1. Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) Opened in 1931, the 98 foot tall statue of Jesus Christ looks over Rio de Janeiro from the top of Mount Corcovado. On a clear night, the serene, open arms of Christ can be seen from every part of the city! With his open arms, Christ the Redeemer is reminiscent of the Christian cross and serves as a symbol of peace, welcoming you to the city. From the foot of the statue there are spectacular views of the city and the surrounding bays. It is located in the Tijuca National Park and can be accessed via a train – get there early to avoid the inevitable crowds.
8am – 7pm, Street cog station, Cosme Velho 513, www.corcovado.com.br
2. Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) The Sugarloaf Mountain rises from the Guanabara Bay where the land juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It gets its name from the history of the Brazilian sugar trade, when sugar was packed into conical moulds for transportation, resulting in blocks of sugar that were similar in shape to the mountain. The peak of the mountain can be reached by two glass-paneled cable cars, one that ascends to Morro da Urca at 220 meters and the other which reaches the peak of Pão de Açúcar. From the glass-enclosed bondi (tram), you’ll get a breathtaking view of the city. The panoramic views at the top are dazzling and for a truly special moment – get there just before sunset. But don’t rush off back to the big city just yet, linger a while and you will be rewarded with the quaint, upscale village of Morro de Urca, filled with picturesque cottages, palatial mansions, and charming restaurants. The mountain is also used by rock climbers, making it part of the one of the largest climbing areas in an urban environment in the world.
Avenida Pasteur, 520 – Urca, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 04719-001, Brazil, +55 21 2546-8400
3. The Beaches! In particular Ipanema and Copacabana. The beaches of Rio de Janeiro are world famous, especially Ipanema and Copacabana. Songwriters wax lyrical about the beauty of its beaches, Going down to Rio, The Girl from Ipanema, Copacabana to name a few. Ipanema is where the beauties of Brazil hang out in their droves. For an eye-popping display of Rio’s local fashionistas head down to Garota de Ipanema, but be warned, the bars and restaurants around here are pricey! For coastal walks, it is hard to beat the majestic mountain backdrop of Copacabana and the 4km stretch of sugary-white powdered beach to sink your toes into. And if the exertion sounds like too much, the boardwalks are brimming with vendors, kiosks and restaurants and bars. The beaches themselves will have a mix of locals and tourists playing football, relaxing, swimming and people watching.
4. Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro (Botanical Gardens) Originally a site for the acclimatization of plants arriving from the West Indies, the gardens are now open to the public and are home to over 8,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants, 6,00 different species of Orchids and over 100 species of birds. The park includes significant historical sculptures, fountains and a Japanese garden. Additionally, the Avenue of the Royal Palms is lined with 134 palm trees which all descend from the same tree. Most of the 140-hectare site remains uncultivated, running into the Atlantic Forest at the base of Mount Corcovado. During the week it’s the perfect antidote to the buzzing vibrant city where you can escape its hustle and explore its 137 hectares in peace. By the weekend, expect to see plenty of families and music. Don’t forget to take your insect repellent – you’re still in the tropics! Try to avoid anything containing the pesticide DEET which not only irritates the skin but is harmful to the natural environment, read the manufacturer’s label and stick to natural repellents.
8am – 5pm. R. Jardim Botânico, 1008 – Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22460-030, Brazil. Phone:+55 21 3874-1808
5. Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps) Perhaps one of the most visually famous landmarks of Rio – Think of the coloured staircase and you’ve found yourself at Escadaria Selaron. The brightly decorated steps link the neighbourhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa and are the brainchild of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón who started work decorating the staircase in 1990 in an attempt to transform the derelict steps by his home. The steps are covered with brightly coloured tiles, especially featuring the colours of the Brazilian flag. Some of the tiles came from construction sites around the city, whilst some were donated from other areas of the world. Some estimates say that the Tiles have been collected from over 60 countries around the world! The 250 steps are covered with over 2000 tiles to form a bright pattern that was constantly evolving until Selarón’s death in 2013.
Barrio de santa teresa, Rio de Janeiro, 20240-180, Brazil
6. Estádio do Maracanã (Maracanã Stadium) Football is a very popular national pastime in Brazil. The Maracanã Stadium was built for the 1950 World Cup and was recently renovated for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to hold 80,000 spectators. Rio de Janeiro’s four main football teams all play here so games occur fairly regularly and there is also sports museum inside. This is the stadium that will host the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies.
Rua Professor Eurico Rabelo, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 20271-150, Brazil. +55 800 062 7222
The Centro area is the historic centre of the city and displays the grandeur of the former capital of Brazil. It is the location of sites such as the Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the National History Museum. Another thing to see is the Paço Imperial, which was built as the residence for the governors of 18th century colonial Brazil, is also in the Centro area. Finally, visitors can see Saint Sebastian’s Cathedral in Centro. The Cathedral is a modern adaptation of the Mayan temple style. The ceiling is dominated by the symbol of the cross with each arm extending into 64 metre stained glass panels that run along the sides of the conical structure.
8. Lapa neighbourhood
To escape the creeping Americanisation of some parts of Rio (Zona Sul in particular), where glittering malls sell overpriced clothing and fast food malls are on the rise, the Lapa neighbourhood is a breath of fresh air. A traditional town with a distinctly Brazilian feel, it is ofen described as a city where the Samba never stops! Formerly Rio de Janeiro’s red-light district, it now it serves as the backdrop to the nightlife district where many of the nineteenth century buildings have been converted into lively restaurants, bars and clubs and the sounds of samba, forró, and choro emanate from Lapa’s packed nightclubs. The streets are filled with music and the electric energy that Brazil is famous for.
Rocinha is the largest favela (slum town) in Rio de Janeiro. They were originally built by former slaves who were without land or work, but expanded massively in the last 50 years due to a rise in urban migration. Once associated with drug crime, they have seen a decline in violence and an increased number of visitors. Tours of the favelas are popular, and often the tour guides are residents of Rocinha and therefore can provide unique insight. The profits from these tours help fund schools and community centres in the favela. There are 300,000 residents who cram into the tiny nooks and alleys of this vibrant favela as Rocinha extends far into the valleys and up along the hillsides of Rio.
10. Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca National Park offers hiking, amazing views and a diverse plant and animal life. Its predominately mountainous terrain covers over 12 square miles, which includes Pico da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro’s highest peak and the 100-foot Cascatinha waterfall. In the early nineteenth century, expanding coffee plantations almost wiped out the natural landscape and meant that a large portion of the forest had to be replanted by hand in the mid-late 1800s. The statue of Christ the Redeemer at the summit of Mount Corcovado is also within the park’s boundaries.
Estrada da Cascatinha, 850. Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Santo Cristo)