City Center Walk (Self Guided), Rio de Janeiro

Within the busy metropolis of Rio, you can find many places that will take you back to colonial times. Each of these exquisite buildings typifies a different architectural era, be it colonial, gothic, or neo-classic and so on. Today home to various cultural events, the following sights are a must-see for all visitors to Rio. This tour combines both Rio's bohemian downtown area and the city's historical center.
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City Center Walk Map

Guide Name: City Center Walk
Guide Location: Brazil » Rio de Janeiro (See other walking tours in Rio de Janeiro)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: gene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Praca do Republica
  • Palácio do Itamaraty
  • St. Rita Chapel
  • Candelária Church
  • São Bento Church and Monastery
  • Casa França Brasil
  • Arco do Teles
  • Praça Quinze
  • Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace)
  • Palácio Tiradentes
  • São Francisco da Penitência Church
  • Saara District
Praca do Republica

1) Praca do Republica

Praca do Republica (Republic Square) is the place in the center of Rio de Janeiro where in 1889 Brazil declared its independence from Portugal and the Republic of Brazil was proclaimed. Prior to that, during the colonial period, this area was occupied by a large swamp. In 1942, following the construction of Avenida Presidente Vargas, the square was divided in two. On the one side it is now curbed by the Duque de Caxias Palace, Brazilian Army Command headquarters in front of which all the country's military parades take place, and on the other – by Campo de Santana, a large public garden planted with trees and urbanized in the early 19th century. Its renovation began in 1873 and was completed in 1880. The park is a home to several species of animals including agouti, guinea-fowl, cats, ducks and peacocks.
Palácio do Itamaraty

2) Palácio do Itamaraty

The Itamaraty Palace (Palácio do Itamaraty) is a 19th Century neoclassical style building that is strictly symmetrical, bearing noble proportions of great historical and artistic value. The palace is now home to the city's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other parts of the building also house the great collections of the Museum of History (open to the public) and the Diplomatic Historical Archives and Map Collection, as well as the country's UN Information Office.
St. Rita Chapel

3) St. Rita Chapel

In the heart of Rio de Janeiro, in the eponymous district of Santa Rita, stands the modest temple of Santa Rita whose simple white facade and a double-arched bell tower defy the grandeur of the nearby high-rising buildings in a harmonious confrontation between the 18th century Baroque-Rococo style and the boldness of modern architecture. Built in 1722, Santa Rita is one of the oldest churches in Rio. It stands on the land donated by Manuel Nascente Pinto and his wife to the brotherhood of Santa Rita established a year earlier. Inside the church there is a small atrium under the choir, a marble baptismal font and a small marble sink. To the left from the entrance is an oil painting featuring baptism of Lord Jesus, and to the right - the image of Santa Rita de Cássia herself. The temple houses relics of Santa Rita and Santo Lenho, and is listed by Brazil's Institute of National Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN).
Candelária Church

4) Candelária Church (must see)

The Candelária Church is an important historical Roman Catholic church in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Built and decorated during a long period, from 1775 to the late 19th century, the church combines a Baroque façade with Neoclassical and Neo-Renaissance interior elements.

The quasi-legendary history about the establishment of the church is that in the beginning of the 17th century a ship called Candelária almost sank during a storm on the sea. Upon arriving in Rio de Janeiro, a Portuguese couple sponsored the building of a small chapel, fulfilling the oath they made during the storm. This small chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of Candelária, was built around 1609.

Other elements of interest include: the main altar by Brazilian architect Archimedes Memória; the various German stained-glass windows; the bronze doors (c. 1901) of the main entrance, by Portuguese sculptor António Teixeira Lopes; and the two monumental bronze pulpits in the Art-Nouveau style, by Portuguese sculptor Rodolfo Pinto do Couto (1931).

Closed in the afternoon so the best time to visit would be in the morning or early noon.
Due to the great acoustics, attending a concert/ organ recital here comes highly recommended.
São Bento Church and Monastery

5) São Bento Church and Monastery (must see)

One of the most breathtaking sights in Downtown Rio is the São Bento Church, a Mannerist-style construction was built in the early 1600s shortly after the foundation of the city itself. The outside may seem pleasantly simple but the silver and gold carved baroque interior is just astonishing. Furthermore, this place of peace and silence offers visitors both an interesting slice of history and a primary example of Portuguese colonial architecture in Rio and the country.

