635 metric tons make up this iconic soapstone statue, an ode to Christianity that attracts visitors from across the world of all faiths. The best way to reach the 700-metre peak of Tijuca Forest National Park that Christ the Redeemer sits on is by the scenic red train from Cosme Velho. But hiking or driving will yield the same result of breathtaking views of the city. So impressive is this monument it is featured on the list of New Seven Wonders of the World along with the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China, making it a reason of its own to visit Rio de Janeiro.
Party at Copacabana Beach
Long before Barry Manilow sang of music, passion and feather hair fashion, Copacabana Beach was an idyllic place that attracted a crowd. Spend a day (or 5) on the beaches of Copa, soaking up saltwater and sunshine for hours on end, interrupted only by a visit to a kiosk on the promenade for a cheeky caipirinha. By night you can take things up a level and leave the sand, dancing to samba beats until the early hours of the morning. A Rio de Janeiro beach session should be a high priority when visiting this city.
Take a cable car up to the Sugarloaf Mountain
Although Sugarloaf Mountain stands less than 400-metres above sea level, its steep surrounds make it both picturesque and frightening to visit. Though there are many singular rock formations that protrude from the earth around Rio de Janeiro’s coastlines, Sugarloaf is by far the most well-known and visited. Reach the top of the granite and quartz peak in the cable car that departs Morro da Urca, its glass walls offer unmissable views of the city.
Go on a Santa Marta Favela Tour
Visiting a poverty stricken area might not sound like much of a holiday activity, but things are not always as they seem here in Rio de Janeiro. The slums of this city are known locally as ‘the favelas,’ and account for over 20% of the population’s residential setting. In the region of Santa Marta have been transformed with coloured murals, making them a popular attraction with tourists. While some people claim a visit bridges the divide of economic inequality, others liken it to a human zoo. Either way they are an inescapable aspect of the city, and a guided tour is sure to prove educational. Sandwiched between Morro de São Bento and the Praça XV waterfront, it is easily accessible from most corners of the city.
Get lost in downtown Rio
The historical and financial epicentre of Rio de Janeiro, downtown is a must visit when in the city. Here you can find many important religious buildings to visit, including the ornate baroque São Bento Monastery, the pyramid style Metropolitan Cathedral, and the São Francisco da Penitência decorated with over a tonne of gold. Downtown is also home to the century old Municipal Theater, the impressive Royal Portuguese Reading Room, and the Santana Park.
Visit Parque Lage
Nestled in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood sits a cultural park of immense beauty, where a Pinterest-worthy 1920’s mansion sits as a cafe with a Visual Arts School, atrium and pool. Surrounded by subtropical forests it makes an incredible setting to waste a day amongst nature, making it one of the most leisurely things to do in Rio de Janeiro. The mansion was once used as the backdrop for a Snoop Dogg video clip, adding to the list of reasons you need to put Parque Lage on your Rio itinerary.
Things to do in Rio de Janeiro
With roots in the 18th century as a jovial event in which Portuguese immigrants mocked the rich, the world famous Carnival or Rio has grown astronomically since it began. Now attracting nearly a million tourists each year keen to join the some 500 street parties of January and February, attending this spectacle of colour and festivity should sit high on the bucket list.
The unique Umbanda religion blends the traditions of Africa with the spiritual roots of Roman Catholicism, and is followed by a mere 400,000 people in Latin America. The most prominent Umbanda festival takes place around the New Year, honouring the goddess of the sea with flowers, offerings, swims and the sending off of boats.
Brazil’s Independence Day
Marking the sacred anniversary of the 7th of September 1822, Brazil’s Independence Day transforms Rio de Janeiro into a sea of festivities. Expect fireworks, dancing, and countless Brazilian flags, in another shining example of this country’s ability to throw a party.
Day of St. Sebastian Celebrations
Every year on January 20, Catholics, Umbanda and Candomble celebrate togethering, honouring the city’s patron saint of Sebastian. Expect holy processions and people forming a sea of the colour red, in an event that highlights the deep rooted spirituality still held in this city.
June Bonfire Festivals (Festas Juninas)
Fake weddings, faux market stalls, and bonfires across the city, are just some of the spectacles that come of the June Bonfire Festivals. A folklore tradition held at the Summer Solstice in June, visitors can expect plenty of eating and dancing to accompany the unique cultural event.
