Read about the city

Few cities in the world bring as much joy and happiness as Rio de Janeiro. Here you will find samba style football, the colorful annual carnival, beaches of Copacabana and Ipenema, the Corcovado tram line and many other sights and activities which will make the trip memorable.

The highlights of the city are literally the distinctive Sugarloaf Mountain and the impressive Christ the Redeemer statue, which embraces and views upon the entire Rio de Janeiro. A trip to the statue is a must on a trip to the charming Brazilian metropolis. The statue and the panoramas from here are unforgettable.

In addition to the many opportunities for swimming and relaxing, Rio de Janeiro is also a city with a great cultural offer. Fine museums and interesting church buildings are numerous, and the cariocas, which is the local name for Rio de Janeiro's inhabitants, make a difference as well. Their mood and happiness will surely go to you as a visitor.

Zona Sul is often the place to be as a tourist in the city. The neighborhoods of Botafogo, Catete, Flamengo and Gloria are areas with a lot of carioca soul, and Santa Teresa is worth visiting as well. If you want to experience more of historic Brazil and at the same time get out of the big city, you can enjoy a trip to Portuguese style Parati.

Other attractions

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

  • The Sugar Loaf Mountain/Pão de Açúcar: The sugar peak is the famous 396 meter/1,299 feet high granite mountain that has the shape of just a sugar loaf. The mountain is one of Rio de Janeiro's landmarks and you can get to the top with a cable car.
  • Lapa Aqueduct/Arcos da Lapa: Arcos da Lapa is also known as the Carioca Aqueduct, and it was built from 1724 to transport fresh water to Rio de Janeiro's growing population. Today, a tram line has been built on top of it.

Theatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro

  • City Theater/Theatro Municipal: This is Rio de Janeiro's beautiful opera house, built in 1905-1909 with inspiration from the Garnier Opera in Paris. Stylistically, the opera stands in art nouveau and eclecticism of the time.
  • National Museum of Fine Arts/Museu Nacional de Belas Artes: This national art museum was established in 1937, and the foundation of the collection was the art collection that the Portuguese king brought to Brazil when he moved the court here from Lisbon in the 19th century. You can see both Brazilian and international art in the beautiful museum building.

Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro

  • Maracanã: The huge Maracanã is the world's largest football stadium. It was inaugurated in 1950 with a capacity of 166,369 spectators, but for the 1963 World Cup in club football, about 200,000 people saw Pelé and Santos win over Italian Milan.
  • Santa Teresa: The Santa Teresa neighborhood was developed in the 18th century, and the atmosphere today is like returning to historic Rio de Janeiro. Narrow and crooked streets with old trams.

Botanical Garden, Rio de Janeiro

  • Botanical Gardens/Jardim Botânico: Rio de Janeiro's botanical gardens are perhaps the most beautiful and fascinating in the world. You can experience both the rich Brazilian plant life and international collections here, i.e. a Japanese garden.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

  • Ipanema Beach/Praia de Ipanema: The Ipanema beach is immortalized through the song "Girl from Ipanema", and on a visit you understand why. The beach itself is very beautiful and breathtaking.

Museum of Tomorrow, Rio de Janeiro

  • Museum of Tomorrow/Museu do Amanhã: This is an exciting science museum that stands as one of Rio de Janeiro's famous works of modern architecture. The museum opened in 2015 in the building designed by Santiago Calatrava.
History overview

    [expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
    The first European presence in the present Rio de Janeiro area occurred in January 1502 when the Portuguese explorer, Gaspar de Lemos, headed an expedition sailing to the Gulf of Guanabara. They thought the bay had to be the mouth of a river, and so they called it Rio de Janeiro, which means the January river in Portuguese.

    For decades, France sought influence in the area, and in 1555, under Admiral Villegaignon's leadership, they occupied the areas around the Gulf of Guanabara, but after several battles they had to leave the country a few years later.

    At the foot of the Sugar Summit, Estácio de Sá founded in 1565 the city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, named after the Portuguese king. The city was well situated with its natural harbor in the Gulf of Guanabara, but still close to the Atlantic Ocean, from which the city was exposed to repeated looting from, not least, enemies of Portugal.

    Portugal was colonizing colossal Brazil, and to avoid the conquests of other Europeans, they founded many new cities. Rio de Janeiro was also made the second regional administrative center after Salvador to the north. In this way, a faster expansion in the southern part of the colony could be ensured.

    For the first several years, economic development was slow, and Rio de Janeiro was a small city. Only slowly the region was cultivated, but production increased, and by the end of the 1600s sugar cane production was considerable and the largest export product.

    At the beginning of the 18th century, gold was found in Minas Gerais, northwest of Rio de Janeiro inland. A gold fever erupted, attracting people from both Portugal and the other regions of Brazil. The King of Portugal decided that all gold from Brazil should be shipped from Rio de Janeiro, creating economic growth and growth in the city's population.

