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World Travel Guide > Guides > South America > Brazil > Rio de Janeiro

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Things to see in Rio de Janeiro

Tourist Offices

Riotur (Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority)

Address: Centro, Praça Pio X, 119, 9th floor, Rio de Janeiro, 20040-020
Telephone: +55 21 2271 7000.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1800.

Website: http://www.rio.rj.gov.br/riotur

Rio de Janeiro City's Tourism Company is part of the Special Secretariat for Tourism and is in charge of the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro’s tourist policy. Their Centro office operates alongside more than 10 smaller stalls and kiosks at various locations throughout the city. There is also a telephone information service for tourists available in English and Portuguese. TurisRio (tel:+55 21 3803 9366) phone lines are open Monday to Friday 0900-1800.

Attractions

Corcovado (Hunchback Mountain) and Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

So named because of its distinctive steeply hunched peak, Corcovado rises over Tijuca National Park. It is home to what is probably the most recognizable image of Rio: that of the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue, which seems to dominate the skyline from every side of the city. Designed by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, and inaugurated in 1931, the iconic open-armed statue stands on top of the 710m (2,330 ft) mountain and is itself 30m (99 ft) tall. The site is best visited via the historic cog railway, which takes 20 minutes to wind up through the forest to a station just below the summit. From here, 220 steep steps lead to the summit; alternatively take one of the lifts or escalators. Weather permitting (early morning mist is common); there are stunning views of the whole city and bay area below. After dark, floodlights illuminate the statue, providing a dramatic sight visible all across Rio.

Address: Cosme Velho, Rua Cosme Velho 513, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 2558 1329.
Opening times:

Daily 0800-2000 with departures every 30 minutes.

Website: http://www.corcovado.com.br
Admission Fees:

Yes (including train and entrance)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)

This bare domed peak jutting into the bay between Botafogo and Copacabana vies with Corcovado as Rio's most iconic and familiar feature. Its name derives from the Portuguese name for a mound of sugar, as the rounded 394m (1,293 ft) granite massif was thought to resemble moulds used to set sugar cane.

Climbers frequently ascend the rock face but most visitors take the less strenuous route to the top via the two cable cars, which offer breathtaking 360° views through their glass walls.

The first leg of the ascent goes from Praia Vermelha to the 220m-high (720 ft) summit of Morro da Urca. The second leg completes the journey to the Sugarloaf over a distance of 750m (2,460 ft).

The final stop offers fine views of the beaches, the city, the mountains of Tijuca National Park and the islands of Guanabara Bay. Just before sunset is the most dramatic time to arrive, to see the city lights and the Christ Redeemer statue illuminated on the horizon. The area also has several safe, wooded trails, where you can escape the crowds and, with luck, spot monkeys, parrots and hummingbirds.

Address: Praia Vermelha, Avenida Pasteur 520, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 2546 8400.
Opening times:

Daily 0800-2200; the cable car leaves every 30 minutes or when full with the last departure up from Praia Vermelha at 2000).

Website: http://www.bondinho.com.br
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Copacabana

Rio's most famous neighbourhood, Copacabana, is best known for its amazing beach that stretches in a wide sandy arc for 4km (2.5 miles). Carioca girls, in dental floss bikinis, bask in the scorching sun alongside young families, senior citizens and newly arrived tourists. The seafront is a hive of activity from dawn until dusk. Early morning joggers and power walkers pound the wavy, black and white mosaic path that fringes the beach, cyclists whizz by in the cycle lane, and the beach football pitches and volleyball courts are in constant use. As on most of Rio's beaches, strong currents make swimming hazardous, although vigilant lifeguards keep a careful watch from the numbered postos (lookout stations).

Nearby, top-class resort hotels and apartment blocks dominate the seafront Avenida Atlântica. It is advisable to take the minimum of possessions and money to the beach, as the obvious tourist is an easy target for petty thieves.

Address: , Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, ,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Ipanema

This super-cool neighbourhood offers an enticing blend of beach life, trendy bars and chic boutiques. The area became famous in the mid 1960s with the worldwide smash hit, 'The Girl from Ipanema'. The bar where the songwriters sat to "watch the girl passing by", now known as Garota de Ipanema, is a firm favourite among tourists.

The daytime focus of Ipanema is the beach, incorporating Arpoador and Leblon beaches at either end. Like Copacabana, Ipanema draws beach-lovers who exercise, sun bathe, or just people watch. Each evening, locals crowd onto the sand to watch the sun setting behind the imposing peak of Dois Irmãos. Shopping is also a major pastime as many of Rio's best fashion outlets and jewellery stores are here, particularly along Avenida Garcia d'Avila and Rua Visconde de Pirajá. Souvenir hunters flock to the Feira Hippie crafts market on Sundays. By night, Ipanema's rich and beautiful set comes out to play, mingling in its cocktail bars, gourmet restaurants and nightclubs.

