Rio De Janeiro is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. White sand beaches, crystalline waters, landmarks attractions, and a lively cultural life, la Cidade Maravilhosa has them all. There are MANY things to see. This 1-day itinerary will let you discover the hidden treasures of Rio De Janeiro architecture in the city center.
Where to find the architectural gems in Rio de Janeiro center
The easiest way to explore the hidden gems from the city center is to follow the itinerary below.
For lunch I highly recommend you stop at Confeitaria Colombo. Although, if you want to save some money you can also have lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area nearby. Note that all are pretty expensive anyways as it is one of the richest areas in Rio de Janeiro.
Museum of Tomorrow, Neo-Futuristic
Start your architecture immersion from the Museum of Tomorrow. If you are here, I guess you are an architecture lover. Therefore, I bet I don’t need to tell you who is the brilliant mind behind the skeleton (isn’t the bell ringing already?), that hosts the visionary museum of Tomorrow.
Santiago Calatrava designed this amazing structure for the port area renewal before the 2016 Olympic Games. The building opened to the public in December 2015.
The museum focuses on sustainability and the ecological world. And conceive all the possibilities for constructing the future in an eco-friendly way.
The entrance fee is about 5€.
Mosteiro de Sao Bento, exterior: Early Colonial, interior: Baroque
In 1590, a group of monks came from Salvador de Bahia to fund a new monastery in Rio de Janeiro. The works on Sao Bento monastery started but they ended only in 1755.
Mosteiro de Sao Bento is on a hill, that has a nice view of Rio’s bay. In fact, I took the photo of the Museum of Tomorrow above Sao Bento’s hill. The building was built in an early colonial style. Although the exteriors are very clean and minimalist, the interiors have been decorated in Baroque.
Nowadays the abbey is still operational. When visiting remember to be respectful. The entrance is free.
Confeitaria Colombo, Art Nouveau
Following our steps, it’s lunchtime! And what better place than the historical Confeitaria Colombo?! The Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants in Rio de Janeiro. Founded in 1894, it offers an immersion in the Belle Epoque. The glasses and mirrors were added during its renovation between 1912 and 1918.
The place is always very packed and touristy but honestly, it’s worth the hype. The food is excellent. We chose the buffet formula, and the choice was very large. Our extra tip: visit on a weekday, it’s usually less crowded and you can enjoy some shopping in the area around.
Theatro Municipal and Cinelandia, Art Nouveau
When wandering in the city center there’s a square you must stop by. It’s Praça Floriano Pleixoto. Better known locally as Cinelandia, this area showcases some of the most impressive buildings in Rio De Janeiro. During the early decades of the 20th century, the municipality built many palaces in that specific district following the Parisian style. Similarly, Confeitaria Colombo was inspired by Art Nouveau.
Metropolitana Cathedral, Modernist
The last stop of our walk is the very original Metropolitana Cathedral. The structure is inspired by Mayan pyramids and was completed in 1979. The building is 75 meters high and has a capacity of 20.000 people.
Four rectilinear stained-glass decors the interior, with each color having a different meaning. Green represents the element of the unity of the church. Holy, in red, concerns the qualities of the Church. Catholic, in blue, refers to the Church’s mission to save men. Apostolic, in yellow, alludes to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
The itinerary of the city center is over but… I could not end this list without mentioning two more attractions that you should visit as an architecture lover. Let’s see them.
Rio De Janeiro architecture, honorable mentions:
Museum of Contemporary Art, Modern Architecture
The MAC is situated in Niteroi and has a unique structure that reminds a UFO. Architect Oscar Niemeyer built it between 1991 and 1996. The Museum hosts a very large contemporary art collection.
The Museum’s location is Niteroi, which is quite far from other attractions. If you are considering visiting, you may add also the Boa Viagem beach to your itinerary which is very close to the Museum entrance.
Christ The Redeemer, Art Deco
Did you know that the Christ the Redeemer statue is the largest art deco statue in the world? Given its particular location, on Corcovado Mountain, its construction lasted 5 years between 1926 and 1931. In 2007, the 30 meters giant became one of the new wonders of the world.
To reach the Corcovado peak and the Christ the Redeemer, you can take the Corcovado Train which brings you to the top in 20 minutes. I took it both times I’ve visited and it’s a unique ride with a beautiful view over the city. Otherwise, you can also climb your way to the top of the trail. Normally it should take you about 1 hour and a half.
Did you know?
There are two similar statues to the Christ the Redeemer in the world. The first is the Monumento a Cristo Rey in Cali (26 meters high), while the second is Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei (28 meters high). Both statues were inspired by Christ de Redeemer.
Altogether, which one would you like to visit the most?
Among all these signature buildings which one would you like to visit the most? Let me know in the comments.
Are you preparing for a trip to Rio de Janeiro? I have the perfect 4 days itinerary for you complete with the best things to do in Rio De Janeiro.
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