When people hear the words Rio de Janeiro, images of the infamous Carnaval celebrations and the massive 38m Christ the Redeemer Statue come to mind. However, that’s not all Rio has to offer. There are plenty more sights to see and most of them are family-friendly. Spread all across Rio are lush rainforests, golden sandy beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema) and a vast urban landscape that’s dotted with mountain peaks.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, Rio is considered to be one of the worlds most beautiful and interesting urban centers. It’s location, architecture, inhabitants, and lifestyle make it very unique compared to other cities in Brazil such as Sao Paulo or Brasilia. From the epic views at the top of Corcovado Mountain to the incredible sunsets on the beach, this city is a vibrant landscape of color and has a truly electrifying atmosphere. It’s hard not to get swept up in the lifestyle and truly immerse yourself in their culture.
From museums to the great outdoor national park of Tijuca, there is a sights for everyone. Many families come from far and wide to visit them. So let’s explore 11 of the must-see sights in Rio de Janeiro for family holidays.
Christ Redeemer And Corcovado Mountain
One of the most well-known places that every tourist and family should visit is the Christ Redeemer statue at the top of Corcovado Mountain. Standing at 38m high this statue is a prominent feature from all over Rio de Janeiro. Before the statue was built, people would go to the top of the mountain simply for the stunning panoramic views. Built between 1922 and 1931, the statue soon became the main talking point throughout Brazil.
Take a journey through Brazils history with the first ever electrified funicular railroad. The cog wheel train starts at the base of the mountain and takes you through the Tijuca National Park all the way to the base of the statue where you can enjoy spectacular views of Rio. It take approximately 20 minutes to get to the top and the train take around 540 passengers every hour. This train ride is perfect for kids as it saves their little feet and creates excitement and wonder as they move through the forest. But still one of the best ways to get to the Christ Redeemer is by taxi.
Price: Statue tickets from $5 per adult (children and adults over 60 free). Train tickets start at $22.00 per person. Book your tickets here.
Museu do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow)
The Museu do Amanha is a science museum in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a wonderful piece of futuristic architecture. It was built on the pier Mauá as part of the 2016 Olympics revitalization project in Rio when they won the bid. It’s limited to a height of 18m above the pier level. This is so that the museum can be spread over two floors whilst also retaining as much space as possible for public gardens. The top floor is home to long term exhibitions and offers epic panoramic views over Guanabara Bay.
This museum is perfect for families. The kids will love it. It has interactive exhibitions on outer space, the earth and its biodiversity, humans and our impact on the world, as well as major global trends and challenges that lie in the future. The museum uses state-of-the-art visuals, simulators, and carefully curated exhibitions to reflect on the past, present and future of both life and the world. It is well worth a visit.
Price: Free for children under 5 and seniors over 60. R$10 (about $2) for adults. R$5 for students, young adults under 21 and individuals with a disability.
Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens)
Teaming with the most important and endangered flora in Brazil, these botanical gardens are the perfect place to visit over weekends or during the week, if you want to escape the busier periods. This 137-hectre garden has more than 8000 species of plants. There’s tons to see here, from the Avenue of Royal Palma to the Amazon Section (housing a special tree that changes color with the seasons) to a lake containing huge Vitoria Regia water lilies. Be sure to also check out the orquidário where you will find around 600 species of orchids.
Consisting of the botanical gardens, museums, research centers, cultural centers, and various other facilities it makes for the perfect day trip. Keep your eyes open for the array of 140 bird species as well as monkeys and marmosets. A great way to keep your children entertained would be to play a game of spot the animals. There are three different themed tours you can download from their website, so why not be your own tour guide for the day and follow your own personalized route around these magnificent gardens with all the key points of interest. Your kids might also enjoy the sensory garden, although its design is primarily for those who are sight impaired, where the plants can be touched and/or smelt.
Price: Around $5 per person (cash only)
Tucked away and out of sight, nestled in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood is a public park like no other. Featured in several music videos from the likes of Pharrell Williams to The Black Eyed Peas this park is a gem. It remains relatively quiet and it’s out of the way for most tourists, which makes it an even better place to visit. There’s lots to see around the grounds including walking trails through the Tijuca Forest, old musty stables, a big castle-like tower, an aquarium, and a mysterious cave. Furthermore, the mansion on the estate now houses an art school where current students can showcase their work in one of the art galleries. There is also a courtyard café where you can stop and get a bite to eat.
