15 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Rio de Janeiro

Jul 22, 2021

Brazil's most visited city is a vibrant metropolis known for its rainforest-lined beaches, colonial architecture, and natural splendor. Not only is Rio the site of the legendary Cascades waterfall, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World; it is also a major arts center and home to the renowned Carnaval celebration, attracting international visitors every year. It also holds many smaller cultural festivals and events, too.

Visitors generally arrive by air at Rio's busy international airport, which is found south of the center. From there, you can get to your hotel by foot, taxi, or bus.

To learn more about this fascinating destination, read our full guide.

Copacabana Beach

Photo of Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro: en.wikipedia.org

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous beach in Brazil and one of the most visited destinations in the world. Situated in a wide bay, the beach is one of the most scenic spots in the entire south of Brazil and often referred to as a blue lagoon as the turquoise waters and calm seas appear to blend into each other. One of the most popular activities on Copacabana Beach is surf fishing, which is practiced by boat captains who use large nets to catch different fish like tambaqui, marlin and king fish. Another popular activity is sunbathing on the beaches, particularly on the rocky areas, and drinking and eating at beachside restaurants.

Museu de Arte do Rio

Photo of Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro: en.wikipedia.org

Rio de Janeiro, one of the world's great cities, is full of beautiful things to see and do. Its rich heritage as a historical center of Brazilian culture is reflected in its many museums and monuments, most of which are scattered around the city and accessed by an excellent metro system. The best way to experience it is to spend a day wandering around, making sure to stop and look at everything at least once. This museum is found in the pretty Largo de Artes neighborhood on the central waterfront and is Rio's answer to the Frick Collection in New York City. The collections include works of art from Brazilian and American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Iguaçu Falls

Photo of Nova Iguaçu
Nova Iguaçu: en.wikipedia.org

Although not as well-known as the more famous Victoria Falls, Iguaçu Falls is a grand sight to behold. Spanning approximately 3.2 km, the cascades spill over into Iguaçu National Park, offering a much-needed cooling respite to the hot summers. Reaching the falls from the town of Foz do Iguaçu on the border between Argentina and Brazil, visitors can see two sets of 40 or so waterfalls, beginning in the Urca Nature Reserve and then making their way through the Chica-Molena reserve. One major attraction here is the possibility of taking a cable car to the top of the falls, which gives you the unique view of the panorama below.

Corcovado

Photo of Corcovado
Corcovado: en.wikipedia.org

Corcovado, a mountain covered with tropical forest on the Rio de Janeiro city skyline, is a site for more than nature, here you can enjoy the Brazilian Botanical Garden, home to more than 1.2 million exotic and native plants, including 200 varieties of Amazonia species. Hike a path down to the Rio Guanabara and see the Atlantic Ocean through the glass and metal. Also in this park is the Science Museum.

Barra da Tijuca

Photo of Barra da Tijuca
Barra da Tijuca: en.wikipedia.org

One of Rio's most popular beaches, Barra da Tijuca is in the southern part of the Zona Sul (South Zone), a broad area comprising several large suburbs. The more traditional Baixada Fluminense is on the island of Ilha do Governador, part of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, which contains parks and stunning beaches like Pipa, Ubatuba, and Miracema. The most famous of these is Pipa, Brazil's largest sand island and a destination for sun-worshippers who come by boat and charter bus from Barra, the closest point to the island. It's well worth spending a few days here to enjoy its spectacular scenery, isolated beaches, pleasant quiet atmosphere, and wide variety of hotel and beach accommodations.

Botanical Garden

Photo of Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden: en.wikipedia.org

Some 30,000 different species of plants grow in Brazil's Botanical Garden (Brasília Florestal), one of the world's largest urban parks. The world's greatest collection of cacti, palm trees, and tropical forest trees are located in lush green settings, which are ideal for photographers and outdoor lovers. Some 350 species of birds live in the Botanical Garden, among them albatrosses, parrots, toucans, macaws, and hummingbirds. The best time to visit is early in the morning, before the heat of the afternoon.

Forum shopping mall

Photo of Barra Shopping
Barra Shopping: en.wikipedia.org

Centered in Rio de Janeiro's famous financial district, the Forum is home to shops, banks, cafes, restaurants and bars, and is considered one of the city's main attractions. Opened in 1985, it consists of four floors containing more than 180 shops. In keeping with the style of the area, the Forum's shops range from budget to high end, from the famous street vendors to prestigious fashion stores. The only downsides of the mall are that only the first floor is open to the public and that it is very expensive.

