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Best attractions in Rio de Janeiro: Top 20

The carnival city, which captivates with a riot of bright colors, the hot South American sun and the warm ocean… It is easy to guess that we are talking about Rio de Janeiro, a city generously awarded by nature itself. It is not without reason that Rio believes that the Almighty bestowed these lands to its inhabitants. In turn, the inhabitants of these lands have gratefully accepted this gift, ennobled and decorated it so that now the sights of Rio de Janeiro amaze with their opulence, beauty and diversity. Anyone visiting this sunny land will find something to see in Rio de Janeiro, and choose something spectacular and interesting for themselves.

What to see first in Rio de Janeiro

The city is famous for its beaches, beautiful nature, cozy parks, interesting museums and beautiful cathedrals. But what to see in Rio de Janeiro in 1 day if you are overwhelmed by its magnificence? Where to go to make even the shortest trip a vivid memory to last a lifetime? In order to simplify the upcoming choice, the top top attractions of Rio de Janeiro in brief was compiled.

1. Statue of Christ the Redeemer

The statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched atop Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

The most important symbol of the city, revered not only by residents but also by visitors to the city, is the 38-meter-high Monument of the Redeemer, located at the very top of Mount Corcovado. Every year millions of tourists make the ascent up the mountain more than 700 meters high to the foot of the monument. From here you can appreciate all the grandeur of the statue and look around and see how beautiful the surrounding panorama is. The idea to erect the monument appeared in the 16th century, but for lack of sufficient technical capabilities was postponed for an indefinite period. Only at the beginning of the 20th century works on the construction of the monument were started, and 10 years later its grand opening took place.

Official website:

2. Copacabana Beach

The shoreline of Copacabana City Beach in Rio de Janeiro

This is a beach that is famous all over the world. The 4km strip of sandy beach within the city has become so notable because it is here like nowhere else in the world that the spirit of Brazilian culture is reflected: the beach hosts numerous public celebrations and fiery parties attended by celebrities and simply beautiful people from all over the world. It is the place of Rio de Janeiro’s chic restaurants and hotels, luxury coastal cottages and penthouses that are so popular with the European elite.

3. The Sugar Loaf Head

View of Pan di Azúcar in Rio de Janeiro

There is another notable mountain within Rio called Sugar Loaf Mountain, which has a peculiar shape. Its resemblance to a large lump of sugar is what gave rise to its name. The mountain looks like it rises high above the waters of Guanabara Bay. There is an observation deck on its summit, which can only be reached by cable car - the mountain is surrounded by impenetrable dense forest. From the top there is an impressive view of the sea, beaches, city neighborhoods, and the statue of Christ, which looks especially beautiful from here.

Official website:

4. Municipal Theater

The Municipal Theater was erected in the early twentieth century in Rio de Janeiro's Mareschal Floriano Square

In the heart of the city is Floriano Square, whose adornment is the building of the Municipal Theatre. The unusual facade of the theater with its abundance of decorative elements represents a mix of architectural styles. Despite its name, the theater does not belong to the city, but it is closely linked to the development of the city: the building was erected as an element of the architectural ensemble created in the redevelopment of one of the streets. Since its opening in 1909, the theater has undergone many alterations and been equipped with new elevators and lighting equipment. The theater scene has become the venue for famous foreign groups, symphony orchestras and ballet troupes.

5. National Museum of Fine Arts

The main facade of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro Dornicke

Continues the ranking of the museum, which holds a valuable collection of works of national art - sculptures, paintings, creations of arts and crafts. Despite the fact that the museum itself was opened in 1937, the beginning of the collection goes back much earlier: in the 19th century the Portuguese royal court moved to Brazil, and the Portuguese king brought with him part of the collection from the royal house. The exterior architecture of the museum is eclectic, as the architectural plan was changed several times during construction. Today the collection numbers about 20,000 works, including a collection of drawings, prints, and paintings by foreign artists, including famous Italian masters of painting.

Official website:

Check out the beautiful sites of Rio de Janeiro in this great video!

6. Museum of Modern Art

Building of the Museum of Contemporary Art in the public park of Flamengo Halley Pacheco de Oliveira

When choosing what to visit in Rio de Janeiro among the “young” attractions, it is definitely worth allocating time for the Museum of Modern Art. It is famous not even so much for its exposition as for its unusual appearance. The elegant building is decorated in a kind of futuristic style in the form of a giant bowl on a thin leg. All around this “bowl” are large panoramic windows overlooking the city. A long, curved and slightly sloping road leads to the museum entrance. The extraordinary museum opened its doors in 1996, and the basis of its exposition is the collection of the famous collector Joan Sattamini.

