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A glass-walled cable car descends Rio's Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset, travelling towards a rocky, forested hill. The city of Rio is visible in the background, surrounded by mountains.

Sightseeing in Rio

From the iconic Christ the Redeemer to the lively streets of Lapa, Rio is a hub of culture, history and adventure. There’s no shortage of things to do and see in this amazing city, so make sure you get a true taste of this city of samba, sun and passion.

Meet you there?

Aerial view of Maracanã stadium. The partially-covered stadium is circular, with a circular gap in the roof directly above the pitch. Behind the stadium sprawls the city of Rio, with many high-rise buildings visible. Rocky, forested mountains are visible in the background.

Christ the Redeemer

A statue of a male figure with arms outstretched – Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue – stands on top of a rocky outcrop, facing away from the camera. In the background are the rocky Sugarloaf Mountain and a bay lined by skyscrapers.

One of the world’s most iconic statues

 

Christ the Redeemer – Cristo Redentor to cariocas (Rio locals) – is easily the most iconic landmark in Rio de Janeiro, and a must-see attraction for any visitor to the city. It’s located at the top of Corcovado Mountain, meaning visitors get to enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Rio.

 

Standing at 30 meters tall, this statue is an impressive feat of engineering. Designed by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and French sculptor Paul Landowski, and completed in 1931, the Art Deco statue has a wingspan of 28 meters and rests on a pedestal eight meters tall.

 

There are a few ways to reach the statue. The easiest are hopping on a train from Cosme Velho station – which takes around 20 minutes – or grabbing a taxi from the city center.

 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is often seen as symbolic of Rio, and perhaps even of all of Brazil. Can you truly say you’ve been to Rio if you haven’t been here?

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Sugarloaf Mountain

A glass-sided cable car is suspended from cables above dense leafy forest. The cable car appears to be moving towards the summit of Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain, a tall but narrow mountain jutting out of the forest. The sea is visible in the background.

A visit to remember

 

Pão de Açúcar – or Sugarloaf Mountain – is a 396-meter peak that overlooks the beautiful Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. If you have a head for heights, add this to your Rio sightseeing plan… It’ll give you stunning views of the city that take in Copacabana beach, the Rio-Niterói (one of the longest bridges in the world), and Christ the Redeemer.

 

The journey to the top is as impressive as the view. Visitors take two cable cars to reach the summit, with the second car taking them as far as the peak. Each cable car journey only takes three minutes.

 

Once at the top, visitors can access two viewing platforms – one facing towards Guanabara Bay and the other offering a view of Copacabana beach. And there’s more to do than just gaze at the views, with several restaurants and shops on the summit. 

 

Feeling active? Skip the cable cars and follow one of the hiking trails that lead to the summit instead. The trail from Praia Vermelha is the most popular, and takes about an hour to complete.

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Maracanã stadium

Aerial view of Maracanã stadium. The partially-covered stadium is circular, with a circular gap in the roof directly above the pitch. Behind the stadium sprawls the city of Rio, with many high-rise buildings visible. Rocky, forested mountains are visible in the background.

The world’s biggest football stadium

 

In a country where football is a way of life, the Maracanã is a true home for Brazilians. With a seating capacity of nearly 80,000, this monument to the beautiful game has often seen thousands of passionate fans gathering to support Rio de Janeiro’s top teams.

 

Originally built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, the stadium later saw action on football’s biggest stage when Brazil hosted the World Cup again in 2014. And it’s not just for football either – the stadium has hosted many other major events, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

 

You can take a a guided tour of the stadium, exploring its rich history and learning about the events that have taken place there. The tour includes a visit to the locker rooms, the press conference room and the field itself, where visitors can soak in the atmosphere of the stadium and imagine what it would be like to play in front of a packed crowd. 

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Santa Teresa and Lapa

Tiled stairs climb away from the camera. The stairs feature tiles that spell out Escadaria Selaron, Rio de Janeiro.

A taste of old-world Rio de Janeiro

 

Located in the hills above the city, the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa is a charming blend of colonial architecture, vibrant street art and tropical gardens. Start your visit at the Museu Chácara do Céu, which houses a large collection of modern art from Brazil and Europe, and also boasts sweeping views of the city below. Then make your way to Parque das Ruínas, a public park that contains an open-air art gallery built around the ruins of an old mansion.

 

Next, visit the world-famous Escadaria Selarón. It’s a work of art consisting of more than 2,000 brightly colored tiles from all over the world, laid by Jorge Selarón – a Chilean artist – who worked on the staircase for 20-plus years. This masterpiece is a popular tourist attraction that has been featured in movies, music videos (from U2 and Snoop Dogg, among others) and television shows.

 

End your day at the Arcos da Lapa, an iconic aqueduct that dates back to the 18th century and now serves as a backdrop for street performers and samba dancers. The area around the Arcos is a lively nightlife spot, and a great place to grab a drink and soak up the local culture.

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Jardim Botânico

A pond surrounded by leafy trees. Large lily pads are dotted around the pond, which is reflecting the sky. In the background, behind the trees, mountains are visible.

One for fans of history and botany

 

Rio’s Botanical Garden – the Jardim Botânico – is a stunning 137-hectare site located in the city’s South Zone. Opened in 1808, it’s home to thousands of rare and exotic plant species.

 

One of the main attractions is the Avenue of Royal Palms, a 750-meter line of palms leading from the entrance into the gardens. These 40-foot palms are more than 200 years old and are descended from a single tree – the Palma Mater – which was destroyed by lightning many years ago.

 

In addition to the plants, the garden is also home to a variety of exotic animals, including monkeys, toucans, and other bird species. Visitors can watch these animals in their natural habitat and take in the beauty of the lush garden.

 

With its sculptures, old gunpowder factory, and medicinal, Japanese and sensory gardens, Jardim Botânico is far too big to explore in one visit. Don’t know where to start? Download the official app, as it includes a map and self-guided tours.

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It's sunset. Several people gather on a rock next to an ocean bay. Mountains are visible on the other side of the bay.
People gather at Arpoador Rock on Ipanema beach to watch the sunset. Image: Shutterstock