Rio: Sites with a View

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

11 places
Rio: Sites with a View

Doni Clemons

Rio de Janeiro has a multi-dimensional layout encompassing the only rainforest located within a city in the world, which sprawls within labyrinthine streets and hills nestling favelas or encircling bays. From a distance, one can always see a mountain range or a hill appearing to guard the city (often personified with names like Dois irmãos, Two brothers in English or Gigante adormecido, Sleeping giant). The Atlantic ocean hugs the city's outskirts forming infamous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. The views of Rio are never short of wonders and these are the best places to take it all in.

The best time to visit Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf is debateable. Some people prefer sunset, others early morning, others in the afternoon when there are likely to be less clouds on a clear day, still others at night when there are less crowds. One thing is certain, the view will be magical. Even those that have had the misfortune of going on a cloudy day have found the experience rewarding and have the photos to prove it. Pão de Açúcar is the huge 396 meter (1,299 ft) rounded mountain peak you see raised above Guanabara Bay. To arrive to the top, first visitors take a cable car to the smaller peak, Morro da Urca, then another cable car to Pão de Açúcar. The total trip costs R$62. The added benefit of taking in 360 degree views of Rio de Janeiro from this location is the spaciousness of the viewing deck. You can even grab a beer or caipirinha once you get to the top!

The Maze owner Bob Nadkarni inadvertently landed in Rio after being ship wrecked on a boat headed to Ecuador and he has been in the city ever since. After working in TV for years he started focusing more on creating art and established a home and a hostel. Bob has upgraded his hostel into the Bed and Breakfast that The Maze is today located in Catete in the Tavares Bastos favela. On the first Friday of every month is Jazz at The Maze, with musicians from all over the city playing live jazz. Bob, a septuagenarian from England, usually has a place packed with about 500 people of all ages. Even Snoop Dog (now Snoop Lion) recorded a video here. To get here, be advised that you will need to go up a hill via car or van then there is about a ten minute walk. The effort will be well worth it when, in addition to music, visitors are privy to a view of Guanabara Bay and Pão de Açucar.

Parque Das Ruinas or Park of Ruins is a great place for visitors interested in seeing art in beautiful surroundings. The park contains the remains of a mansion which belonged to the Brazilian heiress Laurinda Santos Lobo. The house had been a meeting place for many great intellectuals and artists before the heiress’ death in 1946. Now the site is an architectural mix of old and new. Some of the original brick construction of the mansion remains and has been restored with brick, steel, and glass additions. There is a small gallery on the ground floor which generally displays work of Brazilian artists. Sometimes the park hosts other forms of artistic expression like music, dance or film viewings.However, the greatest draw of the park is the viewing platform. A splendid view of Rio is awaiting visitors that climb the steps to the top of the viewing platform, probably the most enriching “permanent exhibit” of the park.

Bar Urca is a charming place in the other side of Guanabara bay, known for their seafood and risottos, but famous for their caipirinhas and their view. It is a frequented destination especially after traversing Sugar Loaf Mountain. The view has become an attraction in its own right for Brazilian travelers and internationals. Grab a fresh fruit caipirinha (Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor) and muddled fruits with sugar) and an appetizer like the ceviche, or fried shrimp stuffed polenta and sit along the bay a few feet away from the restaurant. It’s all quite spellbinding- especially if you plan your day to be there by sunset. If you are going as a pair, after the sun sets, take the opportunity to have dinner upstairs and split one of their largely-portioned plates. Bar Urca’s dinner menu is where the influence of the Portuguese lineage really shines through. Try one of the codfish specialties or a shrimp risotto that have helped them earn some of the highest food awards in Rio.

The Teleférico Do Alemão is the city's newest way of offering a bird's eye view of Rio, particularly of the Complexo do Alemão. It is also an optional means of transportation for those looking to go from one part of the area to the other. When it opened in 2011, it became
the first mass transport cable car in Brazil. And at R$5 for non residents, the teleférico do Alemão is significantly cheaper than other tourist attractions with a view. This has attracted to the Teleférico Do Alemão more tourists on weekends than Sugarloaf and Cristo Redentor on weekends. However, the lines tend to move much more quickly. From the first station Bonsucesso to the last, Palmeiras, the trip is 3.4 miles long. The total time in the air takes about 16 minutes. Up to eight people can ride in each cable car comfortably.

