Lapa Walk (Self Guided), Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is rightly proud of its many impressive landmarks. This great city, rich in culture and history, has many fantastic sights for even the most experienced traveler. Take this tour of Lapa neighborhood - home to some fine examples in architecture and impressive historic landmarks.
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Lapa Walk Map

Guide Name: Lapa Walk
Guide Location: Brazil » Rio de Janeiro (See other walking tours in Rio de Janeiro)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Author: gene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
  • Rua do Lavradio
  • Arcos da Lapa
  • National Fine Arts Museum
  • Theatro Municipal
  • Palácio Pedro Ernesto / Câmara Municipal
  • Biblioteca Nacional (National Library)
  • Cinelandia Square
  • Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps)
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião

1) Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião (must see)

The Catedral Metropolitana is one of the most visited sights in Rio. Inaugurated in 1976, this massive cone-shaped structure resembles a futuristic Mayan pyramid. Inside you will be amazed by the vast interior space, designed as a virtual cavern with no support columns and boasting a granite altar. You can also visit a sacred arts museum located underground. Complete with four huge stained glass windows, the cathedral is truly an architectural wonder right in the financial center of the city.

Why You Should Visit:
Majestic on the inside, free of charge, and with very minimal crowds. The massive coloured glass windows are as tall as the church itself and are beautiful beyond belief.

Try to go during the middle of the day since the church relies on natural illumination and going earlier / later can leave it dark inside.
As the location is so close to Cinelândia and all of its attractions, you can do both on the same day.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-5pm
Rua do Lavradio

2) Rua do Lavradio

Ruo de Lavardio is a well-known shopping district in Rio de Janeiro, situated in the historic heart of this beautiful city. The district is filled with shops and markets specializing in antiques from the 17th to 20th century, such as furniture, ceramics, porcelains, sculptures, books, maps, paintings, fine art objects and other home accessories. At several antiques stores there, such as MeMo Mercado Moderno, Armazém 161 Antiguidades, and Emporia Dona Carlota, you can find beautiful vintage lamps, made from stained glass. In addition, during weekends, outdoor markets are held, where bargain hunters and collectors can find stamps, coins, antique jewelry, furniture and all kinds of home accessories.
Arcos da Lapa

3) Arcos da Lapa (must see)

Come find the true Rio at Arcos da Lapa, also called Aqueduto da Carioca. Built in 1750, it first served as a means to carry water from a nearby river. Its 42 arcs are stretched to serve Rio's oldest tram line, which connects the Santa Theresa area with downtown. The ancient Roman style is wonderfully complemented by new architecture, with many restaurants, bars, and dance clubs in the area. Lapa is truly worth the visit whether you are looking for historic sights or just want to experience Rio's nightlife.

Why You Should Visit:
This is the place to go at night on the weekends! Lots of fun, lots and lots of performers, dancers, vendors and bars, and a great atmosphere. Worth checking out at least once.

There are some great happening bars with amazing local music; check out specific days to catch attractions like Samba nights.
Also make sure you visit the Escadaria Selarón ('Selaron Steps'), which are very pretty and just a 10-minute walk away.
National Fine Arts Museum

4) National Fine Arts Museum (must see)

Open since 1937, the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes (MNBA) boasts a collection of works by Brazilian and international artists dating back as far as the 1700s. Its exhibitions include sculptures, engravings, paintings and illustrations as well as decorative artworks such as furniture, medals, folk handicrafts and even some pieces of African Art. You can easily spend a day here.

Why You Should Visit:
To see the wealth of Rio when it was the capital of Brasil for centuries, getting a sense of the country's art history in a very relaxed manner.
Besides, admission to this old and well-preserved building is very inexpensive and seniors (even foreign) can get in for free.
If there is one building or one activity in Rio de Janeiro that proves the city isn't just beaches and cocktails, it's this.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-6pm; Sat, Sun & Holidays: 1-6pm
Admission is free on Sundays
Theatro Municipal

5) Theatro Municipal (must see)

One of the most beautiful buildings in Rio, the Theatro Municipal is the country's main music hall and one of the most important such venues in all of South America. Opened on Bastille Day 1909, its design was inspired by the Paris Opera House. Its architectural style is mostly classic, although the profound decorations remind us of the baroque. There is much to admire with the exterior and interior of the building, to say nothing of the exquisite opera, ballet and classical music performances.

