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Welcome to Rio de Janeiro

Buzzing Rio de Janeiro—the second largest in Brazil—is famous for its miles of stunning beaches, rich musical culture, and beautiful people. Experience it all at once by simply people-watching on one of the beaches, which Cariocas (Rio locals) consider their backyard. On legendary Copacabana, Ipanema, or Leblon beach, you’ll find residents and visitors alike socializing, relaxing, eating, drinking, dancing, and playing. Off the sands, see the best of Rio—while maximizing time and minimizing crowds and potential language barriers—on a guided city tour. A cog-train trip up Corcovado to the famous art-deco Christ the Redeemer statue or its twin peak, Sugar Loaf Mountain, rewards with stunning views of the urban sprawl, lined by white-sand beaches and the sparkling Guanabara Bay. Cruise that very bay for a different but equally epic perspective on the city, then feast on a Brazilian-style barbecue at a churrascaria. Stay up late to catch a samba show in Lapa, or wake up early to trek through the tropical Tijuca Forest or the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. Walking tours stroll through the streets of historic and bohemian Santa Teresa, or up into the hills for a look at favela life in Santa Marta or Rocinha. And for sports lovers, behind-the-scenes tours of Maracana Stadium showcase the country’s national obsession: futebol (soccer).

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Top 10 attractions in Rio de Janeiro

Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca)
#1

Tijuca National Park (Parque Nacional da Tijuca)

A lush Atlantic rainforest, Tijuca National Park is an absolute wonder it is the world’s largest urban forest which covers 12.4mi² (32km²) and was a result of incredible forward thinking by Emperor Dom Pedro II. In 1861 he saw the deforestation of the land around Rio and ordered that Tijuca be replanted to secure the water supply for future citizens. It was replanted over ten years ago and still plays a key role in making sure Rio has fresh water. The national park includes the Corcodova which offers stunning views from its summit where the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer is situated. It also offers fantastic picnic areas, many waterfalls and some great walks. Wildlife in the park includes insects, ocelots and howler monkeys. The reintroduction of birdlife has been particularly successful and it is a birdwatchers heaven....
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açúcar)
#2

Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Açúcar)

You’ll see stunning views of Rio from atop Sugar Loaf Mountain (or Pão de Acúcar) which rises at the point where Guanabara Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Whichever way you look the city is a delight of sweeping beaches, sparkling water and green peaks. If you make the trip up in the late afternoon you can watch Rio as the light disappears and the fairy show of night lights begins. Looking west you’ll have an incredible view of Corcovado with the statue of Christ the Redeemer all lit up. At the summit there are some clearly marked wooded trails where you can view some wildlife and get away from the crowds. The crowds are densest mid-morning and mid-afternoon when the tourist buses arrive....
Christ the Redeemer Statue (Cristo Redentor)
#3

Christ the Redeemer Statue (Cristo Redentor)

Keeping a watchful eye over the people of Rio de Janeiro, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer (or Cristo Redentor) sits atop Corcovado 2,300 feet (700 meters) above the city. It was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. The largest art deco statue in the world, it is 130 ft (39 m) tall and the arms measure 98 ft (30 m) across. Made of reinforced concrete and sandstone the statue was unveiled in 1931. On a clear day the views from the base of the statue are fantastic. At night the statue is lit up and seemingly hovers over the city as the mountain it stands on is dark. If it is cloudy the clouds light up and the effect can be quite spectacular and ethereal....
Copacabana Beach (Praia de Copacabana)
#4

Copacabana Beach (Praia de Copacabana)

Copocabana Beach, or Praia de Copacabana, is the Rio de Janeiro of the tourist brochures and deservedly so. It’s a breath-taking 2.5mi (4.5 km) stretch of bright sand that’s filled with people luxuriating in the sun and soaking up the atmosphere. As night descends the lights go on and football is played until the wee hours. Other groups start singing and dancing and still others are just there to check each other out. The busy sidewalks can get seedy at night so take care. Behind it rise the Sugarloaf and Morro de Leme and in between is one of the world’s most densely populated residential areas.It is possible to visit Rio and never leave Copacabana, many hotels are situated here and there are plenty of restaurants and bars and some decent shopping....
Ipanema Beach (Praia de Ipanema)
#5

Ipanema Beach (Praia de Ipanema)

