Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Brazil
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated March 28, 2023 |
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the 5th largest in the world. Covering a majority of the continent’s northeastern region and bordering all of its countries except for Chile and Ecuador. With a tropical climate and forest-covered landscape, there are so many amazing and exotic plants & creatures to discover here!
Brazil’s Atlantic coast is 7,400 km striped with golden-sand beaches, and its interior contains mineral resources. Gold from Brazil’s mines is still used in the churches of Portugal, which once ruled over Brazil until 1822. Brazil has a strong Portuguese influence, which appears in its architecture, decorative arts such as tiles in its churches, and also in the language.
Famous for being one of the world’s top Football countries, its spectacular carnivals, and the outstanding Iguazu Falls, Brazil is a great world travel destination. The country is a diverse and exciting place that offers many attractions to see, from the tropical beaches of Rio, São Paulo, and Salvador, to cultural attractions like art museums and authentic cultural festivities.
There are plenty of interesting places to visit in Brazil, explore them all in our guide to the top tourist attractions in Brazil.
Cristo Redentor and Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro
Christ the Redeemer, one of the most famous statues in the world, stands proudly on the summit of Corcovado Mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s Bay. The statue, which has been at the top of Corcovado since 1931, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
The statue stands atop a 709-meter hill inside Tijuca National Park. A rack railway rises 3.5 kilometers to its top, where a broad plaza surrounds the statue.
This 30-meter statue made of concrete and soapstone was designed by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski and Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. The 8-meter statue’s base encloses a chapel that is used for wedding ceremonies.
The statue is one of Brazil’s most easily recognizable icons. Although it is often mistakenly called “The Christ of the Andes,” confused with the older statue marking the boundary between Argentina and Chile.
A mid-way stop on the railway leads to trails through the Tijuca National Park, a vast forest that protects springs, waterfalls, and a wide variety of tropical birds, butterflies, and plants.
Sugarloaf, Rio de Janeiro
The Sugar Loaf Mountain is an iconic symbol for Rio and Brazil. It rises 394 meters above the sea and can be seen from almost any part of Rio, as it dominates the skyline and it offers visitors and locals alike 360-degree views of the city and its bay.
Its summit is one of the main places to visit for tourists. The views of Rio and the harbor are breathtaking and the ride between Sugar Loaf and the Morro da Urca, a lower peak from which a second cableway connects to the city, is an exhilarating experience.
You can also visit Praia da Urca beach which is home to some of Rio’s oldest landmarks, including Fort São João. It was built by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century and overlooks some of the most interesting places in Brazil.
The Iguaçu River is the largest waterfall system in the world, stretching about 3km along the border of Brazil and Argentina. It drops spectacularly in a semicircle of 275 waterfalls that thunder down into the gorge below. Just above the falls, the river is constricted to one-fourth of its usual width and forms an impressive backdrop for visitors to enjoy.
The best way to see the falls is to get a view from above, since they are incredibly large, which can make it a bit difficult to see all of them at once. However, standing on the Brazilian side gives you the biggest and broadest view. There are catwalks and a tower for people to see things differently. There is also a bridge that stretches all the way to one of the largest falls called the Garganta do Diabo (Devil’s Throat).
For closer views from the catwalks that extend into the center of the waterfalls, you can cross the Argentinian border. Since most tourists are looking to see both sides, the two sides offer different experiences and views.
Iguaçu National Park is a UNESCO world natural heritage site that surrounds and protects the falls. Which is home to tropical rain forests full of more than a thousand different species of birds, mammals, reptiles, including deer, otters, ocelots, and capybara.
Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Downtown Rio’s most fashionable and lively area follows Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana, bordered all along one side by 4 kilometers of white sand and the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is separated from the buildings, traffic, and noise by a broad white and black mosaic-tiled promenade that looks like receding waves.
The beach is a popular playground where people come to enjoy the sun, swim, relax, and spend time with their families., especially when the weather is fine. It’s also an amazing place for food & shopping since there are so many nice restaurants, smart shops, cafés, and beautiful old buildings to discover. As well as many tourist attractions and old buildings from the days when Rio was the capital of Brazil.
