Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Few cities in the world have the iconic status of Rio de Janeiro. Whether you have a day or a two-week vacation, you can only scratch its wonderful surface. Here are highlights of Rio to include in your itinerary.

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1 Portuguese Origin of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You are arriving in Rio de Janeiro. How exciting! Imagine being the first European to see this incredible horizon. That exhilarating experience happened to a Portuguese fleet led by Gaspar de Lemos on January 1, 1502. Thinking they had discovered a river, the explorer named the waters Rio de Janeiro meaning January River. 63 years passed before the Portuguese returned on March 1, 1565. The new settlement was christened São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro as a tribute to Saint Sebastian. Overtime, the city’s name was shortened to Rio de Janeiro and Brazil’s second largest bay was renamed Guanabara. This means “bosom of the sea” in the Tupi language. This travel guide will direct you to the city’s highlights. Have a wonderful time exploring Rio de Janeiro.

2 UNESCO Sites in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sugarloaf Mountain rises 1,299 feet from Guanabara Bay. This majestic monolith is only one of the amazing features of Rio de Janeiro recognized by UNESCO as a Cultural Landscape. Oher areas included in this coveted designation are Tijuca National Park (forest covers over 9,700 acres), the Botanical Garden (7,000 species of plants in 350 acres), Corcovado mountain (with the Christ the Redeemer statue at the peak) and this coastline of Guanabara Bay including Copacabana Beach.

Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

3 Downtown Skyline of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The nickname for Rio de Janeiro is Cidade Maravilhosa meaning Marvelous City. This is not just a marketing moniker. Rio is a unique blend of natural scenery with towering peaks and shaped by world-famous beaches. Brazil’s second largest city has a municipal population of 6.5 million with nearly twice as many residents (called cariocas) in the metro area. So yes, it is busy. But you will also be busy exploring one of Latin America’s top destinations. This cityscape is downtown. Centro is the historic, cultural and financial heart of Rio.

Guanabara Bay – Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

4 Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Without question, Rio de Janeiro’s most famous image is the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain. This figure’s outstretched arms – measuring 92 feet wide – symbolize peace. The Jesus Christ figure was made from sandstone and concrete in 1931 by sculptor Paul Landowski. The world’s tallest Art Deco statue stands 124 feet. Nearly every visitor to Rio travels through the forest of Tijuca National Park for a close up and a photo. Yet this icon of Brazil can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Not surprising, Cristo Redentor was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

Cristo Redentor, Parque Nacional da Tijuca - Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

5 View from Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

At 2,310 feet, Rio’s second tallest peak is Corcovado. The mount’s shape makes it easy to see why the Portuguese chose the word meaning hunchback. Its elevation provides spectacular vistas of the city. Shown here is the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Encircling the hillside is part of the Tijuca Forest. Floresta da Tijuca is considered to be the world’s largest urban rainforest. At the foot of Christ Redeemer is the start of Paineiras Road. This lovely, 3.1 mile hike offers plenty of wonderful scenery.

Cristo Redentor, Parque Nacional da Tijuca - Alto da Boa Vista, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

6 Church at Largo do Machado Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Largo do Machado Square is a popular place to catch an inexpensive van to the top of Corcovado to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. While waiting for your ride, you can admire the Mother Church of Our Lady of Glory. The parish was founded by the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament. Construction of the Catholic church was decreed in 1834 and was completed in 1872. Its façade resembles St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London.

Largo do Machado - Catete, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22221-020, Brazil

7 Cable Car to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The second biggest tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro is Sugarloaf Mountain. It is located on a headland jetting into the western mouth of Guanabara Bay. Your trip begins at Bondinho do Pão de Açúcar. This is the name for the cableway ride. Each half hour, a cable car begins its assent. There are plenty of windows so up to 65 passengers can enjoy the unfolding scenery.

