the coconut. There are several sports facilities along the beach, such as volleyball and football.


How to Reach: Get on a La Paz-bound bus, minibus or micro. Tell the driver you need to go to Sorata and you will be dropped off at the small lakeside town of Huarina, which is 2 hours from La Paz. Cross the road and you’ll get a Copacabana bound bus or minibus.

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4. Leisure at Ipanema


Moving ahead from Copacabana’s four-kilometre strand, the seashores of Ipanema and Leblon are separated by the Jardim de Ala Canal. Along the seafront promenade are enormous inns, walkway bistros and eateries. Considered as ‘Little Paris of Rio’, this beach is considered as one of the main centres of activity for the city of Rio and one of the most expensive places to live. These two spots are best known for their shorelines and the famous song – The Girl from Ipanema and life here is extremely social, with exhibitions, film shows and street performance. Near to Ipanema Beach, the area thrives with a market place and the city fair. The beach is also the place to enjoy Brazilian feijoada and a lot of seafood. 


How to Reach: Ipanema Beach can be reached easily. It is located just about 8 miles from the centre of Rio de Janeiro via Av. Infante Dom Henrique. To reach here, hire a cab or travel by local transportations such as the city buses, Frescao buses, the subway (metro) and mini-buses.

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5. Get Wet Feet at Prainha Beach


If you’re looking for a peaceful stretch of sand, look no further than the half-moon shaped Prainha Beach. Bordered by hills and forests, Prainha Beach is usually uncrowded with clean sand and amazing views. It is known to be the city’s most scenic and alluring beach. The waves here are quite popular with surfers and swimmers. A few restaurants are overlooking the beach as well. Do not forget to relish Brazilian snacks and drinks. Come evening, you can witness several events and entertainment options. Watch the witty jugglers and magicians performing or join a group of young girls dancing to Brazilian tunes. Capture the sunset while sipping your favourite cocktail and enjoy beach games with young people.


How to Reach: Prainha Beach is 15 miles from the main Rio de Janeiro city centre. There is a direct bus departing from Largo do Machado and arriving at Prainha. Services depart four times a day and operate every day. The journey takes approximately 1hour 30minutes.

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6. Tour the Woodland City at Tijuca National Park


One of the top things to do in Rio de Janeiro is to tour the Woodland City at Tijuca National Park, which covers Tijuca Forest, a tropical rain forest and a few important points overlooking the city. The park surrounds the enormous statue of Christ on Corcovado. To explore this huge recreation centre, take the train till Corcovado and follow the forest trail up to the park gate. The 3,300-hectare Tijuca Forest is one of the world’s biggest woodlands inside a city that was created to protect the springs that provided water to Rio de Janeiro. A vast majority of the trees are local species that are home to Capuchin monkeys, quatis (Brazilian raccoon), bright toucans, birds of prey, splendid blue butterflies and different types of natural life, which you may spot while investigating its trails and streets. 


How to Reach: From the city centre, Tijuca National Park is a 20-minute drive. If you’re in a hotel near to the city centre, you can hire a cab or a taxi and easily reach the park.

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7. Explore the Nature’s Best at Jardim Botanical Garden


Covering 350 acres of land at the foot of Corcovado, Rio’s Jardim Botanico creates an ecological paradise with gardens and a research centre, all in a gorgeous park-like setting. It features the Orchidarium, an iron-and-glass nursery loaded up with 2,000 kinds of orchids, cherry trees, wooden extensions, koi lakes and Bonsai. You can also admire a sensory garden of sweet-smelling plants and herbs from all over the globe. The nursery, which is a UNESCO biosphere save, contains 8,000 types of vegetation birds and rare animals in their natural surroundings and is one of the best places to visit in Rio de Janeiro. You can stroll through the nurseries, eat and sip under the palms and pau-brasil trees or ride through the garden on an electric car. 


How to Reach: How to Reach: The best and fastest way to get to Jardim Botanical Garden is to take 409 bus from Christ the Redeemer, which takes 28 min or board Tram 18 from Botafogo.

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8. Cheer a Team at Maracana


Opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup, the Maraca is Brazil’s biggest arena that is located towards the east of Rio de Janeiro, about 3 miles from downtown Rio. Officially named the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho, it lies about 6 miles north of the Copacabana and Ipanema beach areas. At its first football game, the stadium witnessed 199,854 spectators on 16 July 1950. The stadium was remodelled for the FIFA World Cup 2014 with a capacity of 78,000 fans, making it one of the largest football stadiums in the world. The stadium is utilised for matches between Rio’s significant football clubs, the Flamengo, Botafogo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama and concerts. A short visit to this stadium would hold significance for soccer fans. Now a tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro, the stadium was also the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. 