    In 1763, Rio de Janeiro was made Brazil's only administrative center and thus in effect the capital of the colony, which naturally led to some new public institutions in the Portuguese administration.

    The Portuguese king, Dom João VI, was forced to leave his homeland during Napoleon's conquests in Portugal in 1808, and on that occasion he moved his entire court to Rio de Janeiro. The generous status of the city created additional buildings, including the king's residence, and it added to the city a cultural wealth it had not previously enjoyed. The Kingdom's official capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro, which was also the European capital.

    In 1821, Dom João VI returned to Lisbon, and the following year his son declared Brazil independently and appointed himself Emperor Pedro I. He maintained Rio de Janeiro as its capital. 

    Emperor Dom Pedro I sacked the government in 1831, and after major riots and a failed reestablishment of political rule, he left Brazil, boarded a British warship and handed the throne to his 5-year-old son, who became Emperor Dom Pedro II in 1,841th

    Rio de Janeiro developed rapidly through the latter half of the 19th century. The railroad came to town in 1858, and 10 years after, the first tram ran in the city streets. An increasing number of people came to Rio de Janeiro, which put pressure on the development of new urban areas.

    In the early 1900s, a major expansion of the city started. In the center, wider boulevards were built, and Zona Sul, located south of the center and the through mountains, was planned. This started the life around Copacabana Beach, which had previously been outside Rio de Janeiro. Copacabana Palace Hotel was one of the most fashionable hotels in the American continents in the 1930s, and during this period the city established its name as the capital of beaches and the joy of life.

    The metropolis of São Paolo had gradually taken over Rio de Janeiro's role as Brazil's economic locomotive, while through the 20th century a number of cultural institutions were established in the capital. In 1905, construction of the city's new theater was started, and many museums were established around the city's many neighborhoods.

    As the capital, Rio de Janeiro, with the rising tourism, continuously attracted masses of people from mainly Brazil's poorer northeastern regions. They settled on the northwestern edge of the city, eventually developing into colossal neighborhoods with millions of inhabitants. The neighborhoods, the so-called favelas, often consisted of very temporary housing, and they lived their own lives far from tourists' Rio de Janeiro, which was primarily the southern Zona Sul.

    For years, it had been debated whether the capital of Brazil should be moved inland to develop the area. It became a reality in 1960, when Brasilia was created, thereby ending Rio de Janeiro's status as the country's capital.
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Copacabana - Avenida Atlântica - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilien

Top attractions

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

  • Christ the Dedeemer/Cristo Redentor: The world-renowned Christ statue at the top of the 710 meter/2,329 feet high mountain of Morro do Corcovado is the landmark of Rio de Janeiro. The statue is 38 meters/125 feet high and it was inaugurated in 1931. The tour and walk up to the statue is exciting and from the top the view is unforgettable.
  • Copacabana: There are a total of 80 km/50 mi of beach in and immediately around Rio de Janeiro, of which the beautiful Copacabana is the most famous. Life along the beach in the heart of the city is a lovely experience, and so is the scenic surroundings.

Catedral Metropolitana, Rio de Janeiro

  • City Cathedral/Catedral Metropolitana: This modern, 96-meter/315-feet-high cathedral looks almost like a colossal lampshade with its carved conical shape. With its stained-glass windows, the light provides a very beautiful experience inside the large room.
  • National History Museum/Museu Historico Nacional: Brazil's National History Museum, through its large collection, portrays the country's history in an exciting and vibrant way. The museum itself is housed in three buildings, built 1762-1835.

São Bento Monastery, Rio de Janeiro

  • São Bento Monastery/Mosteiro de São Bento: This monastery was founded in the 16th century. The current buildings were constructed through the 1600s and are among Rio de Janeiro's most impressive architectural works.
Trips in the area

Ilha Grande, Brazil

  • Ilha Grande: There are several lovely islands in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro, and Ilha Grande is a popular excursion destination with beautiful beaches and unspoilt nature. The island is a paradise of clear water, beaches and palm trees that give a good impression of the rest of Brazil's varied and beautiful coastlines.
  • Tijuca National Park/Parque Nacional da Tijuca: The Tijuca National Park is the largest Brazilian natural area located in the major urban areas and therefore it is an easy way to get out into nature.

Parati, Brazil

  • Parati: The city of Parati is one of the most idyllic near Rio de Janeiro. A visit to Parati is like going back to the Portuguese colonial period, as much of the city has not been changed in the last 200 years.
  • Pontal House/Casa do Pontal: In this beautiful house you can see Brazil's largest collection of folk arts and crafts. The highly diverse collection holds more than 5,000 pieces and has been established over 50 years by Frenchman Jacques van de Beuque.

Petropolis, Brazil

  • Petrópolis: Petrópolis is also known as the imperial city of Brazil. The city is named after Emperor Dom Pedro I, the country's first monarch. It was used as a summer residence by the Brazilian emperors.
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