Be sure to take a walk around the back-end of the park as you start to climb the Corcovado Mountain towards the Christ Redeemer Statue as you will be in for treat as you pass some beautiful waterfalls. You’ll be surrounded by nature here as you look up into the trees to find monkeys and a whole host of native birds. This would be perfect to tag on to the beginning of your trip to the Christ Redeemer Statue or even to end your day at the Jardim Botânico (botanical gardens).
Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain)
Pao de Acucar is one of the most iconic landmarks in Brazil after Christ the Redeemer. It is also one of the top attractions to visit whilst in Rio de Janeiro. Although it’s a typical tourist destination the views from the top will leave you and your family speechless. With views overlooking the Praia Vermelha beach as well as the rest of Rio De Janeiro you won’t want to miss out on this attraction. There are a few ways to get to the top, however the simplest is via the Cable Car.
Starting at the base of the Morro da Urca right next to Praia Vermelha beach you can take the cable car to the top, where you will be in no rush to continue on your journey. There are restaurants and snack bars where you can enjoy a drink or meal while taking in the views. Once you’re ready you can hop onto the second cable car which will take you to the summit of the Pao de Acucar. If feeling super adventurous you can hike to the top of Morro da Urca and then catch the cable car the rest of the way.
Price: From $23 per person (to include cable car). Visitors with Children under 6 go free. Young adults (12 to 21) half price.
A long stretch of golden sand, this beach is one of the highlights that Brazil has to offer. Bask in the sun, make sand castles with the kids and just enjoy a good old family fun day down at the beach. Remember though to only swim where the locals do as the waves and current are very strong along this beach. If you’re into surfing this may be the perfect spot to catch the waves. Located in one of the most expensive neighborhoods of Rio, you will want to explore some of the galleries, shops and movie theatres. One particular shop to go to is H. Stern where you can take a look in their museum and walk away with a little goodie bag of precious and semi-precious stones. Or spend the day just a little further down at Leblon Beach which is the most kid-friendly beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Ipanema is also home to some true Brazilian food. From their Brazilian feijoada’s to sushi to churrasco, there will be food around here that everyone will love. There is also a hippie fair every Sunday which is worth a look at. You will often find people on the beach playing volleyball or beach soccer and they are always more than happy to have a tourist join them for a game or two. Also don’t miss out on the sunset, which can be viewed from the 72 square meter viewpoint right on the beach front. The perfect family day out where you can relax a little and catch some sun. It’s one the best outdoor activities to enjoy with the kids.
Copacabana beach is Rio de Janeiro’s picturesque paradise. It’s a striking 4km stretch of golden sand and amazing views. This is the most famous and well-known beach in Rio. You will be spoilt for choice with all the vendors that walk the beaches trying to sell you their goods. Become a true tourist and drink from coconuts and enjoy the refreshing taste of coconut water in the hot sun. The beach has one of the most unmistakable features in the form of a black and white motif that weaves up and down the entire promenade.
As well as the beach, Copacabana has one of the most historic and symbolic monuments. The Copacabana Palace has hosted many icons such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and Princess Diana. It was originally built as a casino, however, it is now one of Rio de Janeiro’s most luxurious hotels. Should you happen to be there around New Year, it is the place to be with over two million visitors and travelers coming from all over the world to watch the impressive fireworks display and welcome in the New Year. You will also find people playing foot volleyball and beach soccer.
All kids love going to an aquarium, which is why this is a great place to take them. It is the largest Marine Aquarium in South America and is built over an area of 26 thousand square meters and 5 floors. There are over 5,000 animals on display, from 350 different species, from Brazil and the world that are divided into 28 sections. Several new attractions, grand enclosures and tanks have been added to provide educational and pleasant entertainment for its visitors.
One of the best things about the aquarium is the Ocean Enclosure which allows you to walk through a glass tunnel, making you feel like you are swimming with the sharks. This also plays home to their overnight event where children aged 6 or older can spend the night sleeping in the aquarium. There are touch tanks where you can get up close to the rays and feared sharks. Personalize your own fish and create a brand new species with The Virtual Aquarium, or find out the history of surfing in Brazil through the Museum of Surf. There is plenty to do here to keep the kids busy and for you to have a fun packed family day out.
Price: Between $10 to $20 per person.