Address: , Ipanema, ,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Estádio Maracanã (Maracanã Stadium)

The epicentre of Brazilian futebol, the Estádio Maracanã is also a sporting shrine for football fans from around the world. The world's biggest stadium was originally capable of holding around 200,000 people when it was built to host the 1950 World Cup Final. Even since converting to all-seated terracing in 1999, it still has capacity for 100,000 spectators. As well as football matches, live concerts have also been held at the Maracanã. Over the years many mega stars have performed here including Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Madonna. The stadium went through an extensive programme of refurbishment in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals and again before the 2016 Olympic Games.

In its heyday, the stadium was used up to three times a week, hosting home fixtures for three of Rio’s biggest football clubs: Flamengo, Fluminese and Vasco. But, since the Olympics, costs to stage matches have spiralled, pricing all three clubs out of using the stadium. Redevelopment work has stalled and, as of January 2017, Maracanã Stadium remains in a dilapidated state - 7,000 of its 80,000 seats missing.

Address: Centro, Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 8871 3950.
Opening times:

Closed to visitors (January 2017).

Website: http://www.maracana.com
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Jardim Botânico (Botanic Gardens)

Rio's magnificent and historic gardens contain more than 8,000 native and imported species of flora, plus many free roaming animals, including monkeys, birds and butterflies. Considered one of the most important collections of tropical plants in the world, the Botanic Gardens were founded in 1808 by Dom João, the Prince Regent and subsequent Brazilian emperor. Its star attraction is the Aleia Barbosa Rodrigues – a pathway lined by towering Imperial Palms, all of which come from the original "Palma Mater" planted in 1842. Other highlights include a pond of giant Vitoria Regis waterlilies, as well as thousands of orchids, bromeliads, insectivorous plants and a sensory garden created with wheelchair users in mind. There are also several plant houses as well as the Museum of the Environment and a play area for families. It is best to visit in the morning when birds and other animals are most active.

Address: Jardim Botânico, , Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 3874 1808.
Opening times:

Mon 1200-1700, Tue-Sun 0800-1700 (Museum: Tue-Sun 0900-1700).

Website: http://www.jbrj.gov.br
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Centro (Centre)

Rio's historic downtown district provides a worthwhile break from beach life. Its museums and galleries are housed in imposing colonial building and it boasts lively back street cafes, bars and dancehalls.

One of its main attractions is the Mosteiro de São Bento (Monastery of St Benedict), a 17th-century monastery and UNESCO World Heritage site with an opulent interior lined with gilt carving and historic paintings. The 18th-century Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace) and many other grand buildings, churches and museums are located on and around the harbourside square, Praça 15 de Novembro. One of the most impressive churches is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária (Church of Our Lady of Candlemas) with its domed roof, marble interior, wood carvings and stained-glass windows.

Art lovers will appreciate the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), where paintings by Brazil's most prominent 19th- and 20th-century artists are exhibited along with African and folk artworks.

Modern architecture is well represented too, such as the striking pyramidal Cathedral, which contrasts with the whitewashed 18th-century arches of the nearby Arcos da Lapa.

Address: , Centro, Rio de Janeiro, ,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Parque Nacional da Tijuca (Tijuca National Park)

One of the last remnants of Atlantic Rainforest, Tijuca National Park is the world's largest urban forest and Brazil's only inner city national park, giving Rio residents and visitors a huge natural wonderland on its doorstep. The park embraces the city, its dense vegetation tumbling down steep mountainsides from Corcovado west to Barra de Tijuca. Much of the forest was cleared for coffee plantations in the 19th century but a reforestation project successfully restored it, bringing back many rare animals and plants to their original habitat.

The park's abundant flora includes eucalyptus, jacaranda and jackfruit trees, orchids and bromeliads, as well as many species of birds, ocelots, monkeys, butterflies and reptiles. There are waterfalls and cooling streams too, as well as viewpoints such as Mirante Dona Marta and Vista Chinesa, which provide some of the city's most awesome panoramas. Hundreds of walking and cycling trails lead through the forest, including ascents of Rio's highest peaks, Pico da Tijuca at 1021m (3350 ft) and Bico do Papagaio at 990m (3250 ft). Some isolated stretches can be targeted by criminals, so visitors are advised not to go alone but join one of the guided walks offered by trekking companies.

