When it comes to discovering all of the wonders of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, it’s natural that your mind tends to wonder to the many tourist attractions. And while those spots are popular for a reason, there is a hidden gem that all travellers to Rio should experience: downtown Rio de Janeiro.

Downtown Rio de Janeiro – the not so obvious Rio de Janeiro – may not have any beaches that bring in the masses, but you will be entranced by its charm. From its beautiful churches and architecturally stunning buildings, downtown Rio de Janeiro will soon have you under its spell.

See also: Top Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The revamping of downtown Rio de Janeiro

City

To the surprise of many who first encounter downtown Rio de Janeiro, there is quite a bit to do there! From more cultural and historic scenes to outdoor adventures, this location has been created with every tourist in mind.

For starters, it is worth noting that the local City Hall has been dedicating its time and resources to renewing and revamping this area. From the moment you step downtown you will immediately notice a newfound energy and life in this space that definitely makes it worth the visit. Every corner of this location is being redesigned to cater to the needs of locals and tourists whilst offering everyone access to authentic Brazilian experiences.

Downtown Rio de Janeiro attractions, Brazil
Municipal Theater – Theatro Municipal in Downtown Rio.

Top attractions in downtown Rio de Janeiro

Jus

Don’t be blinded by all of the attractions in the city centre that you accidentally overlook all that downtown has to offer you. There is an exquisite list of attractions that will keep you busy and entertained for hours. Better yet, many of them are affordable too, meaning you won’t have to break the bank trying to truly experience downtown Rio de Janeiro.

After only a few minutes of walking through the streets of downtown Rio you will immediately notice that there are a plethora of museums, cultural centers (some are free, like CCBB), and lots of places that still have a touch of that 19th century feel. In fact, it’s like walking into the past and getting to reexperience all of its gorgeous surroundings. We can all thank City Hall for this as this has been a great part of their mandate – to refurbish and restore many of the historical artefacts of the area.

If you aren’t too sure where to start when it comes to figuring out where you should go first, then here are a few ideas for you:

  • Go to the Municipal Theater – Theatro Municipal. It was inspired by a similar building in Paris – the Opera House. It has just been restored, and it is beautiful, Praca Marechal Floriano s/n RJ. It is an absolutely breathtaking building with a rich history that deserves your attention. You can also take in the architectural sophistication of this building too as its designs and structures have transcended various eras.
  • Just around the corner, you will see the National Library – Biblioteca Nacional (Av. Rio Branco, 319 – Centro), that was finished in 1908 and houses more than 13 million books and the National Museum of Fine Arts – Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (Av. Rio Branco, 199 – Centro). Not only will you be enthralled by their book collections but by the aesthetic appeal of this national library!
  • A little further, an example of modern art on open air, that you can appreciate freely, by one of the most important artists of the world, Candido Portinari. This is a definite bucket-list entry that deserves a top spot too.
  • If you would like to visit the picturesque neighborhood of Santa Teresa, just take the tram and enjoy the ride – there is plenty to feast your eyes on whilst route the destination. Always remember to take very good care of your personal belongings, especially because the tram is open. It’s very cool, but I recommend that you do it during the day for safety reasons.
  • If it’s the first Saturday of the month, you should defiantly, without a doubt, visit the Lavradio Fair. It will immediately remind you of Santelmo, in Buenos Aires, or Portobello Road, in London. But you will have no doubt that you are in Rio de Janeiro – the music will tell you. It’s in the bustling streets that are filled with locals chatting and playing music as well as the decadent smells coming from all of the restaurants the dot the area.

See also: Casa Rosa: Best Place to Be on a Sunday Afternoon in Rio De Janeiro

Join this downtown Rio walking tour!

Candelaria Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Candelaria Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Among the best places where you can go to eat and/or have fun are:

– Carioca da Gema (Avenida Mem de Sá, 79, Lapa, Admission US$ 7, Open 7 days a week)

– Rio Scenarium (Rua do Lavradio, 20, Lapa, Closed on Mondays) – there are two shows on weekdays (starting at 7:30 pm) and three shows on Fridays and Saturdays (usually starting at 10 pm)

– Democraticus (Rua do Riachuelo, 91, Lapa, Admission US$ 5, Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

– Santo Scenarium (Rua do Lavradio, 36, Lapa, Open for Lunch, shows on Saturdays, usually 9:30 pm)

See also: Foods, Drinks and Bars You Should Try While in Rio de Janeiro

Read about Day Trips from Rio.

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  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.