Av. Pasteur, 520 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-240, Brazil

8 City View from First Stop to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain makes one stop along the way. After traveling for three minutes and a distance of 2,000 feet, you arrive at Morro da Urca. The station has an elevation of 722 feet. Although this is small compared to other peaks in Rio, the overlooks will amaze you. On the lower left is Urca where your ride started. In the middle is the beachfront neighborhood of Botafogo. In the background is the residential district of Humaitá. Look closely between the tree limbs and you will see Christ the Redeemer perched on Corcovado Mountain.

Morro da Urca, Av. Pasteur, 520 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-240, Brazil

9 Bay View from First Stop to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The views of Guanabara Bay from Morro da Urca are equally impressive. In the center is the Flamengo neighborhood. On the far right is downtown (Centro) and the 8.6 mile Rio–Niterói Bridge crossing the bay. If you prefer to savor this scenic experience, consider skipping the cable car and hiking instead. The round-trip walk to the top of Morro da Urca is about two miles and rated easy.

Morro da Urca, Av. Pasteur, 520 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-240, Brazil

10 Rock Climbing around Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Adventure seekers gravitate toward rock climbing. Encircling three mountains – Sugarloaf, Morro da Urca and Morro da Babilônia – are a network of over 270 routes. Some have easy pitches while others are world class. More thrills await rock jocks at Corcovado. Let the scenery and adrenaline take your breath away.

Morro da Urca, Av. Pasteur, 520 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-240, Brazil

11 Second Cable Car to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Standing on Morro da Urca provides an amazing perspective of Sugarloaf Mountain. The impressive outcrop has an elevation of 1,299 feet. When you are ready, jump aboard a second cable car. The travel distance from Morro da Urca to Pão de Açúcar is 2,790 feet. The experience is accelerating as you make the high assent.

Morro da Urca, Av. Pasteur, 520 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-240, Brazil

12 Panoramic View from Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You have arrived at the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. Wow! Words fail to describe the panoramic beauty. Within your 360° view are Morro da Urca (center), Vermelha Beach (near left), Copacabana Beach facing the Atlantic Ocean (far left) and Guanabara Bay (right) … all encircling Brazil’s prettiest city. No wonder so much of what you see – including where you are standing – has been praised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. You are now one of the 37 million visitors since 1912 who will remember this day for a lifetime.

Pão de Açucar - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

13 General Tibúrcio Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

When you return from the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, take a few minutes to visit General Tibúrcio Square (if for no other reason than to send photos to your friends back home). In the center of the plaza is the Monument to the Heroes of Laguna and Dourados. This is a tribute to 3,000 Brazilian soldiers who marched over 1,200 miles in 1867 to engage their advisories during the War of Paraguay (1864 – 1870). Only 700 men returned home. The gallant mission is called Retreat of the Laguna. Surrounding the 52 foot granite column are sculptures by Antonino Pinto de Matos depicting scenes of this historic event. An underground crypt contains ashes of some fallen heroes.

Praça Gen. Tibúrcio, 83 - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-270, Brazil

14 Red Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is blessed with Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. They are often rated among the best in the world. They also tend to be crowded. If you prefer more solitude with your sunshine, then consider pitching your umbrella at Praia Vermelha. Red Beach is a lovely stretch of sand – about 650 feet – at the base of Morro da Urca and close to the Sugarloaf cable car station. Its position between two headlands often results in calm water. This is a great place for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding or just working on your tan.

Praia Vermelha, Praça Gen. Tibúrcio - Urca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22290-270, Brazil

15 Clock Tower at Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This clock tower annually welcomes about 75 cruise ships to Píer Mauá, the main passenger terminal of Rio de Janeiro. A major transformation has renovated old warehouses into a bustle of activity. This is the launching point for tours of the city. Or simply climb into a taxi and go exploring. There are also an abundance of attractions within walking distance. Here are some of the highlights you will want to see encircling the port.

Av. Rodrigues Alves, 10 - Praça Mauá, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20081-250, Brazil

16 Kobra Mural World’s Largest at Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Sao Paolo artist Eduardo Kobra was commissioned to beautify a warehouse at Píer Mauá (Rio’s cruise terminal) with the world’s largest mural. “Etnias” is a remarkable work of art! The five engaging portraits represent indigenous people from Ethiopia, Thailand, Europe, the Americas and Papua New Guinea. Kobra’s message is people from every continent have different cultural traits yet everyone is united. This incredible street art measures 623 feet long and 51 feet high for a colossal 32,300 square feet of amazing.

