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Top Rio de Janeiro Attractions

The first time you visit Rio de Janeiro, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro to help with your itinerary planning.

Corcovado Corcovado
Beaches Beaches
Pão de Açucar Pão de Açucar
Sambódromo Sambódromo
Maracanã Maracanã



Cristo RedentorCorcovado Mountain is home to the enormous Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue and has the Tijuca Forest (Floresta da Tijuca) nestled along its slopes. The construction plans for the 30-meter Christ statue began in 1921. It remains the most prominent of Rio’s landmarks and is visible from many parts of the city. He faces Guanabara Bay and extends his hands toward the Northern and Southern zones. There are a few ways to reach the magnificent views atop Corcovado, but the recommended way is taking the train from Cosme Velho. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily and costs $R30. There are also usually day tours offered through agencies or hotels- many offer a combination of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain.

The Tijuca National Forest is a perfect place for a picnic (make sure to bring enough food and drink, vendors aren’t as common as on the beach or other attractions). You can take a bus to Alta da Boa Vista and get off at Praça Alfonso Viseu, then continue your walk to see a 35-meter waterfall, a beautiful chapel, and the extensive wildlife that has returned since a reforestation project began in 1857.


Beaches / Guanabara Bay


Even if you don’t like sand, you’ll still appreciate Rio’s beaches. The long stretches of shore with picturesque mountains surrounding you is hard to describe as anything but spectacular. Though the bathing suits are quite small (for both men and women), it is extremely uncommon to see nudity on the beaches. Food and drinks are readily available from vendors. The main beaches in Rio are:

Located close to the Santos Dumont airport, this beach is good for sunbathing or sports in the adjacent Flamengo Park, but swimming isn’t recommended.

Both Flamengo and Botafogo have great views of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Botafogo beach is located in Guanabara Bay and is not recommended for swimming, either.

This has a high volume of tourists, and swimming is okay. At night, you should probably avoid the red-light disco “Help!” or you may be yelling that if someone pickpockets you.

Ipanema / Leblon
Great stretch of beach between Arpoador Rock and Dos Irmãos Hill- a personal favorite! There may be a man carrying a pineapple on a sword and screaming “Abacaxi!” Don’t be alarmed, just buy some delicious pineapple!

Barra da Tijuca
Newer area of Rio- very long beaches, and plenty of cariocas.


Pão de Açucar

Pão de Açucar is one of most recognized natural formations on the planet. The name has two possible origins; it resembles the metal mold used to refine sugar cane juice (hence “Sugar Loaf,” but the name may also be from a Tamoyan Indian word “Pau-nh-Açuquá” meaning “high, pointed hill.” Regardless of the name, Pão de Açucar completes the beautiful picturesque scene of Guanabara Bay and is home to some Brazilian wildlife as well.

A cable car system is available to ascend the mountain, which runs daily every 30 minutes from 8 a.m.- 10 p.m. and costs $R30. Sunset is a great time to go, but the views during the daytime are breathtaking as well. The car first stops at Morro da Urca, where you can go to a snack bar, restaurant, visit the shops or even catch a concert occasionally in the theater. You can then proceed to the summit of Sugar Loaf for an even better view of the city. For the more adventurous people, ascending by rock climbing is available, but the cable car system is used by Brazilians and tourists alike. To arrive at the base of the mountain, you can take a public bus or taxi to Urca or Praia Vermelha (Red Beach).




The Sambódromo is home the world’s most famous party- Carnaval! This mile-long stretch of concrete seating holds thousands of fans during the Carnaval celebration. If you decide to purchase tickets for Carnaval, the best nights are Sunday and Monday, though Friday and Saturday have the Division II samba schools parade as well.

The tradition of Carnaval goes back many years, and it occurs in countries other than Brazil. Each samba school, usually with its main headquarters found at the base of a favela, spends a whole year preparing a theme, costumes, an “enredo,” or song, and then put all their energy into an amazing performance for only one night! Actually, there is another parade the Saturday after Carnaval with just as much energy, but the labor and time taken to prepare for Carnaval is quite noteworthy.

Some of the main samba schools are Manguiera (the only school not featuring nude women), Beija-Flor, and Salgueiro. These schools host parties in the months preceding Carnaval and sometime perform on the beach stages where free concerts are held in the summer. Some Cariocas prefer to leave Rio during Carnaval time for a lower key but equally as fun weekend.



 Address Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo s/nº

Experiencing a soccer game in Maracanã is something you will never forget. You can sense the history the stadium possesses before you even enter it. Built for the 1950 World Cup (which Brazil unfortunately lost that year), it remains the world’s largest soccer stadium. Its highest attendance was 183,341 in 1969 (when Pelé scored his 1,000th goal), but has since been renovated and holds up to 103,022 fans now. Flamengo is the most popular of Rio’s soccer teams, but others include Vasco, Fluminense, and Botafogo.

If you want to attend a game there, you may not want to go alone. It can be a bit confusing to get tickets and enter the stadium, especially if you do not speak Portuguese. The area is also in the northern zone, which is not often frequented by tourists. However, the area is easily reached by subway- take Linha 1 to Estácio, then switch to Linha 2 and get off at the Maracanã stop.

Maracanãzinho (little Maracanã) is a nearby basketball and volleyball arena inaugurated in 1954. The Júlio Delamare Aquatic Center (water polo) completes the sports complex. Some travel agencies also offer trips to games and tours of the complex. Check local newspapers for dates and times of games, or ask at your accommodation.


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