The famous Rio de Janeiro needs no introduction, “The Marvelous City” is well known worldwide for its fantastic carnival, exotic beaches and numerous tourist attractions. In fact, it would be fair to say that all good Brazil vacation packages have a stop in Rio de Janeiro. It is the most visited city in Brazil by international tourists and every year the number increases. The fantastic thing about it is that there is no end to the list of things to do in Rio de Janeiro. The city somehow moulds itself to the tastes of every different kind of traveler.
For the beach bunnies who like to spend hours soaking up the sun, there are some of the world’s most beautiful and famous beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema. Seasoned tourists who are here to tick the main sites of their bucket lists will find easy access to legendary must – see attractions, such as Christ the Redeemer statue and the Corcovado mountain. Younger, hip travelers or those who prefer the cultural side of the city a bit further back from the beach, will enjoy the Santa Teresa neighborhood, where there are bars, clubs, and restaurants and is home to a thriving alternative lifestyle scene. Sports and water sports lovers will find ideal surf spots and competitive games of just about anything being played on the sandy ocean’s edge. There are so many things to do that it can be easy to get lost in the sea of possibilities. However there are three absolute must visit sites in Rio de Janeiro, here they are!
Spend a day on Copacabana beach
Copacabana, probably the most famous beach in Rio is definitely worth a visit and earns the top spot on our list of things to do in the city. The neighborhood of Copacabana is a busy tourist are, with a reported 63 hotels and 10 hostels to be found there! This is not surprising as the beach at Copacabana is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Copacabana beach is located between Avenida Princesa Isabel and lifeguard post 6. You can get there by taking line 1 on the subway. From the golden sand, you can see some magnificent sites besides the shimmering blue ocean. You will be able to see Sugar Loaf mountain and the Duque de Caxias fort. On the right hand side you will see Copacabana Fort. There are several bars along the beach where you can buy a nice chopp (draft beer) or of course, a freshly mixed caipirinha! You might notice that most people on Copacabana are either relaxing or taking part in some sort of sport. “Cariocas” like to keep in shape so you will find games of volleyball, and football as well as swimmers and runners all along this incredible beach.
Visit Cristo Redentor statue
“Cristo Redentor” or Christ the Redeemer in English, is the famous monument in Rio de Janeiro that sits on top of Corcovado mountain. At 124ft high, it keeps a watchful eye over the city below. The statue was born from the imagination of French artist and sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa in 1931. It is a major achievement in the Art Deco movement and has come to represent Rio de Janeiro and also Brazil. It is one of the New7Wonders of the world and is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Brazil.
The statue is located in Tijuca national park and the easiest way to get up close to the statue is by train. You can buy your Corcovado train tickets online here. On the funicular train on the way up, you will be able to see magnificent sites over the Guanabara bay and the Tijuca national park. Peak times for visiting the monument are in the afternoon from 12:00 noon to around 03.30pm. If you go outside these hours you are much more likely to have a better chance to see the statue.
You can also get to the top by van, departing from Paineiras car park. This is the quickest way to the top but you will miss the beautiful landscapes of Mata Atlantica rainforest that can be seen from the train.
Finally, our favourite way of reaching the top is on foot! The climb to the top can be tiring but it is the best way to explore the Tijuca forest and get the best from the national park. You will see waterfalls and the exuberant fauna and flora that are present in the park, not to mention that incredible feeling of achievement when you reach the top and look out over the bay! There are small cafés and restaurants at the top but if you want to avoid waiting in long lines and spend your time enjoying the view of the statue and the city below, you should bring your own food. Also, don´t forget your camera!
Check out Escadaría Selaron
Escadaría Selaron is located between the Lapaand Santa Teresa neighborhoods. You can get there easily from Gloria and Cinelandia metro stations via Rua Teotonio Vegadas. As it is a public stairway, there is no entrance fee and everyone is free to visit, however there are guided tours of the surrounding areas that visit the steps if that is what you prefer.
The man behind this popular tourist attraction and top-marks “selfie” spot was Jorge Selarón. He was a Chilean born artist who traveled the world and managed to visit over 50 countries on his travels. When he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, he fell in love with “The Marvellous City” and decided to settle there. His house was beside the staircase used to climb from the Lapa neighbourhood to Santa Teresa. He would sit outside his house selling his paintings to people passing by to earn a living.
Selaron started the work in 1990, simply decorating the outside of his house with ceramic tiles. The colours he primarily chose were yellow, blue and green to represent the Brazilian flag. He said himself, that this work was his “tribute to the Brazilian people.” He sold his paintings to fund the project; he began covering all of the steps that ran up the side of his house in painted ceramics and mirrors. Eventually, the steps became a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Rio de Janeiro and visitors from all over the world began to visit the work of art. They even started to bring pieces of ceramic from their own countries and asked Selaron to include it in the work. Today, the staircase has over 2000 tiles from 60 different countries around the world covering the 200 steps. It has been featured in the music videos of famous stars such as Snoop Dogg and U2 and even in promotion for the Olympic Games in Brazil. Sadly, Selaron was found dead on the steps he had dedicated years of his life to decorating on January 10th 2013. It remains a cultural icon in the city of Rio de Janeiro and is well worth a visit.