Av. Rodrigues Alves, 1031 – Saúde, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-460, Brazil

17 Huli Portrait on Kobra Mural at Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The five faces on the Eduardo Kobra mural at Píer Mauá are captivating. The eyes are intense. The expressions are etched with realism. Their costumes represent their native culture. This bearded man is a Huli Wigman, a clan from the central mountains of Papua New Guinea. He wears a traditional headdress fashioned from human hair and feathers. The yellow is a sacred clay worn by warriors and during ceremonies.

Av. Rodrigues Alves, 1031 – Saúde, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-460, Brazil

18 AquaRio Aquarium near Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The biggest marine aquarium in South America is located within walking distance of the cruise port (Píer Mauá). Across five floors of AquaRio are more than 5,000 marine animals representing 350 species. They are displayed in 28 precincts representing their natural habitat. The largest is nearly a million-gallon tank called Recinto Oceânico (Oceanic Enclosure). The tunnel lets you feel underwater as the rays, sharks and schools of fish swim around you. There are also plenty of interactive opportunities for children.

Muhammad Ali Square, Via Binário do Porto - Gambôa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-360, Brazil

19 Our Lady Health Church near Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As you leave Aqua Rio, take a quick look up the hillside where you will see the modest Church of Our Lady of Health. When construction began in 1742, this site was bayside and behind it were farms. As agriculture was displaced with residences, the waterfront became a landfill which later evolved into today’s port. Overtime, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Saúde became dilapidated and plundered. After a recent restoration, the historic church is worth visiting.

R. Silvino Montenegro, 52 - Gambôa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-550, Brazil

20 Rio Museum of Art at Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Mauá Square is a revitalized area of the port. A cornerstone of Praça Mauá is the Rio Museum of Art. Two buildings were blended in 2013 to create the museum. On the right is Palácio Dom João VI, the former headquarters for port inspectors. This is now the Pavilion of Exhibitions. On the left was a bus terminal. Today, Escola do Olhar houses educational programs. In the center of the square is a pedestal with a life-size sculpture of Irineu Evangelista de Souza. This Brazilian merchant made significant contributions to Brazil’s industrialization during the mid-19th century. Among his credits were major improvements in shipping, railroads, gas lighting, banking and exploring the Amazon River. This plaza is named after his noble title, The Viscount of Mauá.

Praça Mauá, 5 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20081-240, Brazil

21 Museum of Tomorrow at Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

You can’t help admiring the sweeping cantilever extending 246 feet over Mauá Square. This design flair is a signature of famous architect Santiago Calatrava. Curiosity invites you inside the Museum of Tomorrow. Go head … admission is free. The science museum has five interactive exhibitions focusing on topics such as the Cosmos and Earth. While being entertained, you will also be challenged with the issues and opportunities of the future.

Praça Mauá, 1 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20081-240, Brazil

22 Valongo Wharf near Píer Mauá in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Slavery began in Rio in the mid-1770s. In 1811, Valongo Wharf was built along the waterfront to accommodate their importation and trade. More than a half million people from Angola plus East and Central West Africa passed through Cais do Valongo until 1831 when trafficking was banned. In 1843, this was renamed Empress Wharf. In 1911, the old slave market was buried. One hundred years later, the wharf was discovered when the port was being refurbished. Among the archeological findings were artifacts from this dark period of history. Valongo Wharf was designated a World Heritage Site in 2017.

Av. Barão de Tefé - Saúde, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-460, Brazil

23 Bank of Brazil Cultural Center at Largo da Candelária in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Orla Conde (also called Boulevard Olímpico) is a 2.2 mile redevelopment project initiated in 2015. The walkway stretches from AquaRio near the pier to close to the Santos Dumont Airport. Toward the southern end is Largo da Candelaria. This park displayed the Olympic Flame during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Around the waterfront are several attractive venues for tourists. This is the Bank of Brazil Cultural Center, one of three located in Brazil. Inside the former Art Deco headquarters of Banco do Brazil is a museum with permanent exhibits on the history of money and banking. Facilities also include cinemas, theaters and art exhibitions. The CCBB is among the top 100 visited museums in the world.

