Rio de Janeiro Tourist Attractions

Rio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is the second major city in Brazil that is noted for its spectacular natural setting, Carnaval celebrations, tourist beaches, and Maracana, one of the world's largest football stadiums. Some well-known landmarks include the enormour statue of Jesus atop Corcovado mountain that has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and Sugarloaf mountain with cable cars for sightseeing.


Rio de Janeiro is famed throughout the world for the splendor and extravagance of its Carnival, which reaches its spectacular climax in the week before Good Friday and attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.

The celebrations of Carnival (in Portuguese Carnaval) take many forms, varying from place to place. Carnival has some pagan features, but is immediately followed by Lent, a time of penitence and fasting which is an important element in the Christian calendar. In Brazil the pre-Carnival celebrations begin with the New Year; but the Carnival proper takes place on the four days from Saturday to Shrove Tuesday. The fast, during which the eating of meat is prohibited, begins, as in Europe, on Ash Wednesday. Although the Carnival is celebrated throughout the country, in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Recife it has developed into a gigantic tourist attraction. Bahia was the birthplace of samba and the afoxés, devotees of Afro-Brazilian cults, who parade through the streets in groups - though nowadays modern competitors like the trios elétricos (trucks carrying groups of musicians and singers) have insinuated themselves into the processions and in Pernambuco frevo music and the maracatu (a procession mingling theatrical and musical elements play an important part. It is in Rio, however, that the celebrations are at their most lavish and spectacular.

Sugar Loaf

Sugar LoafSugar Loaf

The Sugar Loaf is perhaps Rio de Janeiro's best-known landmark. Between it and the Morro do Urubu is the 100 meter long Praia Vermelha ("Red Beach"). Nearby are a number of units of the Brazilian army's Military Academy and the 15m/50ft high monument to the heroes of Laguna and Dourados. From Praça General Tibúrcio a cableway runs up to the top of the Morro da Urca (215m/705ft), from which a second cableway runs to the summit of the Sugar Loaf (394m/1293ft).

City Center

City CenterCity Center

Praça Tiradentes

Praca TiradentesPraca Tiradentes
To the north of the Cathedral, on Rua Frei Caneca, is Praça Tiradentes (square), which until the mid 20th century was the center of Rio de Janeiro's theatrical life.

Teatro João Caetano

In Praça Tiradentes is the Teatro João Caetano, built in 1813 as the Teatro São João, the largest in imperial Brazil. In the square are a bronze figure of João Caetano (1860) and a statue of Dom Pedro I (1862).

São Francisco de Paula

Northof Teatro João Caetano is the church of São Francisco de Paula, with carving by Mestre Valentim on the high altar and in the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Vitórias. The church also had paintings by Victor Meireles and other 19th century artists.


The Sambódromo, in which the Carnival parades of the samba schools of Rio have been held since 1984, was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. With a total area of 85,000sq.m/102,000sq.yds, it has seating for up to 50,000 spectators. The associated Carnival Museum displays the trophies of the samba schools, which are brought up to date every six months.

Campo da Santana

Rua Frei Caneca runs west from the central area to the Campo de Santana (Praça da República) and the Sambódromo, a tiered street designed for the Carnival parades. The Campo de Santana, a tree-shaded park of over 155,000sq.m/185,000sq.yds with a lake and numerous fountains, was the scene of Dom Pedro I's triumphal procession after his coronation as Emperor and later, in 1889, of the proclamation of the Republic and with it the fall of the monarchy.
Also in the Campo de Santana are the Casa da Moeda (Mint; 1856-68) and a monument in honour of the Republican leader Benjamin Constant (1926). Opposite the park, on Avenida Presidente Vargas, is an equestrian statue (by Rodolfo Bernardelli, 1899) of the Duque de Caxias, crowning the National Pantheon in which the great Brazilian general and his wife are buried.

Estação Dom Pedro II

On Praça Cristiano Ottoni (Avenida Presidente Vargas, opposite the Campo de Santana) is the Estação Dom Pedro II (railway station; 1879).

