From the panoramic hilltop views to sunsets on the beach, Rio de Janeiro's beauty does not disappoint. After all, Brazil's second largest city is called "Cidade Maravilhosa," or "the marvelous city." Fortunately, this bustling city is packed into a relatively small space, making it easy to see a lot in a short amount of time. These top ten attractions in Rio de Janeiro will please any traveler, whether looking for adventure, natural beauty, or art and culture.
Christ the Redeemer
Rio's best-known landmark, O Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) sits atop Corcovado in the Tijuca National Park overlooking the city. This Art Deco statue was completed in 1931 and is now one of the seven wonders of the new world. It stands almost 100 feet tall and its outstretched arms span 92 feet. Get there early for the best views (without many other tourists to compete with), or arrive at dusk for a view of the sea and city at sunset.
One must-do in Rio de Janeiro is going to Sugarloaf Mountain (called "Pão de Açúcar" in Portuguese). The cable car ride is divided into two stages: first, visitors climb more than 200 meters from Praia Vermelha to the first hill, Morro da Urca, and then visitors continue to the top of Sugarloaf with the second car. Consider arriving at sunset for an unforgettable view.
The best known botanical garden in the country, Rio de Janeiro's Jardim Botanic spans about 350 acres and includes thousands of plant species. Located right in the center of the city near the Olympic venue Maracanã Stadium, the garden is easy to access and makes a perfect activity for a relaxing morning or afternoon.
Perhaps nothing defines a Rio de Janeiro vacation better than a day at the beach. Ipanema, is located in the Ipanema neighborhood, one of the city's most affluent areas. The beach made famous by the Bossa Nova tune "Girl from Ipanema" is the place where you can observe Brazilian beach life. Some Cariocas enjoy sunbathing with cold Brazilian beer and beach snacks, while others play soccer and futvolei ("foot volley"), a locally-invented sport in which participants play beach volleyball with their feet.
Contemporary Art Museum in Niteroi
This impressive structure was designed by Brazil's most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer and sits in the area of Niteroi across from Rio de Janeiro. The museum houses a collection of national and international contemporary art, but the views and unusual architecture are the main attraction here.
The Museum of Tomorrow
The city's newest museum, just opened in December of 2015, challenges visitors to consider both the impact of modern life on the environment and the choices that lie ahead for humanity's future. The Museum of Tomorrow was designed by prominent Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is located in the newly revitalized port area of Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil's most famous stadium, Maracanã, is about to become a focal point of the Summer Olympic Games when it hosts the opening and closing ceremonies. Visitors flock to see this huge stadium because of its former position as the largest stadium in the world and its history as the site of first World Cup in Brazil. Besides visiting Maracanã to watch a soccer match, visitors can get an aerial view of the stadium from Corcovado while visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue.
Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park is located in the Tijuca Forest, which is considered the world's largest urban forest at more than twelve square miles. This section of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) offers hikes, panoramic views of the city from the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View), and waterfalls. Check with your hotel or a local tour agency for options for visiting, including guided Jeep tours.
This funky hilltop neighborhood provides a nice contrast to the glitzy scene in some of Rio's neighborhoods such as Ipanema, Copacabana, and Leblon. The bohemian flavor here can be enjoyed while strolling the cobblestone streets, trying traditional Brazilian dishes at the many small restaurants, and taking a ride up the hills in a bonde (old fashioned cable car).
Pedra Bonita, or the "beautiful rock," towers above the city and sea from above Tijuca National Forest. It is known as the place to go hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro. If that's not your thing, you can still enjoy the panoramic views with a hike of the surrounding area.