R. Primeiro de Março, 66 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20041-001, Brazil

24 Candelária Church at Largo da Candelária in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One of the earliest Catholic chapels of colonial times was built on this site in 1609 in gratitude for surviving a near shipwreck in Guanabara Bay. The chapel was given the ship’s name Candelária. This replacement for the Church of Our Lady of Candelária began in 1775. The Portuguese Baroque façade was completed in 1811 and the dome was added in 1877. Some say the interior is unfinished. Yet its Neo-Renaissance interior – filled with marvelous marble and paintings – makes this one of Rio’s most visited churches.

Praça Pio X, Praça Barão de Drumond- Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20040-020, Brazil

25 Casa França-Brasil at Largo da Candelária in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The France-Brazil House at Largo da Candelária was commissioned in 1819 by João VI, then king of Portugal and Brazil. It has served many purposes during its first two centuries: Commerce Square, a customs house, warehouse, courthouse and museum. After an extensive renovation, it reopened as a cultural center in 2008. Among its appeals are contemporary art exhibits, concerts and a café … all within an Empire setting.

R. Viscconde de Itaboraí, 78 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20010-060, Brazil

26 Maritime Court at Largo da Candelária in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

In 1934, the Administrative Maritime Tribunal was established to investigate and make judgments about incidences involving foreign vessels in Brazilian waters. The Maritime Court (Tribunal Marítmo) is located in a former warehouse built in 1851. This later became part of the Custom House and then a private residence before being purchased by the Ministry of the Navy in 1921.

Tribunal Marítmo, Av. Alfred Agache - Praça XV de Novembro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20040-010, Brazil

27 Navy Cultural Space at Largo da Candelária in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Navy Cultural Space at Largo da Candelária is small but engaging. On display are a submarine and destroyer once used by the Brazilian Navy. A main attraction is the replica of the Nau Capitania. This was a Portuguese ship used by Pedro Alvares Cabral when he discovered Brazil in 1550. There is also the retired Helióptero Sea King. If you want to visit Fiscal Island, this is where your excursion begins. Or select a tour of Guanabara Bay.

Espaço Cultural da Marinha, Av. Alfred Agache - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20091-000, Brazil

28 Fiscal Island in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Whether you are arriving or leaving Rio de Janeiro by plane or ship, you are likely to catch a glimpse of the fairytale appearing Fiscal Island. The palace was built in 1889 with a Gothic-Provence design. Toward the end of that year, this was the scene of an extravagant ball hosted by the Empire of Brazil for up to 5,000 elite guests. In less than a week, the monarchy of Pedro II of Brazil fell in a military coup. This event created the foundation for the First Brazilian Republic. Today, Ilha Fiscal is a small museum operated by the Navy of Brazil. In the background is the Santos Dumont Airport, Rio’s second largest.

Ilha Fiscal - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

29 Two Carmelite Churches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

After a missionary group from the Carmelite Order arrived about 1590, they built a chapel and convent. The friars did not have a church until the one on the left was finished in 1770. At the start of the 19th century, Queen Maria I of Portugal designated the Church of Our Lady of Carmo as the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. It maintained this designation until it was replaced in 1976. Consequently, Nossa Senhora do Carmo Church is frequently called The Old Cathedral. On the right is the Church of the Third Order of Carmo. It was constructed for lay people who live by Carmelite Order principles. This Catholic church was also finished in 1770. However, the twin towers on the right were added in 1850.

R. Sete de Setembro, 14 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20050-009, Brazil

30 Santa Luzia Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The origin of Santa Luzia Church is shrouded in legend. One story claims Portugal navigator Fernão de Magalhães erected a small shrine here to Our Lady of the Navigators in 1519. Still others believe the first chapel was erected by fishermen (perhaps Franciscans) in 1592. Either way, this was a very early addition to colonial times. Back then, it was perched at the mouth of Guanabara Bay. Today, it looks lost on a busy avenue named Rua Santa Luzia. The current structure was built in 1752. One of its earliest Mass goers was John VI (Dom Joao VI), the King of Portugal.

