As the largest country in South America and the 5th in the world, Brazil is legendary in its own right. Blessed with seductive white sandy beaches, pulsating samba rhythms and the biggest number of plant and animal species found anywhere on the planet, Brazil will captivate even the most discerning traveller. 

Surrounded by lush-forested mountains on the southern coast of Brazil, lies the bustling city of Rio de Janeiro. Put its cinematic setting and landscape aside and delve into the vibrant city’s charm and charisma, and you will understand why Rio is unlike any other place in the world. Constantly evolving with real depth and interest, Rio is characterised by its Portuguese tile townhouses, Niemeyer classics, revived downtown and port districts and world class museums.
In January 2019, Rio hit the international stage once again as UNESCO named it the first “World Capital of Architecture” for 2020. This latest accolade is great news for Brazil’s second city. Traditionally its Rio’s magnificent setting and inimitable beach culture, which has grabbed the world’s attention but today’s visitors are discovering there is much more to Rio beyond the clichés. Rio’s moment is here, and so are the 10 must-see iconic architectural masterpieces in the “marvellous city” of Rio.

1. Municipal Theatre
Located near Cinelândia, a lively square in downtown Rio is home to the gold-gilded Municipal Theatre. Built in 1905 and designed by architect ‎Francisco de Oliveira Passos, the exterior was designed in an eclectic style, inspired by Charles Garnier’s Paris Opera and is home to Rio’s opera, orchestra and ballet. 


2. Copacabana Beach
The mosaic promenade along Copacabana Beach was Roberto Burle Marx’s most significant design for Rio de Janeiro in 1971. It is a modern interpretation of a traditional Portuguese paving pattern using waves of black and white stone sets.


3. Belmond Copacabana Palace
Opened in 1923, this grand neo-classical building is an icon of an era which personifies elegance and privilege. Located at the end of Copacabana beach, this first-class hotel enjoys a prime location overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. French architect Joseph Gire was commissioned to carry out the project, drawing inspiration from two famous hotels on the French Riviera: the Negresco, in Nice and the Carlton, in Cannes.



4. Casa Das Canoas - Oscar Niemeyer’s house
Designed by famed Brazilian architect Niemeyer in 1951 as his family home, Casa Das Canoas is considered one of the most significant examples of modern Brazilian architecture. The dwelling, located in the suburb of Barra da Tijuca, blends elements of organic and minimalist architecture; built into the slope of a hill it incorporates existing boulders into its interior.


5. Gustavo Capanema Palace
The Gustavo Capanema Palace also known as the Ministry of Education and Health Building is a government office building in the city centre. As the first modernist building in the Americas, it is historically important to the architectural development of Modernism in Brazil. Designed by Lúcio Costa and overseen by Niemeyer, it opened in 1943.


6. President Costa e Silva Bridge
Opened in 1974 the President Costa e Silva Bridge, widely known as the Rio-Niterói Bridge, is a box-girder bridge crossing Guanabara Bay. Spanning a total of 13.2km, the bridge connects Rio with Niterói and is currently the longest concrete bridge in the South America.

7. Maracanã
Inaugurated in 1950, the world's most famous football stadium the Maracanã underwent a massive refurbishment from 2010 to 2013 ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup hosted in Brazil. The works involved the complete rebuilding of the bottom tier and the installation of a new roof with a capacity of 79,000 seats as a result.

8. Niterói Contemporary Art Museum 
The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum also known as MAC was designed by Niemeyer and completed in 1995.This iconic saucer-shaped structure is positioned on a cliffside above Guanabara Bay and offers one of the best panoramic views of the city.

9. Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã)
The area around the port at Praça Mauá has had a multi-million dollar makeover in recent years, stimulated by the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Outstanding is the space-age interactive Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow). This graceful futuristic science museum was inaugurated in 2015 and designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

10. Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian 
Inaugurated in 1979 and located in the city centre, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian (also referred to as the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro) is a modernist concrete edifice built in the style of a Mayan pyramid. Designed by architect Edgar Fonseca, inside you see an impressive ceiling cross and stunning stained glass windows.


At Journey Latin America we have a superb selection of Brazil holidays to suit everyone, whether you’re a solo traveller, searching for the perfect family holiday, or would like to join a group tour. We can also incorporate a visit to any of the listed sites as part of a wider holiday itinerary such as our Signature Brazil: Brazil at a glance holiday.


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