Top 20 things to do in Rio de Janeiro

We have collected the top 20 best things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Top 20 things to do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is one of the largest cities in Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere of Earth, and it’s also one of the most visited, as around 3 million people visit the city each year. The city and the country was originally part of the Portuguese Empire, founded in 1565, and it was not until the 1820s that the country gained its independence. The city often hosts big events like the FIFA World Cup Finals and the Olympic Games. The city is known for its natural settings, Carnival, samba, bossa nova, and balneario beaches, but you might be wondering what you should visit while you are there. For this, we have collected the top 20 best things to do in Rio de Janeiro.

  1. Christ the Redeemer
    Arguably one of the most well known landmarks of Rio de Janeiro, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is a spectacular sight to behold. Located 700 m above the ground, this 30 m statue of Jesus Christ is a religious and cultural symbol of the Brazilian people’s warm and welcoming culture. Visiting the statue should be done on a clear day, since the view of Rio from the mountain is wonderful. This is definitely a must-visit on the list of things to do in Rio de Janeiro, even for non-religious people.
2. Tijuca National Park
The Tijuca National Park is a large urban rainforest in Rio, and probably the largest one at that in the world. It’s where Christ the Redeemer is located, among many other smaller attractions. The park features varied terrains, waterfalls, more than 1,600 plant species and more than 350 different species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. It’s an excellent place for recreation and exploration.
3. Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden os Rio features even more plant species, around 6500, out of which many are endangered and very rare. Be sure to come here for a tranquil experience, as this garden really is unlike any other considering is large collection of floras. Playgrounds and restaurants are also available.
4. Ipanema Beach
As one of the many great beaches of Rio, Ipanema Beach is one of the best ones. It was made famous by the well-known bossa nova song, “The Girl from Ipanema”, for which many tourists come here. You can enjoy the beautiful blue ocean, the scenery surrounding the beach or just play or watch footvolley, the Brazilian version of volleyball, without hands.
5. Sugarloaf Mountain
The name of Sugarloaf Mountain refers to its resemblence to an actual sugarloaf, the refined form of sugar. The mountain is located at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula, and you can ride up the peak on a cableway. Both the ride itself and the peak offer spectacular view of the city and the surrounding regions. The view from up here is a must-see among the things to do in Rio de Janeiro. Coming here is recommended both during the day and near sunset, for different but equally great views.
6. Lapa
If you are more insterested in drinking and having a party, you definitely have see Lapa, a neighborhood of Rio. It’s the district where some of the best night clubs and partying opportunites are. During the night, Lapa lights up and for a lot of people, this is the real beginning of the day.
7. Carioca Aqueduct
The Carioca Aqueduct is located at Lapa, and because of that it is often called the Arcos da Lapa. It’s a long aqueduct built in the middle of the 18th century to bring fresh water from the Carioca river to the population of the city. Today it is a bridge for a tramway that connects the center of the city with the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Tourists like to view the aqueduct both from below it and by riding on the tram. Parties are also often held at the bottom of it.
8. Santa Teresa
Santa Teresa is a neighborhood of Rio located on the hill of the same name. It’s popular thanks to its streets and houses built on the side of the hill and the slopes. Traditionally, it is a place of academics and intellectuals, so artists and photographers like to come here to get inspiration from the narrow streets and the hillside as well.
9. Prainha
While not exactly in Rio, but a little further, Prainha is a popular beach for those who don’t want to go to the beaches in the city full of people. Much less people come here, although it’s partially because there are no lifeguards here, so be advised about coming here. The beach is great for surfers due to the big waves, and the rainforests and mountains provide a nice backdrop.
10. Copacabana Beach
Copacabana Beach is probably one of the most popular beaches of Rio de Janeiro, so it can be quite crowded at times, but that’s also why many people prefer it. It’s located at the luxurious area of South Zone, so some like to go shopping here as well. Sunbathing, taking a stroll or just swimming are all great choices here. Celebration and fireworks for New Year’s Eve is also a very popular event here, as it is one of the largest and longest in the world.
11. Fort Copacabana
Located near Copacabana Beach is Fort Copacabana, a military base that was once part of the coastal defense of the city. The fort is open to the public, and the Historical Museum of the Army is located there. The museum has several exhibits focusing on different periods and events in the history of the army in Brazil. The fort also served as a location for the cycling road race (start and finish), marathon swimming and triathlon events of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

12. Maracana Stadium
The Maracana Stadium was originally built to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, but has since been used for many other big sport events. In the previous years, it hosted the finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as well as being the location for the opening and closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Football and sport enthusiasts should definitely visit this great stadium.

13. Barra da Tijuca
Another beach of Rio, the Barra da Tijuca beach is preferred by some people since it’s considered to have a more relaxed environment than the sands at Copacabana and Ipanema. It’s excellent for windsurfing and bodyboarding, and of course regular beach activities as well. At the shores, lots of inexpensive bars, restaurants, shops and vendors await the visitors. The beach, or to be more precise, the area behind it gave the location for most of the venues for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
14. Ilha Fiscal
The Ilha Fiscal can be found on an island in the Guanabara Bay. This neo-gothic castle was the prime location for Brazilian Custom Service, but now it simply a tourist attraction, although some Navy formal events are still held here. Both the inside and outside of this somewhat out-of-place castle are worth a visit.
15. Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading
The The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading is a large library that was once part of the Portugese colonial buildings, but since the independence of Brazil, the library houses the largest collection of Portugese literature outside of Portugal. Around 400 thousand volumes and titles can be found here in this magnificent libary. There are also paintings and other pieces of Portuguese cultural objects, so the library is not only a library, but a collection of Portugese history.
16. Largo do Boticário
The Largo do Boticário is a square in Rio that is mostly known for its brightly painted houses that are a perfect representation of late 18th century Portuguese colonial architecture. It’s a peaceful oasis in the bustling city, with the colorful but old houses being overgrown with plants. Artists and painters live here usually, who may even let some tourists into their houses for a small tip.
17. Cemitério de São João Batista
The Cemitério de São João Batista is a maze-like cemetery full of graves, mausoleums and statues. Being lost here is actually somewhat a possibility, but it’s not a big concern for most people. Many famous Brazilian personalities were buried here, and the cemetery is also well known for its various styles, including neoclassical, eclectic, neo-gothic, and art-deco.
18. Terra Encantada
The Terra Encantada was an amusement park in Rio and a large-scale one at that, with big promises. The park lasted only 12 years of operation and had to be closed down because of numerous injuries throughout its operation. During the investigation of the last one in 2010 when a poor woman died, the investigators proved that the rides all had serious structural and mechanical failures, so the amusement park was closed down. Now it stands abandoned, providing a sad but interesting experience for those who may want to visit it.
19. Rio de Janeiro Cathedral
The Rio de Janeiro Cathedral is a well-known cathedral of Rio due to its distinct building style. It was built in a modern style based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids. The giant colored windows reach up from the floor, straight to the tip of the church, giving the interior a honeycomb-like resemblence.
20. Escadaria Selarón
The steps of Escadaria Selarón are world-famous, appearing in magazines such as National Geographic and Time. It was painted by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón, who said it was his tribute to the Brazilian people. He began the project on a whim, but it became is obsession, even selling some of his paintings to fund his work. There are 215 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles that either he collected or were brought by visitors from over 60 countries around the world.