R. Santa Luzia, 490 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20030-042, Brazil

31 Floriano Peixoto Monument at Cinelândia Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cinelândia Square is perhaps the city’s most important plaza. Since the early 20th century, it has been encircled with several prominent landmarks. Three of them will be shown next. The square’s official name and this monument honor the same man: Floriano Peixoto. While Brazil’s second president (1891 – 1894), the “Iron Marshall” subdued several rebellions and stabilized the First Brazilian Republic formed in 1889. This bronze tribute by sculptor Eduardo Sá was erected at Praça Floriano in 1910.

Praça Floriano, 184-242 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-007, Brazil

32 Theatro Municipal at Cinelândia Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Municipal Theatre is the architectural jewel of Rio de Janeiro. The opera house has visually dominated Cinelândia Square since its opening performance in 1909. Perched high over the façade inspired by the famous Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier) is a 770 pound gilded eagle. Brazil’s best artists and sculptors decorated the interior. It is a joy to watch performances by the in-house symphony orchestra, choir and ballet companies plus frequent guest artists.

R. Evaristo da Veiga, 9-1 – Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-040, Brazil

33 National Library of Brazil at Cinelândia Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The National Library of Brazil was established in 1810. The collection has grown to over nine million items. This qualifies as Latin America’s largest library. On the centennial anniversary, Biblioteca Nacional do Brasil moved into this current location at Cinelândia Square. Across the street is the National Museum of Fine Arts. The MNBA has acquired over 20,000 pieces by Brazilian artists from the last 1,000 years. Together, these institutions chronical much of Brazil’s historic culture.

Av. Rio Branco, 219 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20040-008, Brazil

34 City Hall at Cinelândia Square in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Pedro Ernesto Palace was built at Cinelândia Square in 1923 for the City Council and to consolidate other municipal functions. The property was nicknamed Gaiola de Ouro (golden cage) because of its massive construction budget. This is now the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro. Another government building occupying Cinelândia Square since 1926 is the Palace of Justice. The former courthouse is now the Cultural Center of Federal Justice featuring exhibition rooms and a theater. Guided tours of both stunning landmarks are available.

R. Evaristo da Veiga, 21 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-040, Brazil

35 Carioca Aqueduct in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The city’s position on Guanabara Bay has always made an excellent port. But during the colonial period, getting fresh water to the growing population became challenging. Attempts were made in the 1600s to build canals. They proved inadequate. A better solution arrived during the 18th century. First in 1723 and then again in 1750, an aqueduct was built. Aqueduto da Carioca stands in testament to this engineering feet. There are 42 arches on two levels of this 885 foot segment. Locals call it Lapa Arches, named after the neighborhood where it is located. This is now a bridge for the Santa Teresa Tramway.

Av. República do Paraguai, 395 - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20031-180, Brazil

36 Selarón Steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Escadaria Selarón is extremely popular among tourists. And painter Jorge Selarón is a legend in the Lapa neighborhood. He dedicated 20 years converting 215 stairs into a masterstroke of colors. As he collected and then painted over 2,000 tiles and ceramic fragments, he pieced them together into a 410 foot mosaic. The flamboyant staircase gained worldwide recognition. Selarón claimed his passion would not end until his death. That promise was fulfilled when he was found dead on Selarón Steps in 2013.

Escadaria Selaron, R. Joaquim Silva - Centro, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20241-110, Brazil

37 Carnival Float inside Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Since the mid-17th century, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro has grown in size and popularity until it is now the world’s largest. The six-day festival runs prior to Lent from Friday to Ash Wednesday. For four consecutive nights, incredible parades are conducted by Samba schools (neighborhood collaborations) inside Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí. This 2,300 foot street is flanked by a grandstand with a capacity of 90,000 cheering spectators. Each event runs from 10:00 PM until 4:00 AM. For those six hours, the music is pounding. The costumes are extraordinary. The choreographed dancing is engaging. The drummer’s queens are gorgeous. The floats are spectacular. See lots more in the Encircle Photos’ Rio Carnival tour guide.

