There are cities of which we all have an image in our memory, even if we haven't seen them yet. Rio de Janeiro is undoubtedly one of these. Not only for its iconic landmarks such as Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city from the top of the Corcovado, or for the Sugarloaf with its cable car, but also for its sporting excellences, and the structures that have entered history like the Maracana Stadium or the Flamengo Park, where athletes go for outdoor workouts.
There is no shortage of attractions in the city like the precious
Once you get here with your Costa cruise, Brazil's green heart will leave you speechless. Rio de Janeiro has been able to enhance and protect its wooded areas and its green spaces since the 1800s and within these areas you will be able to see monkeys, parrots and other tropical birds. Tall trees and flowerswill welcome you on your excursions to the Tijuca Forest or Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden making them truly unforgettable. In these places you will not only find the beauties of nature, but as for enchantment you will find yourself in front of buildings of bygone eras, fountains or avenues that look like a succession of film sets. And there are so many Costa excursions to enjoy the best of this unique city.
Are you ready for discover Rio de Janeiro? Here are 20 things you can't miss.
20 things to see in Rio de Janeiro
- Christ the Redeemer
- Theatro Municipal
- Cosme Velho District
- Avenida Rio Branco
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art
- Maracana Stadium
- Via Paineiras
- Piazza Afonso Vizeu
- Parque das Ruìnas
- Mayrink Chapel
- Tijuca Forest
- Flamengo Park
- Urca Hill
- Botafogo Beach
- Ipanema Beach
- Rio Botanical Garden
The city of Rio de Janeiro carries at its heart the Corcovado or Monte Cristo, a 710-metre-high mountain located in the Tijuca National Park. The Corcovado, which means hump in Portuguese, has the statue of Christ the Redeemer at the top of it, and its image is world famous.
You can have fun climbing the Corcovado, which is a granite mountain, along its 54 trails, but if you're not so sporty you can still reach the summit with the Corcovado Track Railway, a railway with electric trains capable of carrying about 300 people per hour. A service renewed in 1980 but which had been activated in 1884.
Once you reach the top you will have a unique view of the city of Rio de Janeiro, of Sugarloaf, of Lake Rodrigo de Freitas, of the Maracana Stadium and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
A true symbol of Brazilian culture, Corcovado has had famous visitors such as Albert Einstein, Pope John Paul II, and Princess Diana of England. Are you ready to go up?
Christ the Redeemer
One of the seven wonders of the world will be before your eyes: the statue of Christ the Redeemer, placed on top of Cordovado. Designed as a symbol of Christianity in the world, the statue is now considered an icon of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
At 30 metres high, erected on an 8-metre pedestal and depicting Christ with open arms 28 metres long in total in perfect Art Deco style, the statue was built between 1922 and 1931 in concrete and soap stone. At his feet there is a plaque from 1974, in memory of the centenary of the birth of Guglielmo Marconi and to commemorate the ignition of the lighting system of Christ the Redeemer with a radio pulse started from Rome, thanks to the scientist, in 1931.
Designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski, the statue is now equipped with 3 panoramic lifts and 8 escalators that allow visitors to face the 222 steps that covered the distance between the end of the railway line and the actual statue. All the comforts, therefore, to guarantee everyone an unforgettable view.
Rio de Janeiro, in the central district of Cinel-ndia, boasts the Theatro Municipal, one of the most important in Brazil. It is a very rich building opened in 1909, inspired by the National Opera of Paris, decorated by painters and sculptors such as Eliseu Visconti, Rodolfo Amodeo or the Bernardelli brothers and inside it is enriched with mosaics and stained glass windows created by other European masters. The white of its columns, the gold of the decorations and the blue of its roof make it easily recognisableand, in contrast to the modern buildings that surround it.
There are currently 2361 seats, but the theatre has undergone numerous renovations that have brought it to its present form, with a luxury that from the outside also continues inside the hall. In the basement of the theatre you will also be amazed by the restaurant, built in Assyrian style.
Until 1931, the year of the founding of theSymphonic Orchestra of the Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, the theatre hosted foreign companies and orchestras, mainly Italian and French, with some of the world's greatest conductors.
Cosme Velho District
A visit to Rio de Janeiro will also take you to discover its streets and habits through its neighbourhoods. Brazil is full of surprises and contradictions. The Cosme Velho District, which is located in the area to the south of the city is one of the most frequented neighbourhoods by tourists.