Museum of History and Diplomacy

In Rua Marechal Floriano, is the Palácio do Itamarati, now occupied by the Museum of History and Diplomacy. Until 1897 it was the official residence of the President of the Republic, and thereafter was occupied by the Foreign Ministry. The Museum displays a variety of documents illustrating the work of Brazilian diplomats since the colonial period.


Morro da Urca (Morro Cara de Cão)

Beyond Botafogo beach two hills, the Morro da Urca and Morro Cara de Cão, and the famous Sugar Loaf project into the bay and narrow its entrance. At the foot of the two hills is the 100m/110yd long Praia da Urca, near the spot where the original nucleus of Rio de Janeiro lay, between the Morro Cara de Cão and the Sugar Loaf. On Cara de Cão are three forts - São João, São José and São Teodósio. Fort São João, which is open to the public, preserves a number of cannon of the 18th-20th centuries.

Tijuca National Park

Tijuca National ParkTijuca National Park
As the largest National Park in Brazil, Tijuca National Park encompasses a giant-sized statue of Christ, the Tijuca Forest and the Morro da Vista Chinesa.


To the south of the Morro do Urubu and Morro do Leme the world-famed beach of Copacabana extends for 4km/2.5mi. The first section is called the Praia do Leme. This 100-year-old district is the best known part of Rio. Just off the beach, on Avenida Atlântica, Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana and the neighboring streets, are some of the city's best hotels, restaurants and night spots, and on the wide sidewalks are numbers of street cafés, their tables packed closely together.
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Copacabana Palace Hotel

The Copacabana Palace, built in the 1920s and now protected as a national monument, conjures up the power, the wealth and the elegant life-style of the days when Rio was capital of Brazil.

Copacabana Fort

At the far end of the beach, on Praça Coronel Eugànio Franco, is Copacabana Fort, which dates only from 1914. Since 1987 it has housed the Artillery Museum, which along with the Casa de Deodoro (Praça da República) and the Casa de Osório (Rua Riachuelo, Centro) forms part of the Army Historical Museum. Here, beside early 20th century gun-turrets for big guns, are modern armored cars and rocket-launchers. Among the other exhibits are two fragments of the Brazilian flag with which the rebel soldiers garrisoning the fort advanced against government forces in 1922, when eighteen of them were mown down. They are commemorated by a monument on Avenida Atlântica.

Ilha de Paquetá

The island of Paquetá, with an area of just over a square kilometer and a population of rather more than 2000, is one of the most attractive places in Rio. It lies in Guanabara Bay, an hour's boat trip from Praça 15 de Novembro. The island, which can be explored only on foot, on a bicycle or in a horse-drawn carriage, has preserved many historic old buildings. Of particular interest are the Solar del Rey, a palace in which Dom João VI frequently stayed; the chapel of São Roque (1698); the houses of José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, father of Brazilian independence, and the writer Joaquim Manuel de Macedo; and the beaches of José Bomifácio and Comprida (or Moreninha).

São Cristóvão

Sao CristovaoSao Cristovao
From Praça Mauá Avenida Rodrigues Alves runs along the harbor to the São Cristóvão district, with the gardens and palaces of the imperial house, now public parks and museums.

Quinta da Boa Vista

One of the most attractive places in São Cristóvão is the park of Quinta da Boa Vista, with lakes, caves, clumps of trees, gardens and a railway which takes visitors round the park.

