Our Top 5 Must-See Rio de Janeiro Attractions


by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Pia V.

Last updated : Nov 14, 20226 min read

Welcome to Rio de Janeiro! Brazil's famous carnival city is a huge metropolis built right on the coastline. Lined by stunning beaches and lush rainforest, and hosting the largest Carnival celebration in the world, the "Marvelous City" certainly lives up to its nickname.

With a population of over 6 million people and a pace of life that never seems to let up, Rio de Janeiro can feel intimidating to a visitor. A vibrant metropolis like this is best explored with a knowledgeable private guide who will make your visit completely hassle-free, ensuring nothing gets lost in translation and all the logistics run smooth throughout. Here are the top 5 must-see attractions you should definitely include in your itinerary!

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer is an important symbol of Brazil, its culture, and Christian faith. It is also one of the most famous statues in the world. This impressive monument is built on top of Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca National Park which borders Rio de Janeiro. From its 700-meter-high vantage point, the 30-meter-tall statue gazes over the bustling city. 

The hundred-year-old statue was built between 1922 and 1931 using concrete and soapstone. Since its creation, this imposing figure has become one of the most photographed sites in the country. The statue was also included in the 2007 list of the New 7 Wonders of the World and is said to attract nearly 2 million visitors a year. The most popular way to reach the statue is by hopping aboard the quaint Corcovado Tram, which will take you from Rio's Cosme Velho neighborhood all the way up to the summit. Spaces are limited so make sure to book your tickets beforehand to avoid missing out!

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain is another scenic elevation adjacent to Rio de Janeiro. This granite and quartz mountain is around 400 meters tall. It is positioned at the opening of the Guanabara Bay, right on the precipice of the Atlantic Ocean. The stone formation has become famous for the beautiful views it provides, as well as the cable car which takes you to the top. Riding the glass-sided cable car is an experience in itself, with the 1,400-meter-long route providing 360-degree views overlooking Rio de Janeiro and its tropical surroundings. 

There are in fact two cable cars to take and two summits to visit at Sugarloaf Mountain. The first summit is Morro da Urca, followed by the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. Both summits offer spectacular vistas overlooking Rio de Janeiro. The summits also offer plenty of amenities, from restaurants to shops and beyond, so you can comfortably take your time and really drink in the views.

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach - the mere mention of this name is bound to bring a familiar melody to your mind. The 1962 song "A Girl from Ipanema" propelled this beautiful Brazilian beach to the world stage. Ever since, Ipanema Beach has been one of the most famous attractions in the country. The beach is about 3 kilometers long and features beautiful white sand. It is incredibly popular with locals and visitors alike, particularly during the weekends.

Ipanema is a great place to soak up Rio's coastal ambiance and tropical lifestyle. You will find people playing beach volleyball, having a picnic, and simply soaking up the sun. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes for grabbing a bite to eat near the beach. Don't leave before you catch a photo of the beach with the mountains known as the Two Brothers looming in the background!

Botanical Garden

Halley Pacheco de Oliveira, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden is a lush green oasis located in the heart of the city. This is a great place to explore Brazil's unique plant life without having to trek through a rainforest. Located in the city's Southern Zone, the botanical garden is said to be home to a whopping 6,500 different species. The gardens span about 54 hectares of land and also house several greenhouses.

One of the most famous attractions is the park's entrance which is lined by two 750-meter-long lines of palm trees. Make sure to stop here to snap some photos! All in all, the park is said to house a staggering 900 different varieties of palm trees. Besides the diverse flora, the park area is dotted with beautiful fountains, ponds, bridges, and statues. This makes for a very relaxing day spent surrounded by nature.

Selaron Steps

The Selaron Steps are arguably among the most famous steps in the world. Since their creation in the 1990s, they have also become one of the most photographed spots in Rio de Janeiro. The steps are 125 meters long and feature 215 steps, connecting the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa in the city's central district. The tile-covered steps are famous for their colorful design and international influences, with tiles having been sourced from countless countries from around the world.

The Selaron Steps (or Escadaria Selarón in Portuguese) were the passion project of Chilean artist Jorge Selarón. He started repairing the stairs located close to his house during the 1990s and over the years, the project became an obsession. Before his death in 2013, Selarón was constantly working on the staircase, making it an ever-changing work of art. Today, the Selaron Steps feature over 2,000 tiles, many of which have been donated by foreign visitors. Try to see if you can spot a tile from your own home country!


And there you have it - our top 5 attractions to visit in Rio de Janeiro! Of course, this is just a small taste of all the wonders this beautiful and vibrant city has to offer. If planning your itinerary feels overwhelming and you'd rather just leave it to the experts, you're not alone. 

Our experienced local guides have helped countless visitors navigate the Marvelous City, introducing them to the most important landmarks of the city, as well as pointing out all the hidden gems tucked in between. Are you curious to see what this looks like in practice? Check out our private tours of Rio de Janeiro to get inspired!

Image source: https://pixabay.com/ & https://commons.wikimedia.org/

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