On top of the list is Copacabana Palace, Rio’s most prestigious and top-rated hotel in Brazil. Once inside the lobby it feels like you entered a time machine, with its unique atmosphere you can easily imagine seeing the royalty and movie stars who have stayed here many years ago.
Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro
Rio’s pre-Lenten Carnaval is one of the world’s most well-known celebrations. This isn’t just another rowdy street party; it’s a carefully staged showpiece where spectators can watch the parades of competing samba dancers from the outstanding built stadium designed by the city’s famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer.
Known as the Sambódromo, this long avenue is lined with grandstand boxes for spectators to watch a 700-meter parade route, where brightly costumed dancers compete to draw in spectators from around the world, making the parade a very memorable event.
If you don’t enjoy the loud, wild, and somewhat chaotic party atmosphere of a Carnival, consider attending carnivals in Salvador, Bahia, Recife, or another Brazilian city. They are as spectacular and colorful as the Rio’s.
Ipanema beach is famous for its beautiful, powdery white sand, but what truly makes this beach special is that it is the site of the most famous nightlife in Brazil, where you can dance your heart out and find yourself surrounded by some of the biggest stars of Brazilian music.
The same Copacabana’s wide promenade is separating Ipanema’s beach sand from the line of hotels, restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and cinemas that make it a popular social zone year-round.
Beyond the Jardim de Alá Canal, you will find the Leblon’s beaches. These beachfront neighborhoods are a popular attraction among Brazilians and tourists alike. The area is very busy on Sundays, with the Feira de Artesanato de Ipanema, where many colorful stalls and creative vendors sell everything from souvenirs to street food and delicious desserts.
A very lively antique market located in Praça de Quentaland, which is a great place for you to pick up some handcrafts, and local artwork. There are many restaurants and bars to enjoy during your shopping experience.
Amazon Rain Forests
About 20km southeast of Manaus lies one of Brazil’s great wonders: the merging of two great rivers, the dark Rio Negro and the lighter Solimões waters. These mighty rivers meet together in a most remarkable way – they blend to form the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon, the longest in the world. Boat trips from Manaus offer a chance to see the meeting of these two rivers, called *Encontro das Aguas*.
Other boat trips will take you into the heart of the rainforest and the network of rivers, channels, and lakes formed by the three rivers. The Rio Negro has a lot to offer! It is home to the islands of the huge Anavilhanas archipelago, one of the largest river archipelagos in the world with more than 300 small islands. These small islands offer a full cross-section of the Amazonian ecosystems.
You may see monkeys, sloths, parrots, toucans, caimans, turtles, and other wildlife on a boat trip here. Not far from Manaus is the 688-hectare Janauari Ecological Park, which has different ecosystems that you can explore by boat along its narrow river route. An entire lake here is covered with huge water-lilies found only in this Amazon region.
While in Manaus, it’s worth making a stop at Teatro Amazonas built in Renaissance style, and designed to put Manaus on the map as South America’s great center of culture.
Brasília’s Modernist Architecture
The new city of Brasília (UNESCO World Heritage city), was a project that took place in 1960 to replace Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s capital. It was carved out of the wilderness and completed in less than three years. The ambitious plan of Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer became a masterpiece of city planning and avant-garde architecture and is still today renowned as one of the world’s few cities that represent a fully realized plan and one architectural concept.
The city’s main tourist attractions are located in the government district, which is filled with major architectural highlights that tourists can visit. There are a number of interesting sights in Praça dos Tràs Podere including, the Presidential Palace, Supreme Court, and the two Congress buildings. A bit further out is the impressive Panteão da Liberdade (Pantheon of Freedom) designed by The Great “Oscar Niemeyer”, and the Historical Museum of Brasília.
The most famous building in Brasilia is the Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida, a cathedral with curved concrete columns that rises to support a glass roof. Another famous work designed by Niemeyer is the Palácio dos Arcos, a white structure surrounded by a garden designed by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, who worked with Niemeyer on several projects throughout Brazil.
The Memorial dos Povos Indígenas (Museum of Indigenous People) is modeled after a traditional Yąnomamö roundhouse. Niemeyer’s finest is the Monumento JK, an homage to President Juscelino Kubitschek Who founded Brasilia.
