Rio de Janeiro is one of the most exciting cities in the world, a place everyone wants to visit. The city is called “cidade maravilhosa” or marvelous city and is worldwide famous for its incredibly beautiful nature, amazing beaches, samba, football and city's landmarks.
Rio is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere. It is located on the South Atlantic coast and is the second-most populous municipality in Brazil.
The population of the city of Rio de Janeiro, occupying an area of 1,182.3 square kilometers is about 6,000,000. The population of the greater metropolitan area is estimated at 11–13.5 million. Residents of the city are known as cariocas.
Brazil and the city of Rio de Janeiro recently hosted two major sporting events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. These events put Brazil in the spotlight and drew the world's attention to the country.
Rio is a huge city with incredible energy and vibes, which you will instantly feel.
The city is divided into districts/zones/.
The South Zone / Zona Sul / holds most of Rio's landmarks and world-famous beaches: Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema, as well as many of the major tourist sites, such as Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains, upscale neighborhoods and the districts along Flamengo Beach.
Visiting Rio is a very exciting experience, especially when it is for the first time. Everyone goes there with certain expectations to entertain and have a good time.
Plan at least 3-4 days, even a week to be able to see most of the city's sights and have adequate time to enjoy it.
Here are the top attractions and sights you should see during your visit:
Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer Statue
Undoubtedly, the most recognized and famous landmark of Rio de Janeiro is the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer standing with stretched arms atop of the 710 m. high Corcovado mountain and overlooking the city. The statue is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and offers breathtaking views.
The Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ is 30 meters tall, excluding its 8-meter pedestal and was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with the French engineer Albert Caquot.
It was constructed between 1922 - 1931 and is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
The most popular way of reaching the top is the funicular train, ascending 20 minutes long through the lush vegetation of the Tijuca forest national park.
The space in front of the statue is not big and easily gets overcrowded with tourists which sometimes makes it difficult to find a spot for viewing the landscape and to take photos with no other people included.
Sugarloaf Mountain with its smaller companion, Morro da Urca is another iconic place in Rio de Janeiro. Rising 400 meters (1,300 feet) above the mouth of Guanabara Bay,
Sugarloaf Mountain is a monolith of quartz and granite. Its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. It is known worldwide for its cableway and panoramic views of the city.
Going atop is a truly amazing experience. Access is by means of an aerial cable car offering magnificent views. First you take a cable car from Praça General Tibúrcio to the top of the Morro da Urca, a lower peak from which a second cableway runs to the summit of the Sugar Loaf. From there you can enjoy the breathtaking views you will never forget.
Copacabana is a neighborhood located in the South Zone of the city. It is best known for its 4 km (2.5 miles) sandy beach, located at the Atlantic shore and is one of the most famous in the world.
Along the beach there is a promenade that features a wave-like design laid out in black and white stones. Hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and residential buildings dominate the promenade facing Avenida Atlântica. The most famous hotel and building along the promenade is the renowned Copacabana Palace, built in the 1920s and now protected as a national monument.
Copacabana beach is a very long and wide beach, a lively place where lots of sports activities are being practiced - volleyball, football, footvolley, roller skating, jogging, yoga, bicycle riding and even more.
In the evenings it is a lovely place for strolling and meeting with friends.
Every New year's eve the beach gathers millions of people to celebrate the New year.
There are historic forts at both ends of Copacabana beach - Fort Copacabana, built in 1914, is at the south end and Fort Duque de Caxias, built in 1779, at the north end.
Ipanema is a district located in the upscale South zone.
Ipanema is one of Rio's most expensive districts to live in, private investment has led to the building of world-class restaurants, shops, and cafés.
The district is known for its rich cultural life, there are many art galleries, theaters and clubs.
The beach at Ipanema became known internationally with the popularity of the bossa nova jazz song, "The Girl from Ipanema".
Ipanema beach is a very popular large, sandy beach bordered by Arpoador Beach on one end and Leblon Beach on the other end. The beach is divided into areas known as postos (lifeguard stands).
Just like Copacabana, different sports activities can be observed here as well.
The Carnaval / Carnival /
One of the greatest reasons to visit Rio may be the lavish and world-renowned Carnival.
The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is considered the biggest carnival in the world with two million people per day on the streets.
The Carnival is held every year in February or March, ending 40 days before Easter and lasts for almost two weeks. The event attracts visitors from all corners of the globe.
Rio is home to over 70 samba schools / escolas de samba / which during the Carnival parade on a gigantic structure called Sambódromo (Sambadrome) competing one with another.
The type of energy that the city emulates during the Carnival is just simply electrifying.
Samba music can be heard coming from neighborhoods throughout the city and crowds gather to dance and play all day and night.
The rest of the year, when the Carnival is over, samba shows are still popular among tourists and are held at several venues like Plataforma and Scala.
Maracana Stadium is another city's landmark, world-wide known, related to the Brazilian passion for football and to the many Brazilian accomplishments in this sport.
The legendary stadium is the largest football stadium in South America and once the largest on Earth. When opened in 1950 it was able to gather nearly 200,000 people.
It has recently been renovated for the 2014 World Cup and nowadays has a capacity for 80,000 spectators. Inside is the Soccer Museum.
The Maracanã Stadium held the finals of the 1950 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the XV Pan American Games.
Tijuca National Park
Tijuca National Park is a tropical rainforest in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is claimed to be the world's largest urban forest, covering an area of 32 km² (12.4 mi²).
The forest is planted with tropical trees and is home to ocelots, howler monkeys, more than 300 bird species, waterfalls, and one of Rio’s iconic landmarks, the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue standing atop Corcovado Mountain.
The park's main attractions are Taunay Waterfall and Mayrink Chapel.
Popular among hikers and nature lovers, visitors can hike to Rio’s highest peak, the Pico da Tijuca, to enjoy expansive views of Guanabara Bay and the city.
Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro
The Municipal Theater is Rio's main opera house. The beautiful Belle Époque style building is located in the heart of the city's center.
Created in the early 20th Century, inspired by the Opéra de Paris, this architectonic jewel is worth a visit and amazes with its profusion of gilded mirrors, marble columns, painted ceilings and green onyx staircases.
Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico)
Located to the west of the Lagoa neighborhood, the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, or Jardim Botanico, houses more than 8,000 species of plants. Built in the early 1800s, the garden features many mature specimens, including avenues of towering palm trees. The garden is popular with its 600 species of orchids.
There are also a number of monuments that can be seen, fountains, a Japanese garden, a pond filled with water lilies and the new Museu do Meio Ambiente, which displays exhibits that focus on the environment.
The list of beautiful places worth visiting in Rio de Janeiro can go on. You may also consider seeing:
Rodrigo de Freitas Lake
Barra da Tijuca beach
Guided tour through a favela in Rio de Janeiro
As an alternative to the city life, you may also consider a day trip out of Rio de Janeiro. A great idea is to go on an exciting cruise to Angra dos Reis. Another option is to visit the breathtaking Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina. See details here:
At last, from my experience I have also to note the bad side of Rio. Along with its spectacular nature and overwhelming atmosphere, the city is also known for its high risk of violence and crime.
Be vigilant, don't wear expensive jewelry, watches and don't carry a lot of cash with you. Avoid going alone in the dark and leave your passport and documents in the safe of your hotel. Try to have small notes with you and when dealing with money be careful because they do some tricks and change notes claiming that you gave them fake notes.
More photos of Rio de Janeiro: