Many travelers from across the world will associate Rio de Janeiro with the 125 foot statue of Christ the Redeemer that stands proudly atop Corcovado Mountain; that, and the week of temporary cultural insanity that is Carnival). And while these are a must for every first-time gringo, there are plenty of other cultural activities to partake in while in this “marvelous city” (as it is referred to by the locals).
Most cultural attractions are located in Centro and Zona Sul, which are also the most highly trafficked business and tourist areas. Centro is where you'll have access to most of the architectural wonders of the city, as well as more museums than you can shake a stick at. This is also home to the Sambodromo, a long street used for the world's wildest parade during Carnaval. Other big Centro attractions include the Banco do Brasil Cultural Centre and the Modern Art Museum, although a true taste of carioca culture lies in the Lapa neighborhood, especially when the sun goes down and the street parties start up. Zona Sul is popular for its promenade walking and beach culture in the neighborhoods of Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana, but there are actually a bunch of smaller museums and older churches that are worth taking a look at as you stroll these neighborhoods.
Other important cultural attractions around the city include the National Museum and the Estadio de Maracanã, which still stands as one of the largest soccer arenas on Earth; both can be found in the Zona Norte. Of course, there is also the unique opportunity to interact with favela neighborhoods, havens of crime and abject poverty (think no electricity or running water in some areas) that benefit from the efforts of local organizations to provide worthwhile activities for travelers.
Whether you visit during Carnival season or at any other time of year (when Rio seems less like a huge, garish fun house), there is plenty of Brazilian culture to revive your traveler's spirit. Take a look at some of our related pages for more travel ideas and start putting together an itinerary for the ages.