The UNESCO World Heritage city Cidade Alta” Upper Town” was the capital during Brazil’s colonial days, it has been praised for its collection of 17th – and 18th-century colonial buildings that are some of the finest in South America.
This old quarter the Pelourinho is where you’ll find beautiful churches and monasteries in Salvador. The buildings were built at a time when Brazil was the source of Portugal’s riches and abundant gold was lavished on the colony’s religious buildings.
São Francisco is a magnificent church built in the early 1700s with intricate carvings that are exquisitely covered in gold. It also has excellent examples of Azulejos – Portuguese tile panels, which are often seen throughout the building. You can’t miss the beautifully carved façade of this church. It’s covered in unique statues and decorations that are absolutely stunning.
The wealth of Minas Gerais state is easy to imagine from the interiors of the churches in its old capital, Ouro Preto. Entire walls are washed in gold that flowed along with diamonds from the mines around the city of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Surrounded by mountains and sitting at the bottom of a steep valley; Ouro Preto is a colonial town with an authentic feel. However, it was not practical for growing towns and cities back then: its steep streets and mountain settings quickly became difficult to cope with. The government moved to Belo Horizonte, leaving Ouro Preto to be preserved ‘in its time capsule.’
São Francisco de Assis and Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar are the 17th-century Baroque and Rococo churches, and the best of Ouro Preto’s colonial architecture sites, but the entire town is so rich in this type of style that UNESCO has named Ouro Preto a World Heritage Site. The narrow streets that soar abruptly in some areas descend into the valleys as stairways, lined by historic colonial mansions and white churches that manage to crown their hills with Baroque bell towers.
Art Museums of Sao Paulo
São Paulo is the metropolis of Brazil. It has one of the most diverse collections of art in Latin America, including works by Picasso, Rodin, and Renoir. Many buildings in which these collections are housed are architectural landmarks in their own right. The Museu de Arte, MASP, houses the largest world collection of western art under one roof. The wide range of work includes the Renaissance to modern masters.
At the museum, you’ll find a lot of great artworks from a diverse range of artists. You’ll see works by Impressionists and modern masters – Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse, Manet, Debret, Picasso, Miró, and 73 bronze sculptures by Degas. The museum has been popular since the day it was created and invites guests from all over the world to visit by hosting exhibitions around the year.
One of Brazil’s most famous architects, Oscar Niemeyer, designed the Pavilhão da Bienal de Artes in Ibirapuera Park, home to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea. The gallery contains over 8,000 works of art- one of the world’s largest collections of 20th-century Western artists. These include Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, Miró, and Modigliani along with major Brazilian painters.
Museu do Ipiranga, or the “Museo Paulista” as they call it here, is a must-see site. It’s a simulation of European style in Brazil, complete with lakes, gardens & topiaries.
If you want to see some other type of art, don’t miss Batman’s Alley. It is an open-air gallery of street art with both local and global artists. It can be found in the bohemian neighborhood of Vila Madalena, with its many art galleries that showcase the works of well-known and rising artists.
Located in Minas Gerais, the capital of this Brazilian state has many notable Oscar Niemeyer-designed buildings. Known for Modernist architecture, these early works by Niemeyer are tourist attractions & favorites among fans of Modernist architecture.
He was different from other architects when he first started out because of his creative talents. His first important work, which immediately set him apart from conventional architects, was the parabolic-curved São Francisco de Assis church beside a lake in the Pampulha neighborhood. On the hillside near it, connected by a garden designed by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, is Niemeyer’s earlier casino building which has now become an art museum.
The Praça da Liberdade in the city center is a major tourist attraction, surrounded by palaces and monuments. It is here that you will find one of Brazil’s most important architectural works, the sinuous apartment building Edificio Niemeyer.
Palácio das Artes is a geometric architectural beauty located at the edge of Municipal Park, which hosts the Minas Gerais Craft Center. Visitors will be able to see hundreds of works produced by craftsmen from all parts of Brazil.
Built in the postmodern style, the Queen of Scrap Iron “Rainha da Sucata” is another iconic building in Belo Horizonte and was completed by Eolo Maia and Sylvio Podestá. It is now the house of the mineralogy museum.
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