Charming and chic, Ipanema Beach (Praia de Ipanema) is the richer and ritzier sister of the also infamous Copacabana beach. Ipanema backs onto a fancy neighbourhood and there are plenty of high-end hotels. The stunning beach gets divided up depending on the interests of the beachgoers. There is the family section, the gay section, the ageing-intellectual section and so on; you’ll soon find where you feel comfortable. At night the beach is lit up and families come to the beach with their barbeques and cook dinner while others come down to watch the sunset. Ipanema means “bad, dangerous waters” in Indian and it is indeed a good idea to only swim in the designated areas where the locals are swimming as the waves can be big and the undertow strong....
Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón)
#6

Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón)

Decorated with over 2,000 brightly colored tiles in the colors of the Brazilian flag, the Selarón Staircase (Escadaria Selarón) is one of Rio’s most vibrant and striking landmarks, marking the boundary between the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods. The brainchild of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón, the iconic steps have become one of the world’s most famous pieces of street art, drawing millions of visitors and gaining exposure in international commercials, pop music videos and magazines all around the globe. Selarón started work on the staircase in 1990 as a tribute to the Brazilian people and his beloved adopted city, covering the 250 steps with an elaborate mosaic of tiles and updating the artwork over the years to include newly inspired tiles donated by visiting artists. Operating a gallery from his home, the artist lived nearby for more than 20 years, but tragically, he was found dead on the steps in 2013, leaving his memory to live on through the unique landmark....
Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao)
#7

Rio de Janeiro Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana de Sao Sebastiao)

Far from a typical church, the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is a tall, cone-shaped building that’s distinctive to the downtown Rio skyline. The unusual design was inspired by the Mayan pyramids and was built in the ‘60s and ‘70s by architect Edgar Fonseca. One of the most important contemporary religious structures in Rio, the cathedral is dedicated to St Sebastian, the patron saint of the city, and has received three papal visits. Standing at 315 feet (96 meters), the hollow interior is undeniably the most impressive part of the building. Massive bronze doors give way to the circular nave, nearly 350 feet (106 meters) in diameter, fit to accommodate 20,000 churchgoers on foot. Four panels of floor-to-ceiling stained-glass windows surround the structure, and a skylight in the shape of a cross at the top allows for natural light to flood into the interior. This unique cathedral is a must-see for those interested in contemporary architecture....
Morro da Urca
#8

Morro da Urca

Sitting in the shadow of big brother and Rio de Janeiro icon, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Morro da Urca is just as important if only because the cable car trip up to Sugar Loaf includes a stop atop this turtle shell-shaped rock. Not to be outdone by its better-known neighbor, the 720-foot hill, a little more than half Sugar Loaf’s height of 1,300 feet, still offers spectacular panoramic views of Christ the Redeemer and Corcovado, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, Guanabara Bay, downtown Rio, and Sugar Loaf itself (something you can’t see when you’re actually on it). At the top of the Morro da Urca, the visitors’ center provides elevators for special needs guests, restrooms, and souvenir and food concessions. Hiking trails skirt the Morro, starting at Praia Vermelho, but one of the most exhilarating options available, if not exactly popular or cheap, is a helicopter ride around Sugar Loaf and over nearby Copacabana....
Maracana Stadium (Estádio do Maracana)
#9

Maracana Stadium (Estádio do Maracana)

The gigantic Maracanã Stadium was built to open the 1950 World Cup. It holds the record for the largest attendance at a World cup final as 199,854 paying spectators crammed into the stadium and many more besides. If you’re after the intense Brazilian football experience complete with the drums, flares, and chanting, then get to a game; otherwise the sports museum inside the stadium with photographs, cups, and Pele’s famous no. 10 jersey is a more sedate experience (enter at Gate 18). Its official name is 'Mário Filho Stadium' but it's called 'Maracanã' after the small river that runs alongside. In the 1990s it was modified to become an all-seated stadium and now holds under 100,000. The four main teams of the city play here and it will host the opening of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies. It is being renovated for these events (scheduled to reopen in 2012) and will finally hold around 103,000 spectators....
Sambadrome (Sambadrome Marques de Sapucaí)
#10

Sambadrome (Sambadrome Marques de Sapucaí)

At Carnival time the Sambadrome is the heartbeat of Rio de Janiero. A 3,000ft (700m) stretch of road designed as a 90,000 capacity parade area with stadium seating rising on each side of the road. Samba schools have 80 minutes to parade through the center of the Sambadrome performing their samba school anthem impressing the crowd with their music, dancing and floats. it is an incredible spectacle; seven teams compete each night in a concert that lasts over ten hours. During the rest of the year the Sambadrome hosts the occasional music concerts. Some of the more famous names to play include the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton and Coldplay. If its not Carnival and there's no concert then the Sambadrome can be very empty and quiet but it is still a fascinating piece of Rio’s culture and there is a small museum that showcases its history....

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