Rio's Top Religious Sites (Self Guided), Rio de Janeiro

Take our self guided walking tour to discover the most remarkable cathedrals, churches and monasteries in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Even for a non-religious traveler these temples, both classic and modern, impress with their skill, creativity and devotion.
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Rio's Top Religious Sites Map

Guide Name: Rio's Top Religious Sites
Guide Location: Brazil » Rio de Janeiro (See other walking tours in Rio de Janeiro)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: gene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • São Bento Church and Monastery
  • St. Rita Chapel
  • Candelária Church
  • Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro
  • Santo Antônio Convent
  • Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião
  • Church of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral
São Bento Church and Monastery

1) 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
St. Rita Chapel

2) 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

3) 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.
Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

4) Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro (must see)

Located in the Praça XV square, in downtown Rio, the Old Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an old Carmelite church which served as the city's cathedral (Sé) from around 1808 until 1976. During the 19th century, it was also used successively as the Royal and Imperial Chapel by the Portuguese royal family and the Brazilian imperial family, respectively. It is one of the most important historical buildings in the city.

Apart from being of exceptional historical value for the city and the country, this former cathedral has one of the most harmonious interior decorations among the churches in Rio. The walls, chapels and ceiling are covered with ornate Rococo (late Baroque) woodwork showing lightness and unity in style. The decoration was executed after 1785, mainly by one of Rio's best Rococo wood carvers of the period, Inácio Ferreira Pinto, who was also responsible for the main altarpiece. The upper walls of the one-aisled nave have a series of balconies and oval paintings of the Apostles by painter José Leandro de Carvalho. Later reforms did not substantially alter the inner decoration, but the façades were almost completely remodeled in the early 20th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Whilst this church might seem a bit simple from the outside, entry into it reveals a beautifully restored interior.
Decoration includes fine painted ceilings and ornate gilt work balanced by areas of plain white wall.
The overall effect is quite beautifully elegant.

There are a number of other things to see in the complex, including an archaeological dig.
Not all of them are open all the time; the most important is the Third Order church immediately adjacent to the Old Cathedral.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7:30am-4pm; Sat: 9:30am-12pm; Sun: 9am-12pm
Santo Antônio Convent

5) Santo Antônio Convent (must see)

The history of the Convent of St. Anthony dates back to 1592, when the first Franciscans arrived at Rio de Janeiro. It is renowned for its catacombs, where the remains of several members of the Imperial Family are interred. Don't hesitate to check out their museum for a small fee; the gold room is a spectacle to behold!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat: 8-11am
Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião

6) 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
Church of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral

7) Church of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral

The most striking feature of this church is its two large towers covered in white marble. Built in 1859 by the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament, the church's interior was carved by Antonio de Padua and Castro, and inside you'll also find beautiful oil paintings.

Walking Tours in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Create Your Own Walk in Rio de Janeiro

Create Your Own Walk in Rio de Janeiro

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.
Lapa Walk

Lapa Walk

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.

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

Rio de Janeiro Classic Architecture Walk

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
Rio Landmarks Walking Tour

Rio Landmarks Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Art Museums Walk

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Rio de Janeiro is the perfect spot for visitors interested in cultural activities. As well as many great theaters and other cultural venues, Rio is home to more than 50 different museums. Take this tour to see the most important art museums in the city.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Rio de Janeiro Beach Walk

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.0 Km or 5.6 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Rio de Janeiro without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Rio de Janeiro, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 Km or 3.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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