As the country with the largest community of Roman Catholics in the world, a statue of Jesus Christ probably seemed most emblematic of the country when contemplating a monument in the early 1900's.
Perched upon the peak of Mount Corcovado, the statue can be seen from all over the city. An omnipresence that can provide a sense of peace for inhabitants of a city that is chaotic times. At least that was part of the initial goal of Cristo's creators- for the Christ with arms wide open to be a symbol of peace. To see Cristo Redentor /Christ the Redeemer up close, it's a 20 minute ascent up Mount Corcovado via tram. Or visitors can take a group van or drive a private car/taxi, or hike for two hours up the trail through Tijuca National Park. Once you're on the monument, you're rewarded with panoramic views of the Marvelous City. See how the city got its moniker with a panoramic view of Sugar Loaf, Copacabana and Ipanema, the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake, the dense forests of the Serra da Tijuca Mountains, the Maracanã Stadium, Central Rio and Guanabara Bay all at once. A nice backdrop to do the touristy-but-requisite Redentor pose at of one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World".

Most people have never heard of Mirante Dona Marta, but this is actually one of the best lookout points in Rio de Janeiro. Mirante Dona Marta is an observation deck and helipad located in the Dona Marta Favela in the Santa Teresa neighborhood. From this lookout point you are able to see Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, the Rio beaches and downtown Rio de Janeiro. Unlike many of the other lookout points in the city it is relatively cheap to go to. Dona Marta is also closer to the city, and offers a closer view. Another bonus is that there are less crowds and lines to stand in. The helipad on Mirante Dona Marta still works and there are flights to it throughout the day.

Aprazível is a magical restaurant nestled amongst treetops in the hills of Santa Teresa, a bohemian neighborhood in Rio perched away from beaches and tourists. It’s location provides a view of the city that can be appreciated both day and night. The enchanting surroundings, service and food make for a high-level experience without being stuffy. The menu offers an artistic take on Brazil-inspired dishes that are inventive but accessible. Start with the Palmito Fresco Assado, grilled hearts of palm topped with pesto and cashew nut served inside of bamboo. Marreco Aprazível, grilled chicken breast dressed in a plum, and red wine reduction with rice and apple pure is a notable main course. Try booking ahead to see if you can swing a wood carved nook outside of the restaurant’s main dining area. And on a practical note, parking and even convincing a cab to drive you up Santa Teresa’s cobble stoned hills can be difficult on a whip, consider arranging transportation in advance or including your Aprazível visit as a part of an entire day of visiting Santa Teresa’s attractions.

For people who like the outdoors, a trek up Pedra da Gávea is not to be missed. Pedra da Gávea is a mountain located in the Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro. The mountain is comprised of granite and gneiss with an elevation of 2769 feet. This makes it one of the largest mountains to end directly at an ocean. There are a number of trails that you can hike up with some of them being opened as long ago as the 1800’s. The name of the mountain means Rock of the Topsail and was given to the mountain by Captain Gasper de Lemos due to the shape of the mountain. The hike takes about 2-3 hours to get to the summit. If you’re not accustomed to hiking, you may want to find a tour or group to make the journey with.

Located across from Guanabara Bay, the main draw to Botofogo beach is the idyllic views. Although it is not a beach used for sunbathing or swimming, locals use the area for countless outdoor activities. Many people cycle or jog along the paths or meet here to play soccer. A good option is to rent a bike from Copacabana and ride to Botafogo beach. You’ll even see people sailing, the bay is usually dotted with numerous boats. You can go to the shopping mall across the street, Botafogo Praia Shopping , to take a break in Cafeina or Starbucks, shop in some of the city’s most popular stores, see a movie, or grab a bite to eat in the food court on the top floor. One of the best, not-so-kept secrets, is to go to the top floor of the mall to take advantage of the panoramic views. Insiders know it’s a great photo op with the unmistakable shape of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) in the background.

Pedra Bonita is one of the hidden gems of Tijuca National Park. This mountain offers an amazing view of the city. Standing at 2,283 feet it is smaller than some of the other mountains in the park. However, the view from the top covers the whole city of Rio de Janeiro. It is also one of the most famous and favorite take-off sports for many of Brazil’s hand gliders. There are a number of paths that can be taken to the summit of the mountain depending on the type of hike you are looking for. There is a well outlined trail and the hike is generally good for novice hikers. The most common takes about 30 minutes to get to the peak.

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