Top 5 Festivals in Rio de Janeiro
All other festivals in the world pale in comparison to the month long ‘Rio Carnival,’ arguably the biggest drawcard of the country. If your trip doesn’t time with that icon there are other incredible events to choose from, including a Summer Solstice bonfire event and the parades of Brazil’s Independence Day.
Museum of Tomorrow
Step into the world of science at the Museum of Tomorrow, housed in a futuristic white building on the waterfront at Pier Maua. Uncover the mysteries of the Earth and Cosmos through various periods of time, through exhibitions housed over 15,000 square metres of space.
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
Be dazzled by some 20,000 pieces of spectacular fine arts at Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. Featuring many important Brazilian artists and a 19,000 strong library, this museum has been attracting locals and visitors since it open its doors in 1938.
Rio Art Museum
Known locally as ‘MAR’ thanks to its Portuguese acronym, the Rio Art Museum is a gem of old and new found in the city’s port district. Two distinct buildings are joined by an iconic wavy roof that floats above, designed to represent Guanabara Bay’s calm waves. The museum’s 8 exhibition halls, along with auditoriums, classrooms, and outdoor event spaces, aim to tell the history of the city through elaborate artworks.
Built by a coffee producing family in 1854 and later becoming the seat of the Federal Government, the neoclassical mansion of Catete Palace is sure to take your breath away. Over the years the building has seen many positive and poignant moments, including a suicide, the signing of war documents, and a visit from the pope. It is currently a gallery space and integral part of Rio de Janeiro travel.
Museu da Chácara do Céu
The Museu da Chácara do Céu is an art museum open in the neighbourhood of Santa Teresa since 1972. Though it houses an impressive collection of both Brazilian and European art, it’s the museum’s charming foliage covered building and sweeping vistas that see it drawing in visitors.
Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Rio de Janeiro
From learning the secrets of the Cosmos to admiring a colonial mansion built by coffee farmers, Rio de Janeiro’s museums offer a world of surprise. Pop these on your agenda between beach dips and monuments, your trip will be a well-rounded cultural affair.
An unassuming little chocolate sweet of condensed milk and cocoa, brigadeiro will have your full attention at the first bite. Usually covered in sprinkles and served at birthdays, this treat is something of a national icon seeped in family tradition. You can get your fair share and then some in Rio de Janeiro at R. Voluntários da Pátria.
Best eaten at Brigadeiros do Tuiter, R. Voluntários da Pátria, 45-108 Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
Beijinho de Coco
Adding to the Brazilian sweet collection is the creamy ‘coconut kiss,’ beijinho de coco. With a hint of tropical holiday in both the scent and the taste, these moorish pieces are something you’ll try to replicate at home. Balas de Coco in Riachuelo is known to make some of the best.
Best eaten at Balas de Coco, R. Ana Neri - Riachuelo, Rio de Janeiro
A simple Brazilian street food great for fueling days of adventure, acarajé are made from black-eyed peas, peeled and mashed with salt, ginger and garlic before being deep fried to a golden brown goodness. It is often stuffed and eaten like a sandwich, featuring additions like prawns and coriander salsa.
Best eaten at Acarajé da Ciça, R. do Mercado, 7 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro
Moqueca de Camarão
The coconut prawn stew of Moqueca de Camarão is a household favourite in Brazil, and a comforting dish travellers fall in love with. Try it in Copacabana at Nomangue Caiçara; like all good moquecas it will be flavoured by a bright spice powder called annatto.
Best eaten at Nomangue Caiçara, R. Sá Ferreira, 25B Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
The black-bean stew of feijoada is a household favourite across Brazil, best sampled in Casa do Feijoada in Rio de Janeiro. Expect smoky, rich flavours mixed with many meats and served with rice, a meal of feijoada is both satisfying and heartwarming.
Best eaten at Casa do Feijoada, R. Prudente de Morais, 10B - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Food in Rio de Janeiro
Coconut prawn stew of moqueca de camarão and stuffed black-eyed peas patties feature on the savoury round up of Rio de Janeiro. And from the sweet department? That’s a banquet that begins with brigadeiro and beijinho de coco.