Christ the Redeemer
One of the most popular places to see a view of Rio from above is the city's best-known landmark, O Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) at the top of Corcovado mountain in Tijuca National Park. Try to get there early to avoid the crowds for the best opportunity to see the views of the city below, or plan to arrive before the sun goes down to see the sea and city baked in the colors of the sunset. Christ the Redeemer can be reached by the Corcovado Train or certified vans from Copacabana, Largo do Machado or Paineiras.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese) is one of the top attractions in Rio. Try to time your visit at sunset for an unforgettable view, but the view of the beaches, sea, and city from above is spectacular at any time of the day.
Sugarloaf can be reached by a cable car ride which is divided into two stage first from Praia Vermelha to the first hill, Morro da Urca, and then to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain on the second cable car.
Ipanema Beach is one of the most popular places to hang out and witness local life in Rio de Janeiro. The beach also offers unforgettable views of the sea and the two peaks called the "Dois Irmãos" (Two Brothers), which sit at the western end of the beach.
Tijuca National Park is located in one of the world's largest urban forests, Tijuca National Forest. Visit this park and the Vista Chinesa 503 (Chinese View) for panoramic views of the forest, city, and sea from almost 400 meters above. Look for Lagoa and Pão de Açúcar. To be safe, don't visit alone or after dark. You can reach Vista Chinesa by car or taxi or by this hike.
Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) offers one of the nicest beach views of Rio de Janeiro. This small beach is located under the granite tower of Morro da Urca. Besides the views, people visit this beach for the water — because the beach is protected on two sides by the hills, the water here is calmer than at other Rio beaches.
Rising above the city, Pedra Bonita 503, or the "beautiful rock," is known for hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro, but it's also a lesser-known place to get a view from above the city. Even if you don't take in the views while hang gliding, you can still enjoy the panoramic views while doing the short hike around Pedra Bonita.
Pedra Bonita can be reached by a 20-minute taxi ride from the area of Ipanema.
MAC Niteroi, or the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, is one of the nicest places to see art in Brazil. Besides housing an impressive collection of both Brazilian and international contemporary art, the museum is worth a visit for its unusual architecture and the views. The striking red ramp, spaceship-looking building, and water below the building are characteristics of architect Oscar Niemeyer's famous work. Views of the bay and Rio de Janeiro can be enjoyed from the museum.
Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) are the pair of peaks that lie near the water. From the top of these peaks, a truly spectacular view of the city below can be seen. The top of Dois Irmãos can be reached by a hike, which takes a couple of hours round trip.
A guided tour is one option, but if you prefer to go without a guide, you'll need to get to the favela Vidigal, which is located between the neighborhoods of Leblon and São Conrado. If you take a taxi to get here, you will likely be dropped off at the entrance to Vidigal. The trail begins at the top of the favela where the houses and buildings stop, and you can reach the trail by taking a motor-taxi ride or van ride, which are offered near the entrance of the favela.