Why You Should Visit:
Quite overwhelming with every room, light fixture, mirror, carpet, furniture, window, set of stairs – pretty much everything – in its original version.
Often overlooked for more 'exciting' nightlife options available in the city, this theatre will take your breath away if you give it enough time.

Guided multilingual tours lasting 45 mins are offered Tue-Fri (12pm/2:30pm/4pm) and on Sat (11am/12pm/1pm/4pm). Call ahead to confirm availability of an English-speaking guide.
If you want to take the guided tour, try to get there at 10am sharp. Even if you want the 1pm tour, tickets get sold out pretty fast, since the place only supports up to 50 people.
If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a rehearsal during the tour – but if not, go for a performance! Whatever your acquired taste, the theatre will almost certainly cater to it.
Palácio Pedro Ernesto / Câmara Municipal

6) Palácio Pedro Ernesto / Câmara Municipal (must see)

The Pedro Ernesto Palace is a magnificent building of neo-classical French architectural style or "Beaux-Arts", a design that was considered symbolic of Rio de Janeiro’s modernization. Its construction was started in 1919 and completed in 1923. It is also called Câmara Municipal do Rio de Janeiro which is the unicameral legislative body of the city. Located in Cinelândia Square, just adjacent to the Municipal Theatre and close to the National Museum of Fine Arts, it is the most photographed building in Rio de Janeiro. The area has some restaurants and cafés that are also worth visiting, along with other very impressive historic buildings.

Go inside – you'll be surprised by the beauty of the palace and the friendliness of the staff. They offer a guided tour, explaining a little history of the place and Brazil. Otherwise, try to see the building at night time, with illumination!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
Biblioteca Nacional (National Library)

7) Biblioteca Nacional (National Library) (must see)

The National Library holds the documentary heritage of Brazil and is considered to be the largest of its kind in South America. Constructed in 1910, the building is truly a masterpiece of the eclectic style, with an architecture that blends modern and neoclassical trends. Visit the Biblioteca Nacional and enjoy the guided tours on history, architecture and the works housed by the library.

Why You Should Visit:
The guided tour takes only 30-40 mins and allows to visit rooms that aren't normally open to the public, giving a good idea of what the Library does besides storing/restoring books and documents. Most of the original furniture came from the UK as well as some of the ironwork. The only drawback is that you can't actually go inside many of the rooms – just look in from the outside.

You can go here before or after the Santa Teresa area (a MUST go if you visit Rio).

Opening Hours:
[Library] Mon-Fri: 9am-7pm; Sat: 10:30am-3pm
[Reading Rooms] Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm
Free admission

Free Guided Tours:
Mon-Fri: 2pm (English/Spanish)
Visitors are required to show a document with photo (original or photocopy), at the guided visit reception, located in the Main Hall.
Cinelandia Square

8) Cinelandia Square

This trapeze-shaped square is marked by a monument erected in honor of Marshal Floriano. The region around Cinelandia Square (also known as Praça Floriano) resembles a Parisian district with its range of impressive buildings in the Eclectic, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles.
Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps)

9) Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps) (must see)

Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous steps running from Joaquim Silva street and Pinto Martins street, straddling both the Lapa and the Santa Teresa neighborhoods of Rio. These steps are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". He started it in 1990 as an attempt to renovate the dilapidated steps in front of his house and, initially, it was a side project to his main passion, painting, but soon became an obsession. The artist considered this work "never complete" and claimed that "This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death". Originally, tiles for this work were scavenged from various construction sites and piles of rubbish on the streets of Rio, but in later years most of the tiles were donated by visitors from all around the world. There are 215 steps measuring 125 meters in legth, covered in over 2,000 tiles from over 60 countries. Of the 2000+ tiles, 300-odd are hand-painted by Selarón himself, depicting a pregnant African woman. Selarón didn't comment on this except to say that it was a "Personal problem from my past".

Why You Should Visit:
Not only are the 215 steps a dedication to the Brazilian people but to all who bought tiles from other countries and cities. Find yours!
The story of Selarón's 20-year project just adds to the fun of exploring the plethora of beautiful and/or interesting tiles.

If you want your photo taken sitting on steps, you might have to wait a while. Try to arrive early or, at the least, go a few flights up where very few are waiting.
The neighborhood looks a bit unsafe so if you go make sure you don't show off your belongings too much (after dark it's a no-go area!).
Sight description based on wikipedia

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