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South America

Rio de Janeiro Tourist Attractions

Ipanema beach
Ipanema beach. Credit: Wikimedia

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, the third largest metropolitan area in South America and the most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere, the Brazilian government says.

Tourists flock there because Rio tourist attractions range from the hugely popular beaches to one of the most photographed statues on the continent.

Christ the Redeemer

The most famous attraction in Rio is the statue of Christ the Redeemer, built in 1931, which towers over the city on top of Corcovado Mountain at 2,300 feet high. The largest art deco statue in the world is more than 125 feet tall with arms that stretch out 98 feet. In 2007, it was voted one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” Trains carrying tourists who want to visit the statue leave every half hour between 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Tijuca National Park

Corcovado is located in Tijuca National Park, which the city government claims is the largest urban forest in the world at 12.4 square miles. This mountainous, tropical rainforest is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. In addition to Christ the Redeemer and Corcovado, other attractions include Cascatinha Waterfall and the Mayrink Chapel. The forest is unique in part because it was reclaimed in 1861 by Brazilian King Dom Pedro II to protect Rio’s water supply, which was threatened by intensive farming, erosion, deforestation and declining levels of rainfall.

Ipanema Beach

Rio’s most famous beach, part of the neighborhood with the same name, has been featured in movies and songs such as “The Girl from Ipanema.” It represents the free-spirited beach life of Rio residents and visitors. It is often packed with tourists and events such as beach soccer and beach volleyball. The neighborhood, which is the birthplace of bossa nova music, also is popular with tourists.

Samba City

Samba City is a complex of 14 buildings covering 98,000 square meters that is devoted to samba dancing, according to the Samba City Web site. Each building houses a different samba school that prepares dancers and floats for the February and March carnaval in the Sambadrome, which is the parade venue displaying the performers. Visitors to Samba City can take part in the preparations, learn how to samba or simply watch the dancers practice.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) is a 1,300-foot-tall peak known for its cable cars and panoramic views of the city. It is located on a peninsula at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The cable car line was the first one in Brazil and is one of the oldest in the world, first appearing in 1912. Visitors actually take two of the glass-walled cable cars to reach the top. The first car reaches the top of the Morro da Urca hill at 722 feet high. Then a second car takes them the rest of the way to Pão de Açúcar.


The neighborhood of Copacabana also was made famous in a hit song written and performed by Barry Manilow. The neighborhood began as a small fishing village and expanded after the arrival of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, which is located by the Leme and Copacabana beaches. Another nearby attraction is the Copacabana fort, a defensive based at the south end of the beach that was built in 1914 and now contains the Museum of the History of the Army. It is open to the public.

Jardim Botânico

Botanical Garden or Jardim Botânico is both a botanical garden and the neighborhood that surrounds it. The garden, which was founded in 1808, contains more than 6,000 species of plants and 140 species of birds. The plants include 900 varieties of palm trees including 134 palms that line the Avenue of Royal Palms.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 17, 2020

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