Carnival is an annual event held in Rio de Janeiro before Lent and is considered the largest carnival in the world. Nearly 2 million people attend carnival every day. Normally lasting for 5 days (Friday to Tuesday) this festival attracts visitors and travelers from all over the world. Carnival used to be out in Rio’s streets, however, it now takes place inside the Sambodromo. When it was out on the streets, samba schools in Rio would perform samba along the streets bringing color, fun, vibrancy and joy to the streets and it’s onlookers. Carnival celebrates Samba dancing and is the perfect illustration of Brazil’s culture. You will find a parade of around 5,000 dancers as well as floats in a mass of color.
The 80,000 visitors that can be housed within the Sambodromo are under no false illusion about the work and practice that has gone into making this festival so great. All these dances are being watched by over 40 judges placed at key points with the Sambodromo. They are watching every movement, appraising every thread and sequin of the costumes, the significance of every song choice and the integrity of the samba so that they can choose a champion. The atmosphere is electric. If you happen to go to Rio de Janeiro in February then be sure to book tickets for this once in a lifetime event.
Price: Between $85 to $225 per person
This neighborhood over looks downtown Rio and highlights the many aspects the city has to offer. Dotted with 18th-century mansions, they serve as a reminder of Santa Teresa’s economic boom. It’s an artistic retreat and a popular destination for tourists. The main square of Largo dos Guimarães has some of the areas best bars and restaurants and is the main drop off point for the town’s famous tram. It’s the oldest tram in Rio de Janeiro and is the only line from the original tram line that still exists. A great way for families to discover the neighborhood and is an experience in itself.
The Parque das Ruinas is a skeleton of an old mansion and offers fantastic views of Guanabara Bay. It’s a great place to visit and the site is also an important cultural center. With a theater, circus and music programs throughout the week there is always something to do and see in this town. As a traditional Rio town it’s well worth a visit.
Price: $5 per person
Museu Nacional Historico (History Museum)
The national history museum is one of Brazils most important museums. There is a collection of more than 278,000 items, artifacts, books, and documentation within the museum. This museum houses Brazils history and is great for the children. Its surroundings and architecture stand out as a Historical Monument for the occupation, defense, urbanization, and transformation of the city into the Rio de Janeiro as you find it today.
There are several different collections within the museum, all displaying numerous artifacts and items. It holds an amazing 9,000 square meters of long term and temporary exhibitions. The museum library holds over 57,000 titles that date back to the 15th-century. This is the best place to visit if you want to immerse yourself in history and teach your children about Rio’s past.
Is Rio de Janeiro Safe for Families?
Simple answer, yes. Rio is safe for families. Just like any holiday destination you have to be careful and there are certain areas you should avoid – mainly favelas – unless with a tour guide. Make sure to stay in a central location, like Copacabana or Ipanema. As with most travel destinations, crimes related to tourists are opportunistic so make sure you stay vigilant and always keep an eye on your possessions.
How Many Days Should You Spend In Rio de Janeiro?
Many people will say anywhere between 5 to 7 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Rio. However, the duration is entirely up to you as there are plenty of other things to do both within and outside of the city. You should plan on doing one or two special sights per day as this gives you and your family ample time explore and to relax on the beaches. It also means you don’t feel like you are rushing and cramming everything into a short space of time.
Where Is The Best Place To Stay In Rio de Janeiro For Families?
There are lots of family-friendly hotels within Rio. Most hotels have a relaxed vibe and many hotels will allow children to stay free, but may charge extra for a cot or extra bed. A lot of the hotels in Rio, Copacabana or Ipanema can be eye-wateringly expensive but if you have the money you will find that they are very much worth it. Some of the best hotels are Hotel Praia Ipanema, Ipanema Inn, and Hotel Arpoador.
If you’re looking for something more budget friendly, you can take a look at Leblon flat service. Perfect for families as it offers self catering facilities. Another perfect hotel is the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel and Resort. This is the only resort hotel in Rio and has a whole host of facilities catered towards families.
Is Rio de Janeiro Dangerous For Tourists?
Generally, no. Rio is fairly safe for tourists and visitors. However, you do need to be vigilant and watch out for pick pockets. Also be careful as there is also the possibility of muggings. But for the most part Rio is perfectly safe. Be sure to stay in a centralized area and avoid some of the more dangerous parts of Brazil. Be extra careful at night, especially if approached by an over friendly local. It’s always best to be in a group or with at least one other person than on your own.