Rio de Janeiro

When in Rio, don't be afraid to follow the tourist trail—the major attractions really are "must-sees." Contrary to tourist-board images, the sun doesn't always shine on the city, so when it does, make the most of it. If the skies are clear, waste no time in heading for Cosme Velho to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain, or to Urca to make the cable car ascent to the peak of Sugar Loaf. Time-pressed travelers will find that whistle-stop city tours are a good way to see many attractions in one day, while those lucky enough to spend a week or more here can afford to take a more leisurely approach. Cloudy days are a good time to visit the attractions of leafy Lagoa and Jardim Botânico and the breezily bohemian hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa. The historic buildings, museums, and cultural centers of Centro, Catete, Glória, and Lapa are ideal rainy-day options.

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  • 1. Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil


    What was once the headquarters of Brazil's oldest bank is now an enormous cultural space in downtown Rio. With areas designated for cinema screenings, expositions,...Read More

  • 2. Mosteiro de São Bento


    Just a glimpse of the Monastery of St. Benedict's main altar can fill you with awe. Layer upon layer of curvaceous wood carvings coated in...Read More

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  • 3. Palácio do Catete


    Once the villa of a German baron, this elegant, 19th-century granite-and-marble palace became the presidential residence after the 1889 coup overthrew the monarchy and established...Read More

  • 4. Sítio Roberto Burle Marx

    Jardim Piaí

    Nature lovers and architecture buffs will find it worth making the advance booking required to visit this plantation-turned-museum honoring Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil's legendary landscape...Read More

  • 5. Beco do Comércio


    A network of narrow streets and alleys centers on this pedestrian thoroughfare, also called the Travessa do Comércio, whose name translates to Alley of Commerce....Read More

  • 6. Biblioteca Nacional


    Corinthian columns adorn the neoclassical National Library (built between 1905 and 1908), the first such establishment in Latin America. Its original archives were brought to...Read More

  • 7. Centro Cultural Laurinda Santos Lobo

    Santa Teresa

    This pink mansion houses Santa Teresa's small Museu do Bonde (Bonde Museum), dedicated to Rio's trolleys, and the exhibition covering the history of the city's...Read More

  • 8. Forte de Copacabana and Museu Histórico do Exército


    Copacabana Fort was built in 1914 as part of Rio's first line of defense, and many original features, such as the thick brick fortification and...Read More

  • 9. Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Candelária


    The classic symmetry of Candelária's white dome and bell towers casts an unexpected air of tranquility over the chaos of downtown traffic. The church was...Read More

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  • 10. Igreja de São Francisco da Penitência


    This baroque church was completed in 1737, nearly four decades after construction began. Today it's famed for its wooden sculptures and its rich gold-leaf interior....Read More

  • 11. Largo do Guimarães

    Santa Teresa

    Much of the activity in close-knit Santa Teresa takes place around its village-like squares, among them Largo do Guimarães, a social hub that frequently hosts...Read More

  • 12. Monumento aos Pracinhas


    The Monument to the Brazilian Dead of World War II—the nation sided with the Allies during the conflict—is actually a combination museum and monument. The...Read More

  • 13. Museu Casa de Rui Barbosa


    Steps away from Botafogo metro station is a museum in the former home of the 19th-century Brazilian statesman, writer, and scholar Rui Barbosa, a liberal...Read More

  • 14. Museu Chácara do Céu

    Santa Teresa

    The collection of mostly modern works at this museum was left—along with the hilltop house that contains it—by one of Rio's greatest arts patrons, Raymundo...Read More

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  • 15. Museu Internacional De Arte Naïf do Brasil

    Cosme Velho

    More than 6,000 works by Brazil's best self-taught painters, along with some by their counterparts from around the world, grace the walls of a colonial...Read More

  • 16. Museu Nacional

    São Cristóvão

    A little off Rio's main tourist track, the National Museum is well worth the metro ride to view its exhibits of botanical, anthropological, and animal...Read More

  • 17. Paço Imperial


    This two-story building with thick stone walls and an ornate entrance was built in 1743, and for the next 60 years was the headquarters for...Read More

  • 18. Palácio Tiradentes


    The Tiradentes Palace contains a permanent exhibit describing its history as the seat of the Brazilian parliament before Brasília was built in the late 1950s....Read More

  • 19. Quinta da Boa Vista

    São Cristóvão

    Complete with lakes and marble statuary, this vast public park on a former royal estate's landscaped grounds is a popular spot for family picnics. You...Read More

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  • 20. Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura


    This evocative library, known as the Royal Reading Room, contains the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal and was first established in 1837...Read More

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