If all this sounds too strenuous, there are various picnic spots for relaxation and enjoyment of the natural surroundings.

Address: Alto da Boa Vista, Praça Afonso Viseu, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 2492 2252.
Opening times:

Daily 0800-1700.

Website: http://www.parquedatijuca.com.br
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Museu de Arte Contemporanea (Modern Art Museum)

Oscar Niemeyer's dazzling white design appears to hover over the water's edge, a short hop across the bay in Niterói. The flying saucer-like building is still as futuristic as when it was completed in 1996. The gallery is suspended over a pond by a single pillar, while visitors enter via a sweeping curved ramp. The overall effect is light, airy, and breathtaking; the art on show inside isn't bad either. MAC's permanent collection comprises some 1,200 paintings and sculptures by major Brazilian artists and other Latin American creatives. The huge wraparound windows will distract even the most avid art lover as they afford stunning views over the water of Sugarloaf and Rio's mountainous skyline. The best way to visit the museum is via ferry from downtown Praca XV to Charitas port, which was also designed by Niemeyer.

Address: , Mirante da Boa Viagem, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, ,
Telephone: (21) 2620 2400.
Opening times:

Tue-Sun 0900-1800

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes (free on Weds)

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon)

This saltwater lagoon is a huge open space in the middle of Rio, connected to the sea via a narrow canal that divides Ipanema and Leblon. It offers a relaxing, family-friendly alternative to the beach with fantastic views including the ever-present Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado. At the weekend, visitors join the city's residents for a stroll, jog or cycle on the 8km (5 miles) perimeter path, with bicycles and four-wheeled pedal buggies available for hire. Children paddle around the lake on swan-shaped pedalos, while others enjoy its waterfront cafes, exercise stations and stalls serving coconut milk fresh from the shell. In the evening, the lakeside takes on a romantic mood, as diners sit under the stars at one of the many quiosques (open-air restaurants), which specialise in regional and international cuisine. Some also provide live music for entertainment on weekend nights.

Address: , Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janeiro, ,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Museu Internacional do Arte Naif (International Naive Art Museum)

This charming little museum contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Naïve art in the world and makes an ideal activity on a rainy day. The simplistic, colourful exhibits line the walls of an historic mansion, situated next door to the Corcovado Train Station. Its collection has more than 6,000 works of art, displayed in permanent and temporary exhibitions. The artworks span the 14th century to the present day, by artists from 100 countries. The collection includes a showcase by Henri Rousseau, the French forefather of Naïve art, as well as a huge mural of Rio (the largest Naïve artwork in the world) by Lia Mittarakis.

Address: Cosme Velho, Rua Cosme Velho 561, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 2205 8612.
Opening times:

Tues-Fri 1000-1800, Sat-Sun 1200-1700.

Website: http://www.museunaif.com
Admission Fees:

Yes

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Igreja da Glória (Gloria Church)

This gorgeous little 18th-century church, perched on a leafy hilltop overlooking Glória Marina, is properly named the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Glória do Outeiro (Church of Our Lady Glória of Outeiro). To Cariocas, however, it is simply the Igreja da Glória, and is widely considered their favourite church. With its elegant single bell-tower and beautiful interior decorated in rococo woodcarving and Portuguese blue azulejos (tiles), Glória is one of the most important examples of colonial religious architecture in Brazil. It stands on the historic site where Portuguese army officer Estácio da Sá founded the city, repelling French forces in 1564.

Address: , Praça Nossa Senhora da Glória, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 2225 2869.
Opening times:

Tue-Fri 0900-1200 and 1300-1700; Sat -Sun 0900-1200.

Website: http://outeirodagloria.org.br
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: Yes

Santa Teresa

One of Rio's oldest neighbourhoods, leafy hillside Santa Teresa is lined with gently crumbling colonial mansions and its cobblestone streets offer stunning views over the city centre below. The favoured home for Rio's artists and writers, Santa Teresa is a quiet and attractive district that is also popular with visitors wishing to escape the crowded Zona Sul. It has a good range of upscale boutique hotels, arty bed and breakfasts and backpacker hostels, as well as gourmet restaurants, cafes and bars. The Museu da Chácara do Céu is the area's top art museum, but there are a couple of other museums worth checking out too, along with art galleries and handicraft shops. Getting to Santa Teresa is another of its highlights, via Rio's only surviving tramline. The historic open-sided wooden bondes lurch up the winding streets, making this an unmissable experience. The line is due to re-open in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after a modernisation programme.

