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Top 10 Things to Do and See in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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There are a tremendous number of things to do and enjoy in Rio, some internationally famous like the beaches, Corcovado, carnaval, Sugar Loaf, and others less well known, like a natural reserve within the city limits, architectural beauties and monuments to heros. Explore Rio.

1. Corcovado - Christ the Redeemer

Mike Vondran at Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 30 2008.  Mike Vondran at Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 30 2008.
Mike Vondran/over_kind_man/flickr.com Creative Commons License
Every year, over 300,000 people visit the statue of Christ using the centenary Corcovado Train, the oldest tourist ride in the country. Once at the top, the huge white statue of Christ the Redeemer pays homage to Rio’s religiosity, and has become a symbol of the City and of its people, receiving all visitors with its arms open.

2. Ipanema

In addition to the wonderful stretch of beach with great surf and umbrellas, gorgeous people to watch, you can wander through the fashionable streets to discover chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and hip cafes. On Sundays, there is a hippie market in Praça General Osório where handcrafts, clothes and souvenirs from Rio can be found.

3. Copacabana

One of the most famous beaches in the world, Copacabana has the mountains and city behind it and is definitely Rio. Sit at one of the many restaurants along the beachfront to enjoy a batida or caipirinha, or take a stroll on the famous and often imitated Burle Marx designed sidewalks. In summertime, go early as it may be hard to find a spot on the sand. Also, take note that the currents are deceptively strong. A perfect place to eat, drink, relax and people watch.

4. Carnaval

Carnaval is perhaps the largest event in Rio, with venues scattered around town. The highlight is the spectacular samba school parade, a rich and colourful exhibition of 14 groups each day along the street, and the Sambadromo, with seating for the 70,000.

5. Pão de Açúcar - Sugar Loaf Mountain

One of Rio's most famous landmarks, it's the best place to view the city, sea and mountain ranges. Take the funicular ride up for a glorious view of the Guanabara Bay, Botafogo beach to the North and Copacabana to the South, with the city spread in between. Be sure to check out the old open-air cable car on display that was used in the '30s. There are vendors selling coconuts and juice, as well as a food and refreshments stand.

6. Pedra da Gávea

Located between São Conrado and Barra da Tijuca, Pedra da Gávea is a granite rock that rises 842 meters above sea level. Originally used as a lookout for ships in the Atlantic, it's now popular with rock climbers and those who want to see the glyphs carved into the rock.

7. Bonde de Santa Teresa

This cable car is all that remains of what used to be the principal form of transportation in the city. Starting in Lapa, by the Cathedral, cross the towering viaduct to Santa Teresa. Then you have the option to take the ride all the way to the top of the hill, or get off to see the Museu da Chácara do Céu. The views from the top rival those of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf.

8. Arcos da Lapa

An engineering and architectural construction work that symbolizes Rio de Janeiro’s colonial period. It was inaugurated, as reported, in 1750, under the government of Ayres de Saldanha and administered by the engineer José Fernandes Alpoim. It was built in order to end the problem of the constant lack of water in Rio de Janeiro towards the end of the XVIII century.

9. Parque Nacional and Floresta da Tijuca

The best place to visit to get an idea of what Rio once looked like, with over 46 square miles of tropical rain forest, walking trails, stunning views of the city, waterfalls, creeks and wonderfully varied greenery. This is the largest urban reserve in the world and it only takes about 20 minutes to immerse yourself in nature. Serious hikers can climb to the 3320 feet summit of Pico da Tijuca, while others can simply enjoy the 115 feet waterfall, Cascatinha de Taunay, at the Alto da Boa Vista.

10. Monumento Nacional aos Mortos da II Guerra Mundial

Located at Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, 75, Parque do Flamengo, this monument is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the WWII European theater of war, especially in Italy. The monument includes a small museum with military artifacts from those dark years, a mausoleum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and is guarded by the three Armed Forces. Entry is free.
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