National Museum

From 1808 to 1889 the palace of Quinta da Boa Vista was the residence of the royal and the imperial family, and was much altered and rebuilt to become the Palácio de São Cristóvão. It now houses the National Museum, which has the largest zoological, botanical, ethnological and archaeological collections in the country, amounting in total to over a million items, as well as a library of 300,000 volumes. The Museum also runs postgraduate training courses.
Address: Quinta da Boa Vista, São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 20940-040, Brazil

Fauna Museum (Zoo)

Within the Quinta da Boa Vista park are the Fauna Museum, with specimens of Brazilian birds and mammals, and the Zoo, one of the finest in Brazil, with some 2400 species of mammals, birds and reptiles from Africa, Asia and Brazil.
Address: Quinta da Boa Vista, São Cristóvão, Brazil

Maracanã Stadium

To the south of the Quinta da Boa Vista, reached by way of Avenida Maracanã or Avenida Presidente Castelo Branco, is the Maracanã (or Mário Filho) Stadium. Built in 1950 for the World Cup, it is the largest stadium in the world, accommodating 170,000 spectators.


The Célio de Barros Olympic Stadium and the Gilberto Cardoso Palace of Sport (the Maracanãzinho), can seat up to 20,000 spectators. Adjoining the Stadium is a Museum of Sport, displaying jerseys, photographs, banners and other mementoes of a great variety of sports and of famous athletes, with the main emphasis on football.

Museum of First Reign

On Avenida Dom Pedro II, which runs from Avenida Rodrigues Alves to the Quinta da Boa Vista, is the Museu do Primeiro Reinado (Museum of the First Reign), housed in a neo-classical building of 1826, once the residence of Pedro I's mistress the Marquesa de Santos.
Address: Avenida Pedro II, 293, Brazil

Santa Tereza

Santa TerezaSanta Tereza Rodrigo Soldon
Since 1896 trams have been running over the Arcos da Lapa to Santa Tereza, a district of steep, quiet streets and hundred-year-old houses occupied by artists and intellectuals. The various tram routes lead to a variety of picturesque viewpoints.

Museu Chácara do Céu

Among sights of particular interest in Santa Tereza are the church and convent of Santa Tereza (1720; attributed to Alpoim) and the Museu Chácara do Céu, with an art collection, mainly of modern works, set in a park of 25,000sq.m/30,000sq.yds on the Morro do Curvelo. The 8000 exhibits include Chinese sculpture (17th-19th century) and works by Picasso.
Address: Rua Murtinho Nobre 93, Santa Tereza, Brazil

Ipanema & Leblon

Ipanema & LeblonIpanema & Leblon

The beaches of Ipanema and Leblon, along which run Avenidas Vieira Souto and Delfim Moreira, are separated by the Jardim de Alá Canal, which drains the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Along the seafront promenade are large hotels, sidewalk cafés and restaurants; and in addition these two districts of the city have a lively cultural life. In Praça General Osório in Ipanema is the Saracuras Fountain (by Mestre Valentim, 1795), and in this square is held Feirarte I, a fair for the sale of antiques, craft products, pictures, etc. In Praça de Quental in Leblon there is an antiques market every Sunday.

Surrounding Districts

There are numerous attractions in the outlying districts of Rio de Janeiro. These districts are still within the Greater Rio de Janeiro area and are easily reached using the city transit system.

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas

Lagoa Rodrigo
de Freitas
The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (area lies behind the high-rise blocks of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Many streets in these districts lead into Avenidas Borges de Medeiros and Epitácio Pessoa, which run round the lagoon, and to the parks and clubs round its shores. The lagoon offers ideal conditions for regattas and other water sports.

Botanic Garden (Museum)

On the west side of the lagoon, near the Flamengo Sailing Club and the Jockey Club (Jóquei Clube), is the Brigadeiro Faria Lima Park (reached from Avenida Borges de Medeiros), with an amusement park. To the left of the Jockey Club is the Botanic Garden (Jardim Botânico; area, with 5000 species of plants from all over the world. In the gardens are ponds with rare species of fish and Victoria amazonica water-lilies and other plants from the Amazon region. In half of the park's area the original vegetation has been preserved. The Botanic Garden was founded by Dom João VI for the acclimatization of tropical plants (e.g. the avocado tree, the clove bush, the royal palm and other exotic plants) from the Portuguese Empire. There are also a specialist library and two museums, the Botanical Museum and the Museu de Plantas Secas (Herbarium), which is used for research purposes. The entrance to the gardens is in Rua Jardim Botánico.
Address: Rua Jardim Botânico 1008, Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro 22460-000, Brazil


A hill separates the Praia do Pontal de Sernambetiba from the little Praia da Prainha, only 150m/165yds long, with high waves which attract surfers and white sand and clean water which also appeal to non-surfers. Avenida Estado da Guanabara, Estrada do Pontal and Avenida Sernambetiba link the Recreio dos Bandeirantes with the Prainha beach.