Pão de Açúcar

Photo of Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain: en.wikipedia.org

The city of Rio de Janeiro is famous for its beaches, culture, and nightlife, but Pão de Açúcar, in the hills overlooking the city, offers a serene escape. With no neighbors and stunning views of the city to the east, visitors love the residential character of the village, as well as its proximity to the city. There is a visit to the nearby district of Largo do Guaíba in the late afternoon which offers an interesting cultural experience with traditional games and food, as well as a small museum dedicated to the area's history and culture.

Marina da Glória

Photo of Marina da Glória
Marina da Glória: en.wikipedia.org

Towering high above Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay, the magnificent white marble walls and columns of the Largo da Penha fortress look straight out of a fairy tale. Designed in 1896 by Italian architect Giuseppe Gagliardi and built by the city as a showcase for the 1896 World's Fair, it now houses the city museum and houses the President of the Brazilian republic, the vice president, and his staff. Included in the site is the grand Porto das Barcas palace, home of the President since 1897, and several other buildings that bring to life the history of the city. Walk through the residence's marble-floored rooms with exquisitely carved gilt wood panels and beautiful marble fireplaces and you can almost feel the magic of the time.

Guarulhos International Airport

Photo of Rio de Janeiro/Galeão International Airport
Rio de Janeiro/Galeão International Airport: en.wikipedia.org

The 20-meter-high glass and steel tower that provides this bustling international airport's impressive welcome. Guarulhos International Airport has two terminals and three runways. Terminal 1, inaugurated in June 2004, has 16 check-in counters, a restaurant, shopping outlets, shops, a snack bar, banks, currency exchange booths, tourist information desks and medical facilities, among others. To enter Terminal 2, which opened in May 2010, simply follow the green-lit path that takes you through the airport's cargo area to the public concourse, from where you can continue to anywhere inside the terminal or take the elevators up to Terminal 1.

Petropolis

Photo of Petrópolis
Petrópolis: en.wikipedia.org

Petropolis is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It was founded as a construction site for the Christo Wing of the Formula 1 Circuit of 2004. The inhabitants are spread out and some of the residences are mostly occupied by building staff. Petropolis was built in a special form, with U-shape blocks, with no kind of landscaping whatsoever. In the middle of the city, high cliffs are surrounded by a cement wall, and separated by two huge military barracks. The area of the Foro Primitivo is the most important, with more than 3 million visitors every year, who enjoy the variety of cafes, shopping, and cultural centers. One of the best places in Petropolis is the Roman Catholic Parish, the richest, with the oldest buildings.

Museu Nacional de Belas Artes

Photo of Museu Nacional de Belas Artes
Museu Nacional de Belas Artes: en.wikipedia.org

The amazing Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Brazil's National Museum of Fine Arts, is located in Rio de Janeiro's historic center, around five square kilometers of tree-lined streets in the local suburb of Leme, with its vast collection of national art and artifacts. The most famous piece of art at the museum is the famous Mona Lisa (La Joconde), on permanent display in Room 9, which you can view in the original frame. There are also many fantastic objects on display including ancient Egyptian mummies, voodoo vases, costumes from carnival, and even the original guitar that played Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Bourbon Street

Photo of Paraty
Paraty: en.wikipedia.org

For those looking for the craziest and most populated section of the city, Rio's Bourbon Street is the place to be, a mile-long, 6-block zone packed with thousands of party people at all hours of the day. Here you can enjoy outdoor shows like Cirque du Soleil and Metrô, but also anything from chilean folk dancing to local vespas during the summer. Things to do in Bourbon Street include drinking at a café or bar, dancing, sightseeing at the museums of Rio (Museu De Arte do Rio and Museu De Arte do Brasil), and more. For entertainment you can go to a bar or club, or to a concert (unfortunately, there are very few) or a football match.

Catete Urban Residence

Photo of Catete Palace
Catete Palace: en.wikipedia.org

The seven architect-designed and architect-financed villas of the Catete Urban Residence are concentrated in a small, low-lying area about 5 kilometers south of the center of Rio de Janeiro. The residences, set on the Atlantic coast about 8 kilometers south of the center of Rio, were designed by such noted Brazilian architects as Oscar Niemeyer, Piero Sibson, Fernando Lima, and Ialto Martinez de Vasconcelos. Each one is about a hectare in size and has either a dual-aspect sea view or a garden. The government maintains the site as a museum of modern architecture.

Santos Dumont Airport

Photo of Santos Dumont Airport
Santos Dumont Airport: en.wikipedia.org

Built to commemorate Brazil's centenary of independence in 1889, Santos Dumont Airport is considered one of the great achievements of aviation. Originally built in 1926 as a World War I military airfield near the sea and close to Rio de Janeiro's All Saints Bay, the airport was built to service the airfield fighters of the period. This led to a beautiful, stately air terminal that is still a draw today. With its abundant fauna, rainforest, lush vegetation, and strong focus on surf and nature tourism, Santos Dumont Airport is a perfect location for a relaxing holiday.