The platform encircling Christ the Redeemer may be the most famous look-out point in Rio de Janeiro, but it’s certainly not the only, or, arguably, even the best view in Rio.
And hey, you’re reading Uncontained Life…which means you know better than to assume what’s popular is always what’s best.
So which viewpoint in the city really is the fairest of them all? From the white sands of Ipanema, to the winding streets of Santa Teresa, here’s a whirlwind tour of our favorite contenders for “best view” of the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City). You tell us which one you love most!
Best View in Rio, Contender #1: The View from the Hill
The hike up Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) is an experience in and of itself. First, you pass through one of Rio’s colorful favelas.
Next, you climb up (or, if you’re us, sweating heavily and, occasionally, falling) into the forests (where you may have a chance to see monkeys!)
Then, finally, you arrive at the scrub-covered top of the mini-mountain.
You really want to make this climb on a clear day. But if you do, like us, find yourself hiking in less than ideal weather, our best advice is to find a seat at the top and be patient. The wind blows the clouds away from time to time, and then you get views like this:
Not only do you get a postcard shot of Leblan and Ipanema beaches…
…you also get Christ the Redeemer in the distance. No wonder so many locals will claim this as the best view in Rio. Plus, you probably won’t be fighting any crowds. Yes, Dois Irmãos has become a bit more popular in recent years, but it’s still off of most visitors’ radar. (So strap on your walking shoes and get thee to the mountain before the Dude-Bros invade!)
Best View in Rio Contender #2: The View from the Stairs
How often can you visit a piece of living art, and stand on the sight of a possible murder all at the same time? (Don’t answer that, New Yorkers.)
The Escadaria Selarón, a 215-step, tiled stairway created by Chilean artist Jorge Selarón has become a major attraction over the past couple of decades. And for good reason. It’s gorgeous. And crazy. (Kind of like Rio itself.)
Selarón, began his redecoration of what was, formerly, just a normal public staircase, back in 1990, using tiles collected from around the city. The longer the project continued, the more famous it became. Fans even began bringing and sending the artist tiles from all around the world.
Selarón himself created mosaics which expressed messages of love for Rio. But he also hand-painted tiles–the most famous of which depict a heavily pregnant woman–which, arguably, express strong critiques of Brazil’s treatment of its most historically disadvantaged inhabitants: non-white favela-dwellers.
“Behind every tile is a story,” Selarón once said. “I have had more than 4,000 tiles placed on these stairs since I started, therefore I have more than 4,000 stories I could tell you.”
There’s no doubt Selarón would still be working on his masterwork today…but, sadly, in 2013, his body was discovered at the foot of the staircase. The cause of death? The official report said suicide. But many claim Selarón was, in fact, murdered by a local man.
Still the stairs remain. And to climb the Escadaria is to catch a glimpse of Selarón’s powerful view of his adopted country: a Brazil which draws people from all nations; a beautiful, passionate place, still divided by racism and poverty; a nation with many, many stories yet to be told.
Best View in Rio Contender #3: The View from the Street
Explore the area near the Carioca Aqueduct–more commonly known as the Arcos da Lapa (Lapa Arches) and you’ll get a view of Rio which will make the well-heeled neighborhoods near the beach feel epically boring by comparison.
Once a place only frequented by the artist and the down-and-out, Lapa (though still gritty as hell) has become the popular party spot for those from all walks of life in the past couple of years. But there’s so much more to this part of town than just hot clubs and getting totally wasted, dude, on 5 BRL ($1.50) Caipirinhas.
Come to the arches on a Friday night and get an authentic taste of Rio’s street culture. Eat a “Churrasco plate” from a vendor. Get a free dance lesson (or just watch the experts shimmy and shake) in the square.
Listen to the bands playing inside colorful, crumbling colonials on Av. Mem de Sá. And by all means, check out the mind-blowingly amazing street art on R. Joaquim Silva and other small streets near the Escadaria Selarón.
Best View in Rio Contender #4: The View from the Ruins
Hip and artsy Santa Teresa may be just a short trolly-ride away from downtown Rio, but the mellow calm of the Parque das Ruinas, will have you feeling worlds away. Sitting at the highest point in Santa Teresa, the Parque das Ruinas plays host to both the small but delightful Museu da Chácara do Céu…
…and the visitor-and-local favorite, the Centro Cultural Municipal. From the Centro, and surrounding Park, you can get great views of Sugarloaf and Rio’s downtown.
As you look out over the sprawling city, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for downtown’s most jaw-dropping landmark: the weird and wonderful Rio de Janeiro Cathedral. True, from the outside, the church looks a bit like something aliens inspired by Mayan architecture might build…
…but if you have a chance to head inside, it really is lovely.
Best View in Rio Contender #5: The View from the Rock
While the view from the top of Dois Irmãos offers great views of Ipanema and Leblon Beaches, the one thing you can’t see from there is, of course, the iconic hills themselves. Thankfully, Pedra do Arpoador has you covered. Standing between Ipanema and Copacabana, Pedra do Arpoador (which translates as “Harpoon Rock”) doesn’t take long to climb, but it’s someplace you’ll want to linger.
Buy a beer from one of the many vendors, find a sunny spot, and listen to the tunes drifting on the wind from the buskers. Watch the waves crashing, the surfers braving the waters just off Arpoador Beach, and the folks getting a tan on the tiny Praia do Diabo (Devil’s Beach). You can even spot the famous Sugarloaf from your perch on Pedra do Arpoador!
So what’s your vote for the best view in Rio? Do you have a favorite we didn’t mention?
I always wanted to see Brazil but your posts are making me want to go more and more. What A fascinating writing. Enjoyed every line of it. Brazil is on my next travel list. Very excited to go there. These are some serious photography. Very rich in life. Thank you for sharing this. ??