On weekdays, the monks gather at 6pm to sing Gregorian chants, thus marking the time of vesperal. It can be extremely beautiful and touching to hear them, escaping of all the city noise. Alternatively, you can hear the chants at the Sunday mass (10am), but arrive early if you go as seats are disputed.
Please observe the dress code: no bermudas, shorts or mini-skirts. Trousers and polo shirts are more than adequate.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am-5pm; Sat: 7-11am
Casa França Brasil

6) Casa França Brasil

Built in 1820, the Casa França Brasil is the country's first neo-classical building. Today a French cultural center, it hosts visual arts, photography, print and sculpture exhibitions that reflect the cultural relationship between France and Brazil. It's made all the more attractive to visit by its lack of cover charge and its excellent on-site restaurant.
Arco do Teles

7) Arco do Teles (must see)

Located at Praça Quinze, the Arco do Telles is a remnant of colonial Brazil. It's characterized by narrow streets and alleys, with charming historical buildings that have been revitalized and transformed into a range of restaurants, bars, art galleries and bookstores. It is also known as the preferred location for those interested in an after-work happy hour.

Why You Should Visit:
It has the houses, the street stones, and all the architecture old-fashioned Rio had. A perfect time machine!

Recommended for seeing the way the locals dance and drink and enjoy life to the max. The area should definitely be visited during the evening for its nightlife.
Praça Quinze

8) Praça Quinze

Praça Quinze de Novembro - or simply the Quinze Square - is a public plaza located in the center of the city, close to the historic Praça Marechal Anchor between Assembly Street and the Alley Barbers. Up until the beginning of the 20th Century, Praça Quinze was the main point of entry and landing in Rio de Janeiro.
Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace)

9) Paço Imperial (Imperial Palace) (must see)

One of the oldest buildings in Rio, the Paço Imperial, or Imperial Palace, was built back in the 1700s as a residence for Brazil's viceroys. A cultural centre today, the palace hosts exhibitions and various special cultural events. There is also a visitors' café. Apart from the great cultural events, the palace itself is worth seeing as one of Rio's architectural treasures.

Why You Should Visit:
To explore the seeming contradiction between the super-old building and the decidedly contemporary array of exhibitions – very European!

From the small courtyard, where there is a fairly good "bistrô", take the stairwell to where there are some models showing what the local area looked like over time as well as a large, very modern exhibition area displaying modern art.

Opening Hours:
[Paço Imperial] Tue-Sun: 12-7pm; free admission
[Bistrô do Paço] Mon-Fri: 11am-7:30pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 12-7pm
[Arlequim Restaurant] Mon-Fri: 10am-8pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Palácio Tiradentes

10) Palácio Tiradentes (must see)

The former home of the National Congress of Brazil, the Tiradentes Palace is currently the headquarters of the Legislative Assembly of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The building has an eclectic style, with a facade lined with concrete. Watch out for the palace dome, which is adorned with allegorical sculptures representing Independence and the Republic.

Why You Should Visit:
The admire beautiful architecture while learning about a piece of Rio.
You can have a guided tour in Portuguese, but also in English, and it's for free.
During the tour you gain access to areas normally not accessible for the general public.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-5pm; Holidays: 12-5pm
São Francisco da Penitência Church

11) São Francisco da Penitência Church (must see)

This baroque style church was built back in 1726. Besides its great spiritual heritage, it has marvelous ornaments and decorations, such as the jacaranda wood carved altar or the roof panel depicting St Francis receiving the stigmata. With advance booking, you can take a guided tour of the underground passages under the church which were in use up until 1850.

Why You Should Visit:
Overwhelming and beautiful, this church wows visitors with its elaborate architecture, magnificent statues, dazzling relics and impressive paintings.
What is more, the church exudes a rather serene feel, making it a perfect stop for anyone who needs a quick break.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat: 8-11am
Saara District

12) Saara District

There is a cluster of streets in Rio, collectively known as SAARA (Sociedade de Amigos das Adjacências da Rua da Alfândega), which means “Society of Friends of the Alfândega Street and Surroundings”. Established in the early 1960s, this huge market district is where you can buy anything and everything, from Carnival attire to kitchen appliances, at reasonable (“non-Gringo”) prices. There are over 600 shops selling goods and providing unforgettable cultural experience in a rather unique, bazaar-like setting. There are also some cool restaurants and snack bars in the area serving delicious, typically Brazilian stuff, as well as a Lebanese restaurant called “ Cedro do Libano” serving Krafta with hummus and rice with lentils.

Walking Tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Rio de Janeiro is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Rio's Top Religious Sites

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Rio de Janeiro Classic Architecture Walk

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Rio is home to many places where you can feel the colonial times. Each of these exquisite buildings has its own architectural style, whether it be Colonial, Gothic or Neo-Classic and so on. Nowadays often home to cultural events, the classic buildings on this tour are a must-see for every visitor to Rio de Janeiro.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.8 Km or 4.2 Miles
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.0 Km or 5.6 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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