Its main route is Rua Cosme Velho, a street rich in greenery and housingbut it is not just the magnificence of the colourful neo-colonial villas in this residential area, one of the most elegant in Rio de Janeiro, that attracts tourists. The Cosme Velho district is home to the train station to climb the Corcovado and it is therefore an obligatory passage for all those who wish to climb to the top to enjoy the panoramic view or for see the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The neighbourhood is in fact located along Mount Corcovado, between the trails and waterfalls of Tijuca National Park.
Avenida Rio Blanco
One of the most important arteries in the city of Rio de Janeiro, which contains some of the most important banks and companies, is Avenida Rio Blanco.
Rio de Janeiro maintained its colonial footprint until the early years of the Federation Republic of Brazil. It was an obsolete and anachronistic city, with an overpopulated centre and in which epidemics were easy to spread. With the arrival of the yellow fever, a modernisation project by the engineer Francisco Pereira Passos, appointed governor of Rio de Janeiro, began. In 1904, 641 houses were demolished and the Avenida Central, was built, which connected the new city port with the Gloria area, at that time booming. Architects from all over the world were called to build the buildings, including the Municipal Theatre and the National Library, and as early as 1905 trees began to be planted.
From 1912, the road was renamed Avenida Rio Branco. From the 1940s work began to construct many buildings that last to this day, progressively changing the face of the street, in which there are few original buildings left.
Museum of Fine Arts
Rio de Janeiro it's not just the city of Carnival, there are also countless museums. The Museum of Fine Arts is one of Brazil's most important cultural institutions, as well as the most important Brazilian art museum, containing mainly paintings and sculptures from the nineteenth century.
Opened in 1938 in its current location, on Avenida Rio Blanco, the Museum of Fine Arts has a history that begins well before, in 1904, when the then King of Portugal, John VI, settled in Rio de Janeiro during the invasion of French troops, bringing with him numerous works belonging to the royal collection. Upon his return to Portugal, the king decided to leave the works in Rio de Janeiro, where they are still the focal point of the collection of European art on display in the museum.
The visit to the Museum of Fine Arts already excites from its exterior, which features facades with different styles, producing an eclectic result. The main facade is inspired by the French Renaissance, the ones to the side Italian Renaissance, while the rear one is a perfect example of Neoclassical style.
Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art
Want to discover the secrets of Brazilian contemporary art? In Rio de Janeiro's Niteroi district, there is Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art and it's one of the most visited of Rio de Janeiro. Not only the collections on display, but the entire museum is a jewel of contemporary art. Suffice it to say that it was only opened to the public in 1996 and was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.
It is a white-painted construction sixteen metres high, made of rough concrete on which stands a 50-meter diameter dome that gives the building an almost spaceship appearance. It is not the Milky Way that surrounds it, however, but water, with a pool surrounding the base.
Inside, three floors of the exhibition are dedicated to the John Leo Sattamini Neto collection that the artist has donated to the city and that includes works by the most interesting artists made between 1950 and today.
It would be called Estadio Jornalista Filho but football fans around the world know it as Maracanã, and it is Brazil's best known stadium. A visit to Rio de Janeiro will then allow you to visit the facility that has hosted the World Cup and other world-class sporting events on a variety of occasions.
Built with the intention of welcoming the first post-war World Cup, in 1950, designed by the engineer Paulo Pinheiro Guedes, in 1964 it was named after the journalist Mario Filho. The nickname Maracana, which in the indigenous language Tupi means parrot, came from the river that flows into the neighbourhood, always inhabited by a unique species of parrots.
Circularwith a grass pitch and with a 3-metre-deep moat that surrounds it, the Maracana is impressive. Inside, you can also visit the museum named after Manoel Francisco dos Santos, called Garrincha, but the memory of the goal scored here by Pelé is inevitable, the moment which brought the number of goals scored in the great champion’s career to one thousand.
Via Paineiras in Rio de Janeiro is not the classic city street dedicated to shopping or other types of attractions: it's a street in the middle of the green, along which your eyes can then rest on the wonders of Brazilian nature.
By walking along Via Paineiras you can climb the Corcovado, to reach the statue of Christ the Redeemer on foot or by bike, taking advantage of many equipped areas where you can find water or where you can choose to stop to catch your breath or take some photographs of the panorama.
