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Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Things to do in  Rio de Janeiro

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).

Top 10 attractions in Rio de Janeiro


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.More

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.More

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.More

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.More

Barra da Tijuca

Barra da Tijuca, often referred to simply as Barra, is one of Rio’s newest neighborhoods — evident by its mega malls and glass-towered condominiums. As one of the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, it’s also among the safest. Brazilians often refer to the neighborhood as the Brazilian Miami for its wide, palm-lined roads and upscale shopping. What brings visitors to Barra is the 10-mile (17-kilometer) long stretch of beach fronting the neighborhood. It’s the largest stretch of beach in a city famous for them and a popular place for surfing, kite surfing and body boarding. It’s also a shopping hotspot in the city, thanks to the BarraShopping and its 700 stores and restaurants and about a dozen other shopping malls. Barra da Tijuca will host several of the venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.More

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.More

Sao Conrado Beach (Praia de Sao Conrado)

Whether you’re here for the surf, the golden sands, or to soar in the skies above, visiting Sao Conrado Beach is a highlight of Rio de Janeiro. Here in this affluent, oceanfront neighborhood that’s sometimes called Praia Pepino, visitors will find an eclectic combo of surfers, paragliders, wealthy elite, and the poorest residents in Rio. Just up the hill from Sao Conrado is the infamous Rocinha favela, which is one of the city’s poorest areas and also its largest slum. The juxtaposition of social classes is evident out on the streets—yet everyone seems to equally enjoy the combo of sunshine and surf. When strolling the sands of Sao Conrado, be sure to look up and scan the skies for hangliders circling above. The beach is a popular landing spot for groups of paragliders and hangliders, most of whom have launched from the slopes of neighboring Pedra Bonita.More

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.More

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.More

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.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Rio de Janeiro

Rocinha Favela Walking Tour

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Rocinha Favela Walking Tour

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Big Five Rio Attractions & More Private Tour with Tickets and Lunch Included

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Recent reviews from experiences in Rio de Janeiro

An Experience of a Lifetime
Steven_R, Dec 2020
Helicopter tour in Rio de Janeiro
This was the best way to see the entire city of Rio de Janeiro.
A perfect day in Rio!
Marcus_M, Feb 2021
Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch
We were a smaller group (less than 15 people) and about half of us were English speakers and the other half were speaking Portuguese.
Interesting, but incomplete visit
nicofiore, Feb 2020
Full Day in Rio: Christ by Train, Sugarloaf, Maracanã, Selarón & Lunch
I congratulate your guide Renata Polakow for her professionalism and the driver for his conduct in Rio, we would have liked to discover more Rio de Janeiro the visit of the cattedral to be eliminated not interesting, I would have preferred to visit t
Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch
Humberto L, Jan 2019
Full Day in Rio: Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Maracana and Selaron with Lunch
The tour guy was an expert and we were able to see many attractions during the tour.
Great tour of Rio!
Mark F, Jan 2019
Full Day Complete Tour of Rio de Janeiro
Our guide Kiko spoke great English and provided us with a lot of information about Rio, the culture and history.
If you want to see the best sites of...
Martin Damm L, Mar 2018
Full Day Complete Tour of Rio de Janeiro
If you want to see the best sites of Rio De Janeiro in a safe and comfortable environment, this tour comes highly recommended.
We had Marcello as our driver and...
lisasvoice, Mar 2018
Private Tour: Rio's City Essentials including Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf
His English was great and he made adjustments to our day based on different factors.
Guide was helpful and not rushing...
Yu Ting Y, Dec 2016
Small-Group Panoramic Bike Tour in Rio de Janeiro
The tour really allowed you to see many spots of the city and I was very impressed with the bike lane constructions of Rio de Janeiro!
You can see the Christ the Redeemer...
Leonila C, Sep 2015
Skip The Line to Christ Redeemer By Train with Maracanã Stadium
This is the best place to see in Rio de Janeiro!
Great 1/2-day trip to one of the...
Sumit D, Jan 2014
Skip The Line to Christ Redeemer By Train with Maracanã Stadium
The guide was quite proficient in English and spent ample time explaining things in English.
It's a great tour of two prime...
Anatoli S, Mar 2013
Full Day Sugar Loaf, Maracanã including Skip the Line Christ Redeemer By Train
It's a great tour of two prime tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro.
Excellent tour if you have limited...
Maria Z, Sep 2013
Full Day Sugar Loaf, Maracanã including Skip the Line Christ Redeemer By Train
Excellent tour if you have limited time in Rio de Janeiro but want to see most of the popular sites.
This was an excellent opportunity to...
Jonathan W, Mar 2014
Rio From the Sea: Guanabara Bay Cruise with Optional Barbecue Lunch
This was an excellent opportunity to see Rio de Janeiro from a different perspective than one gets from a bus or van.
Great city tour
Laurel_D, Mar 2020
Full-Day City Tour in Rio de Janeiro
This tour is a great way to see the highlights of Rio.
Exclusive individual tour service
yanasafonova7, Feb 2020
8 Hours City Tour in Rio! Qualified and experienced guides! (Private)
There were no any language difficulties as Wagner speaks English fluently and clearly.
All day tour of Rio De Janeiro.
Danny3393, Jan 2020
Private Tour: Rio's City Essentials including Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf
Our tour guide Raphael was very knowledgeable and escorted us to the Escadaria Seleron, Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, the waterfalls and Vista Chinesa in the Tijuca National Park.
A great overview
R1andR2, Dec 2019
Rio's Overview Private Tour - The Best Sights including Airport Or Port Pick-ups
We got to see everything we wanted to and they made sure we had a good time.
Eddie R, Oct 2018
Rio de Janeiro Downtown Tour
If you want to see the other many attractions Rio has to offer, this is a great way to see them in 3 hours.
I just returned from my first trip...
Christopher H, Sep 2017
Private Custom Full-Day in Rio including Christ, Sugar Loaf and Selaron Steps
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this tour if you have never been to Rio before and want to hit all of the major attractions in one day.
We had so much fun on this tour...
Miles B, Mar 2017
Full Day Complete Tour of Rio de Janeiro
this full day tour is worth it-- to see the beautiful highlights of the city.

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