R. Marquês de Sapucaí - Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 20220-007, Brazil

38 Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Since 1965, Aterro do Flamengo has been the largest park in Rio. Its winding 296 acres front Guanabara Bay. Much of the shoreline is also a wonderful beach. Flamengo Park’s promenade is popular with runners and cyclists and is often the starting point for competitions. This is also where you will find the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art and the Carmen Miranda Museum. Nature lovers enjoy the views, flowers and birds.

Flamengo Park, Av. Infante Dom Henrique, 254 - Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil

39 Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

One of the most famous beaches in the world is Copacabana. This 2.2 mile stretch of sand facing the ocean is visually bookended by Sugarloaf Mountain in the north and Fort Copacabana in the south. Activities are simple: swimming, sunning and socializing. More active folks use the volleyball nets or football courts, run or jog, or strut their stuff on exercise equipment. Copacabana is also the site of New Year’s Eve fireworks. Two million people show up to watch the third largest display in the world.

Praia de Copacabana - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22020-030, Brazil

40 Promenade along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This photo is immediately recognizable to any past visitor of Rio. This is the promenade parallel to Copacabana Beach. The zigzag wave pattern fashioned from black and white tiles was the creative inspiration of Roberto Burle Marx in 1970. Fronting the walkway are plenty of hotels ranging from economy to five stars. There are also several bars and nightclubs to quench your thirst. Or dine at an appetizing array of restaurants representing cuisine from different nations (the best ones are Brazilian). For a quick snack, select among the kiosks lining the sand or wait for a wandering vendor.

Praia de Copacabana - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22020-030, Brazil

41 Entrance to Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

On a headland at the south end of Copacabana is a military base that shares the beach’s name: Fort Copacabana. The Brazilian army constructed the defense in 1914 to help protect Rio’s harbor. This witnessed only one battle. Surprisingly, the conflict came from within. In 1922, a group of officers known as Tenentism staged a rebellion against the republic by firing cannons at key government targets within the city. The 18 of the Copacabana Fort revolt was suppressed within 24 hours. Since the base was deactivated in 1987, Forte de Copacabana has been maintained in great condition.

Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco, 1 Posto 6 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22070-020, Brazil

42 Waterfront Terrace at Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The expansive views from Fort Copacabana’s waterfront terrace are worth the price of admission. Sweeping in front of you is Copacabana Beach accented with Sugarloaf Mountain. The tree-lined promenade offers plenty of shade on a hot afternoon. You can also grab something to eat at Café do Forte. Along the way you will see several Krupp cannons. These are small compared to the fort’s big guns. One turret (André Vidal) contains two 190mm guns with a range of 11.3 miles. The bigger pair (Duque de Caxias) has 305mm artillery capable of launching a 981 pound shell 14 miles.

Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco, 1 Posto 6 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22070-020, Brazil

43 Army Museum at Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The walls of Fort Copacabana measure 39 feet thick. This casement was considered impenetrable in the early 20th century. But you can walk right in to see the Army History Museum displayed in the fort’s original tunnels and chambers. Exploring the exhibits of Museu Histórico do Exército takes about an hour.

Praça Coronel Eugênio Franco, 1 Posto 6 - Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22070-020, Brazil

44 Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The Ipanema neighborhood is home to another iconic beach of Rio, so expect crowds. But for most people, that is the appeal. The 1.25 miles of sand has demarcations for different demographics. Some areas are favored by the gay community, others for the young and adventurous, still others for families and affluent residents. There are also sections for beach volleyball and soccer. Tourists wander everywhere while soaking up the ambiance and sunshine. Lining Avenida Vieira Souto and perpendicular streets are expensive hotels, retailers, restaurants and endless nightlife options. The party rarely stops at Ipanema Beach.