How to Reach: The stadium can be easily reached by metro or train. Maracana station is on metro line 2, which can be boarded from downtown Rio or the Flamengo and Botafogo areas. Alternatively, get a transfer from line 1, which runs from the Copacabana and Ipanema areas.

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9. Catch Brazilian Culture at Santa Tereza and Escadaria Selaron


Santa Tereza is the city’s most dynamic neighbourhood and one of the top tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro. You get to see a region of steep, calm lanes and hundred-year-old homes here. Its cafes and restaurants are famous with artists and young people who add to the Bohemian environs. Even though its most captivating designs are simply discovered from the roadside, there are a few attractions and activities that draw an immense crowd. Among them, the cathedral of Santa Tereza stands out extraordinarily. The Museu Chacara do Ceu has a huge collection of modern art including the works of Picasso, Miro and Matisse. At the edge of Santa Tereza is one of Rio’s most up-to-date leisure spots, the Escadaria Selaron, the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón. The structure has mosaics made of tiles, stoneware and mirrors, numerous in blue, green and yellow shades of the Brazilian flag. Selaron started by utilising broken tiles that he collected from several constructions sites and turned them into amazing creations.  


How to Reach: Escadaria Selaron is easily reachable. It is roughly 1 mile from the Rio de Janeiro city centre. Hire a cab or travel by local transportations such as the city buses, Frescao buses, the subway (metro) or mini-buses.

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10. See the Spiritual Side at Sao Bento


On the hill just above the harbour, there is the church of Nossa Senhora de Montserrat and monastery of Sao Bento, which is one of the finest examples of architecture. The original 1617 church was without aisles until it was enlarged in the 17th century by the addition of eight side chapels. The finest artists of the Benedictine order were involved in decorating the interior. The excellent carving that covers the walls and ceiling was mainly the work of a monk named Domingos da Conceiçao, who was also responsible for the figures of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica on the high altar. The choir chapel has silver work by Mestre Valentim and 14 paintings by Ricardo do Pilar, a monk who was the foremost Benedictine painter of colonial Brazil. His masterpiece, Senhor dos Martirios is in the sacristy of the monastery.


How to Reach: Take the Cog Train. Travel through the countryside to the Village of Sao Bento to visit one of the best places in Rio de Janeiro. The train leaves approximately every 45 minutes. 

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11. Marvel at sculptors at Teatro Municipal


The grand Municipal Theater, built in the early 20th century, was inspired by the Paris Opera of Charles Garnier and its interior is even more ornate and luxurious than the dramatic towered façade. Highlights of the theatre are the sculptures by Henrique Bernardelli and paintings by Rodolfo Amoedo and Eliseu Visconti as well as the drop curtain, the proscenium frieze and the ceilings. There are guided tours, some in English or you can attend classical concerts and ballet performances here.


How to Reach: The Theatro Municipal is an opera house in the Centro district of Rio de Janeiro. You can easily get buses or hire a metered taxi to avoid overpaying.

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12. Enjoy Brazilian Nightlife at Vidigal


Rio de Janeiro is the only city in Brazil, where tourists can safely visit a favela and the safest of them all is Vidigal. After a successful pacification programme in the region a few years ago, Vidigal has incredible nightlife during the weekends, with bars such as Bar da Laje offering great views, appetizing food and delicious cocktails and Alto Vidigal with its all-night parties and exciting national and international DJ line-ups. Apart from famous bars and party venues, visitors can admire stunning scenic views and rent budget accommodation. Gradually this place is becoming one of the top tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro for people looking for an alternative experience in the city.


How to Reach: You would need a guide to explore this area. You can reach Vidigal by using public transport.


13. Ride the Waves at Arpoador


Tucked into the corner of Ipanema, Arpoador has some of the clearest and warmest waters of the beaches in Rio. During the day, it is a hotspot among surfers who go there to catch the small, neat waves or beach-goers who enjoy the suntrap of the peninsula. The most rewarding time to go is in the evening when you can watch the sunset over the horizon, providing one of Rio’s most vibrant and stunning sunsets.


How to Reach: You can get to Arpoador by bus or metro. These are the lines and routes that have stops nearby. Bus – 432, Bus – 455, Bus – 457, Bus – 474 & METRO L1.


Rio lives up to the name as the ‘Marvellous City’. There’s hardly anyone who would not fall hard for the alluring beauty of Rio de Janeiro. With stunning views of mountains, beaches, landmarks and more, this incredible destination has endless entertainment options for everyone, making it a must-visit place.

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