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Must Sees From Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

8 Must Sees for anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro in Brazil + Safety Tips

Despite all the bad press about Rio being an unsafe city, it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world as it has a great variety of activities. We also did not feel in danger at any point, the only thing you need to do to stay safe is use your common sense. (Do not flash any valuables or leave them unattended on the beach and do not walk through sketchy areas. (especially at night) Even locals told us that it is very strange to see someone get robbed using force, most theft occurs as a grab and run.

That being stated here are the main attractions to visit in Rio de Janeiro, each one with pricing which was last updated on July 2024 (check official pages for up-to-date pricing) and important information about the visit.

1. Christ the Redeemer

The first in our list couldn’t be other than the world-famous Christ the Redeemer, which is part of the list of the 7 world wonders.  

To get to the entrance you have two options:

  1. The first one is to get there by Private transport. From Uber & Taxis to Private vans there are plenty of options to get to the entrance this way. The official site offers private transport from Largo do Machado & Copacabana.
  2. The second option is using the famous rack railway “Trem do Corcovado”. For this one the earliest ticket its at 7:20 and you should arrive 30 min prior to your entry time with your passport or a picture of it and the credit card you used to make the purchase of the tickets.

We recommend getting there as early as possible as it gets very crowded later in the day. We took the first rack railway and when we arrived at the top the place was already crowded, so if you want to be the first and avoid crowds you should get the Privat Transport Option and be in line way before the opening at 8 A.M.

The site closes at 7 P.M.

The prices from the official site are the following.

Single Ticket /   + Rail  /   + Van

2. Pão de Açúcar (Sugar Loaf)

This is, by most tourists the second best attraction in Rio only after The Christ. It consists of two Cable Cars that connect 2 different monoliths. The first one leaves next to Red Beach and the second leaves from the first peak. We recommend going during sunset as it overlooks the entire city of Rio. 

Tickets can be purchased for just the first peak or a combined ticket that includes both cable cars. Our recommendation is to book online as there is normally a big line of about 1 hour to buy tickets. But even if you have tickets you will need to wait in line to get on the cable cars, so plan between 30-45 minutes from when you arrive till you get to the first stop. (especially to not miss the sunset)

On both peaks, there are a couple of shops and restaurants and you can also take a helicopter tour from the first peak.

The prices to visit both peaks are the following:

3. Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro

Rio’s botanical garden is a nice place to be surrounded by and safely walk around nature.  

Apart from a great variety of trees, monkeys are often spotted in the gardens. 

In order to book online you will need a CPF, so if you don’t have one (if you don’t know what this is then you definitely do not have one) you can only buy tickets on-site where they only accept cash and you’ll need your passport or a picture of it.

Normally the ticket line isn’t too long.

The gardens open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM except for Wednesdays when the opening hour is 11 AM.

The entry prices are the following. (Remember ONLY cash)

4. Maracanã Stadium

If you like football (soccer), you know that Maracanã is one of the most emblematic stadiums in the world.

The tours for the interior don’t have a fixed timetable as they need to accommodate matches and other events, so you should check their site before your visit.

You can purchase tickets online or at the entrance.

But if you fully want to experience Maracanã you should definitely attend a live game. To do so you can check the upcoming games here

5. Lapa (Escadaria Selarón or Lapa Steps)

Lapa steps are 215 beautiful steps covered in ceramic pieces that were originally from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the Rio streets. In later years, they have been replaced by tiles donated by visitors from all around the world. The stairs make for a quick colorful visit to take a pic and walk up to the top.

Locals recommended against visiting any further up the top of the colorful stairs for the risk of being robbed.

Near the Lapa stairs, you can also find the famous Metropolitan Cathedral & Arcos da Lapa

6. Pedra Da Gavea

Pedra da Gávea is the largest monolith by the sea in the world with its 842m above sea level and overlooks the entire south zone of Rio de Janeiro and the west zone.

Pedra Da Gavea is not often mentioned as a must when visiting Rio (although in our opinion it is); therefore, there is not much information about the hike online. We have a separate article covering how to get to the trailhead, important information, distance, precautions, estimated time to go up and down, and all other information needed to complete the Pedra Da Gávea Hike.

7. Beaches (Copacabana & Ipanema)

The main beaches in Rio are Copacabana & Ipanema. Copacabana is more touristy and in Ipanema you’ll see some more locals.

They both offer saltwater showers and improvised beach bars to sit, have a drink, or eat some food.

Be careful when paying at the beach for drinks and food and try to pay in cash if you can as some people have been scammed and charged R$4000 instead of R$40. And in case you only have your credit card make sure to double-check for the amounts.

8. Favelas

Contrary to popular belief, in the past years, the southern favelas of Rio have become safer than Rio in general (or that’s what our tour guide explained. He told us that police were being paid by narcos in exchange for running the favelas on their own. So narcos, to keep tourism coming to the favela will find anyone who steals any valuables from a tourist through security cameras, they will get the item, return it to its owner, and beat up the thieve so he does not do it again, and all of this in under 5 minutes). We must say we were and still are a bit skeptical about this.

Despite this, it’s still a good idea to get a guided tour as the guides are often from the favela and will show you the best places and give you a full explanation. They also warned us to not take pictures in some parts of the favela, as there were armed narcos and they did not want to be photographed.

We booked this tour for the Rocinha Favela, which is the most populated favela in Rio with over 200,000 people living on it. This tour included transport from Copacabana to the Favela and a 2-hour guided tour given by someone who was born and raised and still lives in the favela. The tours are available in English, Spanish, French, German & Portuguese.

The most famous favelas that can be visited in Rio are:

 

Favelas in the north aren’t safe to visit as there are conflicts between narcos and police.

Thank you for reading our list of must sees from Rio!

If you think we forgot to mention anything, don’t hesitate to write in the comment section. Stay Safe!

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