This supermodel of cities is divided into three major sections including the city centre and heart of the financial district, the Zona Sul (southern zone) and the Zona Norte. The city centre is spattered with colonial buildings and contains most of the ‘historical’ architecture in Rio as well as Saude and Lapa. The Zona Sol contains the fabulous beaches and Sugar Loaf Mountain, while to the north, Zona Norte has less to appeal with its plethora of favelas cling precariously to the wooded hillsides. The barrio of Santa Teresa is becoming increasingly fashionable and boasts the Christ the Redeemer Statue that stands resplendent on the summit of the Corcavado.
Rio De Janeiro Sightseeing Travel Guide
1. Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar)
Telephone – 2217 7575
Named after the Victorian bread baking tin and towering above Rio at 396 metres high, this iconic symbol of Rio’s patchwork landscape is an absolute must. Step into your little capsule of history (the cable cars have been running since 1912, and leave every 30 minutes, R$19) and be transported to the first stage, the Summit da Urca. where you can sip a cool drink and watch the monkeys that throw themselves about the trees. Complete the journey by arriving at the tip of the Pao de Acucar and feel dizzy with gratitude at the view.
On the Friday before Shrove Tuesday, decorum and boredom is handed over to Rei Momo, the Lord of Misrule, and you will find yourself plunged into a five-day orgy of decadence, colour, sequins, glitter, and thumping samba rhythms reaching a climax when fireworks rip the skies apart above Copacabana. Only naughty Rio could host such a riotous Mardi Gras – prices may soar and everyone goes a bit crazy but just abandon yourself to the cause. Book tickets from travel agents at least six months in advance.
3. Corcovado Mountain
Or the ‘Hunchback mountain’ is located in Tujuica National Park and you can hike through the leafy foliage leaving the cares of the city behind. And, of course, when you reach the top your efforts are rewarded by seeing…
4. The Statue of Christ the Redeemer
Telephone – 2217 7575
You too would be standing in awe with your arms outstretched if you had this view everyday of your life.
Construction started on this al-fresco masterpiece in 1926 and was finally finished in 1931 after Paul Landowski crafted the hands and head and the engineers Heitor da Silva Costa and Pedro Viana sculpted the body. Make sure you head up by taxi, public transport or leg-power on a clear day when your eyes will thank you for seeing the sights below.
5. Copacabana Beach
Beautiful and famous, this veritable a-list celebrity of all things sandy stretches for 2 ½ miles and is trimmed with psychedelic mosaic pavements designed by Burle Max and lined with fabulous art deco architecture. A true hedonists’ paradise.
6. Ipanema Beach
It has The Girl, the wealth and the beauty to rival Copacabana but likes the fact it’s a touch more refined than its glitzy neighbour. With artists, intellectuals and bronzed gay men honing their deep tans, people watching is paramount which is very easy on Sundays when the promenade becomes a car-free zone.
7. Botanical Gardens
Jardim Botanico, Rua Jardim Botanico 1008 Opening hours – Tues-Sun 8am-5pm
Feel like an early Portuguese explorer when you wade through the natural jungle, only to emerge on a grand avenue, filled with fragrant Imperial foliage and delicate statues. Also in the area is the Jardim Botanico district with weaving paths, small lakes and forests galore. Admission to the Botanical Garden is R$4.
8. Nova Catedral
Avenida Republica do Chile 245, Centro Opening hours – daily 7am-5.30pm
Resembling a blunt topped Toblerone, and with a capacity of 25,000 people, this truly is a staggering feat of modern architecture. Come and admire the four enormous stained glass windows, painted the ecclesiastically symbolic colours of red, green, blue and yellow.
9. Maracana Stadium
Rua Prof. Eurico Rabelo, Maracana Telephone – 25 68 9962 Opening hours – daily, 9am-5pm (8am-11am on match days)
Brazilians respire and expire by the football which makes attending a match in Rio one of the most atmospheric events you are ever likely to encounter. The Marcana Stadium is one of the largest in the world, holding 200,000 spectators and ticket prices vary depending on the game. Alternatively, go on a tour of the pitch when thousands of frantic fans are far away.
10. Praca 15 de Novembro
In the heart of the Centro district and once the hub of social and political life in the city, you can now visit one of Rio’s oldest markets held here every Thursday and Friday from 8am-6pm or just absorb the beautifully constructed facades of the buildings and churches that line the square.