Address: Santa Teresa, , Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Museu do Indio

Housed in a 19th-century mansion on a quiet residential backstreet, this is one of Rio's hidden gems. The small but specialised museum is devoted to the country's indigenous people, whose numbers have been decimated through centuries of conflict. Their culture has been preserved to the present day and the exhibitions here display hundreds of artefacts, photographs and other archive materials that recreate the everyday lives of Brazil's original inhabitants. Sound recordings and film clips immerse visitors in the rainforest and village communities. A reconstructed Xingu dwelling stands in the museum grounds and authentic handicrafts are on sale in the adjacent gift-shop. Activities and events take place all year round, including a special ceremony on 19 April, the Day of the Indian.

Address: Botafogo, Rua das Palmeiras 55, Rio de Janeiro,
Telephone: (21) 3214 8700.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1730, Sat, Sun and public holidays 1300-1700 (due to re-open by end of 2014 after renovation works).

Website:
Admission Fees:

Free

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Lapa

This downtown district has had a colourful past: from lawless slum to red light district to artists' retreat. Today, Lapa is fully established as Rio's hotspot for live music. Many artists and writers have lived here over the years, and its sprawling old warehouses have been converted into wonderfully atmospheric clubs, bars, galleries and restaurants. By day, the cobbled backstreets are quiet and some corners are not safe for wandering around alone, but at night visitors can hop from club to club, sampling everything from reggae and rock to samba and bossa nova, even chamber music at the historic Sala Cecília Meireles. Architectural highlights include the iconic Arcos de Lapa, a whitewashed arched viaduct, which also houses a couple of Lapa's biggest music venues: Circo Voador and Fundição Progresso. On the first Saturday of the month is the Feira do Rio Antigo, a sprawling antiques market along Rua Lavradio, where dusty stores overflow with bric-a-brac, clothes and collectible knickknacks.

Address: Lapa, , ,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website: http://lanalapa.com.br
Admission Fees:

No

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

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Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon

Located in the heart of Leblon, Rio's most expensive square metre, Ritz Plaza Hotel Leblon offers quality services at affordable prices. Its rooms are well furnished if not huge, with modern décor. A generous buffet breakfast is included and the hotel has up-to-date facilities, including spa and a small pool. It's a couple of blocks in from the beach and close to cinemas, theatres, shops, restaurants and the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.

Regina

This no-frills but clean and well-run hotel is highly rated among regular visitors to Rio. It's in a handy location between downtown and the Zona Sul, in an historic, up-and-coming district. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the buffet breakfast is excellent, and facilities include a spa, gym and small roof terrace. In all, the Regina is one of the best budget hotels in the city.

Rio Hostel

This hostel in an old colonial building in Santa Teresa has basic dorms as well as three- and four-bed rooms, which are ideal for families. With its hillside location, Rio Hostel offers great city views and it also has a tiny swimming pool. Facilities include laundry service, tour information, Wi-Fi connectivity and air conditioning in some rooms. The staff are friendly, some are multilingual, and they serve a decent buffet breakfast.

Copacabana Palace

This elegant establishment is almost as famous as its beachfront location. Since it was built in 1923, famous guests have included Robert De Niro, Marlene Dietrich, Orson Welles and Princess Diana. The Copacabana Palace is one of the grandest classical buildings in Rio de Janeiro; its creamy pillared façade dominates Avenida Atlântica, and is protected by a preservation order. The plush interior is even more impressive with marble floors, chandeliers, grand ballroom and elegantly decorated rooms. Facilities include a rooftop tennis court, a majestic swimming pool, a well-equipped fitness suite and a business centre. The two restaurants, Cipriani and Pergula, offer fine dining.

Hotel Mama Ruisa

This tasteful boutique hotel lies in the heart of Santa Teresa in a converted late 19th-century mansion. Laidback French proprietor Jean Michel Ruiz has had each of the seven rooms individually decorated in tribute to icons of stage and screen, including Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda and Maria Callas. The spacious lounge is filled with modern designer furniture and its walls are hung with original works of art and ethnic artefacts. The private walled garden has a small pool, with a terrace and veranda where meals and cocktails are served.

Rio Design Hotel

Rio de Janeiro's first design hotel is a modern establishment one block from Copacabana Beach. Its 66 rooms, suites and apartments have been individually styled by top Brazilian artists, giving the hotel an exclusive and contemporary feel. This Rio hotel is a popular choice with visitors who are looking for something a bit chic but not prohibitively expensive. All rooms are comfortable, with flat-screen TVs and broadband internet access. Other hotel facilities include a business centre, fitness studio with spa and sauna, and a rooftop restaurant, but no pool.