The Praia de Grumari, a beach of reddish sand surrounded by hills, came into favor only in the 1980s. It is the last beach before the Morro de Guaratiba (with the Praia do Perigoso), which bounds the Restinga de Marambaia. It is reached by way of Estrada de Grumari and Avenida Estado da Guanabara.

São Conrado

The elegant Praia de São Conrado extends for 1km/.7mi from the end of Avenida Niemeyer to the São Conrado Tunnel (reached on Estrada da Gávea and the coast road Avenida Prefeito Mendes de Morais). Its stormy waves attract many surfers. This is also the landing area for hang-gliders coming down from the Gávea Crag.


The 600m/660yd long Praia do Vidigal under the Morro Dois Irmãos is reached by way of the Dois Irmãos Tunnel and Avenida Niemeyer. Its luxury hotels form a stark contrast with the nearby Favela do Vidigal, one of Rio's largest shanty towns.

Lage Park

On the north side of the lagoon, off Rua Jardim Botânico, is the Lage Park (area 523,000sq.m/572,000sq.yds), the buildings in which are protected as national monuments. It contains areas of woodland, gardens, aquaria and a children's playground. The School of Visual Art occupies a luxurious early 20th century building faced with Italian marble and tiles.
In a handsome building in Lage Park is the City Historical Museum, with a variety of objects, works of art and documents illustrating the history of the city.

Barra da Tijuca

The beach of Barra da Tijuca extends for 18km/11mi from the Ponta do Joá to the Recreio dos Bandeirantes, taking in the large Lagoa de Marapendi and the Restingas de Itabeba and Jacarepaguá. Farther inland are the Lagoas de Jacarepaguá and da Tijuca. Lengths of beach equipped with bars and restaurants alternate with almost completely untouched stretches favored by surfers. The Praia dos Bandeirantes, where the sea is often rough, ends at the Pontal de Sernambetiba (reached on the coast road Avenida Sernambetiba and Avenida das Américas, which skirts the Restinga de Jacarepaguá.

Bosque da Barra

Avenida das Américas and Avenida Alvorada (which branches off Avenida Sernambetiba) runs through the Bosque da Barra (area 500,000sq.m/ 550,000sq.yds), also known as the Arruda-Câmara Park, with lakes, sports facilities and a children's playground.

Municipal Park

From Praça Santos Dumont, to the south of the Botanic Garden, Rua Marquàs de São Vicente runs in the direction of Gávea to join Estrada Santa Marinha, which runs into the Municipal Park in Gávea (area 470,000sq.m/514,000sq.yds), with beautiful expanses of grass, footpaths, a small stream and a lake.

Barra de Guaratiba

The beach of Barra de Guaratiba, which faces the open sea, lies 45km/28mi from the center of Rio, at the near end of the Restinga de Marambaia. Access by way of the Rio-Santos expressway and Estrada da Barra de Guaratiba.

Catacumba Park

Catacumba Park (or Marcos Tamoyo Park; area 300,000sq.m/ 328,000sq.yds), has numerous fruit-trees, five viewpoints and several picnic areas. This is a pedestrians-only park; there are occasional open-air events.

Sepetiba Bay

The beaches in Sepetiba Bay (60km/37mi from Rio; reached from the Rio-Santos road) are sheltered by the Ilha Grande and the Restinga de Marambaia and offer the attractions of calm water and a few fishing villages.

Cantagalo Park

Cantagalo Park, on the east side of the lagoon, is on Avenida Epitácio Pessoa; it contains a children's playground and various sports facilities.
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