Lively, bright, and beautiful, Brazil is a vast expanse of colorful towns, breathtaking beaches, and an inimitable vibrancy that courses through it all.
South America’s largest country and the fifth-largest country in the world, the landscape of Brazil is punctuated by remarkable landmarks.
Whether shaped by nature or otherworldly architecture, they pay tribute to the rich culture, history, and energy that is unmistakably Brazilian.
Famous Landmarks in Brazil
1. Christ the Redeemer
Towering over Rio de Janeiro, the statue of Jesus Christ has become a symbol of Brazil and its bustling port city. The iconic monument is located at the summit of Mount Corcovado, facing Rio de Janeiro. Standing tall at 98 feet (with a 92-foot wingspan), Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco sculpture in the world.
The idea for the striking statue was proposed by the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro in 1921, with the goal of it being visible to everyone in Rio. The foundation of the base was laid a year later, along with a competition to find a designer fit for the job.
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Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa headed up the project, along with Carlos Oswald, a Brazilian artist, and Paul Landowski, a French sculptor.
Construction began in 1926, and after five years of labor, Christ the Redeemer was complete and officially dedicated on October 12, 1931.
Since then, it has undergone routine cleanings, repairs, and a few notable upgrades; escalators and panoramic elevators were added in 2002, and a chapel was built on the 75th anniversary, to honor Our Lady of Aparecida, the patron saint of Brazil.
2. Sugarloaf Mountain
Rising high above the Rio skyline, Sugarloaf Mountain cuts a magnificent figure across the Brazilian landscape. At nearly 1,300 feet above Guanabara Bay harbor, Sugarloaf is a sight to behold and offers equally stunning views of surrounding beaches, forests, and mountains from its summit.
Portuguese residents in the 16th century gave the majestic mount its name, after the unusual shape reminiscent of the shape of refined sugar (a major product of Brazil, especially at that time).
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Today, Sugarloaf welcomes over one million tourists each year. Visitors flock to Sugarloaf for rock climbing, and justifiably so — it’s the largest urban climbing area in the world. If rock climbing isn’t your thing, there are other ways to see the sites.
Cable cars run routes to the peaks of Sugarloaf all day long, offering 360-degree views of the ascent on the way.
3. Copacabana Beach
The “world’s most famous beach” has been idolized in pop culture for decades, and it’s no wonder. The 2.2 mile stretch of sand curves with the bay, hosting hoards of beachgoers each day. The scene is picture-perfect, and you’ve likely seen it on a postcard a time or two.
Located in the Copacabana neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, the beach came to life in the 1970s when a large landfill increased its size. Flanking the beach are skyscrapers, hotels, residences, cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars, and theaters.
One of the most notable features of the beach is the Copacabana promenade, a wavy, black and white mosaic designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Brule Marx.
It’s a party nearly every night at the Copacabana, but New Year’s Eve tops them all. As many as two million revelers have attended the festivities, which include a concert and a legendary fireworks display.
4. Museum of Art of São Paulo
Located in São Paulo, the Museum of Art is a sleek, brutalist structure — the epitome of Brazilian modern architecture. Conceptualized and designed by Lina Bo Bardi, a prolific Italian-born Brazilian architect, construction began in 1956 and in 1968 the museum was dedicated.
Inside, it houses a vast collection of European art, a treasure trove of Brazilian artwork, and nearly 8,000 pieces of African and Asian art and antiquities.
The museum is considered to have the finest collection of European art in the entire Southern Hemisphere and has one of the largest art libraries in Brazil.
Aside from art exhibition spaces, the museum contains a library, photo, film, and video galleries, two auditoriums, and a restaurant.
5. Parque Nacional dos Lençóis
Located on Brazil’s north Atlantic coast in the state of Maranhao, the National Park of Lencois Maranhenses is a protected area known as the “Brazilian desert”.
White dunes, crystal clear lagoons, and mangroves make it one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, and a scene straight out of your imagination.
Sweeping dunes cover the 598 miles of the park, giving the park its name: lencois is Portuguese for “bed sheets”.
Even with sand stretching as far as the eye can see, Lencois Maranhenses is not considered to be a true desert; the area receives too much rainfall, evident in the freshwater lagoons that dot the terrain. The lagoons are held by rock underneath the sand, preventing drainage and creating an otherworldly vision.
Organized tours are the best way to experience the national park, usually on 4×4 vehicles. Since it’s not the easiest to access, the park is quiet and removed, allowing plenty of time and space for adventurers to explore the landscape.
6. Ipanema Beach
Between Ipanema and Copacabana, it can be argued that Brazil owns two of the most internationally known beaches. Made famous by the song “The Girl from Ipanema”, the beach inspires many thanks to its stunning sunset views and long stretches of sand.
Located in the South Zone of Rio, Ipanema Beach is a hot spot for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
The beach is a lively scene of sunbathers, artists, walkers, skaters, and groups of volleyball and soccer players. Year-round warm temperatures ensure that the beach is always bustling.
The name “ipanema” can be translated as “bad, dangerous waters”, referring to the strong undertow and looming waves that are common in the area. If you’re visiting, be careful when swimming and take cues from the locals on which areas are safe to swim.
7. Museu do Amanhã
One of Brazil’s modern marvels, the Museum of Tomorrow is an utterly striking and inspired science museum. Its location is nearly as stunning as the structure itself; the museum juts into the waterfront from Pier Maua in Rio.
Designed by Spanish architect, engineer, and artist Santiago Calatrava, the museum opened its doors in December of 2015. Artwork and exhibits throughout the museum examine climate change, population growth, life expectancy, and more.
A model of modern engineering, the museum is the first in Brazil to be awarded the Gold Label in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for many qualifiers, among them: rational use of water (water from the bay is used to regulate indoor temperature) and energy efficiency (natural energy and solar power are utilized throughout the museum).
8. Ibirapuera Park
The most visited park in South America, Ibirapuera Park in São Paolo is an urban park that is the first of its kind in the city.
Ibirapuera Park was inaugurated in 1954 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of São Paulo, and since then averages over 14 million visitors a year.
The park is comparable in size to New York City’s Central Park and contains bike paths, tennis and basketball courts, and playgrounds spread throughout 158 hectares.
However, it’s more than green space; the park has several museums (Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Afro-Brazil Museum), the Palace of Arts, Japanese Pavilion, and Biennial Pavilion, a venue that hosts the city’s most prestigious events, like São Paulo Fashion Week, trade shows, and tourism fairs.
9. Escadaria Selarón
You’ve seen it featured in National Geographic, music videos, and commercials. The world-famous “Selarón Steps” are a colorful, striking, emblematic tribute to the people of Brazil, as dedicated by the artist, Jorge Selarón.
Selarón was an artist living in the Lapa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, who began repairing the dilapidated steps outside of his house in between projects. Selarón was born in Chile, but made Brazil his home and became inspired by the culture and vibrancy of its people.
The side project turned into a passion project, as Selarón collected and adorned the steps with tiles, ceramics, and mirrors from over 60 countries; he even hand-painted approximately 300 of the tiles himself.
The massive Maracanã Stadium has seen many one-of-a-kind, world-record-setting events and performances since it opened in 1950.
Built to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup, the Rio de Janeiro landmark is the largest stadium in Brazil. It has held crowds of 150,000 many times and has eclipsed that number on several occasions.
The stadium was renovated for the 2014 World Cup and later became synonymous with the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics (so much so that it’s commonly referred to as “Rio Olympic Stadium”).
It has hosted some of the world’s largest concerts (Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney, Madonna, and the Foo Fighters have all played in Maracanã), and welcomed Pope John Paul II for Mass three times.