Praia de Ipanema, Av. Vieira Souto - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22420-000, Brazil

45 Inspiration for Girl from Ipanema Song in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The song “The Girl from Ipanema” put Ipanema Beach on the world map. Written in 1962, it was inspired by Helô Pinheiro. She was a seventeen-year-old Brazilian girl who daily walked by this bar (then called Veloso). In the right corner of this terrace is where Vinicius de Moraes created the Portuguese lyrics and Tom Jobim wrote the music. As the song skyrocketed in popularity, so did the fame of the teenager. Since then, Garota de Ipanema has been recorded by about 250 artists. Restaurante e Bar Garota de Ipanema is your chance to watch someone tall, tan, young and lovely pass by.

R. Vinícius de Moraes, 49 - Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22411-010, Brazil

46 Leblon Viewpoint in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A marvelous overlook most tourists miss but will love seeing is Mirante do Leblon. Leblon Viewpoint is located at the west end of Leblon, one of the most expensive residential neighborhoods in South America. This is a great place for the beach during the day and entertainment options at night. Shoppers like the range of boutiques and malls. There are also plenty of hotel choices. Leblon Beach connects with Ipanema Beach seen in the distance.

Mirante do Leblon, Av. Niemeyer - Leblon, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22450-220, Brazil

47 São Conrado Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

São Conrado Beach is in an affluent bairro (neighborhood) of the same name. This one kilometer of perfect sand along the Atlantic is much less crowded than Rio’s famous beaches. Locals prefer the absence of tourists and rowdy partiers so they can enjoy a quiet day under a canopy with friends and family. A unique aspect of Praia de São Conrado is a landing pad for hang gliders. One of the launch points is Pedra da Gávea. This 2,769 foot monolith towers over São Conrado. Suffers are also attracted to the wave action. About three miles offshore are the Cagarras Islands. Ilhas Cagarras is an uninhabited archipelago of six islets.

Av. Pref. Mendes de Morais, 807-809 - São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22610-095, Brazil

48 Hillside Houses of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

These vibrant houses clustered together on a hillside seem enchanting from afar. Look but don’t go. This is Comunidade da Rocinha. With a population of over 150,000 pressed together in about 300 acres, this is the largest favela in South America. The English equivalent is urban slum. The shantytown was showing promise up until the 2016 Olympics. Stores were opening and property values were increasing. Recently, however, Rocinha has been consumed with violence. This photo was taken on the Passarela da Rocinha footbridge near the Rocinha Sports Complex.

R. Bertha Lutz, 84 - Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22450-290, Brazil

49 Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is a kidney-shaped lagoon. Covering less than a square mile, it is a blend of fresh water and sea water from the Atlantic Ocean. Many people call it The Heart of Rio de Janeiro. Encircling the lagoon are high-rises, a 4.5 mile walking and cycling path, water sports clubs and parks. The Lagoa neighborhood is affluent – among the most expensive in South America. This is in sharp contrast to the slums of Rochinha built on the backside of the hill shown here. Off camera to the left is a unique perspective of Corcovado Mountain.

Av. Borges de Medeiros, 1524 - Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22470-003, Brazil

50 Santa Cruz da Barra Fortress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Soon after the city was founded in 1565, the Portuguese began building defenses to protect against sea attacks. One of the earliest batteries – Our Lady of the Guide – was positioned on a promontory at the eastern mouth of Guanabara Bay. This evolved into Santa Cruz da Barra Fortress around 1614. By the end of the 17th century, the port was exporting considerable gold and diamonds. This made Rio an attractive target for French privateers. The fort successfully thwarted an attack by Jean-François Duclerc in 1710 yet failed to repel a similar afront by René Duguay-Trouin the following year. The fort’s complex and firepower was expanded considerably during the 18th century. During the Revolt of the Armada, Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra engaged in its last two battles in 1893 and 1894. Since an extensive restoration, Fortress of Santa Cruz opened for tourism. It is also the Artillery Division for the 1st Army Division.

Fortaleza de Santa Cruz da Barra - Jardim Imbuí, Niterói – RJ, 24370-250, Brazil