7. Portuguese Royal Library

Interior of the Reading Room of the Portuguese Royal Library Mayumi Ishikawa

This is one of the most recognizable libraries in the city. The institution was founded back in 1837, but wasn’t open to the public until 1900. The Gothic-Renaissance façade, decorated with medallions, is complemented by 4 sculptures of great personalities of Portugal: three sailors and a poet. The interior of the library presents an abundance of beautiful decorative elements of carved wood, and the luxurious wrought iron chandelier, hanging from the mosaic dome, completes the entourage. Even more impressive is a huge number of books, filling the shelves from floor to ceiling - there are over 350,000 books in total.

8. Ilha Castle

The Ilha Fiscal Castle on a small island in the Guanabara Bay off the coast of Rio de Janeiro Diego Baravelli
The central facade of Ilha Fiscal Castle with a 20-meter clock tower Juliana Swenson

The tiny island of Fiscal is known for its extraordinary castle. If you believe the many reviews, many who have seen this palace for the first time associate it with fairy tales of princesses and valiant knights. No one would have guessed that the walls of the beautiful castle housed the Brazilian customs service. More than half a million travelers make the trip to Fiscal each year just to admire the mesmerizing architecture of the castle. In addition to the customs office itself, there is a museum within the castle walls dedicated to the history of the navy. The main tower of the castle is adorned by a lighted clock, which has become the main reference point for sailors arriving in Guanabara Bay.

9. Palacio de Tiradentis

Statue of Joaquin José da Silva Chavier (Tiradentis) in front of the Legislative Assembly building

The eclectic castle of the early 20th century, built for administrative purposes, was the seat of the Legislative Assembly. It was named after one of the national heroes, Tiradentis, a fighter for the country’s independence who was executed after serving time in prison. The prison, where the famous figure was spending his term, was once located on the site of this palace. His fame is immortalized in a monument erected right in front of the building. Today, within the walls of the palace you can admire French mosaics, see paintings by famous Brazilian painters and antique Portuguese furniture.

10. Celaron’s Staircase

Created by Chilean artist Jorge Celaron, the 125-meter multicolored staircase

Trips to Rio de Janeiro rarely go without a visit to Celaron’s staircase - it’s simply impossible to leave this creation unnoticed. The bright staircase with its many colors has become world famous thanks to the work of Chilean artist Celaron. In 1990 he decided to renovate the old staircase, which originated right outside his home. Over time, this modest project grew to impressive proportions and dragged on for 23 years, culminating in the artist’s death. The 250 steps of the staircase are decorated with more than 2,000 red, yellow, blue and green pieces of tile imported from around the world.

11. Candelaria Church

The Church of Our Lady of Candelaria among modern urban buildings Donatas Dabravolskas
Interior decoration of Candelaria Church in Rio de JaneiroFulviusbsas

During the colonial period, this landmark of Brazil was the largest Catholic church in the country. The beautiful architecture of the church even today surprises with its beauty. In fact, several styles from Baroque to Neoclassical were involved in the design of the facade. The history of the temple is associated with the legend of the ship Candelaria, which in 1609 was caught in a great storm. The sailors of the ship at the time of the disaster vowed to erect a chapel if the Almighty would spare their lives. The storm soon abated and the rescued sailors kept their promise and erected a wooden chapel. Later in the 18th century, a beautiful stone Candelaria church was erected in place of the dilapidated chapel.

Official website:

12. St. Sebastian Cathedral

Saint Sebastian Cathedral is conically shaped in the center of the city Halley Pacheco de Oliveira
Rectangular stained glass windows in the interior of Saint Sebastian Cathedral chensiyuan

The sights of Rio de Janeiro sometimes surprise with their strangeness - one striking example is the Church of Saint Sebastian, located in the heart of the city. Seeing it for the first time, probably no tourist will recognize it as a cathedral because its architecture is so unusual. The cathedral was built in modernist style in honor of the city’s patron saint by an architect inspired by the ancient Mayan pyramids. It has a huge area of 106 meters in diameter and an impressive height of nearly 100 meters and can hold up to 2,000 worshipers at a time. The interior is also impressive: the high mosaic windows let in sunlight which is magically coloured by the different colors of the mosaic itself.

13. The Monastery of St. Benedict

Catholic Monastery of Saint Benedict on Morro de São Bento Halley Pacheco de Oliveira
Decoration of the interior of the Monastery of St. Benedict Halley Pacheco de Oliveira

This ancient monastery in the historic part of the city was built by the monks of the Saint Benedict order in the 16th century. A century later, the monastery was rebuilt in the new Mannerist aesthetic style by the Portuguese and this is the appearance of the shrine that has been preserved to this day. The monastery is still active today and houses a number of educational institutions. The austerity of the facade contrasts strikingly with the interior, which is characterized by an abundance of carvings and gold. There is also an active museum within the walls of the monastery, with one of Brazil’s best collections of religious artifacts.

14. Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro

View of the Statue of Christ the Redeemer from the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD

“The Green Zone” of the city, where guides in Rio de Janeiro will bring you to get away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, will give you a long-awaited rest and a charge of new energy. The 140-hectare garden is home to more than 6,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, including rare and endangered species. In addition to exotic plants and beautiful flowers, there are small representatives of fauna - birds, small monkeys, lizards, squirrels, etc. During a walk through the territory of the garden you can meet a number of monuments of archeology, as well as visit the scientific center, which has the largest library of botanical books in the country.

15. Flamengo Park

Park Flamengo is an urban recreation area in Rio de Janeiro Eduardo P

This picturesque park with beaches by Guanabara Bay is very popular with travelers and locals alike. It is a large recreational area of 120 hectares with several thousand species of trees. Compared to Rio’s bustling beaches, Flamengo’s beaches are like an oasis in the shade of sprawling crowns. There’s a dense network of hiking and biking trails that make it ideal for leisurely strolls. Local attractions, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the museum dedicated to the life and work of Carmen Miranda, are not without their sights.

Sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro: What else is there to see in Rio de Janeiro?

The magnetism of Rio, its beauty and southern temperament make you want to return here again. The traveler, coming to the Brazilian capital not for the first time, is looking for somewhere to go in Rio de Janeiro to repeat those vivid emotions experienced during the first acquaintance. And, of course, there are many such places - in addition to those that have already been described in this article. Other interesting sights of Rio de Janeiro, photos with names and descriptions are given below.

16. Carioca Aqueduct

Since the late 19th century, the arches of the aqueduct serve as a bridge for the popular Saint Teresa Tram Thad Roan

There have been plans to build a canal in the city to deliver fresh water since the 17th century. Attempts at construction at the time constantly turned to technical and material difficulties, and only a century later the construction of the aqueduct began a new turn. As a result, after another 20 years, residents were already able to receive clean water from the Carioca River in several parts of the city. Later, the aqueduct was rebuilt, enlarged, and began to serve in parallel as a bridge - today a streetcar runs along it, intended mainly for tourists who want to see as many of the city’s sights as possible.

17. Maracana Stadium

Panorama of Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium Daniel Basil

The great soccer nation has the best soccer stadiums, with perfect technical equipment and large capacity. One of the best attractions in Rio de Janeiro, the largest soccer arena in Brazil, the Maracana is a stadium of international renown, the heart of legendary Brazilian soccer. It is here that the most important events in the history of world soccer are decided. Capacity of the stadium is about 80 thousand seats. Although according to some reports, sometimes there were so many people willing to cheer for their favorite team that up to 180 thousand people gathered in the stadium! This made the Maracana a Guinness World Record holder.

18. Ipanema Beach

The famous Ipanema Beach, surrounded by Rio de Janeiro's prestigious districts Joonasl

As for beach holidays, the next part of the recommendation refers to one of the most popular beaches in Brazil, after Copacabana. Chic cottages, multi-star hotels, museum galleries, boutiques, upscale nightclubs and restaurants are all concentrated on one of the city’s most prestigious beaches. It’s a place of serene relaxation and active entertainment - surfing, soccer, volleyball and even capoeira. In between games and recreation, you can cool off with a glass or two of soft drink or do some cultural tourism.

19. Tijuca National Park

Tourists in Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro

This is a true natural treasure, the largest forest in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro. It is in the Tijuca National Park that the most emblematic sights are located - Mount Corcovado, which offers stunning panoramas of the city and its surroundings, and the statue of Christ, one of the seven new wonders of the world, located atop Corcavado. There are also several picturesque waterfalls and a hundred and fifty hiking trails, which allow you to visit the most stunningly beautiful and interesting places - observation decks, mountain peaks with wonderful views, ancient chapels, man-made decorative ponds and bridges.

20. Carnival

Huge moving platform at the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Ian Gampon
Machines with Samba school dancers at the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
Participant of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Agência Brasil Fotografias

In February, when Brazil is in the height of summer, the whole country turns into an extravaganza of lush and colorful festivities - of course, this is the carnival in Rio. The city, enveloped by the intoxicating rhythms of the irrepressible samba, parades down a special avenue surrounded by spectator stands. Watching this spectacle, full of excitement and joy, it is hard to believe that every step of the procession has been honed by the dancers for a year. After all, the purpose of the performers is not only to win the hearts of the audience, but also to impress the panel of judges, who strictly assess the performance. Carnival in Rio is a kind of milestone, followed by a 40-day Lenten fast.

The temperamental city of samba, beautiful nature, the best beaches and soccer has a distinctive and memorable image. The people of Rio are simple, carefree and easygoing, infecting everyone with their cheerful mood. So when you’re in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll feel right at home and be enchanted by this fabulous city forever.

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