Narrow and curvy, with its eight-and-a-half kilometres in the heart of one of the country's largest urban forests, Via Paineiras is situated in the area of Tijuca National Park.
Piazza Afonso Vizeu
You might choose to get there by jeep, to feel even more adventurous, having fun whizzing through the green or walk, walking along the picturesque Paineiras Street, but however you get there, you will always be very happy to have reached it. Piazza Afonso Vizeu will captivate you with its simplicity and its splendid view.
In Rio de Janeiro Piazza Afonso Vizeu is well known amongst all sports lovers who like coming here before entering the Tijuca Forest National Park to train. In 1903 it was set up with a gazebo similar to the one still visible inside the park, known as Vista Chinesa, to allow popular concerts to be held.
In the middle of the square there is a large granite fountain built in 1848 by the famous architect French Auguste Victor Grandjean of Montigny which greatly influenced the development of architecture in Brazil. Initially designed for Onze de Junho Square, the fountain has found its final location in the centre of Afonso Vizeu Square instead.
Parque das Ruìnas
The Municipal Cultural Centre Parque das Ruìnas is a public park in the Santa Teresa area in Rio de Janeiro and from within you can enjoy unparalleled views of Guanabara Bay and the city centre.
It was the residence of the art patron Laurinda Santos Lobo, a wealthy heiress well integrated into society, who lived between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Laurinda loved to surround herself with intellectuals and artists of the early 20th century. The park of the villa still maintains a strong link with culture often hosting open-air concerts and an art gallery.
In 1993 the government bought the property of the area, abandoned for more than 40 years, and which was heavily deteriorated, after being looted and occupied for a long time, and decided to renovate it. In 1997 the remains of the original building were transformed into a cultural centre by the architect Ernani Freire who knew how to keep the structure of the original buildings while giving them a contemporary look. An architectural project that will amaze you as much as the panoramic view!
At 460 metres above sea level, within the Tijuca Forest National Park, you can find a pink building, which seems to come out of a book of fairy tales for children. This is the Mayrink Chapel.
The history of the Mayrink Chapel began in 1850 when Viscount de Souto, an influential Brazilian banker, bought the Boa Vista farm that belonged to Count Goestas' estate. Inside the property there was a small Tuscan-style palace with columns from which a chapel was erected in honour of Our Lady of Bethlehem.
When the bank went bankrupt in 1864, the Viscount had to sell the farm that was passed down until it became a property of Councillor Mayrink, from which it took its name. In 1897 it was expropriated for become part of the Tijuca National Park, but the Chapel was not demolished. The inhabitants of Boa Vista have adorned the chapel with works by Candido Portinari, while the landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx oversaw the design of the gardens surrounding it.
The Tijuca Forest is now known as the tropical forest that distinguishes Rio de Janeiro. It is also included amongst the largest urban forests in the world together with those in Johannesburg and Singapore.
The word Tijucameans swamp in the Tupi language and the forest shares the name with the nearby neighbourhoods of Tijuca and Barra da Tijuca, from where you can access the area, which has not always been as we see it today. The areas around Rio de Janeiro had in fact been deforested for make way for sugar and coffee plantations. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that Mayor Manuel Gomes Archer began reforestation to protect the city's water resources.
In 1961, the Tijuca Forest was declared National Park. Inside are the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer, the Corcovado Mountain and the Mayrink Chapel, but the forest is also home to hundreds of plant species and animal species, some of which are endangered.
Brazil, as we know, is a land of big names of sport. It is no coincidence, then, that the city of Rio de Janeiro is full of locations to train in. Getting to Rio and meeting some champions who train may be possible, especially by visiting the Flamengo Park.
The Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes is Rio de Janeiro's largest park with its 300 acres of urban green space. And to think that the locals still call it Aterro, that is, landfill, because the place where it was set up was obtained by filling a part of the bay. The area is also home to the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art and a sculpture in memory of the soldiers who lost their lives during World War II.
At Flamengo Park you can practice all sports, from running to tennis, to team games such as volleyball or basketball. Get your sneakers ready!
A visit to Rio de Janeiro is not complete if you don't see the Sugarloaf. One of the symbols of Brazil, famous worldwide, it is this mountain that from Guanabara Bay stretches up to 396 metres above sea level before diving into theAtlantic Ocean in a wonderful play of colours that oscillates between green and blue.
Estacio de Sa founded the city of Rio de Janeiro on the slopes of this mountain on March 1 1565, setting up a defensive structure there. Since then, there have been countless people who have climbed this mountain, especially since 1912, when the cable car to reach the top was opened.
The view from Sugarloaf is spectacular and ranges from the city to the beaches, proving to be particularly romantic at sunset. However, if you are not particularly romantic, you can also practice trekking, climbing or fishing right at its feet.
Rio de Janeiro is a city where the mountains and hills are not only the backdrop, but are also a part of the urban fabric. A perfect place to welcome tourists and residents who like to keep in training.
Urca Hill, with its 220 metres above sea level is considered by many to be just the place where you change cable car to go up the Sugarloaf. You will find that even from Urca you can enjoy a wonderful view, all to be photographed.
Many follow the path to the top of the hill on foot. It is a walk of forty minutes that may seem difficult in the first part but that gets easier while climbing. For the brave there is another surprise: you can also meet some monkeys!
Copacabana is synonymous with beach and fun. And with its 6 kilometres of sand it is easy to see why this location to the south of Rio de Janeiro became world famous. An area inhabited by 400,000 people, full of hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs can only attract tourists who want to have fun dancing all night or sipping a few cocktails on the beach.
In Copacabana you can also play sports by the sea. Copacabana beach is equipped for all sports and has often hosted major events such as the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup or the men's and women's beach volleyball competitions at the Olympics.
Since 1981 Copacabana has become an independent barrio of the city of Rio de Janeiro, but until the 18th century it was an area that stood outside the city and was called Sacopenapa. It changed name following the construction of a votive chapel containing a copy of the Virgo of Copacabana, much revered in South America.
Rio de Janeiro has 70 beaches, yet one of the most photographed in the world is Botafogo beach. Only 700 metres of beach that bend almost to embrace the calm sea in front of it, and in the distance a unique view of the Sugarloaf and Urca Hill. From here you can also see the impressive Maracan Stadium, and on clear days you can also see Christ the Redeemer.
Botafogo beach is also popular with Brazilians, who choose it to play sports, walk or cycle along the bike path that connects it with the Flamengo Park and on the other side it continues towards Copacabana.
For shopaholics there is a shopping mall right in front of the beach with the possibility of a top-floor balcony that offers stunning views of the bay, and which also hosts concerts.
Easy to think of Ipanema by linking it to the music of "Garota de Ipanema", the famous piece of bossa nova. A planetary musical success that made the beach named in the title just as famous. Ipanema beach is equipped both for relaxation and for sports on the sand: two kilometres and six hundred metres of sand welcome tourists in a scenario that has the Morro Dois Irmaos hills as a backdrop. The Ipanema neighbourhood behind it, with its wide tree-lined boulevards, is packed with bars, restaurants and fine boutiques.
To sunbathe on the beach of Ipanema you can choose the place that is best for you simply by taking a look at the other bathers: the beach is divided into different areas according to the numbers given to the lifeguard posts, and usually the style of the visitors distinguishes them. Posto 9, for example, is said to be the most famous and cool, while from Posto 7 you can find numerous kids from the surrounding favelas who build their own sand castles.
Rio Botanical Garden
A walk to the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden will make you dream. The park, which is located at the foot of the Corcovado, will welcome you with a palm boulevard before spread before your eyes in all its 137 hectares.
The Botanical Garden was founded in 1808 by the King of Portugal John VI with the intention of acclimatising some imported plants, but as early as 1822 it was opened to the public as a Park. How can we not be amazed at 11,000 plant species, ranging from water lilies colouring ponds to sensual orchids?
The visit to the Botanical Garden is enriched by the presence of some historic buildings present in the area such as Casa dos Piloes or the Casa de los Cedros and the entrance of the Academy of Fine Arts, designed by Grandjean de Montigny. Don't miss the Japanese Garden, set up in 1935 with a donation of 65 species of oriental plants. The Botanical Garden is also inhabited by hundreds of species of birds, which find shelter amongst its branches.
Discover Rio de Janeiro with Costa Cruises
Rio de Janeiro is a city full of contradictions and colours. Stopping with your Costa cruise ship in the capital of Brazil will be an amazing experience. You'll enjoy breathtaking views if you visit the Sugarloaf or Christ the Redeemer, or you can walk on postcard beaches such as Copacabana or Ipanema, but you will also have the opportunity to see the palaces that have made the history of the city and, above all, to breathe the unique atmosphere of this country!